I like to go for a walk after therapy. It clears my mind. I head out of the door after the usual dithering, and am about to tie my boots up when I realise I’ve got the wrong watch on (my standard watch which M got me many years ago, doesn’t have a stopwatch on it), so I pull off my boots and go back to the kitchen to get the right watch. Boots on, out the door. Cold and windy. I do the usual twists and turns up the road, down a snicket, into another road, then into the avenue that leads to the main road.
‘Hello, mate.’ A voice from the drive of an ochre bungalow. ‘How you doin’?’
‘All good,’ I say, although I don’t know this gentleman with the beanie on. I have seen him talking with C, though, a guy who lives a few doors up from us and who’s an interesting bloke (really into 80s music, really loved all the New Romantic stuff, brushes up well, witty). ‘You doing ok?’
‘Oh, yes.’ His Volvo estate is full of insulation material. He comes onto the pavement from the drive. ‘Oh, you’re not who I thought you were. I saw all the dangly ear-rings and thought you were C.’
‘Nice lad, C,’ I say.
‘Yup. … What you doing?’
‘I go for a 2-mile alk every day.’
‘Good for you. I still do the odd gym exercises.’
‘Well, at my age,’ I say.
‘How old are you?’
‘That’s nothing. I’m 67. Was alright till my late 50s. Could outdo people twice my age. And then.’ He clicks his fingers. ‘It just fuckin’ went, just like that, so now I just do the best I can.’ All this said with a soft Norfolk accent, not too broad, just with that harsh edge to it, of a man who likes the outdoors, and likes talking.
‘We can only do our best.’
‘Probably seen you before.’
‘I’ve been walking down here since we moved from Stradbroke May last year.’
‘Stradbroke? Never! I had an auntie in Stradbroke. Must be 50 years since. Lovely area.’
‘Yeah. But the middle of fucking nowhere.’ This is me code switching, so people know I’m listening to them.
‘Been thinking of moving that way south.’
‘How long have you lived here?’
‘Over 30 years. Gets a bit much. But then I think is it a good idea. I like the countryside and things, but what with my ailments and things, probably best to stay in a town.’
‘That’s one reason we came here, too. Close to the hospitals, infrastructure.’
He nods sagely. ‘Aye. That’ll be it. Probably for the best. … Not keepin’ you, am I?’
‘No.’ And I mean it. I love talking with people.
‘This country’s fucked, you know.’
I’m expecting the worst.
‘All these out-of-town retail parks. It all needs to come back into the cities. … And I don’t hold with all this nationalistic shit. Don’t matter what colour, orientation, nationality anyone is. If they’re nice people, that’s all that matters.’
‘Exactly,’ I say, relieved and heartened. ‘And all these people slagging off immigrants – they pay more taxes than a lot of the English.’
‘Fuckin’ hell, it’s grand to hear someone else say that. I get fuckin’ impatient and angry with all these anti-immigration folk. Don’t hold with it.’
We shake hands. He’s A.
‘I’m Richard,’ I say.
‘If I talk too much,’ he says, and takes off his beanie to reveal a cochlear implant. ‘It’s because I’m deaf. I can take over conversations because of it, so just tell me to shut up if I talk too much.’
‘You’re not talking too much.’
‘Any time you come by, mate, just feel free to stop and chat. You don’t have to, of course.’ He pulls his beanie back on. ‘Don’t get out much, see. No pubs or restaurants – too much noise in the ear that works with this thing. All the scraping of the cutlery, and the voices, and all those noises. Can’t stand it.’
‘Do you sign?’
He shakes his head. ‘Never learned it. And not much use if it’s all too loud for me to concentrate. Best off staying in. Or being outside.’ He smiles.
I smile back. ‘I’d better get on now.’ The light is going.’ I hold out my hand. ‘You’ve made my day, though. I love chatting.’
He grabs my hand, and an ever bigger smile creases his face. ‘You serious?’
‘Course I am.’ And I am.
AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 250
24/2023 – Richard Pierce24th January 2023 at 21:08
[…] bumped into A again today. We chatted for 5 minutes. He could tell I was in a hurry, and he was hoovering out his old car. […]