Thursday, 26 September 2013

A passion for people

My husband reckons that if he had a pound for every time I struck up a conversation with a stranger he'd be kicking up his heels as a retired man of leisure by now. I know his dark mutterings are true; I do seem to have an uncanny knack of engaging people I have never clapped eyes on before in the deepest of discussions. Location is irrelevant - on the bus, at the dentists or in any shop queue - I can be found setting the world to rights or listening to the tale of a daughter's disastrous wedding day...or worse.

Doubtless some would call me nosy rather than friendly, my habit intrusive rather than inquisitive but I don't care because there are those rare occasions when my compulsion leads me beyond the mundane and straight to the gold at the end of the rainbow.

My monthly reading list is interspersed with fiction that recalls a time past and a simple country living now sadly lost. To name a few: Cider with Rosie, by Laurie Lee, Waterland, by Graham Swift and any one of the beautifully evocative Miss Read novels, are constantly re-visited, their subtle and gentle stories re-absorbed.

So, what's the connection I hear you cry. Well this weekend my weekly 'tale with a stranger' took place on a bench at the ancient hill fort at the far end of our village. A brief 'hello' was enough to get the conversation flowing and before I knew it an hour had passed and I had learnt more from this accommodating elderly gentleman about our village history than I had in over a decade of living here!

He told me nothing of great historical significance, his musings were along domestic, but far more interesting lines. He explained how his father was responsible for stoking the church fire Saturday evenings, how he himself had worked on a local dairy farm as a young boy and how his parents had coped with such a large family. His words were the living history of our village and our countryside, his memories the very real past that we no longer have, and that if it wasn't for people like me, who wanted to listen to tales and musings of strangers, then so much of our simple, run of the mill history, would be lost forever.

Therefore, I urge you all to get our there, develop your 'passion for people' and strike up those conversations because you never know just what you might have the pleasure of learning!


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