On the occasions that I wake up early enough on a Sunday, I have three things I like to do that neatly fit within two: I head to a coffee shop on Commercial Road, the road that I live on in Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, and have Eggs Benedict with coffee (that’s two), then head to Ladbrokes and place accumulator bets on the football being played that day.
Last Sunday at just past midday I bumped into Abdi, a local marijuana dealer and Bengali. He usually has a few friends with him, they’re Bengali too. He’ll often offer me hash, and I’ll always say that I’m OK. I’m thirty. I walk back with him to my place. Not with him. He’s going my way. He walks this street for most of the day, and as much of the night as he needs to. When he’s not with his mates, as was the case on Sunday, he’ll have his dog with him. I’m not big on dogs, and don’t know what type of dog it is. But I bet it’s a Labrador, I hear of that type a lot. He tells me that it’s a family dog, and that everyone knows his dog better than they know him. I doubt it; they’re a package.
The block of flats I live in is one of the social housing blocks of which there are many in the area. They’re obese industrial buildings. Mine’s referred to as ex-social housing, which generally means that anyone that had a council flat within it has probably sold up by now, or rented it to people coming into the area on the private market. We touch on the subject for a brief moment, vaguely, in which he tells me business is on the up now that our lot have moved into the area. By this, I presume, he means white middle-class types. I consider correcting him on my own background for a moment, but I’ve got a beard and wear my trousers rolled up high enough for people to see the colour of my socks, so decide against it. He tells me that not a lot of Bengalis own dogs, and we leave it at that as I let myself into my block.
On Tuesday evening, the dog is barking. I reckon Abdi lives on the square next to my block, which consists of old dockers houses surrounding some greenery. I wished I lived on it. The dog barking into the night is not unusual. I’ve often heard it and presumed that it’s Abdi’s damned Labrador. I grab my rubbish and take it out to the shoot because my recent conversation with Abdi has whetted my curiosity. The rubbish shoot is a walk around to this side of the block that overlooks the square. It’s there that I hear a shrill female voice, but unlike the usual shrill female voice that emanates from women across the street at the old boozer which attracts the same crowd it always has. I should point out, this is East London, and whilst a short walk from Brick Lane and slightly farther yet Liverpool Street, this is not the fashionable east end, despite the onset of gentrification. Her voice is that of gentrification. It’s Home Counties, not local.
“Can you keep your dog quiet? Can you put it inside your house, poor thing?” she shouts, tone belying the delicate collection of words she’s elected. “It’s scaring my cat,” she adds.
The Bengali boys are in high spirits. I can’t tell exactly what it is they’re saying back to her, their voices are tuned to a laboured low pitch. But it’s not altogether appreciative.
I’m off on Thursday. Well not ‘off’, but working from home. This is an oxymoron, my Granddad tells me. I head out to Sainsbury’s Local for lunch, and on the way I see Abdi. I purposefully walk his way.
“Wotcha.” For some reason when I talk to him I talk Cockney. “Your pup out for blood last night?” He laughs, offers me drugs. “Better keep that killer indoors with you tonight, eh?”
He seems irritated. Disturbed isn’t too strong a word. Tells me that the dog was fine before. That it didn’t do anyone any harm until the “cat woman” moved in. The dog is for protection, he says. Without it there’d be open season on him. I reiterate that, even though his life is in grave danger, it’s probably in his own interests to keep the dog inside and the “cat woman“ out of his life. The cat woman is part of a couple. I saw her move in with her partner: A guy with a beard bigger than mine. I think his trousers were rolled up too, I forget, but I definitely remember the severity of his beard.
That night there’s a party in my block. It’s not mine. I’m thirty. Students live upstairs somewhere and if there are two instruments they appreciate it’s the drum and the bass. It goes on till late, but when it does die down, there’s some foxes or cats on the square fighting it out, and their wailing reminds me, rather succinctly, of the howls of the women in the pub adjacent. In the intermittent quiet period, I hear the Bengali boys laughing and joking.
I see that Tower Hamlets is losing its mayor. He’s been up to no good, they say. It all leaves me a bit cold. Thankfully I’m distracted by the noise from the square flaring up again.
The Bengali kids are in full force and they’re arguing with someone. I’m on the side balcony by the rubbish shoot overlooking the square, but I haven’t bothered to take any waste out. I peer over hoping to catch a glance of the new couple with his Abe Lincoln and her shrill, polite demeanour. I can’t see them. I just see the old guy that’s lived in the area for centuries, probably. I refer to him as Bill to my partner because that’s what he looks like. Bill is pissed off. Abdi is smirking, protesting his innocence and his peers find it hilarious. Bill doesn’t. He’s swearing. It gets more and more heated without ever going anywhere.
“There’s dog shit all over the square, every-f*cking-where.”
And Bill goes inside.
Abdi laughs again, protests his innocence. The scene’s over and I feel cold again. I stretch my neck out and take a look at the house of the new couple. The door is closed. There are not even any lights on. Perhaps they’re out.
Bill was close to tears. I feel bad for him, and bad for Abdi as well. It’s probably 90% fox shit.