12 midday. Two women are sat at a cheap metal table, reclining in their seats, talking back and forth, small glasses of white wine resting half-drunk in front of them. Behind them at the pottery stall a large man reclines in a wicker chair of his own making, drawing on a hand-rolled cigarette, thick, heavy smoke issuing from his nose, beard, ears. A scattering of people drink beer from plastic cups, as casually as water. Children dressed in bright over-sized padded jackets, boots, mittens, hats, glasses look out at the world, led by mother’s adoring hand. One falls, slumps hard to the ground, cries out in perfect, open, helpless sadness. Mother reassures, picks him up, sets him on his feet.
At the cheese stall two small girls stand side-by-side, hand-in-hand, the left-hand girl clutching a note in her free fingers. Kind-hearted woman holds a metal blade flat and shining to the hard skin of a cheese at just above child’s-eye level, ready to slice, speaks softly to them: “Enough? Here?” The girls look at each other and agree, each making half of the decision – woman presses firmly down, cutting a segment free.
Fresh-faced man with short, hastily-cut hair and the waxen skin of a recent shave sees the world for the first time in days, hurries around the market with an excited, astonished urgency, seeking his meal. Thin curved limbs and flat green leaves of a coriander plant press against the rippling surface of his transparent red plastic shopping bag that he holds in a loosely clenched fist. It rustles as he cuts a shadow through the sunlight spread across boxes piled high with fruits, vegetables, briefly dulling the warm segments of apple cut and laid out for tasting. He scurries past, disrupting sparse columns of highlighted steam that expand and curl from the open swaying black-brown surfaces of coffees bought from the little stall, queue growing and shrinking with accordion rhythm.
A gigantic cooling vent two stories in height sits silently to one side, a towering innocuous presence that is warm and inviting, despite its brutal appearance. A gentle giant as protector, focus. The uppermost three-quarters of its concrete body project a series of vertical straight-razors that jut out in sharp parallel lines; the bottom six foot are coloured with scrawling, swirling graffiti the same as seen on all other buildings in the area, the contours and tones of the spray can and the arms that move them a shared human identity, expressed in colour, shape, practised rhythm.
In the shadow of the giant are a crowd of people, gathered to watch a child’s puppet show. Bright painted faces on wooden boards are thrust up and down with soft, bright, innocent eyes following – animated woman with creased, baggy clothes and a shock of long, unkempt grey-brown hair that bounces up and down along with her voice sounds off accented and accentuated character voices, grinning enthusiastically with the limitless energy of the mother, carer, entertainer. Next to her is a young, conscious, smooth-skinned man, long hair tied behind his head and with trumpet in hand, poised to begin. He watches his partner with warm eyes, entirely centred, ready to entertain, to play his part.
Pigeons fly overhead and land, the symmetry of their spread wings flashing a brief pin-badge icon. Ageing man with large backpack tries to engage with the occupants on a row of benches with a splayed, inviting hand – English? Français? Deutsche? Čeština? He reels off his options, abandons, and swans towards an empty bench, extracting a green plastic bottle of wine from the waistband of his trousers which slacken and begin to fall. He grabs a fistful of loose material and thuds softly down on an empty seat, takes off is boots that deflate and sit still on the ground beside him. He sinks into his seat; a moment of lethargy, then he sits bolt upright, draws two thick hardback books from his bag and places them ceremoniously on the bench beside him, swigs from his bottle, and begins watching the world. He smiles at passers by, offers comment, calls to one he recognises from a past interaction, then looks out in empty moments with an air of innocent longing, tinged perhaps with bitterness, but with something honest, small, vulnerable tucked deeply away. It glimmers before he is startled by the returning presence of people, and is drawn back to his affronting routine. He forgets his sorrow, reads in the wake of his finger from a book, looking eagerly up and down, performing to no-one.
Small dog bounces along between its owners, jumping and snapping continuously at its lead – seated man watches, exclaims as the image hits home, calls Czech commentary, applauds, and invites others with his searching eyes to appreciate this small marvel. Girl in her mid-twenties with long, flowing hair rolls silently by on an old thin-framed Peugeot bicycle, paint dulled, with cigarette in hand. Seated man produces a coin from his pocket, pinches it between both index fingers and thumbs and holds it out in offering, following her silken trajectory with lighthouse attention.