Wednesday, November 08, 2006


It's Saturday morning and the traffic is gaining momentum. Already the chill is beginning to settle over the city - moving downwards in a slow drizzle of rain across Racecourse Rd. I am standing near a dodgy looking kebab shop trying to avoid the rain and doing my favourite thing; people watching - disguised as looking for a place to have breakfast. Race day is always a fine day for it.

The early morning crowd is finding their way to the station - walking in packs as they do on days such as today; the boys club, the marrieds, the girls. The boys are wearing un-tucked expensive shirts with a faint purple tinge, or pink, or blue, their top buttons undone and their hair styled in gravity defying coifs or hats worn fashionably low over the forehead, like Bogey - but less dangerous. The men are in silk ties and single breasted suits with their hands in their pockets, or juggling their girlfriend's handbag, looking a mixture between uncomfortable and impatient.

A group of women huddled together against the cold tap past in unison. I can't decide whether they look glamorous or are just trying too hard. The fascinators seem to be getting bigger every year and it's not a look that appeals. I look down and chuckle to myself at their footwear (but they're so comfortable, I swear!). The comments do nothing to convince, only to amuse, but the shoes do their work - they look pretty good. Overall, the raceday look for women is as always inappropriate if done wrong and these girls in their too skimpy, slightly trashy, almost nightclub attire looks very wrong. Very, very wrong - but the boys will love it - so you take the good with the bad. One particular girl stands out from the rest - wearing a red dress, simple and modest, but you can tell the material is fine. She has a group of flowers in her hair pinned at the side of her bun, not a stiletto to be seen and no fascinators either. She is a vision - sexy and understated - a flamenco dancer in a sea of nightclub go-goers.

I am fighting to stay beneath the shop awning now as the fine mist coming down from the sky begins to gain strength. The groups of race day goers win by sheer numbers and I am forced to abandon my little post for the harsh reality of the wet footpath. The only place worth eating at is a little cafe on the corner - part bookstore, part eatery. It is comfortable, warm and friendly - and I feel as though I could sit and people watch all day long, undisturbed, from my little vantage point near the window.

I watch the waitress struggle to keep up with her orders - sorry, was that a sausage or a hashbrown?, listen to the cook laugh heartily and find myself sneaking peeks at the long legged man in the chair diagonally opposite. How he folded himself neatly into such a small space and still maintain a sense of quiet confidence is beyond me. He is certainly the biggest presence in this small cafe. I watch him smile to himself as he scribbles something in his notepad. Perhaps he is writing a book, a memo, a love letter or a shopping list. By now, I've learned to do this without the aid of writing materials. Mental notes on everyday, mundane happenings - which are always extraordinary to no one but me tend to stick in my head these days. Every so often the man looks up and out the window at the groups of race goers. He shakes his head and smiles to himself and then intently scribbles something else. He's obviously new at this. Give him time and he'll be able to write those fine details without a pen too.

The drizzle stops and the man, finishes off the last of his coffee, gathers the tools of his trade together and walks out of the cafe. I make a mental note to remember him.