In the past week spring had fallen like a benediction, the sun warming the grimy pavements, charming weed shoots through the cracks and drawing blind thistles up under the tarmac in unlikely bulges. The grass had begun to grow, re-greening the gardens, the parks and the verges with their cargos of litter and cuckoospit and grime. Even the waste ground between the old bingo hall and the railway line, strewn with faded estate agent’s boards, rotting sleepers and huge wooden drums once wound with cable, even these abandoned corners were warmed by the spring sunshine and had become rank and dizzy with life.
On Leasow Road the cherries blushed cornelian or dappled the pavement below with palest pink. Outside some lucky houses magnolias were opening their miraculous, waxy blooms, their fallen petals like slivers of soap on the pavements beneath, bruising to brown with time, and feet. On earthy islets in crazy paved front gardens specimen roses unfurled new, red leaves, while from verge, bed and central reservation nodded the municipal daffs.
Now the Somali postman found himself shadowed on his rounds by wood pigeons’ dozy coos, while on sunny afternoons starlings clicked and chattered from the aerials like avian telegraph operators sending news about each street’s coming and goings on the wires. And along the long, unlovely High Road the estates were once again jubilant with birds. Robins sang riotously from street lamp, sill and gutter; blackbirds spilled their song down into the tangled yards behind the high-rise blocks. Pigeons jostled the windowsills above grimy shop-fronts, and at sunset their assemblies were hosted by the sun-warmed roofs.
The spring sunshine brought a new mood of optimism everywhere it fell. Workmen left doors and windows open, causing all but the most stubbornly unmusical to fall into step with their radios as they passed. Women, bound by the same circadian rhythm, swapped gloves for sunglasses in their everyday handbags. And at the end of each school day the kids streamed screaming out of the gates, eager not for home and TV, but just to be out, free, in the burgeoning world.
This passage is one of the oldest in Clay; it began life as a descriptive passage entitled 'Voar', an old country dialect word for spring.