I have new neighbours. To be more specific, I have new work neighbours. In the little corner of the west wing of the first floor of the huge office where I and two thousand other people work, there is a cluster of four desks and a neighbouring cluster of two desks. I am in the four desk cluster, with one sometimes loud but always lovely full-timer and one very quiet part-timer. There has been one occasionally chatty cat-lover in the three-cluster, so between us we’re a fairly quiet bunch. I like working in peace and quiet so this has suited me perfectly.
This week we had two more contractors moving in – they filled in the remaining spaces on the three desk cluster. Which has led to a little indulgence in one of life’s pleasures for me – people watching. Well – actually, it’s more ‘people-listening’. The way our desks are all positioned, the full-timer and I have our backs to the three desk cluster.
So here is what I’ve observed in the last three days.
New Neighbour Number One (NNN1) is very quietly spoken, has an even quieter footfall and is the manager of this tiny unit. She’s very apologetic sounding, but seems to know exactly what she’s doing. A lovely lady, but not much help when I’m looking for inspiration for characters for the new book.
Now New Neighbour Number Two is a completely different (and frankly much more exciting prospect). The collection of attributes are unusual and interesting. She favours a very ‘Goth’ style of dress, wearing head to toe black draperies. Her long dirty blonde hair is normally piled into some kind of beehive style. She has a really interesting sound – it’s a cross between a very relaxed, bordering on slightly drunk, drawl and the slightly high-pitched whine of a five-year old about to head into a full on tantrum.
The resemblance to a stubborn child doesn’t end there – and I have to admit, it’s ever so slightly disconcerting to see and hear a mid to late forties (I hope!) professional adult exhibit the attributes of a recalcitrant and sulky child. Today for example, she was advised that a process she thought she’d completed was actually missing a key component and therefore she needed to action it. We were given a twenty-minute diatribe on the pickiness of those pesky authoritarians who require an authorising signature on paperwork, the huge inconvenience this would cause to her personally, the ineptitude of the staff pointing out her error and so on, and on, and on, and on.
On top of this indignity she got into a random conversation with her indulgent and meek mama of a manager about benefit scroungers. Mama Manager gently commented that not all benefit claimants are indeed scroungers and may have fallen on hard times. Well! WELL! “Of course they are. OF COURSE THEY’RE SCROUNGERS!” our woman-child practically spat out. “I have a friend that used to work at the council and she told me all about it, about how they all play the system. They’re all scroungers. Let me tell you what real hardship is.” And then we were treated to a half-hour potted history demonstrating the dire straits she and her family are in.
“I mean, I’ve bought no clothes – NONE – in years. It’s been years, I’m telling you Mama Manager. Well, except these shoes I suppose. I mean, I’ve bought a few bits. But it doesn’t count.” she reasoned before treating us to yet more of her potted difficult, dramatic history.
You get the gist.
I was initially a bit dismayed at this intrusion into and disturbance of our once peaceful little corner, but it hit me as I was pulling out my notes for the new book. I can see it for the blessing it really is – what fabulous character inspiration, on tap, whenever I want it!
Let’s see if you spot her in the new book…