Barry the barrowman


“Chanu spoke loudly, he weighed his words like gold and threw them about like a fool.”
― Monica Ali

Weather: frost, sunshine, rain, sunshine, rain, cold wind.

Mood: in search of calm

Word of the day: Callithump – boisterous and noisy parade

Most of the road sweepers at my work are mellow and friendly, but Barry the barrowman (as he’s not known to his face) is a little different. Today, I was trying to read my book on my lunch break when he walked up close and screamed ‘Oi! Oi!’ in my ear. Then he began to leap about in front of me, saying ‘What you reading for babe? What you want to read for?’

The problem is that quiet upsets him, he takes it as an insult. Me reading is an affront to his dignity. He needs constant noise and attention, which is tricky because he spends all day sweeping on his own. He has hours alone to think up paranoid reasons for everything: colleagues he thinks are avoiding him. Or spying on him. Plots to oust him from his job. How everybody hates him. By the time he gets to break he’s so wound up, so desperate for attention that he shouts his way around the room, scaring everyone away.

I try to calm him down by asking about his plans for the weekend. His mood drops, he drifts into melancholy and tells me about how his kids won’t talk to him anymore. Even the one who’s earning lots of money, but won’t give him any. His emotions are a roller-coaster.


Finally! Talking to Hamoudi again. And eating salad.

 ‘I want to tell you my secret now…’

The Sixth Sense

Tricky to hold the plastic pry tool and the phone at the same time, so I apologise for the ineptness of this photo

Weather: grey.

Mood: hermit crab

Word of the day: yapness – hunger

The furniture shop/garden centre down my road has now become a ‘Lifestyle Café’ after only being a garden centre for a week. A fancy sign declares it so. There were quite a few guys hanging around chatting, but I’m pretty sure they are the guys that hung out there when it was a furniture shop, so I doubt they’re spending much money. There were also a few washing machines for sale.

I drifted over that way, thinking I could do with a lifestyle. I had a look at the sign, admired the plastic ivy they had winding up the frame of the café. Then the guys all noticed me and stared, their expressions clearly saying, This is no place for the likes of you! So I hurried away.

On the bright side, I managed to bump into Hamoudi in the kitchen. He was cheerfully making a complicated salad, and after all my popcorn and crackers, I got pretty jealous. I asked him how his job at the bar was going, whether he was missing home, all the questions you’re supposed to ask someone you don’t know well. Finally I blurted out,

‘So, you see dead people?’

His face dropped, he stopped dicing carrots and leaned on the counter. Then said, his voice heavy with sorrow,

‘Back home, yeah. It’s been ok here. So far.’

‘What people? People you knew?’

‘No, just in the street. Looking in the window, in trees sometimes. They’re everywhere. They get lonely.’

‘And they scared you? That’s why you left?’

‘No, they made me sad. Every day, all these sad faces. And when other stuff started happening too, I thought, I can’t stay, this place isn’t safe.’

‘What other stuff?’ I asked.

Hamoudi said nothing, but handed me a bowl of salad with a look of sorrow and then turned away. I crept out. I was pretty excited about my healthy food, but forgot a fork so I had to eat it with a plastic pry tool for the car. They’re surprisingly effective.

I’m leaving my room! I’m going into the kitchen!


When you think about it, the whole world is a ‘lifestyle café’.

Weather: the kind of wind that tries to snatch you out of the world by your hoody

Mood: adventurous

Phrase of the dayHablar hasta por los codos (Spanish) to talk non-stop, literally to talk even through the elbows

I took a walk down my street to see what changes have happened this week. There’s always something. Either somebody will have knocked down a wall to reveal a toilet in their garden or they’ll be a gathering of body builders at the church.

About half-way down the road is a furniture shop with no particular wares. Last week they had thirty washing machines, before that it was microwaves and sofas. I’m assuming it depends on what warehouse got broken into. The guys who like to hang out there are sociable and friendly, always playing music and having a smoke and a chat together. I walked past it today and it had turned into a garden centre. It had the same group of guys hanging out, but with rows of dry brown box bushes and withered geraniums.

I’m impressed they managed to change their entire product line and kill it, all within a week.

Bolstered by this go-getting attitude of can-do, when I got home I decided I wouldn’t spend the whole evening hiding in my room. I’d venture out and talk to my new flatmates. As I’ve mentioned, I tend to hide from them and only sneak out long enough to get some cheese from the fridge. I keep the crackers in my room. That’s dinner.

However, today, when I heard someone bashing around the kitchen I went out to say hi under the pretence of getting some cereal. And I encountered Neville. Neville is super woke, super friendly, and was wearing a t-shirt that said ‘Feminist as fuck’. He told me about his hometown in Delaware and how he grew up poor in what sounded like a mansion (three flights of stairs and a pool??), all the while he was cooking up a big pack of bacon. Just putting slice after slice in the frying pan. Then he began telling me all the countries that are good at making bacon and I felt the need to escape the conversation. This was more words than I’d heard in a long time and my brain was also starting to fry, but it was difficult to find a moment of pause. Apparently Denmark is not the best country for bacon, that’s just PR. In the end I had to shout that I’d heard my phone ringing and run for my room.

Still, that’s a first step in becoming a fully integrated member of society. I’m on the up and up!