Wednesday, 27 January 2010


There is a van. It is parked outside of a building, right in the middle of that building at it's centre. The building extends both ways just behind the van as if growing out of that white van, bothways. It has unravelled into what it has become, a wide squat square building several floors high made out of red brick with square window-frames and balconies.   It runs the entire length of the pond in front of it. It has been there for some time. Maybe sixty years. It arrived after the war. After the bombing. Before the van ever got there.

The van is parked outside the doorway and every time I go by on the bus there it stands. It is hardly a van anymore. It is all fixed up and not going anywhere. Wires extend out of the windows and the back end and have made their way or been directed into the broken wire enforced windows of the twin doors that are always closed at the top of the white and peeling steps. That is the entrance to the building. No one goes in.

Inside the van I can usually see the head of a man at the wheel. He just sits there. He is not doing anything. Then I realise that no, that is wrong. He is doing something, though it is hard to tell from the bus because the building is set far back, past the drained pond in the middle of the common. He is watching television from a screen that has been hooked up above on an upturned wooden crate directly infront of the closed doors.
I expect the power is coming from the van which must be switched on and running on low energy. It is enough for the flickering picture which can not always be seen in the rain or dappled sunlight, the foliage of large fully mature trees arching over the double-decker buses, or the lingering falling of leaves later in the year. There is also the hubub of people getting on, moving through, getting off. The conversations and inconveniences of that journey on that day. Horns. Wheels. A siren blasting- deafening- that causes heads to swing around towards the road. A road that can be a death trap if you do not have your wits about you.

It is uncertain how many times I have passed that building before noticing that the man who barely moves his head is watching T.V. There is a bottle of  pink fizzy drink on another crate sometimes and some other bits and pieces that I cannot make out because they are always changing.

Even at night the building is dark. Apart from the T.V flickering and a single bulb always on, attached above the entrance. Windows are punched out. Blue board covers some of the doors. Ripped curtains fly in the wind escaping the holes of the lost window frames. The building is condemmed. Nobody knows when something is going to happen.

The building next to it is used for religious prayer. A van pulls up. A man gets out. He opens the back of the van and takes out a two litre plastic container of milk. He goes towards the building carrying the milk, soft curls to either side of his shaved and coupled head on a large frame.  He used to collect the kids down at the Special School and was always there ferrying them back and forth. He's a gentle priest.

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