Friday, December 07, 2007

Overheard on the bike path

Riding north along the Upfield bike path this afternoon, as it follows the train line west of Sydney Road (yep, just keep heading north to the Emerald City), I saw a man riding a bike with a girl sitting comfortably behind him. He must have been standing up on the pedals the whole way. As we crossed, I heard him say distinctly, "So at that time you weren't going to be in the circus, but then you were?"

Isn't that great? I spent a while pondering the grammatical ambiguity here; was she now going to be in the circus? or was she now in the circus? or had she been going to be in the circus, but now she wasn't (a counter-factual imperfect?)? Is "were" the principal verb, or does it leave the "going to be" understood? I need a grammatical analysis of the different temporalities and tenses at work here.

Either way, she was having a lovely ride in the sun. And so did I, stopping to load up my panier on the left side, a shopping bag on the right handle bar, both filled with dried fruit that is now soaking in beer, brandy and port ready to make Christmas puddings. OK, a little late, but still a glad contrast to last year when my father had to come to my rescue and help me because I couldn't stir them. Twelve months later, I plan to have the mixture all assembled when my family comes to afternoon tea on Sunday, so we can all have a stir and make a wish.

5 comments:

Suse said...

My all-time favourite overheard line was more than 20 years ago, when I was exiting the Union Building at Melbourne Uni and one girl said to another as I passed ...

"So, will you be taking your chainsaw to Los Angeles?"

It's stayed with me, and I often ponder over it.

The other one was my English mother-in-law who heard two old[er] women say to each other in a satisfied tone whilst boarding the bus, "... and if we leave now, we'll be just in time for a nice cup of tea."

That one has entered our family lexicon. One must say it with a Northern English accent and emphasis on the 'joost in tahm'.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Yesterday I passed an apparently homeless man curled into a side-street doorway and talking passionately on his mobile (which my lawyer friend D tells me is the homeless's usual substitute for a fixed address, if they can get one). The only words I caught were 'You've got to be f*ckin' strong about this kind of stuff!'

Kathleen said...

Oh, that's great! What a jumping-off point for a story! It reminds me of a Shirley Hughes book I had as a child, "Up and up". No words, just very detailed and evocative pictures, each one a potential tale.

There's a site a colleague told me about, where people post things they've overheard in NYC:
http://www.overheardinnewyork.com/

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

Delightful. And thanks for visiting my blog! A long time ago, you wrote something about the smell of gum trees that stuck with me, because I grew up on the US's west coast, where there are a lot of them, and I still love and miss that smell.

Stephanie Trigg said...

I like Suse's cup of tea very much indeed!