Categories
France

My grandmother loved watching people.

All my gran wanted to do was watch people, to be a part of their world. Perhaps it was an escape from her own world, a one where she felt she had no control

One of the joys of working from home is that I can drink tea all day long. While I wait for the kettle to boil, I watch people passing by outside. 

The guy in a navy suit with a squirrel’s nest beard and an orange backpack marching to catch the RER train to the La Defense, the financial district of Paris. (I wonder if he chose the colour of his backpack to match his beard?)

The blond lady that grabs a moment to smoke a cigarette while her ginger cocker spaniel poops on our grass. (I hope she picks it up!)

My 90-year old neighbour unloading her daily shopping from one of her two cars. (Why does she need TWO cars?)

The train of excited pre-school kids gripping a length of rope as they make their way safely to the play park. (I want to go to the park!)

Cyclists gliding up a steep hill on their electric bicycles. (It seems everything with wheels now needs to be electric!)

Watching all these people, I think about how much my grandmother would love to live in my apartment. She loved to watch people….

My gran lived on a farm. Isolated in the middle of the Scottish countryside. There is a road that passes in front of her house. Only my grandfather and other local farmers walk on that road to drive sheep from one field to another. It’s too dangerous to walk on. People drive too fast. And tractors are so large these days you need to step into the ditch to let them pass. I think my gran only looked out over this road for fear that one of the farm cats or children from next door would get run over. 

Each year my mum would take my grandparents on a holiday to their favourite place – the Yorkshire Dales. They spent their days in little tea shops, eating cheese at the Wensleydale cheese factory, and picnicking among the sheep-filled moors and dry stone dykes.

My mum and grandparents would rent a house in town. It was essential that there was a view of some pedestrianised streets and shops.

My gran would sit for hours, drinking tea in a flowery porcelain cup, watching the locals buy buttery biscuits, asparagus and forced rhubarb. She’d watch and comment on the tourists as they darted from shop to shop looking for the iconic, “Lambs On’t Road” postcard to send to relatives and a novelty teapot for themselves. Maybe she imagined being the people she was watching. Or perhaps she wondered where they were going. I regret that I did not ask her. 

My gran loved her trips to the Yorkshire Dales. However, once the holiday was over, she’d return to the isolation of the farm.

For many years my grandparents talked about selling the farm and moving into a town, perhaps even to Yorkshire. 

Their last kiss in Yorkshire

My mum would bring property brochures for my grandparents to look at. My gran’s eyes would light up as she thought about living in those townhouses. But the light would go out as she realised it would never happen. 

My granda had been promising to sell the farm and move for over a decade. But my granda had worked on a farm his entire life, right up until he died at 97 years old. He knew no other life.

All my gran wanted to do was watch people, to be a part of their worlds. Perhaps she loved it so much because it was an escape from her own world, a one where she felt she had no control.

The last years of her life, my gran spent a lot of time in the hospital, suffering one illness after another. She’d watch the doctors and nurses busying around helping people get better, other patients grumbling about their ills and the families that often visited in troops.

She died in 2015, with my mother at her side. 

At least, away from the farm, in the hospital, gran finally got an opportunity to watch people and interact with the world. 

As the water in the kettle reaches boiling, I stop watching the people outside. I pour the hot water over a tea bag resting in a decorated porcelain cup. I know my gran would appreciate this moment.

My gran longed for a different life. She reminds me of how important it is to not settle. Do what you must to feel joy. To be tranquil. To feel alive. Do what you must to avoid regrets at the end of your life.

I’m thrilled to be running a home business.

The freedom to choose the hours that I work and what I do is important to me.

The freedom to often share lunch with my wife.

The freedom to visit my friends or walk in the forest.

Or the freedom to just take another five minutes to watch people bustle their way through life, or remember the times I spent with my gran.  

If you want something to change, find a way to make it so. Don’t wait. Don’t delay.

By David P. MacGregor

Living and working the good life in France with my wife and dog.