I’ve been spending my lunch hours in Victoria Square. It’s a grand, open, public space at the top of New Street. There’s a statue of old Queen Vic off to one side (put there a year before she died). There’s a big floozie in a jacuzzi at the top, in a pool with a TS Eliot quote around the edge. The magnificent council building stands grandly at the top of the square, overlooking all the development that’s taken place over the last hundred years, and it probably approves.
I sit on the stone bench (which is really just a cutaway in the wall) at the top right, eat my lunch, and watch people walk through. I can get infinite pleasure from doing this in short bursts. In January and February, I largely had the place to myself, allowing me to be alone in my hobby. People come, and they go, but nobody stayed. There were the occasional school trips to the Museum, with a teacher trying to impart a message to a rowdy bunch of children. Usually followed shortly afterwards by an unruly exodus in the direction of the station.
Slowly, the weather improved – the sun started peeking over the Post Office building, and just caught me in my spot at the top. It warmed up to a point where a newspaper wasn’t really necessary to stave off a frozen butt. Occasionally, there’d be one or two other luncheoneers on the benches dotted around. The endless variety of thick black coats became an even more endless variety of warm outfits of all sorts.
But then there was the warm spell – two weeks of balmy 15º. It was warm and it was sunny. The mood in the city was lifted, the people emerged from their offices, and gave up hiding away in cafés and bars. They crowded into the square, and took up all the seating space, and filled that big open space with conversation, and talk, and jibber-jabber. Suddenly, the square that had felt like my own private public viewing window was transformed into just another bustling bombardment of busyness.
So when the weather turned cold again this week, I’d almost go as far as to say I didn’t miss the fair weather. If only because I had my square back.
It’s warmer again from next week. Sigh.