You know those days you get when wherever you go, you almost bump into people you know but you aren’t really, one hundred percent, in the mood to stop and talk to them? Or, it’s people who are a bit dodge and worth not being spotted by; or, people you out-and-out want to avoid because they talk and talk in long, long sentences that go on and on and on forever with loads of unnecessary words for no apparent reason that you can think of except possibly that they just really enjoy thinking of extra words to add on?
Well today is not one of those days. Today, right now, I am standing at a perfect people-watching vantage point, where many people are passing below me, at a recognisable distance, but without me invading their privacy or personal space being here. Further away, twice as many people again pass by beyond recognition, but clearly at ease; mostly strolling and cycling; very few walking at any pace. Two people see each other from different levels – they are the first I have seen to walk fast, they are excited to each reach the end of their level, to join each other. Their joy is palpable, and it’s hard not to watch the entire event. But there are others to watch.
I notice how much pleasure just witnessing everybody is giving me. There is a chill wind coming off the sea, but it is sunny and not intermittently. A significant inner voice thinks that in spite of the sun, I am unwise to stay out too long standing in the cold, that I should go home and rest according to my rulebook; a tiny, insignificant voice thinks that I might look odd here. The truth is that this level of exposure to a random selection of humanity, pottering about as if it were a normal day, yet, somehow, ineffably, better than that, is nourishing me deeply with a feeling I cannot possibly, arbitrarily cut short. I am being refilled. There is a sensation that I am witnessing something extremely rare, and yet we both know this should be utterly normal.
I stay and I stay and I write this. I have warm enough layers and the emergency winter hat in my bag. No gloves or scarf today. It is not Spring, we still have at least three weeks of legitimate hibernation time to go before we can expect ourselves to bounce and labour beyond a self-sustaining minimum. Incidentally, this makes it a crucial moment for noticing whether capitalist working hours / practices are fucking with or squandering your life.
But back to the people. Are they the blessed workless few or the privileged wealthy? They are not at work while they stroll and cycle, probably. It is not even lunchtime. How many people who have lost their jobs are happy today? Is it enough? Why do they seem subtly happier than I ever normally witness in this country?
And here are the cutest couple ever. They look so similar; I think they are both boys but I don’t care and guessing by age I doubt they do either. They are both white with long, furry/fuzzy/wavy hair; really long, combed out nicely, one black, one brown/almost fair. Their long-sleeved black cotton tops are a pair, the same but different. That also equals same number of layers worn on a sunny Winter’s day … definitely boys then. Same jean type, similar shoes; and they walk in sync, both holding smartphones in two hands, occasionally stopping so closely together that they could actually be a couple, and if not, even cuter. The best bit is that one (fair hair, glasses), is the only person to look up and smile at me today from that level; even if it was an accident, caused quite possibly by a spontaneous need to emit an excess of joy received from the device out further than the companion for one moment. It worked.
And now here comes the first obvious nutter, the first laden shopper, the first walking jogger. We are not so fit in February; we are flagging a little at 3 o’clock. Time for the nap.