Soot.

No, only kidding.

I go for a run.

Run, run, run!

Inspired by Mr Singh, I’ve added around a half-mile to my usual circuit. By the time I pass the duckpond, I’m in my stride.

A car slows to a crawl beside me. A head pokes out of the driver’s window.

Mixed feelings. I like helping people with directions, as it makes me feel terribly local. But I also don’t like stopping mid-run.

The car is an old Fiesta (I think). It’s been sprayed luminous yellow. It has a big spoiler, and some wheels that perhaps were replaced after leaving the factory. Bulbous wheel arches complete the effect.

Somebody has clearly spent money on it. Although it’s beyond me as to why they didn’t just buy a better vehicle in the first place.

I regard it with pity. It’s not a car, it’s a cry for help.

I continue jogging slowly, nod to the chap leaning out of the window, and remove my headphones in a gesture of communication.

He looks exactly how you’d expect the driver of such a vehicle to look. Baseball cap. Haircut.

“Scuse me,” says the man in the Car of Shame.

Incredible how ‘Excuse me’ – a completely unnecessary use of breath unless you positively wish to be polite to someone – can be rendered so as to appear an act of indifferent insolence.

I slow to a halt, there in my tracksuit, jogging on the spot, the living epitome of health and exercise.

“You got a light on you, mate?”

I gape at him.

Although it isn’t quite Las Vegas, I can see at least three other people going about their business in the street or in their front gardens.

No matter how I try, I just cannot comprehend the thought processes that had led him to conclude that I’d be the particular one likely to be carrying a silver Zippo and twenty Benson’s. I pat my tracksuit apologetically.

“No. Sorry, mate”. I reply.

I might as well have added: “You got a copy of The Brothers Karamazov?”

He pulled away, with a grunt.

I ran on.

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