This week I've been staring a lot at people I don't know personally, but have noticed them 'around'.
Some of these people look back at me with a hint of recognition in their eyes. I'm probably "that woman who's always pushing a screaming kid around town".
This brief, extra late Indian Summer, though welcome, and very much expected by me, is strange. The park smelt rotten, the festering, damp, autumnal mulch, intensified by the alien heat rays.
I got to the park early every day to enjoy the initial peace and increasing warmth with my monkey of a son; the squirrels, birds and the park keeper our only company.
By 10:45, the squirrels are hiding and out come the pigeons, ready for some of Greggs' finest crumbs, dropped by the hoards of toddlers who arrive. Peace will be restored in under 24 hours, until then, goodbye park, I have been frequenting you all my life and will never completely give up on you.
As I exit the park, I recoil by HSBC bank. The "loud, chopsy thin woman" which is a rather poor nickname (coined by my mum) is even thinner. If she was 7 stone before, she now looks less than 6, a walking corpse; skin like flaps of peeling PVA glue hang from jutting spiky bones. Her voice is now ghoulish, I can imagine her saying "help meeee" in a terrifying whisper. She no longer chats for too long to the charity shop volunteers, she's fading. I don't think she's as old as she looks (which is about 190) and I think she is clever, though she seems like a 'difficult' person. I stare and recoil a few more times - how can someone so poorly be out and about?
In the market, I see a man who scares me, if I'm near him in a shop I go all cold and tense. I'd say he's in his mid to late 60's, he never smiles, there is no evidence of an emotion, positive or negative, on his face. It's the upright walk which unnerves me, that and the eyes of a shark.
A new addition to my 'I've seen you before' file, intrigues me. I reckon I'll get to know her one day, she seems worth getting to know. I like her clothes and the way she looks up, not just around. I'd say she's in her mid forties, lives alone, and suffers from depression - her eyes look quite sad, like they're desperate to be rinsed out with cold water and shown a bright picture.
The last in today's list is a lady who has lost it. Once, she looked the part. In the 80s she 'nailed' (I hate he use of that word all the time) the big hair, frosted lips and stiletto-revealing toe-cleavage look. Time has been unkind, and I reckon moving on (there goes another crap term) would be a good idea. Ordering all the discontinued 'Sky Blue Pink' Constance Caroll lipsticks from some obscure website, still back-combing her hair even though it's brittle and grey, and spraying an emphysema-inducing amount of Insette hairspray to hold it in place, has done her no favours. She doesn't smile. She used to smile a lot. I bet she's got bunions.
When I become "the woman who USED to push a screaming kid around town" I hope I look happier, not sad and lost.
Do you have any nicknames for local strangers?
Rob and I have hundreds. Just in a small section of the street we have:
'My Ex' (so called because he asked me on a date once when I first moved in - I declined)
'Your mate' (I call the guy who lives over the road Rob's mate because Rob fixed his computer once. He lives in the dirtiest house imaginable and is rather eccentric, very much NOT Rob's mate)
'Snoop Dogg' (He lives opposite and is never without his dog. Seems a nice guy, but has the worst hairdo; fringe which comes to his eyebrows, long hair to his shoulders; cut short at the sides for his ears to poke out. Oh, and a moustache to complete the look. And 70's addidas track suits which would fetch a tidy sum on ebay)
I'm a very nosey neighbour.