One of the best things about being a writer (at least I think so anyway) is having the ability to see others in a completely different light from the norm; putting a spin on their overwise mundane, everyday, actions. I often find myself looking at someone: a child; a lone adult; a group of teenagers, and concocting a tale of the abnormal around them, making them the starplayer in one of my little yarns. Sometimes one of these individuals stands out and I take them hostage; locking them away in the dusty basement of my mind, until such times as I need them to inhabit one of my make believe worlds.
Here are a few examples of people I have got locked away in my basement at present -
Three weeks ago, as I was driving to work, I passed a row of tall town houses that are known to the locals as Shrimp Terrace. All these dwellings are made from a pinkish brown brick (hence the name) and are three storeys high, fronted by magnificent old-fashioned bow windows, and steep stone steps that lead up to their front doors. Unfortunately, through the years, this part of our town has deteriorated somewhat. Most of these houses are now rented by junkies and people of ill-repute. The buildings themselves are in a state of dis-repair. I think it so sad; once they must have been a glory to behold.
On this particular morning, the pavements glistened with a heavy frost and the sky was laden with the promise of snow.
As I drove by Shrimp Terrace I looked up.
A man was standing at one of the front doors at the top of his own climb of steps. A tall gaunt man with dishevelled grey hair. He was smoking a cigarette. Despite the cold his feet were bare. He was hopping from foot to foot. All he had on, as far as I could see, was a tatty blue faded dressing gown tied at his waist. His breath was coming out in misty plumes of air. In his free hand he was holding a dog's lead - the sort that extend out seemingly for miles - and the lead was trailing all the way down to the pavement far below. On the end was a small white and brown terrier. Sniffing around and doing his business.
Then I was past, driving on up the road.
The man stayed in my head all day - now he is in my basement.
Then there is the lady with the dead bird.
This one was noticed by my daughter.
We were heading along the motorway last summer: me driving my little yellow Nissan Micra; my daughter sitting next to me listening to her MP3 player. Suddenly my daughter sits up. "Gross," she said. "Mum look."
A middle-aged woman had pulled over onto the hard shoulder, was standing at the rear of her car, the boot of which was open. In her hand, she held by its feet, a large dead bird. Being in an upside down position, the creature's big wings were hanging down, wide and open.
I agreed with my daughter; it looked pretty gross.
Was the woman putting the bird into, or taking it out of her car?
We had speeded past before we could tell.
Into my basement she went.
Then there is the elderly lady with the milk bottles.
This one cracked me up for days.
Again I was on my way to work, this time on a sunny spring morning. It was quite early. I was driving along a narrow one-way sreet when I spied an old lady, easily in her eighties, open her front door and look up and down the street. Satisfied there was nobody about, she sneaked along to her neighbour's front doorstep, picked up the two bottles of milk there, and sneaked back into her own house. Shutting the door behind her.
How I grinned.
Into my basement she went.
Someone, somewhere, said: There's naught as queer as folk.
How right they are.