I’ve been trying to keep my ears open on my way around town – just for practice – I’m not getting a head start, honest. It’s been a lot harder than I thought. I assumed I was always overhearing things. It’s always so noisy outside, after all. But it seems six years of commuting through central London has trained me to block everything – conversations, eye contact, free-newspaper distributors, leafleters, buses I probably should pay attention to, traffic signals, body odour, station announcements, ticket touts, smug iPhone users, crisp rustlers, unwanted flirtation, terrible novels, beggars, mobile ring tones, intriguingly implausible Metro headlines, eccentric fashion choices, over-loud mp3 players, religious preachers and end of the world doomsayers …
But … I do need to keep observant. I need to see and hear and smell and taste and touch things in order to write about them. And so the last couple of days I’ve been making a conscious effort to actually pay attention. I’ve been breaking the cardinal rule of London commuting: I’ve been noticing that there are other human beings around me.
My overhearings haven’t been too wonderful. Either the voices are muffled, or they pass too quickly (I’ve not plucked up the guts to follow anyone yet …), or it’s a foreign language, or I forget what they’ve said before I get a chance to write it down … or maybe the people of London are just boring.
So far I’ve gleaned:
‘Hi Pete, it’s Dave.’
‘Five hundred, five hundred quid.’
‘You could have brought a flask over with you.’
‘Two people cancelled. I don’t know why but they’re not coming now. … Yeah well, they don’t, sweetheart. I’ve tried everything.’
Somehow quite fascinatingly inane … I’m sure there’s more to come. And hopefully I’ll be all ears by July 1st.