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Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Starbucks – a bit more people watching under the influence of a strong coffee.

I believe it to be Henri –Cartier-Bresson who said about photography ‘Into this space life will come.’ He was referring to the patient observing of life from a fixed point and through the lens of a camera. He was waiting patiently to achieve a chance result. Today I have applied that same logic to the sitting at a fixed point (my stool by the window) observing life go by (folk passing Starbucks) and recording my impressions on to paper or the lens of my camera.

I am not a regular visitor of this Starbucks establishment by Nottingham’s Market Square but the cappuccino was good and the vantage point for my blog even better. In fact there were so many people going by I could hardly write fast enough and found myself concentrating on the more interesting characters. Like in the previously similar blog from the window of Prêt a Manger I also scribbled a few little rough cartoons to remind me of the people passing and what they were doing.

Because of the scaffolding still outside I felt like I was in a bit of a cage looking out upon the free world. There was some jazzy music playing in the background and cds of it for sale at the counter. Once I had settled by the window, next to an attractive lady engrossed in her book, I took out my pen and paper and started to sketch out my impressions. It may seem a bit of a jumble to read after the event but it was how things happened. Some member of staff shouted out ‘signature hot chocolate!’ twice. Things seem to have odd names here. I heard someone order a venti half-caff soy mocha latte with no whip. There’s me thinking that I’m being daring asking for a cappuccino half froth. I digress.



Back to being the window watcher and as they say at the races – they’re off!

There’s a tall man with a Japanese wife- looks like they’ve been together forever or at least since the end of the Second World War. Some people are speaking French in the background. I understand the odd word. I think that they are discussing the quality of the croissants.

The bald headed man who stared at me when I arrived is doing it again. I stare back. The afternoon sunshine is making his shiny bald head glow. He looks away as his partner arrives at his table with their drinks.

A girl is walking past on the Market Square itself. It has started raining a bit and she puts up a red polka dot umbrella. Some of the spokes must be broken, as it appears as if a large dog has sat in the middle of it when she wasn’t looking. I now see the ghostly pinched face of a frumpy woman as she comes nearer and nearer the Starbucks entrance. She is checking her mobile and almost rams into the door. I hear her ‘tut’ as she enters and her ‘all singing’ all dancing’ mobile get tossed into her voluminous bag. The bag is bright yellow and has COW printed on the side. I try not to think if this is the name of a fashion shop or a personality statement. Anyway, she doesn’t look the happiest cherry in the basket. I sip my cappuccino – most of it is froth. Apparently I could have asked for an extra shot of coffee and kept myself wide awake for years.

Two trams arrive at the Old Market Place tram stop at the same time. They are both headed in opposite directions. A very fat man with a tiny rucksack stumbles in front of the tram heading out of town just as it starts up. He moves very fast out of the way.

A petite young woman goes past holding the front of her smart black trousers with both hands as if there are fleas biting her thighs below the knickers line. Norah Jones music is now playing in the coffee shop – a cd that is, not Norah Jones does Starbucks Live in Nottingham. A couple of Asian schoolgirls go by holding hands. It must be kicking out time for the city schools. Their pleated skirts waft in the wind that now appears to be picking up outside. One of them has large art folder that keeps pushing off balance in the gusts of wind.
Suddenly from the left comes a man on a mountain bike cycling along the pavement. He’s going at a bit of a lick for someone who shouldn’t be on the path really. He’s holding black gloves in one hand and steering with the other. He isn’t wearing a helmet either. Nottingham doesn’t half breed some rebels. If Robin Hood were alive today he would be shouting the odds from the seat of a sturdy bike, no doubt with Maid Marian on the crossbar.

Shortly before I entered the hallowed portals of this branch of Starbucks, not fifteen minutes ago, I heard and saw, a very rough and chavvy young man and woman having a street fight. I have no idea what they were arguing about but she raised her vocal decibels to ‘beyond fishwife’ level and launched a spittle fuelled verbal harpy attack on the bloke. I just caught ‘So that’s wot u fink!’ and saw a mobile phone sail into the air. I was in the relative safety of the entrance when I heard the crash of plastic hitting concrete. I believe he called her a ‘tanker’ but I can’t be sure. Quite how large sea-going vessels entered his head is anyone’s guess.

Where was I? Oh that’s funny. Two women in red coats are chasing a newspaper blowing across the square. They are stamping on each loose page and picking up the captured bits. Some of the paper is going to go in the fountains. Ah too late.

A black guy in his early thirties, I guess, is strolling hand-in-hand with his young son. The boy is dressed similar to his dad and is trying to keep up with his dad’s pace. He has to do little joggles as he moves. It’s like he is dancing to keep up. I’m drawing a carton now of an old eccentric looking lady. Oh, actually it’s a man! He is wearing a woolly blue hat that looks like he has made it himself and it doubles as a tea cosy. He’s got a checked shopping bag and he is blinking rapidly like a horse batting away flies with its eyelashes. The street cleaner has stopped him and points him in the other direction. It’s like mime city out there. The young woman next to me sighs and turns over a page.

Of late, I’ve noticed that so many people walk around like their mobile phone is an extension of themselves. An alien from another planet would think that human race had a large population of people who had broken their right arms and needed to constantly talk (or shout) about unimportant things into a small box simply to exist.

