I'm in Oxford for the summer, and there's no town with more eccentrics than this one. Blame it on the medieval university and the good beer. The frequent public displays of affectation make great material for fictional characters.
Take last week, for instance. I'm walking to the pub and I glance into the traffic on Iffley Road. The passenger in the car nearest me is an old man in a tweed jacket and Sherlock Holmes hat, with ginger sideburns and handlebar moustache. Not too crazy by Oxford standards. Next to him, however, is a Muslim woman driving a purple VW Rabbit. She's wearing a purple headscarf and the car has purple upholstery and the back seat is covered in purple cushions. Muslim bling! A few minutes later I see a ten-year-old black boy with a Mohawk going to a wedding wearing a three-piece suit.
Fodder for characters? Oh yes, but watching the crowd for material isn't always a good thing. I was doing research in the Bodleian Library the other day and the old professor across from me was picking his nose! Imagine, some learned academic digging into his nostril with his finger up to the third knuckle before removing it and thoughtfully stroking his beard.
Then there was the public bathroom with the dirty underwear sitting on top of the urinal.
You can have those last two vignettes. I'm not going to use them. I don't write that kind of fiction. :-)
Image of nose picker courtesy Carlos Paes via Wikimedia Commons. Yes, you can find anything on that site.