PHS editor and Harlequin Historical author Michelle Styles explains about one of her favourite past-times on holiday -- people watching.
One of the great joys of taking a holiday is people watching. In my day job as an author, I spend a lot of time interacting with either a computer or in extreme cases, a piece of paper and ink. These are solitary occupations. There is not much scope for actually watching people and as an author, I am fascinated by people — why do they behave in such a way, why do they make certain choices, what do their gestures mean. It is a way to refill the writing well.
So people watching is one of my great pleasures on holiday, particularly waiting for the plane. Where as some people find such times dull and tedious, I find them fascinating opportunities to allow my muse to work.
|Marzipan cathedral in Toledo, spotted because of various peoples reaction.|
|Playa Major in Salamanca, great for watching people|
Great times to people watch are waiting for trains or planes. It is always fantastic when you spot someone who sticks out of the crowd — for example the woman in full tartan including a tam o’shanter hat combined with Birkenstock sandals who stood looking at the duty free perfumes at Newcastle airport when I was getting ready to go to Spain. But I always find myself — asking why would she want to stand out in that way. Does she want to stand out?
Sometimes the people watcher becomes privy to brief glimpses of human drama. Many years ago when waiting for a plane in Denver, I saw a couple come up to a woman and embrace her. It rapidly emerged she was fleeing from her husband and these cousins had come to spirit her away. She decided not to go with them because the husband was sure to follow and did not want to put them in danger. Or then there was the time when my husband and I were bird watching in a remote area and two cars pulled up, a woman emerged from the first car, dressed up in tottering heels and a suit and a man from the second one dressed in jeans and a shirt. He proceeded to place a mattress in the back of his van and they went in. A clandestine affair? Who knows but the image has stuck with me.
|Roman bridge in Salamanca, again great for watching people.|
It is the brief meetings and sudden snapshots into people’s lives. The absolute joy when someone spots a loved one or the worried look as a woman shepherds a group of children.
I also enjoy doing this sort of people watching when I am out sightseeing. Recently we were in central Spain. My husband is used to me now but I have learnt to people watch and sight see at the same time. However I tend to take pictures of the sights and remember people.
Toledo is a tourist honey pot and there were huge gaggles of tourists on packaged tours. It is always interesting to see the cautious comradery that develops or the way some will peel off from a group, plus the way the umbrella or stick is used by the tour guide. I found the marzipan shop with its brilliant marzipan cathedral by watching the expressions of people as they went past. I also loved the way a woman bent down to stroke a cat in Toledo and then stopped to have her photo taken with it. Seconds before the cat had been about to pounce on doves. The cat’s expression was priceless. Sometimes my people watching becomes animal watching.
The ability to people watch is one of the reasons I never get bored and why I come back refreshed after a holiday.
Where are your favourite places to people watch? And have you ever had any great insights/ideas from watching?
Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romances in a wide range of time periods. Her most recent book Summer of the Viking is first published in English in June 2015 and is currently out in Spain. You can learn more about Michelle and her books on www.michellestyles.co.uk