I used to be paid to meet interesting people as part of my job – someone who ran a prison, someone in charge of the re-development of the South Bank in London, someone who was employed as a thinker for IBM, a professor of bee studies, a Taliban defector…..
Now I don’t get paid, and I have to find my interesting people more locally.
And I do, and here are a few.
I was buying a lottery ticket – which I do from time to time in order to enjoy an hour of fantasizing about what I will do with the money – and the nice, cheery man who sold it to me said, ‘Do you want a winning ticket or just any old ticket? A winning one it is then. There you go’ he said,’ If it wins that’ll keep you out of mischief for the weekend – or maybe in it!’
We chatted a bit and I was talking about what I would do with the winnings and he said, ‘ And you will have friends you didn’t even know you had.’
It turned out that he had won the lottery and the last remark was heartfelt. He and his wife had put money towards charities they had some connection with.
‘And why,’ I wanted to ask, ‘are you here in a small supermarket selling me a ticket?’ But a few people had joined the queue so I left.
I was at the dentist and sitting in the waiting room reading some (very) old magazine as you do, when two women walked in.
They were not together but sat down and started to chat.
There was a young woman who was heavily and interestingly tattooed the other was older and what used to be described as ‘motherly looking.’ I am loathe to use that phrase, but have no other to hand.
Anyway, I am not sure how, but a conversation got going between us and it was about tattoos. The ‘motherly’ woman commented on the tattoos and soon all three of us were talking and looking at tattoos.
The young woman explained how many hours it took to do each tattoo and how she now worked in a local tattoo parlour and what people were interested in getting, what fashions in tattoos were evolving.
And then she turned to the ‘motherly’ woman and said, ‘ I know I work with needles and the work on me has taken hours and hours, but I am so scared I will have to have an injection with the dentist will you just keep talking to me until I have to go in.’
I was in the Oxfam shop the other day and talking to my two colleagues about what display to put on the table and in the window, when a man came in.
He was browsing, so we carried on talking.
Then he turned to me and said, ‘ You have a lovely voice. I could wander round this shop and listen to your voice all day. Were you a university lecturer on philosophy? No? Were you a spy? No? Were you an animal trainer? No? Well, my dear you just carry on talking and I will look at your lovely, lovely books and listen to you and that will make my day.’
It made my day too.
We have a lovely butchers in our town.
I don’t buy that much meat but what I do comes from them, and I always ask them about cooking it.
The older man who runs the shop always has the advice just at his finger-tips.
So, between people coming in for their rack of lamb (we don’t buy lamb at the moment because our back field is full of them and I can’t bring myself to ….) or their belly pork, I squeeze myself and buy something and ask for advice.
I was buying liver because the best beloved likes a bit of liver and onion gravy and so I was asking whether what my grandmother said was true, you should soak liver in milk.
The older man told me that the milk would break down the enzymes so I would have to cut my cooking time in half and that was just silly as it needed only a few minutes anyway.
But what I needed to really know was that this liver was best with fennel mash and he proceeded to give me the recipe.
This is not the first recipe he has given me and this is a man who knows his meat. ( Remind me to tell you one day about the Irish butcher in Brussels who got caught selling fois bra under the counter when he set up shop opposite Harrods.)
Anyway it was, and I did, and I will be back there for his next recipe.
The fifth person:
I was walking to the pub on Friday across the fields with my two friends who also walk their dogs to the pub – the men come in cars and prop up the bar until we get there – when we came across a man looking like he was preparing to fly a model aircraft.
The others walked on and I stopped to talk to him because it looked like a helicopter with four blades – one at each square corner.
It was a drone.
I had never seen a drone before and was rather surprised to see one in a Sussex field.
Was he working for Google Maps, looking (rather in vain) for an Afghan wedding party to bomb?
No, it turns out he was going ‘On holiday with a bit of travelling. In Canada and North America and I thought it might be nice to have aerial photos of where we have been.’
Blimey – this kit was packed in a case about 500 cm x 500cm and not what you would describe as pocket-sized.
I imagined his wife sorting out her packing and trying to rationalize what she was taking, and him coming back and saying he was taking one pair of trousers , three shorts, 20 pairs of knickers and a drone….