I’m lost, but it’s not surprising. It’s the kind of estate you need a ball of string or a bag of bread crumbs to find your way around. Or an app. I’m sure I’ve passed that discarded fridge before. And yep – here I am, back beneath the stark, anti-climb pole with the security camera spiked on top like a traitor’s head. No doubt there’s someone in a control room somewhere looking up from his copy of Empire magazine, (Superman edition), slowly taking his feet off the desk and saying What’s this fella think he’s playing at?
I ring the patient.
‘Don’t worry,’ says Julie. ‘Even the posties get lost.’
She gives me directions, along the lines of stand with your back to the big graffiti dog, walk due north about twenty paces… and so on, until five minutes later I’m standing at Julie’s back fence. It’s a high, dark structure with a serrated top. If you didn’t know it was there you’d never find it. A place so secretive and protected it reminds me of Robinson Crusoe’s stockade. I half expect to see a hand-tied ladder tentatively lowered over the side, but instead it seems that one of the panels is actually a gate, with a latch, and I let myself in.
Whilst the estate is characterised by tangled junk yards, discarded furniture, cars parked every angle, on every level surface, Julie’s back garden is a vision of Eden. Aromatic herbs perfectly arranged on raised beds; exotic plants lolling out of bright mosaic pots, a sweet ceramic stork peeking out from beneath a lush banana tree. The back door stands open, and Julie’s old sheepdog Juno comes out to see me. She angles her head as she looks up at me, then turns and guides me through the house to where Julie is waiting, breathing painfully, propped up on cushions.
‘Thanks for coming,’ she wheezes. ‘I know it’s not easy.’
Juno hops up onto the sofa opposite, and resumes her position – her head resting on her paws, her sad eyes fixed on her mistress.