Over bearing Cockney man in cafe to sheepish woman: “You don’t know the meaning of work! I once took a Paracetamol overdose, had my stomach pumped out and still did my shift! Now, that’s dedication.”
I love to eavesdrop. It’s proof incarnate that Alan Bennett and Victoria Wood don’t actually make anything up, but are just keen social observers. I often despair of the terrible heat, stuffiness and the overpowering smells on public transport. It almost, but not quite, makes me want to take another driving lesson. Then I overhear a little gem of a conversation and I sit back happy with the absurdity of the world.
I’ve mastered the art of the nonchalant occasional glance and the blank facial expression, whilst taking it all in and occasionally also sneakily taking notes in one of the many notebooks I carry. I’m almost up to a black belt in eavesdropping, the only thing that would make me better at it is the ability to lip read. I’m working on that one. It’s a crying shame that net curtains are no longer fashionable. I can twitch a net with the best of them. It’s not the same with a venetian blind.
I was recently on my way home and stopped on a bench to eat a sandwich as I hadn’t had time for lunch. A very thin man tattooed sat next to me and was soon approached by a very drunk woman he knew, who looked equally haggard. He was shivering so she leant him her jacket, hoping that the thin nylon would warm his drug addled frame. The sleeves came halfway up his arms and he looked a little bit absurd. She laughed a croaky smoker’s laugh, followed by the obligatory hacking cough of the semi-consumptive and said “You look a right f***ing poof in that!”
She then glanced at me (I was studiously concentrating on my sandwich and trying to ignore her), and upon taking in that I was actually a “poof”, she tried to back pedal:
“It’s not that I’ve got anything against poofs though. I’ve licked a few girls out in my time so I don’t mind poofs.”
I smiled and moved on.
My favourite overheard exchange was in a small cafe in Cromford.
Elderly lady: “I’d like a cherry scone please”
Young girl: “They’ve got walnuts in them.”
Elderly lady: “Oh, I haven’t got my best teeth in today! Mind you, I can suck the nuts and spit them out. What jam do you have?”
You definitely couldn’t make that up.