By Josie Finlay
Notes from a freak show
Being at SCA has led me to do some quite weird things, like stalking an RSPCA employee from Slough, and taking 43 pictures of a wall. I topped them all the other day when I went to Brent Cross shopping centre on Christmas Eve, by choice. I thought it would be prime people-watching time, but I was disappointed not to see anyone doing a tug of war with a turkey or other similar festive behaviour. The surprising civilised-ness turned out to be deceptive, though: everyone is a weirdo anyway, as I found from my fieldwork, conducted from a bench between Waitrose, McDonald’s, and the Vype vape lounge.
Part 1. Facing Waitrose.
No one looks that stressed. Everyone seems fine, or maybe they are just in a daze. A few people are talking to themselves.
Really put-together woman walking out of Waitrose with a thick cappuccino moustache.
A woman with sad eyes sucks deeply on a McDonalds milkshake. A mother and daughter are both wearing a Mickey Mouse Christmas jumper, but they aren’t matching.
A woman in maybe pyjamas has bought 4 bags of flour. A man walks leaning forward with his hands clasped behind his back, like my dad does. Only really seen men over the age of 50 walk in that way
A little girl is wearing glittery snowflake deely boppers (is that what they are called) and looks pretty DAMN smug about it
I can’t wait to be a parent and constantly be adjusting my kid’s hat
Just seen the first poinsettia purchase of the day. Why people like poinsettias so much, I’ll never understand
A man looks pleased with his pack of cheddar slices. He is reading the receipt, grinning
Cappuccino moustache number 2, this time from an older woman in a beige beret studded with pearls. She’s drinking her cappuccino from an orange china mug. Never really seen someone do that in a public place
What looks like 3 generations of women have all come to Brent Cross together. They’re sharing a Christmas sandwich and reading out the ingredients, laughing loads
A teenage girl is acting like such a teenage girl, rolling her eyes and getting out her phone while her dad is shouting at her
This guy looks like a real beach rat (first time I’ve ever used the phrase beach rat and not feeling too confident about it) – he is wearing rubber sliders, tropical shorts, bleached hair, air pods and swinging a massive bottle of evian in his hand. The twist is, he also has on an oversized yellow puffer jacket. Where has he come from?? Where is he going???
More members have joined the Christmas sandwich discussion group, and are now talking about ageing.
The skinniest jeans of the day prize goes to the man with hair that looks like a hat
I’ve seen my first and hopefully last Rick & Morty themed Christmas jumper, which says ‘Pickle Rickmas’
Part 2. Facing McDonalds.
Some people come out of McDonalds that you really wouldn’t expect to see in there. Like this older middle-aged Japanese woman with a nice smart coat and a silk scarf. I want to know what she ordered
A man with wispy hair smiles wistfully as he fishes the last crumbs of chip from his carton with two fingers.
It seems people still shop at Hollister
In the future, will people laugh at the idea of vape lounges?
Taking a McDonald’s straw out of its paper wrapper is such a specific feeling. So is holding a paper bag of fast food with the top rolled over
Someone just came up behind someone they knew and gave them a fright. She had real real fear in her eyes for just a second, kind of horrible to see
People are having a really nice time together. I want to go somewhere where people are more stressed !
Part 3. In the area with River Island and JD Sports
This is more like it. In these parts, people are closer to death. I’ve already seen an adult man looking like he’s about to cry, and whining, ‘where are we goinggg??’.
Why do kids have a compulsion to always touch the sides of stuff, like the walls in busy shopping centres, even when they are walking quite far from the wall?
Yeah, that’s enough.