Mr Pike puts on his overcoat and double locks the door of 81 Faraday Walk. He heads to Kahlil’s shop for two tins of kit-e-kat, one for him, one for Mungo. He has no other friends because he stinks of piss and is always disagreeable. He hears the sound of gunshot and tyres screeching; his neighbours have their television on full blast. They are trying to drown out the sound of the baby crying in the flat below; it is colicky and fractious; its mother doesn’t know what to do for the best – why would she? she is only fifteen. Mr Pike passes Libby Radford, anorexic. Her mouth clamped shut to hide blackened teeth, loose in a cadaverous jaw. And Jean Banks carrying yesterday’s paper. The scaremongering headline predicts: Trouble Brewing. She only wants it for the coupons. Jean is overweight and underloved; she misses her brother; he hung himself two months back because of debt. His flat is now rented to a Somalian family who have no English, no work and take turns with the shoes. Mr Hess from number eleven was trying to teach them the lingo, but he’s been diagnosed with throat cancer. His son Michael is in prison, due for parole, fingers crossed this time. Michael’s erstwhile colleagues, Spud and Pauly are still in business; they can get you most prescription drugs at reasonable prices and also speed, or skag. Just ask. By agreement, they don’t now do puff; you have to go to Leon for that. Or Skinny Pete. A kettle boils. A dog yaps; ‘shut the fuck up’. A radio blares. A door slams. Mr Pike passes number 40, boarded up, then number 39 where Sycorax, still in her nightie, is hauling stinking black bags of rubbish out of the door. He turns left, down into the concrete stairwell. He hears sobbing at the bottom, puts up his collar, keeps walking. Two skinheads; Simon and Gareth, pea-coated and clucking, hurry past him to the pub. An old sofa has been fly-tipped on the pavement. Upholstered in orange velour, greasy in a way makes him nostalgic for antimacassars. Already the sofa is occupied. No-one knows his name; he rants and raves and wears a close-fitting cap made out of tinfoil; ‘fucking radiation,’ he shouts. In the phone box someone is losing an argument with their probation officer, social worker, money lender, or pimp. The short queue eavesdrops, quite without shame. Mr Pike cuts through the dank concrete underpass, sidesteps dogshit with a practiced manoeuvre and reaches the erratically stocked shop with its graphited metal roller shutters and tatty striped awning. Here you can get pop, pop-tarts, popsicles, and pop-socks, but not muesli. Vegetables are frozen or tinned. Vodka comes in two-litre plastic containers with photocopied labels; it’s not on display. Just ask. Outside, sitting on the pavement are two little skanks, muzzles red-rashed, with crusted scabs. They’ve just shoplifted a bag of smoky bacon Golden Wonder to go with their tin of Evo-stick. Welcome to Lovelace Flats.