A flâneur? In a 19th-century dictionary he’s a loiterer, a lounger, an indolent man spending his time idly. In contemporary dictionaries he’s a loafer, an idler, a stroller, a dawdler, an ambler, a laggard.
So many options to describe a man who has no timetable, no destination. Doing nothing, going nowhere. Apparently.
Yes, a flâneur in French is a man. But a woman, too, can loiter and lag. She’s the flâneuse.
Strolling the streets of my city, observant, detached, armed with a small camera, watching for someone who’s not like the others, I occasionally play the part of the flâneuse, capturing a few colourful characters in this city. But their colours can distract. Here I’ve removed them.
I love hair. My trigger finger itched when I saw this man who hasn’t seen a barber for some time. I stopped and loitered as flâneuses do. It was lunchtime and his eye was on a small charity barbecue stand while my eye was on his hair. I bet he’s an interesting bloke.
Within minutes I came across another one who avoids the barber. With his long white hair and beard and his black scarf and coat, he loses nothing in a conversion to black and white. He’d been to the sausage-sizzle stand and was sitting down for a lunch break.
Not far away I spotted another long male ponytail, plaited. Whatever he was saying, it amused his companions, the woman handing out The Big Issue free magazine and the bloke with a can of Mother and an attitude.
On my way home my ears were tickled by a busking guitarist who plays here frequently and brilliantly. A busker with a ponytail. His head was bent low over his guitar, eyes fixed on the strings, but when a passer-by threw a few coins into the guitar case and stopped to watch, the guitarist looked up and sort of smiled, as tickled by his one-man audience as I was by his music. I dropped some money into the guitar case. He had earned it.
The Daily Post challenged us this week to become flâneurs. As I ambled and wandered – not aimlessly nor idly – observing people in front of me, across the street, under a tree, against a wall, I concluded that not all of us are forgettable.