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The Scrivener: Wait To Be Told

…Faces in a crowd. They might seem ordinary, very ordinary. But, as a widely published author and journalist told me years ago, nothing is ordinary…

Brian Barratt possesses the writer’s greatest gifts - an interest in all kinds and classes of people, and a willingness to listen to their life stories. From chance encounters he gleans material for hundreds and thousands of thoughtful and entertaining words.

To experience more of Brian’s word magic visit his Web site The Brain Rummager www.alphalink.com.au/~umbidas/

Mingling with people on the footpaths. Moving with them around the aisles of supermarkets. Standing next to them in queues. Watching them come and go while you have a cup of coffee.

It somehow reminds you of the opening words of the old hymn, ‘Where cross the crowded ways of life’.

Faces in a crowd. They might seem ordinary, very ordinary. But, as a widely published author and journalist told me years ago, nothing is ordinary. It is part of a writer’s calling to go quietly behind the façade. It can be a challenge for a writer not to judge what lies within and beyond.

People come and go. Most are in a hurry. Many suffer from the contemporary affliction of being ‘too busy’. Some like to pause for a chat. Given opportunity, a few recount their life stories. Others are reserved or reticent, and you don’t probe. There are also the loners, the one-offs, and those you never meet again.
Underneath, none is ordinary.

It wouldn’t be appropriate to write about everyone. For instance, the chap who poured out his story of encounters with women and of the time he was stabbed and Heaven knows what else. He appeared once at the coffee bar, talked for more than an hour, and I never saw him again. I wrote it all down when I got home, but it isn’t for public viewing. It’s far too personal.

Then there was the gentleman who also had a history of encounters, but with those who are now beyond the grave. Through his communication with the departed, he had solved many crimes. He was frustrated because no police force or government authority was interested in his notebook of reports.
Another busked on the footpath. Sometimes a familiar refrain would drift toward you, but most of the time he was improvising skilfully and beautifully. He had a gentle smile, and he had written a book, too. It comprised, if I recall aright, the truth about God and life, and woe betide any editor who wanted to change a word of it.

Most people who have a dog with them will join in a conversation if you start by asking them about their dog. Some won’t stop talking about their dog. Others will let the discussion spread into other topics. It helps to know a little about breeds, and never to assume that a dog you can’t classify is a mongrel. That really upsets owners of pure-breds. Fortunately, I didn’t say the wrong thing when I met a Bedlington Terrier for the first time and just could not work out what it was. That’s a breed you can’t confuse with any other.
And that, I suppose, is a key to seeing beyond the façade — don’t jump to conclusions. There are stories behind all the faces in the crowd, be those faces smiling or care-worn. Some tales will come pouring out, to the point of being very personal and revealing. Others will emerge, bit by bit, in two-way conversation. A few will stay hidden, and you must tactfully wait to be told, perhaps, one day.

© Copyright 2006 Brian Barratt


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