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Writing Workshop: Collected Glances

I am a natural collector, a hoarder of treasures. Not things that usually cost much, thankfully, but buttons and old keys and things I find on the pavement. I can’t walk past conkers without picking them up, or especially vibrant leaves, or pebbles or snail shells – my pockets are always full, the top of my piano always a shrine to my wanderings about. Mostly I love things that look like they have a story.

With my space to myself I’m becoming a braver collector.  I dream of shelves of mis-matched tea cups, walls full of old frames with nothing in them, glass jars filled to the top with whatever I’ve thought to put in them. I want to fill my house with stories.

But if I could collect anything, if such things were possible, I would collect glances.

You know, those brief looks that people throw when they think no-one is looking. Each one a whole story in itself. And in a way, I do collect them. I watch for them and my little internal camera goes click. Some are slow and dawdling, others move so fast you would miss them to blink. You see them in the eyes of people gazing out their car windows in long queues of traffic, some vacant, lost somewhere else far away, fingers idly tapping on the steering wheels, others riddled with frowns and frustration with clenched grips at lateness and deadlines and don’t get so close, will you? You catch one in the sudden confused pause of a woman in the supermarket as she tries to remember what on earth she came in for. Another caught as a girl walks along the pavement with her arms folded around her thin chest, eyes to the floor, earphones plugged in when suddenly her eyes lift to the sky, in sudden response to the surge of a song or the line of a lyric as she flashes a smile, her whole face changing.

There’s a limitless number to collect, enough to set any keen collector’s heart racing. The mother at the nursery door with tired eyes turns to watch her young son bound off to his friends with that unique working mother mixture of guilt and concern and utter relief. The teenager waiting at the traffic lights with her giggling tribe, looking sideways at her best friend suddenly with momentary jealousy and spite. Even the occasional double-glance of a man walking past, as something primal, that automaton part of us ruled by something other than brains, makes his eye suddenly dart to look at me again.

I want to collect them all, gather them up from where they are thrown, and pin them all over my walls, moving them around like jigsaw puzzles to reveal patterns of people’s dreams and wants and thoughts. I want to scratch at them to reveal colours underneath. What is it that made that man’s face twist in anger just then as he walks alongside his wife? What happened to the woman who, with a wary, pained glance, steers in an arc to avoid having to come too close or look too closely at the baby in the pushchair coming in the opposite direction? What made that girl look away from her reflection in the shop window with something like fear?

I want to fill books with their stories, stick them down like stamps.

Maybe I shall.


Now it’s your turn. Tell me about your collections, real or imagined

Leave your name and the URL to your post in the Linky below (the URL should be to your post not just to your blog) – it’ll be open til Sunday night so if you haven’t had chance to respond yet, then you’ve got plenty of time to join in. Don’t forget that anyone can take part! New prompts will be up this time next week, so I hope to see you back soon.


  1. wow I love this piece, probably my favourite all out of all your workshops.  I don’t know it stirs something within and hits the right notes. Love collecting and people watching. My favourite of course is “The mother at the nursery door with tired eyes turns to watch her young son bound off to his friends with that unique working mother mixture of guilt and concern and utter relief. ” How very true. xx

  2. Hi Josie – love this. I’m always seeing these glances and they are intriguing aren’t they? Of course, I would never dare to enquire of the glancee just what it was running thru their mind. Can you imagine, some big strange bloke coming up to you and asking what you’re thinking?!
    It also brings to mind something I noticed a while ago – people, particularly girls/women, don’t look at me anymore – I’ve effectively become invisible. Reason? I reached 50! Sad isn’t it really?
    Does have it’s advantages though – since I’ve become invisible, I can study other people for longer without attracting attention. Every cloud ….

    • Thank you for your comment, Sean! I am awful for gawping at people. I’d enjoy that invisibleness, sounds like no bad thing to me. I hide under hats, generally :) 

  3. Skoteinia

    New here, and having my first crack at your workshop — thanks for the forum :)

    What a beautiful idea — to collect the intangible…  You enumerate the different types of glances very effectively — I can see each one.  I’m sure I’ll be thinking about this piece of writing all day…  And, @ Sean, I’m nearly 50 and doing well in the grey and wrinkly stakes.  Someone even gave me a bus seat not too long ago!  How things change, eh?

  4. I’m a people watcher too. I’d happily sit with a steaming latte and watch the world float by my table, wondering what he’s thinking or she’s trying not to think. Lovely, lovely piece my dear. I particularly love the line ‘scratch at them to reveal colours underneath’ – just inspired! Will pop my post up tomorrow.

  5. Beautiful post, Josie. My favourite part is the girl walking on the pavement with her whole face changing. xx

  6. so beautiful, something that is so easily passed by and forgotten


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