Bag lady

Ages ago I wrote about taking a photographic journey along Wandsworth Road. Now the weather’s nicer and the days are longer, I’ve taken to walking along that way, so I get some exercise on the way to work.
When you travel a certain route over and over, you stop seeing it with the eyes of a tourist. Everything kind of blurs into something generic – you feel like you’ve seen it all before, so you stop looking.

Instead you start to see other things – the routine of a street. The Any Junk men drinking coffee outside the same cafe every day. The same mums with the same kids on the school run. The same people running for a train. The same bus drivers. The same passengers.

And when you begin to notice the routine, you get a sense of the fabric of a place. That’s when I start to wonder about all the stories behind the snapshots that I see of people’s lives.

Here’s a snapshot of one of my regulars.
I spotted her this morning, but she’s around most days, rummaging through the bins.

Today I saw her rooting through bags left next to a clothes bank, and then picking things out of the bin of a street sweeper. He very patiently stood by and let her take everything she wanted to put in her black bin liner.

Why is an elderly lady like her reduced to circumstances where she has to forage in our refuse? Or is she just mad – a kleptomaniac collecting empty crisp packets and other people’s cast-offs? Who are her family and where does she live?

I thought about her all the way to work. And then realised that every person I see is a similar mystery, waiting to be unravelled.

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4 responses to “Bag lady

  1. So true. When i first moved to NYC i promised myself i would speak to some of the homeless who looked like they could be me, to find out what brought them to where they are today…but i never did. and now 15+ years has gone by and I have become desensitized….walking past them trying not to make eye contact…sad. They were once humans to me and i guess i have become inundated….have you ever thought to speak to your bag lady?

    • So smile at her for a few days, then say “Good Morning”, then strike up a conversation and find out. Maybe she’ll be as much fun as Crazy Terry?!

  2. I used to live nearby Wandsworth road and it was that road sweeper who was fascinating! He was a fitness freak – he would spend Saturday afternoons running up and down Netherford road and was also an avid aerobics fan (very out of time) at the Virgin gym in old town. You’d think pushing his cart around all day would be exercise enough!

    • I love it! Great piece of info Kate. I think people’s stories are fascinating – they’re rarely what you’d guess at first glance.

      Maybe I should start chatting to complete strangers and collect some more stories?…

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