As I look out the café window I am counting (for fun) how many people I can see talking with mobile phones clamped to the side of their faces. I can see eight separate people in a matter of two seconds! That’s it; I am turning into Mr Grumpy from Grumpy land. “We never had bloody mobile phones in my youth! Moan moan!” lol

Breaking away from mobile mania (that’s a good name for a store!) a young sporty man is sauntering towards the pavement from the traffic island. He is a strapping lad with spiked up hair and has a pretty girl on his arm. She is all gamine, all spindly legs and is grinning a lot. She moves into his side and out like she is on a piece of invisible elastic. If he was a mischievous boy they could be gamin and gamine respectively. Dictionaries aren’t they great. I looked that up especially.

Standing outside is a big built bloke, built like – to use a euphemism from my childhood – like a proverbial shithouse. He has been pushing a pushchair and he has more muscles in his forehead than I have in the entirety of my body. He is surprisingly gentle manoeuvring the baby in the pushchair as he returns to his perambulations.

My coffee is going cold again. That happened last time when I got so engrossed in my observations. Maybe I should bring a flask next time. A double chocca venti grandi thingy please – and stick it in this here flask duck. I have things to do and people to watch.

A scary monster has just come out of nowhere. I was so distracted by realising that while writing, the Nottingham Eye Wheel – whatever we legally have to call it now - was turning round, that a bulky bundle of rags with a Macbeth witch face was heading my way. This vision of grimy fabric upon grimy fabric; quilted mayhem with a hood, turned out to be a man with a dirty tanned face and a beard. He made off in the direction of Marks and Sparks and I saw him later on begging and playing a red tin whistle for money. On closer inspection, and I wasn’t planning on getting too close, his face looked like it had collapsed in on itself.

It must be the day for amateur musicians as a small girl on the table behind me has just whipped out her glossy wooden recorder and is into the first penetrating and off key notes of ‘London bridge is falling down’ when her mother says “Not here Emily!” Thankfully. Mum, managed to halt her potentially descant recorder playing before the coffee shop habitués mobbed the child. It was a close thing.

A woman has just come in and she could well be an escapee from the 1920s. She isn’t so old but is wearing all black. She has on a snug fitting cloche hat, elegant high-heeled T-bar shoes, a knee length skirt and a black winter style coat. She has put on a glamorous shade of red lipstick today. Her name is Mildred and is awfully gay in an old fashioned way and has rather stolen my heart, damn her! I feel that she might well take off the coat and break into a delirious Charleston routine, but no such luck. Any coffee left? No.

Serge Gainsbourg’s smoky ghost has just wisped past the window to ethereal strains of the song Couleur Café. Am I getting too abstract now?

Two separate people have just sauntered by both with strong limps to the left. That sounded like a political statement for the weak of limb. They did though. Honest.

Ah back to reality with a thump now. I can see a man, well you might, more accurately say –scruffy looking young bloke in his early twenties – standing on the Market Place. He looks like he is waiting for someone AND he also looks like a character from a English sit com. He is the best buddy – scruffy best buddy- of the sit com’s main man. He is the one who never does the washing up and leaves soiled boxer shorts down the back of the settee for the main man’s posh girlfriend to find. Often at the worst possible moment. He is called Dan and he is cringe worthy but lovable and never has any money but can always afford several rounds in the pub where most of the sit com action takes place. Good huh? He has also won the lottery but won’t let on because he thinks women will only want him for his dosh. What was in that cappuccino??

(Excited now) He has a friend – a lady friend no less! She has a soft pillowy expanse of chilly chest. Well I would assume so as most of it is being embraced by the elements and she keeps biting her lip. Well better than biting her ears I guess.

That’s the second time he’s gone past! ‘Who has? Am I a mind reader?’ I hear you cry. I am referring to a tall man with long shoulder length swishy hair and a large nose and a thin black goatee beard decorating his strong manly chin. He is wearing an outsized open gabardine coat and he has been rushing about like a character from Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac. He hasn’t got a sword but he swaggers like he might have. I have to draw another cartoon to remind myself of his existence. I may soon go to the pastry cook’s and get some generously cream-filled pastries with my poetry!



I feel my mind is weakening dear reader. Have I imagined it or did a short fella just go past with a rabbit hutch? When you see the big white rabbit in a waistcoat expounding upon his ‘lateness’ whilst tapping a pocket watch you will let me know, won’t you?

I normally like to talk about food and drink but sometimes it is good to watch the world go by over a cup of coffee and let the imagination out of its cramped box for a wee while. Back to normality tomorrow I expect.

5 comments:

Marian Barker said...

Another great read.

ps the "word verification" bit on the comment is once again painfully slow or I'd have commented on more than one post!

Phil Lowe said...

Sorry the system is stopping you posting comments. Do keep trying Marian. Always to read your comments. I've added a few more photos on this blog today to break up the text.

hectoria said...

As ever all life can be seen in the Market Square.An absorbing post.

Phil Lowe said...

Ah cheers hectoria. I love people watching and writing something witty without being cruel about folk passing by. Thanks for commenting.

StGeorgeOfEngland said...

Thought I would come back to this one to add a comment from a news report I saw on tv in the States.
It is being reported there that Costa, Starbucks etc are putting high quantities of SALT into their milk when whipping it up for coffees. Wonder if that happens here too?

These blogs are great for entertainment and information. I commented on your sketches in flickr. They do remind me very much of Spike Milligans, a fave writer/comedian/actor of mine.
Keep up the great work Phil.
G.