I’ve already mentioned my obsession with filling up Notes.app with random street observations. Since moving to London – a city where a lot more tends to happen on the footpath than a lot of other places – the folder has been filling up with even more snippets covering everything from street brawling, more crazy people talking to themselves, interesting new slang, declarations of love, lovers’ arguments and even a couple of celebrity cameos.

The point is still to keep amassing this stuff for no other purpose than to mark and remember these glimpses into other people’s lives, fodder for future scribblings. Completely lacking context, sure,  but this exact lacking it what makes it such a perfect catalyst for the imagination. Take this one for instance – written down back in May, discovered again today amongst the mess as I rummaged through the folder during a long render-wait:

“Early afternoon – sunny. A crowd of people is bottle-necking the Euston Street footpath-traffic. I think it’s the media the way it’s clumping in a tight circle, but there are no cameras. In the centre is a ragged-looking older man – a little hunched and twisted – being hugged in turn by every person in the crowd. Passing even closer, I notice he’s old-school handcuffed, locked up hard by some Victorian-looking steel. The crowd are his family and old, old friends, all except two. One, a bearish type in a plain suit holding him tight by the elbow. The only other pair of eyes not on the cuffed guy belong to another man lurking right up the back – staring at me like cold death, tense and ready.

The prisoner looks tired and just a bit overwhelmed. It’s like he doesn’t want anybody to even be there (embarrassed?) but at the same time trying hard not to crack/melt and show how glad he is to see them, saying “y’all right” over and over as each person steps forward to smother him. The couple of teary women in the group must be his sisters. Family at least, not lovers. A couple of the men are trying to keep it together from behind the safety of their sunglasses. All  of them are of his own generation or older.

I look around to see which courthouse we are in front of, but the modern chrome and glass facade belongs to a hospital. To my eyes the prisoner suddenly seems much more tired, that embarrassment now seeming much more like preoccupation. I wonder how many years he’s been locked up, as they’re showing. Not just the bags and lines and crooked posture. More how dated everything else is;  the hair and facial expression of a young 80s crim slapped onto the decaying body of a tired, old, sick one – a rusted time-capsule. 

One last hug and he disappears in behind the doors without a look back, alone bar the brutes at his elbows.”

Does he already know he’s dying of cancer, or is he on his way in to do the tests that will eventually tell him so? Is he even sick at all – some worse injury concealed under his clothes? Why did his family choose to congregate in the street just to catch him for those few seconds in between getting out of a car and walking through the doors of a hospital, knowing full well they weren’t going to accompany him inside? Will they be there when he comes out later? More to the point, why am I feeling sorry for this guy? What put him in prison in the first place? Was he sad because he was dying, sad because there were less people meeting him than the last time (like, no Dad), or sad because this would be the DNA test that will prove he was locked away an innocent man, those years now lost?

I’ve got piles of this stuff. Every entry spitting forth a hundred human questions, each begging for some back-story. Most of it is just taking up bytes – ordered clutter, digital hoarding, and feels a bit like insanity when you look at the pile as a whole. Or perhaps it’ll be these same snapshots that find their way into a scene or a character and lend a three-dimensionality that pulls the entire story together, sparking the next big thing?

Hell, if nothing else, they’ve spurned a new blog post. That, and an anonymous, lonely-looking prisoner has a couple more random strangers on the Internet thinking about him tonight.