My day in strangers 

I’m good at people watching and my flat is helpfully located for such things.  And the vertigo means I have been spending a lot of time staring out of my window.

There are the people you only see once.  There is a doctors surgery across the road and you can tell who’s hardly ever been by their slight confusion about where to go.  And their inability to get out again – it says the door is automatic but for exiting, you have to press a button which isn’t intuitively placed.  I see so many people pushing and shoving the door and getting frustrated and confused. I mentioned this to the receptionist once, suggested they put up a sign, they still haven’t.

There are the people who work in the doctors and the doctors themselves.  There are the regular patients.  The people I think I know but don’t.  I actually said hello to one of these once because I thought we had met before.  We hadn’t.  I only knew her through my living room window.

As I type, the really awful doctor is parking up.  She is as bad at parking as she is at medicine.  She has a small car which she regularly bumps as she does a ten point turn.  She parks on double yellow lines and over drop kerbs, preventing access to the surgery she works in.  She has left her car lights on twice in the year I’ve lived here and bumped someone else’s car once that I’m aware of.

Then there are what I consider the locals.  The people who I see regularly, who aren’t here for the doctors.  The people who must live or work around here.  People I feel I know but who have never or rarely seen me.  I live in a bubble.  I do not claim these strangers as friends but I do feel some sort of comradeship with them.

And it is these people that I am memorialising today.  As the day passes, I will add my word portraits to this post and celebrate the strangers who keep me company in my illness.

A tall, stringy man walks past, dirty and ragged but with a bounce in his step.  He is normally alone and normally carrying something; a plank of wood, a metal pole, a carrier bag filled with who knows what.  Today though he is empty handed and talking to a woman I don’t recognise.

A bearded man bound up in layers and a woolly hat.  His tan coloured dog wanders, leadless, ahead of him.  There is something rough and ready about both of them and also an air of gentleness.  The dog is never on a lead and sometimes it strays far ahead of the man but never too far.  There is a trust between them, a bond.

It’s raining and cold and dark and as such it’s a bit of a slow day in terms of people watching…

Dogs seem to feature heavily in my people watching.  There is a woman who pushes her dogs in what appears to be a special dog pram.  There is a dog in the dog pram and a dog in a plastic box on top of the dog pram.  The one in the box has black curly fur and wears a little collar that lets people know he is blind.  Today he was also wearing a bright pink coat.  Sadly I only saw the tail end of this group as they went past when I popped to the toilet!  Sometimes the woman is on her own with the dogs but more often, like today, there is a man with her.  I think they are at an early stage in their retired life and seem incredibly committed to the dogs.  It makes me sad to think that there are these two dogs who can’t walk who get taken out at least once a day and there are two dogs who live upstairs who can walk who hardly ever get taken out.

It is getting on for lunch time and I haven’t seen one of my regulars yet.  I am fairly certain he lives alone and I do worry a little for my tribe of strangers.  The one I’m thinking of has a wild mop of dyed astringant red hair and is pulled along by his two black and white collies.  The dogs walk the unsteady man everyday, several times a day.  He feels chaotic, his untamed hair flies in the wind.  His clothes are scruffy and he appears unkempt and uncared for but again, his dedication to his dogs is amazing.

The slightly hippy looking man who also looks like he could easily be a boxer or something has just gone past with his boxer dog.  There is an element there of looking like ones pet… Both are stocky and big and tough looking.  Well built.  Strong and made of muscle.  He was in his regular clothes, a loose shirt, possibly shorts – I couldn’t see but he normally wears shorts.  Sometimes I see him in a royal mail uniform, not the one that post deliverers wear though.

I feel far more connected with my postman than I’m sure he feels to me…  He has close cut hair, greying stubble and a friendly smile.  He parks his post trolley thing opposite my flat and quietly gets on with his work.  There is something very reliable about seeing him at roughly the same time most days and it’s also a cue for me that lunch is soon.  I feel like if I needed help, like opening a bottle, I could ask him…

I’m sure that not all of my strangers have dogs but I guess the walking of them explains why they are such regulars – my flat is near a park where I expect most of them are heading to and from.

No need to panic, the wild haired collie owning guy went by whilst I was eating my lunch.

The woman with her pram has a far less energetic pet.  She slowly walks the baby and the wiry old dog.  Sometimes her partner accompanies her, sometimes a friend and her baby.  Sometimes it’s just the partner with his baby strapped to his chest trying to get the dog to go at a faster pace.

It’s been a slow day in terms of people passing by but the man and the leadless dog from this morning are back.  Meandering slowly past, the dog keeps running into my view and then looking back to see where his friend is.  He then disappears from my window, presumably heading back to the man, before returning again.

Written Monday 24th April.



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