Scene: A sunny April afternoon, 2015. I am sitting at my desk-dining table listening with half an ear to the rise and fall of pub garden chatter that sounds how an orchestra might sound tuning up, whilst admiring Truman Capote's writing style and wondering if I should attempt something similar.
after my mind has taken flight many times, I decide yes: I will turn
journalist for one afternoon.
do you twist something so mundane into a noteworthy event? Do all
reports have to be notable? Maybe not; perhaps some people take
pleasure in fine details, the things others miss. It is, I suppose,
possible that the everyday could be considered just as dramatic if
you're accustomed to not observing it.
all I do. Observe. Overhear. Detect different tones, notice
expressions and gestures. Recognise a familiar pitch in the exchange
of gossip or banter; know when men are discussing sex or sport, when
women are chatting about EVERYTHING with like-minded girlfriends. And
there are discernible subtle differences between pairings: mother and
daughter, father and son, a loved-up or an old married couple,
companions of the same or opposite sex of variable ages; whereas
groups are trickier, but sometimes you can distinguish the
hierarchical or social structure. In tribes, some jostle, some sit
back, but generally there'll be a display of raised voices, lowered
confessional tones or a silent retreat.
Retreats interest me and so I regard more closely their behaviour. I
spot the darting bug-eyed look, the nervous drinking, the
amused-bemused half-smile, and the clumsy fiddling with watches,
rings, phones, pockets and hair. The trying to look engaged, but not;
attention elsewhere, possibly on when can they leave, where are the
lavatories, or puzzling why the circumvent chatter is washing over
them as if it were a foreign tide. I know their type well for we
always recognise the traits we may or may not realise we demonstrate
in the exact same situations.
Intimates too are relatively easy to zoom in on for they draw one of
their tribe aside and huddle in corners or more secluded spots. You
see their bent heads, their lips almost pressed to another's ears as
if they've hung out a 'Do Not Disturb' sign. Ideally, the chosen
confidante will stay by their side, but if not they will swiftly
select another and continue their 'room only for two' conversation. A
third is rarely admitted, because usually when this happens the
Intimate suffers a verbal form of writer's block. Their flow of
speech interrupted with a third pair of eyes upon them. Their
comfortable manner dissolving with the intrusion so that they find
they cannot coherently speak. Their sentences now mumbled and
ill-formed abruptly break off or hang in the air as annihilating
self-consciousness takes over. If prolonged, they wander off on the
pretext of getting another drink but in doing so commandeer another.
One-to-one is their chief comfort zone as the exclusion of all
others brings a contentedness to socialising.
mind the Retreats or the Intimates, they're interesting to recognise
and study, but the Trumpets I can't abide. The attention-grabbing
loud-mouthed. The ones whose voices can be heard, raised over
everyone else. The over-exaggerated laughter, the boorish shouts. The
female's pitch like chalk on a blackboard and the male's a deep
foghorn. You need no heavy swirling mist to know where these two are
for they dominate a gathering, and their behaviour is just as
desperate. They shout over tops of heads, they knock drinks over,
they make people stop and stare, and are thoroughly convinced that by
being a spectacle they're the life and soul of the party.
prefer the Chameleons as those that meld are more likely to be
flatterers and less likely to be fools.
Picture Credit: Capote photographed by Arnold Newman in NYC, 1977