|Rooftops ~ Watercolour painting on paper|
I stopped for a chai tea at a new small independent coffee shop in Chippenham last week. I sat by the window which looked out onto the old buttercross in the market place and the shops and buildings beyond.
Music was playing inside and I began to pay attention to what was going on around me – inside and outside the coffee shop. The words rang out over the speakers “Sitting on top of the world, just rolling along” While high above the chimneys of the buildings opposite a crow was swooping in great figure of eight arcs, seemingly in time with the music. This crow was swooping and dive bombing – attempting to intimidate another bird who sat, periodically ducking its head on the chimney top, but refusing to move.
I took a sip of the sweetly spiced and frothy tea as someone behind me began to whistle to the new tune playing over the speakers “Hey Big Spender” and a lithe suited man came out of The Money Shop opposite to note down the exchange rates displayed in the window.
Two advertising boards stood on the paving stones beneath the buttercross and the yellow and red balloons tied onto them fluttered in the breeze as a man zipped over the uneven ground in his mobility scooter. As I watched him head off into the distance another elderly man was rounding the corner – much more slowly. I don’t think I have ever seen someone walk, or rather shuffle, so painfully slowly. He clung to each bollard or window railing that he came across, pausing to see which was the closest next resting place he might be able to make it to. He stopped often, then shuffled with great determination to the next resting point. A large red iceland shopping bag hung from his arm as he made his way to that shop. A woman dashed by oblivious to nearly knocking him over… he stopped still in the middle of the street for two minutes after she had passed as if to collect himself once more.
It must have taken this man fifteen minutes to walk what would have taken me just one. I thought about going to help him, but didn’t. Would I want help in his situation? What could I have done? I wonder how many years of easy walking I have left to be thankful for.
More people passed by the window. A mother, her pushchair overladen with grocery bags and a small child dawdling behind. The music had changed “Love” rings out and I begin to connect all these passing people with the instruments in the song. The birds swooping, the steady beat of a walking stick, a puppy’s paws trot by in rhythm, a bicycle, someone waves and smiles. It’s like the set of a musical here.
A barrista behind the counter does a little tap dance to the music. He joins the pattern of pedestrians, the coming, the going, the clouds, the birds, the choreography of life.