I decided to do something similar to Georges Perec -An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris (1975) I enjoyed the book greatly and I agree that it appeals most to writers, or artists as we I think are those who are most enchanted by the past time of people watching. As there’s a school near-by and it was time for the children to be picked up I determined to write down everything I saw. I found it very addictive and the pace of my writing echoed the intervals of busy and quiet periods in the street. When only one person passed I’d go back and correct spelling mistakes or write in more detail. When it was fast my fingers were flying so fast over the keys I had to ask Mum to leap up and tell me the colour. We both found ourselves fascinated by the characters and I learnt some interesting and slightly sad facts. Of the whole street, just one person smiled and it was because they were staring curiously in through our window.
I was especially interested in the families at the beginning, in a sense they became the main character and I enjoyed watching them return laden with children and school bags. Interesting even though their situation had now changed they still kept the tense expressions. It was sad in a way. Very few people seemed to relish in the enjoyment of picking up the children and the craft projects they were showing them, instead focusing on leaving, getting to the car and continuing with the routine. Of course, I understand they are stressed and focused but the other day I sat in a cafe sketching for an hour all the people I could see. Afterwards, someone asked why everyone was so serious and sad in my pictures and I sad honestly that it was because no-one smiled. Couples faced each other their expressions blank and serious while they sipped their tea barely speaking. I wonder if they drove home and said “Oh what a lovely drink together’ It seems a sad insight into the current profile of the world. No-One Smiles Here.
Several minutes before school time. Everyone pointedly ignores the no parking signs on the road and fills up the road with Black SUV’s mini coopers and a van. They also double park. Chaos will ensue later.
Man in a black puffer jacket walks by staring ahead intently twiddling his brightly coloured car keys in his hands.
A lady in a designer black puffer jacket walks by arms wrapped around herself shivering, before checking to make sure her coat is straight.
A lady trudges by in a black coat and blonde hair. Black coats are all the rage it would seem.
A serious Chinese man with greying hair walks past. No-one seems to smile.
A lady in a bobble hat
Green yellow and cream
Head down against the wind
A lady walks by with unusual attire. A long anorak one quarter is check, another part grey, it swings around her feet as she walks with her head down against the cold wind. Her bobble hat a flurry of unusual colours, green yellow and cream. Perhaps a tribute to a football club.
A family pass, their mother turns to stare in. Even though they can’t see me as I’m on the other side of the room she stares in curiously. I find it amusing, she’s reinforcing my assignment and the interest in people watching. Hundreds of people appear children. A mother stares in the lounge with a big grin. even though they can’t see me just as I’m curious about what is happening
Suddenly there are floods of people appearing with children.
A man holding a green bottle
A lady with a bobble hat
Chinese man. I can’t see his son but I see the bright red bobble of his hat bounce along.
Children race by.
Everyone is wearing bobble hats.
Two similar looking ladies talk animatedly by their car with dramatic hand gestures
An older man in a M&S striped scarf (well it likes like my Dads)
Norwegian print bobble hat.So many people it’s hard to keep track
So many people it’s hard to keep track
Lady in the black puffer jacket is followed by a stream of kids. Before she checked how her coat was neat. Now she struggles to open the car door, weighed down by multiple school bags, music book bags craft projects and school letters.
A serious man strides by still serious his child jumping by his side.
Big brother grins as they walk along. Only the second adult to smile.
Bobble hats bobble hats everywhere.
Everyone still seems serious but the children bounce so happy
Ah. Car chaos has begun/ moving off, sudden braking, Reversing. The person can’t get out and looks irritated.
Lady in strange clothes returns. I can’t see her child.
Mini car tries to do an inconvenient three-point turn nearly reversing into our driveway. This isn’t uncommon. Most people block our driveway and even reverse in to turn around.
Girl races by in a Unicorn shaped hat cute! Breaking the flood of bobble hats
A hat minus a bobble.
Serious man in scarf leaves in his car, he’s still serious. More double parking.
More double parking.
Grandpa looks glum.
No one seems to be smiling. They’re stressed about the parking
Children go flying by like fish in a current. So small under the doorstep. All I can see is the tops of their bobble hats.
Lady and family huddled up against the wind.
Miserable lady with pink bag.
Everyone so serious clutching letters and school bags.
Cars flow out with serious faces, lady adjusts her hair as she drives.
Lady in dramatic black velvet hood walks past. Child looks eagerly at cars
Lady with wild frizzy hair and tartan dress walks by. I immediately stop writing one description so I can write about her hair.
Children in back of car playing animatedly as they drive by.
Emptiness for a moment
Sound of cars and children in distance.
Waiting for more people to pass by
Is it over?
Bobble hat minus bobble drives by.
Lady with long black scarf walks by with child. It looks cold outside. car exhausts.
Lady with frizzy hair leaves, her hair fills the car window.
Then the street is empty and the sounds of the car fade into nothing.
A passing thought is how much of my own character was seen in my writing. Whilst George Perec wrote with a dispatched, straightforward way I feel we both struggled not to write more elaborately and descriptively and invent stories for the characters.