Writing Assignment – Observation

One thing which most fictional writers should practise is observation.  When in a public place, pick someone at random, then observe them – what they wear, how they are standing or talking, how they look and so on.  Then, from what you’ve observed, give them a back story, or try to guess where they are from and what they are doing.  The below piece was written when I was having breakfast in a greasy spoon near me called The Concorde.  There were only a few people in there that morning, and I decided to observe one of them.

Man in Concorde

The man was old – I would say about 60-ish.  Without looking at details, I thought the man to be a vagrant, but I then noticed other aspects which didn’t fit-in with the piss-smelling down-and-outs usually found in a greasy spoon so early in the morning.

He had a grey, neatly-clipped beard that was streaked with white.  His hair, originally black, was swept back and held in place with gel, or maybe even its own grease.  He wore a three-quarter-length tan leather jacket, a little shabby but not in a bad state.

He was sat in the moulded yellow plastic chair of the cafe, rolling a cigarette between surprisingly young-looking hands.  Liquorice rolling papers, I noted; a past favourite of mine when I was a smoker.  There was a small black pouch on the table in front of him, spilling its contents onto the cheap plastic tabletop.  He moved, and I saw that he was wearing a red tie with a clean white shirt, much to my intrigue.  Like me, he was also wearing grey trousers, and I briefly wondered whether this man was a future reflection of me in many years to come – a game that I find myself playing when facing a similarity or a co-incidence between me and a stranger.

Although the man was dressed quite smartly up to now, he was wearing something unforgivable; bargain-bucket black plastic trainers, spoiling the entire illusion of an old retired gent enjoying simple pleasures on a weekday morning.  No man alive who was used to wearing a tie and trousers would ever wear trainers at the same time.  So then – what was this man dressed like a businessman for?  Did he have a job interview?  No, I reasoned – too old.  Maybe a bank appointment, to ask for a loan or overdraft?  Maybe he was a confidence trickster, off to see some lonely-but-wealthy spinster in order to coax a sum out of her account and into his pocket.  He mumbled to himself suddenly, then licked the edge of the rolling paper carefully.

In one smooth motion he stood, revealing the mug of tea that he had been nursing, then strode out of the cafe, brandishing the rollup and the pouch like a sword and shield as he charged into the crisp morning outside.  Watching his tan back and plastic feet, I wished him the best of luck.

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