What struck me was that there was a certain correspondence in their physical appearance. They had matching noses, matching foreheads and matching jaw lines. At first I assumed they were siblings, but they didn’t behave like siblings. There was a freshness and apparent delight in the way they behaved towards one another which was quite different from the time-worn familiarity which a brother and sister would normally exhibit. That was what intrigued me. I eventually concluded that they were boyfriend and girlfriend, but I had to know, didn’t I? These things are important to me.
When I finished my coffee I went over and said:
‘Do excuse my impertinence, but may I ask you a question?’
They both looked up at me. The young woman blushed and the young man sniggered.
‘It’s just that I’m a writer, you see, and an observer, and I like to know that I’m reading body language right. Are you brother and sister?’
At that they both sniggered, and the young man said ‘No.’
‘I thought so. It helps me to know these things, so thank you. Please excuse the intrusion.’
And then I left, and imagined a conversation among friends later in the day:
‘There was this really weird bloke in Costa today. He said he was a writer, but you never know these days, do you? Do you know what he said…’
* * *
And there’s something else I’ve noticed over the past few visits to Uttoxeter (you don’t see it in Ashbourne for some reason.) There’s a particular breed of male here in Britain, usually middle aged and often under-dressed for the weather, who have huge beer bellies which they accentuate by means of affecting a swaggering walk. It’s as though they regard their swollen lower abdomens as some sort of trophy to be thrust into the faces of all comers by way of a boast.
But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the swaggering walk is necessary to counter the excessive frontal weight and achieve balance. Maybe it’s just a matter of engineering.
What I do wonder, however – and I crave your indulgence for my descent into a modicum of coarseness here – is how they manage to urinate accurately. Do they have a mirror on a long stick, I wonder?
I’m pleased to say that there’s a limit to what I’m prepared to ask people.