I’ve been sneaky. Mid week, the weather was gorgeous and Dog looked at me, I looked at him and we decided we would do another section of the Capital Ring. A post on that will follow. This, however, is about the woman in the picture above, walking away from me.
The walk ended in Richmond, on the banks of the Thames. As we strolled towards the bridge and thought about tea and cake – as you do – I noticed a couple gesticulating, speaking high volume French. A few yards on and a woman pushing a buggy, clasping her iPhone to her ear berated someone in that mellifluous language.
Richmond has become something of an enclave for those fleeing the rubbish food and poor fashion sense that is endemic across the Channel.
And then this young woman overtook me. There she is, ahead, dressed top to toe in black, clutching what looks like a very worthy tome. Having moved past me she kept up an even pace and I mused, as you do when tea and cake are still a way off – who was she?
Was she as French as her get up suggested? Student or professor? Long term resident or passing through? Urban or urbane? Were her clothes a statement or merely a passing fancy? Was black dictated by fashion or mood?
Her stride was purposeful without being hurried. No anxiety but a destination in mind. Meeting someone? Male? Female? Family? Friend? Lover? Or just after a spot in the sun to read?
She didn’t look to either side, her gaze stayed centre. Preoccupied or enraptured? Eyes up or down?
I felt a mite guilty, sneaking a picture of her back but it at least depersonalises her and allows me a lot of scope to capture her essence. Or her imagined essence.
Eventually she broke off the tow-path and moved up the slope – shown above – in front of the Quinlan Terry development – famous for his new classical style of architecture – taking her seat and studying the book’s cover. We paused, Dog and I, briefly to regard this calm and self possessed youngster. She drew a finger round the edge of the book, her black framed glasses hiding her expression. Perhaps the faintest trace of a smile.
I’m not a creepy old soul, really. This is how I capture characters for my books, these fleeting images of real people whose paths I cross while walking. People watching on the go. Sometimes – it happened with My Father and Other Liars – that accidental first meeting, that happen-stance triggers something that eventually leads to the story of a complete novel. It’s people’s stories that fascinate me. If I can take hold of a character I can breathe life into a story. Maybe this curly haired woman will take centre stage sometime, maybe not. But it’s fun wondering.
How about you? Is part time stalking part of your box set of writing tools? Or should they lock me away?