This week's assignment on Sunday Scribblings was to go out to a place where people gather, and observe someone interesting. Described the person, consider what sort of writing they could be part of.
I have to admit I am no Sherlock Holmes. I pretty much suck at being able to tell someone's whole life story from the fact they have a callous on their index finger and an inkspot on their shirt. In fact I tend not to notice details like that at all. And I am rather shy about staring too hard. You can't see much detail of a person from behind them, or taking side-on surreptitious glances. Still, I tried. Fortunately I took a peek at work on Friday to see if the topic was up yet, and it was. Normally I don't see it till Friday night since Thursday in the USA is Friday here. Since I saw it before I left work, I drove the couple of blocks to the airport carpark on my way home. An airport, after all, is a perfect place to find lots of people who are about their business which is fairly significant to them in one way or another. I stood with a group of people waiting for a flight from Auckland to disembark, and tried to decide who was interesting enough to write about.
What I found was that I can tell more about people once they actually start talking. Whether they are fat or thin, blond or dark, dressed casually or formally. they become much more interesting in relationship to each other.
The girl I spotted at the last moment, wearing daffodil yellow trousers, a white camisole top and white blazer jacket, carrying a large black art folio, may have made a suitable subject if I had had more chance to watch her. But the group that interested me most was a group of three - two, initially.
What drew my attention was the end of a comment the young woman was making as I walked up: "....near the hypothalamus. Tends to cause lactation in females." And then they laughed. Hmmm....okay then. Not your usual airport conversation. The young woman was of average height, with blond hair pulled back in a pony tail. She had a face that was more oval than round, with well-defined cheekbones, and she was neither overweight nor excessively thin. She was dressed in "city casual" clothes - trousers and a hooded sweatshirt type jacket or cardigan, but not the sort of clothes you'd wear down on the farm. But then, even farmers don't wear "down on the farm" clothes to the airport. Her companion was an older man, with neat grey hair and a grey beard. He too was dressed in "smart casual" clothes. He had a burgundy coloured overnight bag and a matching wheeled suitcase. I didn't watch them too hard in case I was noticed, but I listened. Most of the rest of their conversation involved the trip from Dunedin to Christchurch - how long did it take by road, what were the options for public transport, that sort of thing. It seemed as if the young woman lives in Dunedin as she said "it took us five hours leaving in the rush hour". It seemed as if she was referring to a recent trip. She seemed quite familiar with Dunedin and the transport there.
When the flight from Auckland arrived, a young man walked towards them. He was dressed in black trousers and a short, casual zipped black jacket. He had dark hair and a rounded, crumpled looking face, slightly fleshy, although he himself seemed of normal weight. He had one shoe on, and on the other foot he had the sort of rocker that is put on over a plaster cast. He had a small black wheeled suitcase. He and the girl hugged - she kissed him on the cheek in a fairly intimate manner - and he shook hands with the older man. Then they walked off.
Here is what I think their story is: The young woman and the young man are a couple, engaged to be married perhaps. They met at high school in Christchurch, where they both came from fairly wealthy families. Perhaps they were even at boarding school, and their families were farmers. They both were horse keen riders, and that is how they met. Nowadays they don't get as much time for riding, but they still try to fit some in, and that is how the young man broke his foot - it was stomped on by a horse. The woman, of course, is a doctor. She went to medical school in Dunedin (the nearest medical school). Rather than doing her clinical training in Christchurch, she stayed in Dunedin, where she is now in her final years of clinical training or is perhaps a newly qualified doctor. The young man is a teacher. It was the last weekend of the school holidays. He had been to Auckland to visit other family members. His fiancee couldn't go with him as she had to work.
Clearly there is some sort of family event in Christchurch this weekend. Possibly a funeral, but more likely a happier occasion. Perhaps it is a reunion to celebrate 150 years since their forbears arrived in the country, or perhaps it is the 100th birthday celebrations of the girl's greatgrandmother. The older man is her uncle, also a doctor. He lives elsewhere in the country - maybe Wellington. She had clearly been delegated to meet relatives at the airport, first her uncle, and then her fiance on a later, separate flight.
What sort of story are they part of? What better than a family reunion to open a sweeping family saga, complete with flashbacks. On the other hand, maybe there will be surprising relevations that mean a dramatic change in the lives of the young couple, and it will be their story. And that's as far as I got - I haven't actually written an extract yet.
Of course I could be dead wrong (although I think I am pretty close to the mark on the medical school thing).
More Sunday Scribblings here.