I’ve just spent three hours

I’ve just spent three hours or so sitting in Priory Park, reading and people watching. The book is good – the people better.
Soon after I arrived, an attractive, tall and slender blonde woman, probably in her early twenties, came along and sat on a bench to my right. She was dressed entirely in black (something which always attracts my attention) and was carrying what looked like a magazine, probably a sunday supplement. She looked at me as she walked passed, then sat reading her magazine, holding it close to her face as if she needed glasses, and glancing over the top of it at the people in the park, smiling to herself, chuckling, reading some more, and then looking around again. She kept jiggling her left foot to such an extent that I thought the black mule that she was wearing was going to drop off. She seemed so nervous and flighty, expecting something, frightened of something, anticipating something, excited by something. She was barely still, noisily turning the pages of her magazine as she read.
After thirty minutes or so, she got up and left without a word, and walked across the park towards the Guildhall, taking a not particularly direct route and proceeding in an unhurried manner.
At about the same time, a couple arrived and set up camp to my left – he in generic Gap shirt and shorts, she in a summer dress that didn’t hide the impending third child, as the existing two ran around her feet. Daddy was carrying a brand new child’s cricket set – bat, soft red ball, tiny stumps – which he set up on the edge of the Priory Park Cricket Club pitch. I’m not entirely convinced that this toy was really purchased for Sam and Harry, but more likely for Daddy to enjoy. As he explained the rules to his bemused children, who I would guess were aged around 3 and 5, Mummy poured cold drinks from a flask. A gentle game ensued, and went on for almost an hour (“you and Mummy can be England, Sam and I will be Australia!”) until Harry got upset that he didn’t get to bowl all the time, probably induced by the realisation that his tiny younger brother was actually much better at hitting the ball than he was. Loud wailing sobs ensued, echoing around the park, until tired Mummy picked him up and all of the drinks things, and headed for home, with Daddy and Sam following.
I almost felt a touch of envy.
Meanwhile, across the park, a group of three men and a boy struggled to get a large kite aloft in the weak breeze. After struggling for nearly twenty minutes, they succeeded, and the blue and green square moved sedately about the sky, casting a rapidly moving shadow over the dozing bikinis scattered across the grass. The kite lent a sense of cool freedom to the heavy and sultry late afternoon, but a sense of freedom that was still tethered and controlled at the ground. Even the gulls folded wings on the cricket square and watched.
That they succeeded in bringing the kite down to the ground without wrapping it around one of the park’s trees, or worse still, a bystander, was fortuitous to say the least.
Another blonde woman walked past me to the bench to my right, this one in her mid thirties, less tall and wearing a baby blue top and shorts. She sat down on the grass by the bench, produced a cigarette, lighter, paperback and suncream and put them all to their correct uses, stretched out on the grass and constantly shifting position. I had to look at her very carefully, as she looked much like someone I met recently whom I have not seen for a while and would like to see again (only to talk to, you understand – I have a few questions that need answers). Looking at her from even the short distance that separated us, through sunglasses and in the glare of the very bright sun, I couldn’t be sure that it wasn’t her, but eventually I decided that that was indeed the case.
As she sat there, an elderly woman came and sat on the bench next to her, causing her to shift position and look up. The woman was probably in her eighties and had a thin bird-like frame, slack and wrinkled pale skin, and slightly unkempt white hair, all in marked contrast to the woman who lay near her feet. They exchanged a few words that I couldn’t hear, and then the older woman got up again and walked off, passing a huge black man with his thin white wife and two boisterous coffee-coloured daughters as they walked into the park.
I love Chichester. I love Priory Park. And I love watching people.