October. The bike and I take shelter under the awning of the Summerhouse cafe in the park to wait out the heavy downpour. I order coffee and join the other stranded folk watching the water bounce off the picnic tables and slide down the sides of a plastic ice-cream the size of a child. It seems to have been raining for weeks.
I think about a film I saw recently – Blade Runner 2049. It presents a terrifying dystopia in which organic life has been all but extinguished, and everything is commodified. I wonder for a moment how prescient sci-fi writers like Philip K. Dick were, and what’s going to happen to us when the ice caps melt. Shouldn’t we be taking to the streets to protest against fossil fuels or something?
A collie dog shivers at the feet of an old man in a cap. We sip our coffee synchronously, the man and I. Snatches of Stevie Wonder’s Superstition strain through speakers that are screwed to a post next to a CCTV eye. One of the cardboard skeletons strung along the front of the awning has its arm hooked up in green cotton wool that is sprinkled with plastic spiders. You find it festooned copiously all over the shops at this time of year, a prelude to the tinsel.
I crumple up my cardboard coffee cup and deposit it in the bin. The rain hasn’t lessened a bit; it is falling sheets of pins dissolving on impact with the tarmac. The old man and I exchange a glance.
It’s in for the day, he says. No point in waiting.
He pulls up the collar of his jacket, gives the peak of his cap a small tug downwards and steps out, the dog slinking at his heels.