One of the many joys of my year of maternity leave – now drawing to a close – has been trundling my daughter around Hampstead Heath. And with that has come an unlikely pleasure: overhearing snatched conversations as people pass by.
Most are unremarkable. But some are so funny, eye-rolling or intriguing, I wish I could be privy to the rest of the conversation. Your imagination runs wild. These are short films in the making, all.
In my experience, the Heath's vast open spaces – such a contrast to the city, where you're never far from another person – and the fact of walking side by side with someone, allow your conversations to be that much more intimate.
So I took to carrying a pen and paper with me to jot down the good ones. This simple task somehow kept my creative side alive during those early, foggy weeks and months. And it reminded me of an exercise we did on our journalism post-grad: perching at a bar and writing down overheard conversations, to practice our reported speech.
Here are a few favourites.
A 60-something man and woman
She: "...a selfish, ill old man."
He: "A selfish, ill old man. And the reason I'm selfish..."
Attractive 20-something pair
She: "Do you have an idea how that makes me feel?"
He: "Yes, I do have an idea."
She: "Well, it doesn't seem like you do..."
Late-40s woman with an East End accent, in a leopard skin coat
"I just have this fear that if it's gonna go wrong, it's gonna go really wrong..."
Two girls in school uniform, one quite upset
"So he like texted me yesterday and I texted him back and he never texted back. I'm like, what the fuck? So I'm gonna fuckin..."
Two posh 40-something women
One: "It's quinoa... and mixed grains."
Well-spoken young girl with her mum (overheard today, after the leaders' debate last night. A future UKIP supporter?)
"Yah, but they have to be from Britain."