Running through my mind


I went for a run this morning through Vienna, up and down the banks of the river. The city was waking up to a beautiful sunny morning. It is always fascinating to run through a new place and watch the people – some were coming towards me, some sat on benches overlooking the river, some who were travelling with me, I managed to overtake.

As I ran, I took mental photographs of many of them. There was an older couple sitting quietly on a bench. He was reading his folded newspaper, she was her doing a crossword in her puzzle book. A woman with dark hair and a serious expression walked towards me, using trekking poles. Her legs were very thin in her black trousers and seemed disproportionately long for her body. I passed a weighty couple in their 20s, with wobbly backsides, strolling along holding hands.

There was a dishevelled man laid out asleep on one of the benches. He had unkempt reddish beard. I guess he was homeless. Then I passed a grandmother with a small child smiling in his pushchair, enjoying the ride almost as much as she was. Sat on the next bench was a tall, elegant woman, with long black hair, her legs very demurely crossed, reading a book. Except that when I approached, I realised it was a man with quite hairy arms.

Down by the riverside, a middle-aged woman was laid out in her bikini, soaking in the sun. She was already extremely brown, carefree, and quite carelessly soaking up the rays. A guy in whit eoveralls, with a roller on a pole, was either adding to, enhancing or deleting some graffiti. Ut was hard to tell which.

As I crossed the bridge, four cool-looking young lads swaggered confidently towards me in a kite-like formation, a throwback to characters from Westside Story. They were smiling and at ease with the world. Two of them were holding cigarettes. Then, in contrast, a young woman in trousers, on her own, shuffling along the bridge, looking very tired and weighed down.

On the way back along the other side of the river, a slim teenager girl in a light pink top and white shorts ran towards me, her mind inside her headphones. There was a dad and two children – one young, one teenage – practising press ups on a raised area of wooden decking. An Asian woman was helping her child with her little pink bike down the steep stone steps. I smiled at them.

A young woman bounced towards me with jet black hair, mirrored sunglasses and very white teeth. An older man, slim and upright with very white hair had paused to look at something. As I approached the bridge where I had first started, I ran towards a mum and a dad with their two little girls walking ahead of me. Each girl had brown curly hair and wore a bright, flowery summer dress. I had to veer past one of them as she ran towards the riverside. Finally a group of working men in overalls smoking by a gate.

I don’t know whether I saw 85 people in all. I almost certainly did. They came in all different shapes, sizes, ages, genders and backgrounds, with various moods, hopes, fears and expectations. But all of them were tarting a new day with every expectation of finishing it.

Just after I saw the woman helping her child down the steps, I came across a large, green, noisy bin-lorry was blocking my path in front of me. It had stopped to empty some rubbish bins at the side of the river. I squeezed past it as it towered menacingly above me.

In front of me now were the couple with the two little girls. I head the lorry growling behind me again.

I deliberately ran off the main path nearer to the river, so that there would be some trees between me and the lorry. I watched the lorry approach the family. They had not heard it yet and continued to walk across the path – the parents in the middle, the two girls running either side. I didn’t dare imagine what might happen; think about what had happened.

But of course he slowed down at a safe distance, like any of us would. Except one crazed maniac did the opposite. Driving a 19-tonne cargo truck he accelerated into people celebrating Bastille Day in Nice and brutally murdered 85 of them. They came in all different shapes, sizes, ages, genders, backgrounds, with various moods, hopes, fears and expectations. But all of them were ending that day with every expectation of starting a new one.

In that moment, as I ran through peaceful Vienna, even the beginning of the imagination of the reality and horror of what happened shook me.

All we can do is carry on running, walking, sleeping, sunbathing, painting, holding hands, living our lives and looking after our children. I’m not sure what else we can do.

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