Picture the scene. Boxing Day, in the Italian area down Lygon Street, where all the gelato shops vie with the fashion shops, the pizza places and espresso stops.
We love it there, not just because we love gelato but because we also enjoy being awash in the sound of Italian, to ask for or answer grazie for your coffee without a raised eyebrow. For James it's a slice of Italy and the memories of his childhood years there: for me, it makes me feel like it's close by, the language and the food I love so much.
But wait -- this was going to be a story about this guy we saw on Lygon Street, not a love poem to Italian food. (In my defense, we went to the Italian supermarket this morning, and since then I have been lying on the sofa under the air conditioner -- it's 40 degrees outside and windy as a blast furnace -- reading Italian cookbooks. MM-mm.)
So, Boxing Day, the street full of people, some of them dressed up for a shopping spree, some of them dressed down for coffee and strolling in the golden light.
We're at a table at a cafe, checking out the scene and sketching, in my case, without obviously sketching the pack of mobster lookalikes at the table next to us.
And there's this guy. Hell, this guy can move. His friend knows she can't compete, but when you're a cute little Italian woman, you can strike a good pose, and hold it with confidence while he takes the stage.
His hands have taken flight in this conversation, and his arms have no choice but to follow. He exclaims: 'Ah!' His shoulders rise dramatically, and fall. 'Oh -- it was benissimo!' - and the hands flutter outwards while the hips give a wiggle. But ah -- disappointment reigns and the hands shoot upwards again as his feet shuffle. The man's a whole-body, one-man-band gesture making machine.
Talking, that's for wimps. But, conversation, on the other hand -- that's a whole aerobic workout.