After my lecture yesterday, I went for a wander around Lyon, without Google maps. I didn’t let myself go down any roads I already know because it’s not that big a city and I thought it was about time I start trying to awaken my natural sense of direction.
I’d thought about visiting this little independent coffee place I’d seen, but it was already around 4pm, I’d walked quite a way and wasn’t entirely sure how to get there. So, feeling slightly guilty, I headed into Starbucks. I won’t lie, the exciting new cup totally pulled me in.
There’s nothing awful about going to Starbucks once in a while. Of course, it’s great to support local businesses instead, and Starbucks obviously isn’t the best in terms of value, quality or eco-friendliness. I also suspect that the whole spelling people’s names wrong thing is just an elaborate advertising tool.
But hey, we all deserve little luxuries sometimes. And, well, THE CUP.
Multinational firms produce so much of what we consume, and so many of our favourite products – Nutella, Diet Coke, our iPhones and laptops.
We can have the best intentions and principles, but it’s so difficult to be consistent.
For instance, since coming to France, I’ve only bought soy milk, as after researching meat production for my vegetarianism blog post, I realised that the dairy industry isn’t all that ethical either.
But then I go and pour it over my Special K with chocolate flakes.
Anyway, I spent an hour or so sat by myself at a window seat (with my earl grey in the aforementioned exciting Starbucks cup) people watching and writing down ideas and observations for future blog posts.
What happened was as unexpected and delightful as that time Ben Howard covered ‘Call Me Maybe’.
I just observed people coming and going – students, mums with push chairs, people waiting for the bus. Old ladies with stooping shoulders and walking sticks, friends on shopping trips, people plugged into their headphones. Others rushing somewhere they were already meant to be and the occasional individual who looked so outrageously French, but in a way that’s hard to put into words.
And then my phone died.
I thought about how isolating and frustrating losing my voice over the last few days had been. It was bizarre – I’d had a tiny cough, went for a few glasses of wine with friends, next day I couldn’t make a sound.
The day before, I’d felt tired and irritable, and couldn’t even express myself or find comfort in a Skype call.
I eventually got myself up and out in a big jumper with my headphones on, and took an evening walk up to the basilica.
I stood and looked at the view for a while, thinking about all those people; all those complex individual lives below. That, from way up there, looked like ants.
I found myself a shiny conker from one of the autumn trees, (because why would you not?) walked home, had a hot shower and whacked on an old Made in Chelsea.
I didn’t really have any other choice but to pick myself up, but it’s good to know that you can.
Where am I going with this?
I guess I’m saying that I’ve recently realised just how important it is to take some time to observe, to step out of the modern day frenzy and give ourselves space to simply be sometimes.
What do you think? Do you ever go people watching? Let me know in the comments.