I love being out and about, observing people. I assumed everybody did it, when I was young. I found out in my teens this was not the case. My mother and I used to get the same train in the morning, me to school, she to her job in London. Being a small country station, the same faces could be seen on the platform, day in, day out. I would observe them keenly, noticing new haircuts, changed expressions, who was hiding behind their paper. Now they'd all be deep in electronic devices, but this was the 80s.
I made an observation to my mother once about one of the regulars. She had no idea who I was talking about. It transpired she was busy watching the buds on the trees or the development of the flowers in the changing seasons. Diff'rent strokes.
The first person I observed in the last week or so was a student on the bus back into Brighton from the university. About 20 or so, with badly dyed, pastel-pink hair, she was talking enthusiastically to her companion about the tattoo she was planning. Not on the throat, because that would be painful, but on the side of her neck, perhaps. One of her friends had had carved (sorry, I'm not into tattoos) into his neck a line from Anne Boleyn's speech written the night before her execution, something about greeting death like a sleep. Anne, you did not die in vain.
The second person I saw was a street cleaner by the side of the park, his high vis jacket a welcome spot of colour against the dark bareness of the winter trees. As I approached I could see he was very animated on his phone, his litter picker-upper perched in the crook of his arm as he leaned on his trolley. As I walked past him, I noticed he was Facetime or Skyping a woman entirely in sign language and she was reciprocating. From the grin on his face, I guessed things were good.
The third was in fact a couple who sat opposite me on a London-bound train. They got on at Gatwick, heavy with bags. I think they were Portuguese, although my knowledge of languages is woefully shaky. They each got out an M & S sandwich and removing both halves, stacked one on the other and took a bite through all four slices of bread. In between these mammoth mouthfuls they chatted animatedly. Why the double stack, I wondered? Was it a Portuguese trait or was it just them? I asked on Facebook and it being Friday afternoon a spirited discussion soon sprung up, complete with emojis. Some Portuguese were consulted and they said they'd never heard of such a thing. One person admired the time-saving nature of the practice, another contradicted saying it would take just as long to eat as the mouthfuls were bigger.
....and the tequila shots. I am a student once more! I'm doing a module in Qualitative Research in March. This is because I might be doing some further study subsequently. The word 'PhD' has been mentioned. Not by me particularly, but by my champion and collaborator on some previous research (and bona fide academic doctor herself) Kay. I am a little hesitant, because while I'm good at yapping on here, I'm not sure my mind is sturdy enough for this level. It's somewhat rusty, having last submerged itself in academia back in the 90s (ACCCIIIDDDD!!! - actually no, I was far too timid). Anyway, a module seemed a good plan to test the waters.
The woman in the Student Services said - 'Are you happy with the photo you've uploaded?' I detected a slight hesitancy in her voice.
'I think so,' I replied. Truth be told, it was some weeks back that I filled out the enrolment online. Goodness knows which photo I used.
'It's quirky,' she said. 'Very colourful.'
It was this one below. Bloody hell, I thought, it's lucky she's not met my alter ego Mary Christmas if she thinks that one is quirky.
So here I am, prancing about the campus, imagining myself in Educating Rita and marveling again at how many books there are in the world. Rows upon rows in the library, just about Qualitative Research, many of them theses by those brave enough to have deemed themselves worthy of study.
To my delight I discover a half-eaten brownie in the bag I have taken, still fresh enough to be eaten. Waste not, want not, I'm a student now....
I've been reading one of Alan Bennett's diaries (very slowly. Not because I don't enjoy it, but because it's in the bathroom, reserved for my post-shower sit in towel to dry off). It made me realise I would LOVE my own 'What I've been up to this week!' type column in a paper/magazine. So would many thousands of others, I'd imagine. So, I've created my own additional section here. Less ranty, reflectiony or reviewy than the other bits.