Late afternoon sun warmed the sandstone of the medieval buildings and threw shadows across the paved streets. The last of the weekend crowds heaved along the streets, changing direction and purpose with the thoughts and priorities of the individuals among them. I allowed the hill to carry my steps towards the retail centre of the city and away from the aged charms of the old urban heart. It seemed as if I had unwittingly followed the crowds or perhaps it was the reflection of the sheet glass windows to the designer shops that gave an amplification of the noise and movement of the passers by.
I stopped for a while by a quiet shady corner to watch the comings and goings of people, from the laden shopper to the retail worker chattering loudly on their mobile phone. History has shown us repeatedly how civilisation too will ebb and flow, I find myself wondering how long scenes like this will be as the last of the fossil fuel resources are wrung from the earth. The thought of sitting in the traffic to leave the city while forced to enjoy the aroma of the exhaust fumes from the vehicle in front was not one that thrilled me. Until the passing of the crowds it seemed that a coffee shop could provide sanctuary needed to prevent a fraying temper, once I found my good lady among the crowds I found my suggestion was well received.
Moments later we found ourselves seated behind the smudges and smeared windows of a cheap franchise restaurant with the warmth of a brew passing through the paper cups into our palms. As before my attention was drawn to the crowds, a gaggle of young teenagers burst through the doors and took to the seats a few tables away. All seemed to wear the latest in high street fashion and were well groomed in reflection of the celebrities that no doubt took the place of role models within their minds. The dynamics were immediately obvious, the tallest of the lads placed his foot on the centre of the table forcing the others to move their food, he talked loudly commanding the attention of the others and continually gestured and touched the gold chain and rings he wore as if reinforcing his status. The younger lads paid attention to him but also lavished the regard of welcome distraction upon the expensive mobiles and smart phones they drew from their pockets.
One of the girls sitting closely by the tall lad obviously had favour with him. She was able to be bolder with her language and tone, and used him to help reinforce her remarks to the others. The other girls stood around the edges of the tables choosing moments to join the conversation and support the opinions of the two dominant figures. One girl had clearly dressed to impress, but her constant preening and awkwardness portrayed her self consciousness, this was also perhaps the reason the group largely ignored her.
We chatted with our observations, my partner was all too aware of the group and the goings on between them. We both had memories from our youth of the way similar groups formed during our teenage years and of how the same mechanics carried on into college years and corporate life. It seems that the mimicry of adulthood going on before us would be carried on by these youngsters into their later lives. As we finished our drinks and prepared to leave I also remarked on how things were different within this city from the place we grew up. The designer gear, jewelry and mobiles they so proudly displayed and used would have marked you as a target for mugging within the rough northern town we used to call home, but despite this the language and behaviour was remarkably similar despite the years. Schools and curriculums may change as times go by but the way humans seem to unquestioningly organise themselves, seems to remain unaltered.
For me it appears the observations of the late afternoon would remain as thoughts to be carried with me on the solitude of my night time wanders.