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People watching in Starbucks

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I sat in a Starbucks in central London one wintery afternoon, perched in an armchair, propped up by several velvet cushions- people watching. It’s always been a hobby of mine and I tend to nurture it often- you never know what you will see.
Sipping from my toffee mocha-latté, I peered over my thickly-rimmed spectacles and silently observed.
I saw a great many things that wintery afternoon, including a woman and her buggy. The woman wore a suede coat- much too large for her elfin frame, therefore most probably found in a charity shop. I found myself imagining her diving into Oxfam, shivering in desperate need of a shield from the wrath of December nights. The buggy was a hand-me-down, I was sure of it. Inside was a shrieking baby, who looked as though she had not been tended to in many hours. Terrible stenches arose from the buggy and the mother’s eyes wandered ashamedly, as she had no clean nappies. As she collapsed into a chair, her face drained of colour, this was the first time she had rested in days. Hers was the face of a woman whose husband had probably abandoned her years ago. Hers was the face that spent her evenings alone when her squealing child finally slept.
My eyes drifted to a homeless man, whose hair stuck out in all directions. His mouth had a permanent downward-curl and his clothes were torn. Hands outstretched, his eyes begged for a hot beverage, something to satisfy his thirst. He had fallen upon hard times, been dealt an unkind hand. Perhaps he was educated, an Oxford graduate even. Maybe his demanding career as a lawyer, or a university professor, once taken off, was controlling his life. And that’s why he turned to drink. And lost everything.
A woman in the far corner of the coffee shop read her copy of Vogue, no doubt owning many of the clothes which graced its glossy pages. She was beautiful but I could not help but notice the sadness in her eyes.
I watched for many more hours on this particular day, fascinated, more people coming and going, with friends, with family, alone: all different. And it made me wonder, how often do we stop what we are doing and think about the lives of others? We are so concerned with our own agendas that we fail to see that we are simply part of a grand scheme, one in which we all belong. You know when someone takes a photograph and when we ask to look at it we only ever search for ourselves? Well, I believe that this is what we do in day-to-day life. And we shouldn’t.



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