This is an exercise in preparation for the Write Around Town online writing course which I have just embarked on. Draw a map of any street you know well and then write about it.
This is not a destination street. It’s an “on the way to somewhere else” street. Leading from the Market Square, the centre of town, the focus of the city and down to the destination shopping streets how could it fare in the face of old ladies wanting Marks, the young after bargains in Topshop and H&M? It wasn’t always like this, but then the men’s clothing store moved premises, the bookshop closed and the record emporium went into administration. Opportunity and convenience took their place, leaving perhaps one shop that people make a beeline for but the rest sit, hoping to attract with window offers, impulse buys and luck. Their windows reflect this. Browse the holiday deals, the latest house on the market, the special offers on bags, purses, necklaces, watches.
The girl handing out flyers for the beauty treatments knows this. She’s not putting much effort into her role, standing passively, not smiling in case it cracks her foundation, not talking to people as they go by, just pushing the flyer out in front of her in case they take pity and grab it. I bet she didn’t think this task would take so long.
The passers-by are diverse, young and old, workers at lunch, shoppers, students, retirees, young mums. Some take a leaflet, glance at it and shove it in their handbags. No one litters, they’re too polite. Later some of them may recycle or the leaflet will live in the depths of their bag, softening at the creases, gathering crumbs and fraying until they pull it out one day, not remembering how it got there.
The pavement is wide and interspersed with trees. A few are losing their leaves and scattering them on the ground but not many. It’s early yet, many leaves are still green. Look up and you get a contrast in architectural styles – on one side, an attractive row of (possibly Georgian?) buildings housing offices, on the other a Sixties behemoth dropped in to obliterate the old Moot Hall that once stood there. The window frames of the behemoth sport pigeon spikes, collecting dust and leaves. The pigeons are unperturbed, trying their luck below instead, pecking between the slabs and stones. Sandwich boards and street furniture line the pavement sides, flower arrangements left over from the summer sit alongside benches where older people have a rest and workers grab a sandwich before returning to their air conditioned desks. The phone booth is rarely used.
The road is closed to traffic except taxis. Once in a while you get a lost soul, having taken a wrong turn, peering at the signs from behind their steering wheel, or someone defiant in grabbing a shortcut, impatient at the zebra crossing. The taxis line the side of the road, black beetles with drivers slumped over a red top while they wait, or taking turns to pop into the back of each other’s cabs for a chat.
I know this street. I watch it as I sit with my Americano, having been greeted as a regular by the barista, and I sit and scribble for a while each lunchtime. I like its transient feel, the constant foot traffic, the attempts to brighten it. Things could happen here.