According to one person at least, my having grown up in Great Britain has marked me for life. Apparently, I perceive myself as exceptional or superior to others, and this ignorant and narrow-minded stance stems directly from a lack of social exposure at the root of which is my having evolved on an island. The curious thing here is that I’ve now lived longer outside Albion’s shores than within them. I would have thought that had given me sufficient opportunity to expose myself to a wider and “levelling” society. Obviously not. If I do indeed exhibit an island mentality, I’m sorry. However, there are alternative explanations for my inability to relate appropriately to others. It seems somewhat unwarranted to put the blame for this solely on my having developed in a land surrounded entirely by water.
One way to really wind people up is to say in a deeply satisfied voice “Finally, it’s raining again!”
This is especially effective after an uninterrupted fortnight of it.
That aside, I like rain. I like the way it falls, the way it lies, the way it reflects light and changes sound.
I once bricked a yard in nonstop rain. I don’t think I’ve ever been wetter outside of a swimming pool. Nevertheless, I didn’t develop the slightest antipathy to the gallons of water falling drop by drop from the sky. I guess this more than anything is a testament to my Englishness.
“So where do you know the Birthday Girl from? Yoga?”
Given that the Birthday Girl was a yoga teacher and most of the other guests seemed to be in one of her classes or another, this wasn’t such a wild guess.
“I do do yoga,” the woman standing next to me at the sink said. “But with another teacher.”
“And you were still invited to her party?” I asked.
“Either you’re in one of her yoga classes, or you drink with her,” she said. “I do the latter.”
I understood and handed her the plate I’d just rinsed.
As I neither do yoga nor drink, you might be wondering what I was doing at the party. And, no, I hadn’t been invited to do the washing-up. Some friendships exist outside the norm. As far as I know, when it comes to this particular Birthday Girl, I’m in a set all my own.
There are people who’re happy to wear black till science comes up with an even darker colour. Due to the nature of my resting face, however, I’m not one of them. If I were to walk out onto the street dressed like Johnny Cash, anyone I happened to meet could be forgiven for thinking that someone had died. It’s interesting that the early portraits of Darwin show him brooding – probably about Natural Selection. Not that my resting face portends my coming up with a theory as game-changing as Evolution. But Chaz was a native of my hometown. Maybe it’s something in the water.
One thing was clear: it was perfect weather for cycling. That’s to say, it wasn’t. It was already hot despite it being only 8:30. Unless the would-be cyclists were ultra fit or particularly hard-nosed masochists, I had visions of wilting knees before lunch.
My current concern, however, was another. Four full-sized bikes were leaning on their stands behind the open boot of an estate car.
“Did all those come out of there?” I asked the family father.
“No, I took them off the roof.”
One glance at the bike rack on top of the car was evidence enough. However, the thirty-something wasn’t done yet. “Not even I could have managed that!”
What was that, I wondered, “Not even I”? It spoke of a self-confidence which I spent the rest of the day in awe of. I don’t think there’s anything on the planet which “not even I” can do.
I tend to write short, pithy, anecdotal blog posts. That could be seen as something of a problem. There is, after all, a lot more to be said. However, given my current state of mind, it’s all I’m capable of. Maybe, in the future, I’ll return to the seeds I’ve sown in order to further nurture them. Till then, this’ll have to do.
“That’s quite some shirt!”
My conversation partner had a point. I knew it was a great shirt, quite possibly my best. Given the importance of the show, anyone would have forgiven me for leaning on the garment’s excellence. However, what my conversation partner didn’t know was that the shirt was a throwback. Its purchase dated from the days when I still wore flamboyant clothes to attract attention. As such, they were a rich, outward expression of my inward poverty. Those days were thankfully over. However, it’d left me with a brightly coloured wardrobe and very little cause or occasion to plunder it. The concert was an exception, though. Still I couldn’t let the enthusiastic comment go unqualified.
“If I could play the guitar like you, I wouldn’t need to wear exotic shirts to attract attention.”
And that’s the truth.
For six years, I “travelled the world”. Actually, I spent most of the time in the Americas and Europe in the largest possible definition of the word. I didn’t get further east than the Golan Heights or further west than Washington State. The point isn’t my rather limited experience of “the world”. Instead, it’s the effect that having made do with the contents of a backpack for half a dozen years has had on me. I’m dismissively anti-materialist and a near pathological minimalist. That doesn’t leave me with a lot of time for “things”. That being said, I do come into contact with them on a regular basis. That’s what this category of blog posts is about.
One thing was clear: my conversation partner wasn’t used to being addressed in a theatre by a strange man. My excuse is that I wasn’t a strange man. I was a paying member of the audience talking theatre in a theatre to another member of the audience who had probably also paid to be there. It doesn’t get much safer than that. Nevertheless, it does only take one, so maybe she had a point. Despite the fact I was trying to strike up a conversation with her, her partner, who sat in the seat on the other side of her, did most of the talking. We both raved about a recent production we’d seen independently. He was rapidly making the far better interlocutor. As it was, though, the houselights went down, and a hushed expectancy settled over the many heads.
“Enjoy the show,” I whispered to my direct neighbour. But both her fear and the opening notes of the introductory music were too much to warrant a response. Pity.
It was an arts-and-crafts place. I have no idea what I was doing in there. As something of a pathological minimalist, I have zero use for watercolours and pottery. I know people who can think of nothing better than dredging through aisle upon aisle of twee objects and knitwear. However, I’m careful to avoid going shopping with them.
Perhaps I was there to meet the store’s owner. Destiny has a way of arranging such things. She was a wisp of a woman who’d never strayed more than eight miles from that very store.
Rather than that making her narrow in any sense of the word, it merely served to hone her interest all the more. When she’d found out that I was slowly amassing quite a collection of stamps in my passport, she encouraged me to tell her about a few of my more intense experiences.
She was an easy audience with a thirst for knowledge and a hunger for adventure. Nevertheless, the day was heading towards dusk, and I still had a piece of road to travel. As a result, I made my excuses and turned to leave.
“Thank you for sharing,” she said.
I didn’t know what to say to that. “No problem”? “My pleasure”? By way of acknowledging her statement, I raised my hand. The gesture could have meant absolutely anything. Her smile indicated that she didn’t take it in the least bit illy.