There was a loud scraping on the pavement and a continuous tuneless whistle. I glanced to the bedside. Six thirty. The morning was bright through the thin floral curtains. Other mornings the disturbance would have been swallowed by the busyness of the day. Today it echoed in the emptiness of the street.
The bedcovers moved gently as Tina slept on. Sometimes she looked ugly, especially if she was lying on her back, open mouthed and snoring. This morning, breathing peacefully, hair sprawled, her mouth twitched a smile, possibly in some dream she would never remember. She looked beautiful.
I slipped on my dressing gown and quietly left the bedroom.
The rear gardens in Bartholomew Street reflected an era where scarcity of space to build was not an issue. Eighteen Ninety-Five in Roman numerals etched in the stone above our front door confirmed it. The four letter boxes also confirmed that like most houses in the street it had been converted into flats.
The bedroom lay to the front of the house so shared an outlook with the living room. Both received the sun early. Being on the first floor we tended not to close the window fully nor the curtains at all so the armchair was beginning to benefit from the morning’s warmth as I relaxed into it with a coffee.
I watched and listened in my silence to the sound and sights of his actions. What is it about our nature that attracts us to watch the workings of others?
The scraping was the result of moving numerous empty plastic milk crates topside down to construct a temporary extension to the shop front. Being situated on a corner allowed him to use a substantial area. The owner of the tuneless whistle wore a flat cap and a brown work coat that always made me think of Arkwright in “Open All Hours”. He was of similar build.
He worked steadily, completing the framework and disappearing into the shop returning with a large wooden board which appeared, to the untrained eye, too big to exit the door, but experience conquered. I smiled remembering the skill of the removers getting our sofa up the stairs. Further boards covered the rest of the extension. Finally, he dressed it all with rolls of artificial grass a Subbuteo aficionados dream.
Stopping for a rest, hands on hips he shared an exchange with two lycra clad women, directing his glance to their path as they ran around the corner into Bartholomew Street. He lifted his cap wiped his brow and disappeared back into the shop.
He returned a large brown bag, Wilja’s emblazoned across the middle, hoisted on his shoulder. The top must have burst, and with his body blocking the view potatoes suddenly appeared to be escaping from beneath the hem of his work coat and bouncing erratically towards the kerb.
Tina voiced her loneliness from the bedroom. Tempted but declining, I returned to my coffee,the man, his unruly potatoes and the comfort of the sun.