I arrived at the counter at Robert Dyas a few moments before an elderly woman. Clearly, as far as she was concerned she arrived there a few moments before me, as she put her four light bulbs on the counter and started talking to the cashier while rooting in her purse for money. That reads like there might have been some conflict between us, there wasn’t, I didn’t seem to exist to her. The light bulbs came to £3.98. “Oh” she said, clearly surprised at how much it was “Oh well i suppose there are four of them” She took out her change. She had two pound coins, two 50p pieces and some smaller stuff. So she had to go into her other bag where she keeps notes and after some more slow rooting she pulled out £20 and gave it to the cashier. The woman behind the counter was, I think, trying to engage with me to apologise or make light of the situation. I wasn’t perturbed deeply, I had plenty of time and I was ready to say so (I rehearsed it in my mind a few times in fact). The twinge was more when she seemed to ignore me when we approached the check-out at the same time. I just waited, and paid for my polyfilla.
I am aware that several people near to me have health problems at the moment. I continue to be interested in what that means for me, what I make of it, how I react, the extent to which simply being present and listening to them talk about what’s happening for them seems to help.
OH: “You can’t have a toy *every* time we come into town” I remember this. I remember having to learn that there were limits to the family budget and that a trip to the shops didn’t always mean something fun for me.
In WH Smiths I wanted a bottle of Diet Coke. The fridge is awkwardly in a corner so only one person can stand in front of it and take something at a time. A young man, at most 18, I’d say got there first and was indecisive about what he would take. There was an offer of any two bottles for £1.90 instead of a usual price of £1.54. It’s not clear to me always in that situation whether that means you can take one bottle of regular Coke and one of Diet. Anyway he plumped for two regulars and got out of my way. Having picked up two Diets myself, I went to the cash-desk. The young man was in the queue with his friend. What I hadn’t seen was that the queue extended behind him into one of the aisles another two or three people. So I crossed in front of him to go around. He was awkward in getting out of the way and so I accidentally kicked his foot, “Sorry”, “sorry”, “Sorry”. I felt awkward at that age, like I was in the way, but not knowing how to move appropriately, over-aware of other people’s space and terrified of messing up and of course thinking that everyone was watching, taking note and forming a judgement about me. I don’t know whether he was having that experience too, but it reminded me of me. I could feel something crawling on my arm, I thought it was a money spider that I’d seen on me earlier, but it turned out to be a ladybird. I grinned and laughed inside, refusing to brush it off and enjoying instead the tantalising tickling of its tiny feet through the hairs on my skin. I was in the queue now and it was clear that there weren’t enough staff on the tills. One of the two assistants came looking for something in the aisle I was in and she was surprised to see how long the queue was, so she rang the bell to call one of her colleagues to help. “Where is she?”, “She’s unpacking books on the shelves”. An old lady in front of me admired a woman’s baby girl. “What’s her name?”, “Cynthia”, “Oh that’s a nice name”, “My daughter’s just called her girl Amelie, which is quite unusual” piped up her companion, who had a copy of every celebrity gossip magazine off the shelf. “Ah, and the vicar’s girl is called Ava. not Eva, but Ava”. I finally had to brush the ladybird off as it was climbing my neck towards my ear. A red-headed boy came to help on the tills and I was soon out of there.
There was a group of young boys gathered near the market square. It was odd because it was about 2pm and they weren’t in school uniform or looking anything like they were going to school. Two of them were sharing a phone call. When I got closer it was clear that they were travellers, they were talking in that patois that sounds like you might be able to understand if you concentrated really hard.
Outside London, smiling at people in the street and saying hello to people you don’t know is a real option. I enjoy it when I remember to do it. It’s a good thing. Nonetheless, it’s something that I’m still having to practice consciously. When I’m at my best, I’m a grinning fool all over town.
I’m mildly disturbed by the levels of obesity I see everywhere. These are not happy fat people, they seem weighed down by the world and desperate for a lighter experience.
Markets *are* conversations, but sometimes traders appear to be talking to themselves. They’re not, they’re just treading water until another customer comes along.