A severely disabled woman comes into the café on crutches, a carer smiles at a polite distance behind her shoulder.
‘What can I get for you today, Charlotte? Are you wanting any food?’ the chubby pink waitress says to her in that sing-song voice people generally use when patronising children or people with disabilities.
‘Yes. Doctor says I’ve got to eat something.’
‘What would you like? We’ve got some lovely quiche, today’
‘QUICHE IS A GAY PERSON’S FOOD!’ shouts Charlotte.
Someone in the kitchen drops a glass and the lad in skinny jeans by the door shuffles in his seat.
There’s a spectacular view from the cliff top so I stop at a bench for a cigarette.
A family approaches – a sweating mass of red wobbling flesh, the children as overweight as the parents. I shuffle up and the kids spread out on the bench.
‘Darren, don’t sit there, that guy’s smoking. You know what we think of smokers don’t you?’ the dad says, loudly.
‘You chose to sit here and second-hand smoke is the least of your troubles, fatty’ I want to say but I don’t. To save face I wait a minute or so before moving on.
I didn’t know why the police pulled me over. I hadn’t been speeding but there could easily have been any number of things wrong with my car.
I gave the officer my best I’ve done nothing wrong kind of smile, all the time thinking: please don’t look at my tyres.
‘What’s your name?’ she said. I told her even though she’d already run my number plate through her computer.
‘Where do you come from?’
‘That’s why we’ve stopped you.’
It says a lot about a town when just the fact that you’re from there means you’re worthy of suspicion.
The waiters have treated me like shit. They patronised me when I came in, stuck me at a back table and then ignored me. To order I have to approach one of them with a menu.
The bill comes – £24 for Moussaka, salad and a beer. I don’t want to leave exactly £24, they might think I’ve simply forgotten to tip and I want them to understand how I rate their service.
I put £24.13p on the table and rush out. On the pavement, I panic that I’ve forgotten my camera. I’d rather leave it behind than go back.
The lad’s sitting on a BMX by the train doors. The bike has skin-scraping metal tubes in the centre of each wheel for doing tricks. Each tube is white and unscratched. He rolls backwards and forwards as he talks about his job, loudly:
‘So the airlines tell us the movie they want, yeh? Our company buys the rights for them? Then we edit the movie and send it to the airline?’
‘Prick,’ I think.
Then a woman approaches the doors with a pram and before I think about it, the lad’s off his BMX and helping her off the train.
They were positioned at strategic points down the cobbled main street of the town centre – five of them, standing in the middle so they could reach the shoppers passing on either side. They were collecting for a children’s charity. I walked right by each one and none of them rattled their tin in my direction.
I loitered next to the last one, waiting for her to approach me. I was ignored. Why? I’m old enough to have children, I can feel sympathy, what part of my appearance meant I was excluded from their demographic? What was wrong with me?