Story evolution

Spotted an elderly lady today. She was slumped in a public park, her right cheek resting on a rough timber table. She could have been of Italian heritage but I’m punting on Greek. Her walking frame stood beside the table.

In the tenths of seconds as I drove alongside the park my mind started making stories up about this lady. How she might have no family left in Australia and no income. Perhaps she was slowly starving and had a stroke while shuffling to the shops.

What would her home be like? Crumbling weatherboards? Weeds punching through her rickety fence? Inside, piles of old newspapers and rusty food tins. A stench of bins that hadn’t been emptied, of cat urine and a dodgy toilet?

Then my car drew parallel with her bench. I noticed the younger woman standing nearby, previously obscured by a shrub. I was about to render her into a social worker or carer when I sighted the toddler playing peek-a-boo with the older woman at the table. Turns out the story was a happy one, after all. An afternoon in the sun with a grandchild.

And then I nearly ran into the car in front of me.

3 thoughts on “Story evolution”

  1. I have been trying to think of how to word this so it doesn’t sound critical or negative….so please bear with me, because I am really not being either of those things, at all. 🙂
    Is it a condition of working as a journo for so long that you would have ‘seen’ the sad story first, do you think?

    Does that make sense?

  2. Hi Tye, it’s a fair question. I didn’t spot the child until last so it’s hard to know how the order of sightings affected the thinking.

    Put the order aside though and I could have just seen an elderly lady enjoying the sunshine in a public park. Do I instinctively look for the ‘bad news’ story as a journo? Perhaps. I prefer to think of it as looking for a story, though. And a person enjoying a quiet moment in a park is rarely a story anyone would bother reading.

    So yes, perhaps guilty as charged. But still capable of seeing the upside and writing a ‘good news’ yarn when it appears!


  3. Thank you Tim for answering my question so thoughtfully. I greatly appreciate it.

    This line is the one I love best… “Put the order aside though and I could have just seen an elderly lady enjoying the sunshine in a public park.”

    You know why I love that one the best? Because not many people these days would have seen that elderly lady full stop. I am always delighted to read about all of the little things you observe Tim, seems to me a rare gift that you always put to good use.


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