busy making other plans

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” (John Lennon)

Isn’t that so true? Hey, this was just a plan once, though, so at least I’m doing not just SAYING what I’m going to do.

I do have another new idea for 2018, though. Without sounding like a freak, I like striking up random conversations with strangers. I’ve done that most of my adult life and especially when travelling. Some places are better suited to this sort of thing than others. In India, for example, it seemed every day I’d be approached by countless young men wanting to know where I was from, what I was doing there, which football team I supported, etc whereas anyone who has moved to a big city like London could not have avoided the feeling of isolation that can come from being alone in the big city (for a brilliant account of this and the experience of living in New York and its influence on various artists such as Andy Warhol, Edward Hopper and Arthur Rimbaud read ‘The Lonely City’ by Olivia Laing. It’s excellent.).

Walking down Whiteladies Road today in the sun, I thought about what a relatively receptive place Bristol is. Quite frequently I’ll catch someone’s eye and rather than look away they’ll smile or raise their eyebrows or give some sort of facial communication or perhaps even a “hello” or “all right?”. Don’t you just love that? Yesterday it happened over in Ashton Court park where an old boy gave me a half smile and a sort of accepting sigh of a look as if to say “hmm..here we are again…another day.” Not that we’d ever met. Today I walked past the back of the Bristol Old Vic theatre school and there were dancers lined up in 2 lines facing each other all in black in the glass box which I guess is one of their rehearsal spaces. One girl with long dark hair saw me and waved. I smiled – a bit weakly – rather like the old chap from yesterday. Had I copied him? Then a girl with piercings smiled at me as she turned into her house outside the Coach and Horses. It’s good this unspoken communication especially when I’d only said a couple of sentences all day (to my landlord asking for more parking permits).

I want to take it a step further, though, and start up conversations with people and record them. It can be a bit like the BBC’s Listening Project. I want it to be unconstrained but I guess I’ll look for as big a variety of people as possible but it will be about Bristol and people’s connection with it although really I’d love to just hit the button and see what people will come out with like Kelly who works in an antiques shop in old Market. She was from Downend and she initiated the conversation and it was about men and ex boyfriends and how crazy they are. There you go. Story #1 in the bag. It could be like an addiction – I’ll become an obsessive story collector, a story hoarder. 5 mins a piece plus a photo if they’ll allow it. See if I can get a hundred or maybe 50 then put them online and share them with the storytellers.

Won’t it be great? As the best stories are the real ones, the ones that make you laugh or gasp or learn something new. That’s what I’m going to do. He says. Do it. Don’t just SAY you’ll do it.

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