Monday, 24 May 2010

Beginnings - The man who sweeps up in Woolworths

Of course, beginnings are where one starts any story, any journey, but who is the man who sweeps up in Woolworths? And what on earth could this character bring to bear on an exploration of super-recognition? For my family, the man who sweeps up in Woolworths has a status almost legendary, somewhat comical, yet always entirely sigh inducing. The only person not sighing at the metaphorical campfire right now is my father, as it is always he who tells the tale.

Somewhere in the early 1970s's, my mother and father are in a public place. My mother is testing the patience of both herself and my father by the torment that is knowing a face. Knowing that you have seen it before and then feeling the need to recall the situation and the reason you recognise this person. However, the man who passed my parents on the street - as my mother exclaims with triumphant delight - is the man who sweeps up in Woolworths! She knows this because he has ginger hair, has an unendearing look to him and uses a particularly wide-headed broom most suited to his task. The important part here is that this observation has no context, either from their conversation, where they had visited that day nor even from any form of close professional familiy ties to the department store in question. Consequently my father thinks my mother strange and mocks her outlandish observation.

Roughly 35 years later, my mother and father are in public again on the outskirts of town when the man who sweeps up in Woolworths rears his ginger, unendearing head once again, this time on a passing bicycle. After the better part of four decades, the story of the man who sweeps up in Woolies is known throughout our family and family friends, due in no small part to having been wheeled out for laughs and mockery between sprouts at Christmas dinner, drinks on a night out, or simply for lack of any other suitably entertaining new material. Sadly, my mother failed to learn that to point out the same man again after his long hiatus from public life with regard to the social-comic circles of our family's conciousness would be...unfortunate.

My mother is a super-recogniser. We have since discussed this new-fangled concept to some degree after it caught my attention at the start of this year that these supposedly 'super' recognisers' abilities were that which I deemed to be the norm. My everyday. It set my mind alight with correspondingly parallel anecdotes from my own past. Apparently I was not the norm and it is probable that I see the world quite differently to most others. I am now sure that with the demise of Woolworths as a high street ever-present, no-one sweeps up there anymore and though I have never owned a dog, I have a feeling I'm not in Kansas anymore.

1 comment:

  1. This is an amazingly witty piece - and interesting content! You should give the Guardian or Private Eye a call too for a new career in writing perhaps...