A walk-on part in a Film Noir

Last night, I dreamt I went to a bookshop again… where I bought a cookery book with a pale blue cover. In the streets, people were standing close together, chatting. It all felt a bit surreal; much like our waking life is feeling right now. (The Queen’s rallying speech on Sunday evening and our Prime Minister seriously ill in hospital at the moment being two major examples.)

It was bin day, today, and I startled a man walking his dog as I went to put ours at the bottom of our drive at six-thirty this morning. Shortly after, two women jogged by (I trust they were related) and another dog walker appeared. They were probably all thinking it’s the best time to go out; though, having witnessed me in all my early-morning, pre-shower glory of no make-up, hair like a nest and baggy old, strictly-to-be-worn-indoors-only clothes, I feel sure they will be altering their schedules pretty sharpish.

We had a delivery of a box of beautiful-looking fruit and veg, courtesy of one of the wonderful local shops. Shame it wasn’t meant for us. A polite message to the shop owners sorted it, but I’ve been hankering for a lovely fresh pineapple ever since…

On our short lunchtime walk today, we heard two robins serenading each other from nearby trees; much like the Italians on their balconies, I imagine.

As we walked around the field near the river, we noticed families having picnics and others just sitting on benches, enjoying being out in the air and among, if not close to, other people. As someone said on FaceBook today, this whole situation is hitting extroverts much harder than introverts. A friend emailed me the other day and said that, as a writer, she has been used to spending many hours on her own over the years, but it’s her social life she misses most.

One couple, sitting together on a bench, were totally absorbed in their phones and ignoring each other completely. Not sure why they couldn’t just have done that in the comfort of their own home, but, whatever!

A local cafe owner sat outside his premises, door open, even though no food is being served for the time being. I really hope he will be able to ride this out and re-open afterwards, since his food is very good and I enjoy meeting friends there for lunch.

We cut back home through the station, where one man sat on his own on a bench on the concourse. The train came in but he didn’t get on it; nor did anyone get off. I almost felt as though I was playing a walk-on part in a Film Noir. The overall atmosphere of gloom, despair and eerie silence just begged for everything to be in monochrome. I looked at the announcement board and felt a small pang on seeing the words: “London Waterloo.” I can’t wait to get back up there again.

The man reminded me of someone I see every week on my travels into town. I don’t know how else to describe him, other than someone with “learning disabilities” – such an umbrella term, but we all have to be so politically correct, these days, don’t we? He doesn’t look that old underneath the beard and dirty skin – he could be in his 30s, or 40s, maybe. He wears the same filthy, stained coat year-round and he smells to high heaven. He talks to himself a lot and seems quite cheery and upbeat most of the time, although he can occasionally go off on one; more to himself than others. I don’t know where he lives, but I see him waiting on a bench at Surbiton station in the afternoons, when I am usually on my way home from town, and he is at Waterloo every time I’m up there, too. He must spend all day, every day, there. I’ve seen some of the station staff talking to him as though he is a familiar face. He must be incredibly lonely and bored and I have been wondering how he has been faring in all this. Not too well, I’m guessing.

Author: Hampton Caught

The rants and ramblings of an ex Deputy Fiction Editor of Woman's Weekly magazine.

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