Illness has forced me to take things easy today. Normally I walk so fast even my much taller brother, with his long legs, has to tell me to slow down. Yet today I stroll rather than sprint among the late morning shoppers on damp streets after this morning’s rain. The smell of fresh air is welcome and the breeze wakes me up a little too much with its slight chill; maybe I should have worn a scarf.
I turn a corner and smell bacon cooking from the nearby sandwich bar, hear coffee being made in a café as people take their brunch at little tables, their rain macs on the back of the chair, hoping they won’t need them again today. Parents hurry children into cars before the parking runs out and a tall, middle aged couple pass me by, deep in conversation. I automatically start to imagine what their lives are like; three grown up children, may be the youngest is still at a good university before following their siblings onto professional, well-paid jobs, just like mum and dad. I picture a comfortable, family home and holidays abroad every summer. At Christmas the house is full of noise from extended family and friends. I have started to feel a tad jealous of the couple who have now long disappeared from view and doubtless don’t have lives that match my thoughts at all, but sometimes my imagination runs away with itself in pondering the stories behind the strangers I see every day on the street.
The Big Issue seller greets me as I enter the supermarket, as she does everyone, some chat to her awhile. I know what I want, so don’t take long to choose my veg and milk, before using the self-service and heading for home. I recollect how when they were first installed I hated the idea of those machines, and have to admit they do annoy me a little when they repeat their demands for money even as you’re putting some in; and they always give you your change in the smallest denomination possible, so you end up with a purse full of small coins. Yet I guess, as with many things in life, you go with it, seeing the advantage in being able to quickly pop in and out of the shop, especially at the end of the day. As I leave I wonder what have we lost for the sake of such convenience.
I’m still making myself walk slowly, and this is aided by a well-dressed, elderly couple in front of me, discussing where to go for lunch, while window shopping. I admire the gentleman’s use of his big umbrella as a walking aid, and consider that when I’m much older, I should like to have a walking stick too. I’d get one especially made with an intricate design. Further down the road, people walk briskly by with a coffee, others with fresh bread from the bakers, the butchers is starting to fill up too, and loud banter drifts out into the street as cars pass; their drivers looking for a handy parking spot. My favourite shop, the local independent bookstore, has its doors wide open, but I resist its welcoming call as I remember the four books at home by my bed; need to get through them first.
As I continue towards my little flat, I pass by trees, full of their green summer plumage, and the smell of cut grass as my neighbour greets me, and I realise that usually I wouldn’t have noticed all this. In my typical rush to go there and back again, caught up in my own thoughts, I would have missed the smells, the sights and intrigue of potential stories in people’s faces. I must remember that slower sees more.