I’m in Weaste, waiting. Waiting for the turn-off, which will be at right angles to the trembling tramlines and this long straight road that seems to go on forever, maybe even to the sea. You never know; I think it stretches out as far as Warrington. I still have a fair distance to cover before Stott Lane, so rural sounding, but I’m cycling directly into the wind and not getting anywhere fast. Still, I’ve passed the church tower without a church. Passed Frank Wong’s Chinese chippy. Passed the TA base, where local lads beat their despondency, their dependencies, maybe even their desperation. Now I’m going past My Street, an address more difficult to get home to after a night on the tiles than you’d think.
I probably look like a statue, at a standstill, standing upright on my pedals, pushing for more power. I say I probably look, because I know lots of people are looking; I’ve picked up on the jeers and cheers, the you’re-not-from-round-heres. I don’t fit, I’m out of place on my Dutch-style bike in my stripy sailor’s top and my Real Straight jeans neither stonewashed nor studded. I’m breaking the regulation uniform of sportswear for non-sporting activity (unless you count snooker at Rileys, or horseracing at the Tote, or legging it from Tesco).
I know lots of people are eyeing me up, weighing me up. The eight-year-old girl with the off-the-shoulder dress and a face older than the Quays. The rotund man with the rotund dog, pulling him along the pavement, tongue lolling. The professional lady, suffering no embarrassment, not even the cold, in her ultra mini skirt and head-to-toe gold. Even the lanky couple, both hoods up, screaming blue murder at each other, take a breath and glance my way. How long will she last in the Weaste lands?
I don’t meet anyone’s gaze; I don’t answer anyone’s cries; I carry on, head down against the gusts, heading towards Hope. It’s all I can do.
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