Wayne and Wayde

I see the two boys standing by the street sign. I'm taking a photo of the sign but I keep them out of the shot. They notice me and amble across the road towards me. 'why did you take that photo?' one boy asks me.

Why did I take that photo? I'm on a route around memory lane, taking a photo of each street name in the town where I grew up. The sign that the two boys are standing beside reads 'Morwenna Park Road'. That was the place where the poor kids used to come from; the council-house estate with broken homes, fathers who drunk and smoked and shouted; houses that smelled, and children that were violent. I'm nervous - even of these two small children. Such is the power of memory.


'because I like it' I reply 'don't you like it?' One kid screws up his face. 'well it's a bit... gay' he says, drawing out the last word. I smile, it's a word I'd have never used at that age. 'you could be right there' I say. I notice that one of the boys has an aluminium scooter with polyurethane wheels. 'did you get that for Christmas?' I ask. The boy with the scooter looks up at me. 'yes, but I've got another one at home that's better, it comes down like this' he says as he quickly folds down the scooter's handlebars, illustrating its compactness to me.

There's a moment's silence.

'where do you come from?' one of the boys asks me. It's a simple question, but for some reason a question that I find difficult to answer. After all that's part of the reason I was taking the photograph in the first place: to find out where I came from. 'Holland' I say. As two blank faces stare at me I quickly add 'do you know Holland?' 'yes' they reply together a little too quickly, trying to impress me. Another short silence. 'I come from Manchester' one boy says. 'I come from London' the other says directly after. Two cities a long way away. How did they get here? How did they end up living in Morwenna Park?

'do you go to St Margarets?' I ask. St Margaret's is the local primary school. The school that I first went to. The school where I played football and chess, and was fascinated by mud, and water and cars. The school where the dinner hall always smelled like dinner time.'how did you know?' one boy asks, asking the question that occurs to both of them simultaneously. Maybe a shadow of suspicion crosses their mind. 'I used to go there, a long time ago' I say 'It's a good school. You're lucky'.

Why did I say they were lucky? Just because I went there? How does that make it lucky for them, twenty-two years later? One of the boys starts to write his name in the dust on the back of a car. He spells out W... A... Y... N... E.'Is that your name?' I ask.'Yeah', he replies 'my name's Wayne and his name's Wayde' he says pointing to his friend. 'there's not much difference, instead of an n you just put a d' his friend adds. 'Wayde' he repeats, as if I might have forgotten.

Again there's a short silence.

Wayde looks down at Hector, the dog I have with me. 'we've got four dogs at home. Two Jack Russels, one Spaniel, and one Sheepdog'. 'Have you?' I say 'that's a lot of dogs'. They're bored now. Their bodies are moving, twisting, twitching; unconsciously telling them that it's time to go. I tug on Hector's lead. As they move off backwards, turning, they both say 'see you then'. 'See you later' I say. It's a nice, neat ending.


January 2001