500 people: Week 29-31

See this post for a brief description of my 500 People challenge.

Lockdown continues. I have been communicating with people on line, including some new people, but it’s been slim pickings in the non-virtual world. Unlike the lockdown last year, there doesn’t seem to be any camaraderie amidst the social distancing this time round: people seem to be much more stuck in their own worlds, as if wearing a mask makes you invisible. Nevertheless:

1. Sunday 29 August. On our daily walk, we went into unfamiliar territory, still inside our 5 k radius. We came across a young man who seemed to be training his dog to run up very steep slopes to place and then retrieve its lead. The dog, a bull terrier, was an enthusiastic learner. We – the humans at least – exchanged greetings

2. Thursday, we were having lunch on the grass in Callan Park with the granddaughter. Just like a couple of weeks earlier, there were two people doing extraordinary things on a low rock overhang – a woman and a man this time. Again I approached them for a brief conversation. My opening gambit was to ask how long they’d been doing it. ‘About five years,’ the woman said. Just like the two young men the first time, they assumed I might want to have a go: ‘The best place to start is in a gym,’ the man offered. I said I was quite happy to watch, hoping I didn’t sound too much like Chance the gardener (as in this movie).

4. Wednesday or Friday that week. Near the Marrickville Metro there are sections of footpath that are paved rather than concrete. This is generally very attractive, but vulnerable to disruption by tree roots and other underground forces. Over the last couple of weeks some rough patches have been under repair. On this day, I passed a man who had pulled up 50 or so pavers that had bulged up in a line stretching from the base of a small fig tree. I stopped to chat, and he happily explained that he wasn’t doing anything to the root – no harm would come to the tree. He was covering the root with sand to create a level surface, then relaying the pavers on that. Next time walked that way, there was no sign of the former trip hazard.

3. Sunday 12 September. While almost all the encounters I’m recording in this series, this conversation was with a new person who I can reasonably expect to see more of. On a carefully orchestrated walk, where there were only ever two of us together at the same time, the Emerging Artist and I met up with one of our sons and a woman he has recently got close to. He had primed her well, and with social eptitude far outstripping mine she drew me into conversation about, among other things, this challenge. We talked about the way ubiquitous mobile phones have drastically reduced serendipitous encounters. She had read a book about dating that said the first rule for successful dating in the offline world (which, as she said, used to be called ordinary life) was to turn off your phone.

5. Thursday morning the car had a very flat tyre. I couldn’t budge the nuts on the wheel so called NRMA Roadside Assistance. The chap arrived in good time, jacked the car up, removed the tyre and replaced it with the spare in no time at all. He did all this without saying a word, remaining pretty much inscrutable behind his Covid mask. He wasn’t rude or hostile, just businesslike in the way he steadfastly ignored my feeble attempts at small talk (‘I haven’t jacked it up because I knew you’d have a pneumatic jack,’ etc.). Finally, though, as he was leaving, I said, ‘I hope all your calls today are as straightforward as this one,’ and he unbent enough to say, ‘Yeah.’

6. Saturday, on our morning exercise outing the EA and I went to the Sydney Fish Market, where a long section of footpath is currently closed because of the new, bigger, better market under construction. As we arrived back at the lights with our fish, there was some kind of kerfuffle. I happened to catch the eye of the the traffic control warden on duty Assuming I’d seen what just happened, he said, ‘There’s always one,’ and we had a pleasant chat about human folly and the need for safety regulations. (He had his mask around his neck.) I hoped he was getting time and a half. He said, ‘That’s the least of my worries. I’m pretty much retired and this gets me out of the house. I’ve only got so much I can talk to my wife about.’ (Pause.) ‘And vice versa.’

Running total is 215.

6 responses to “500 people: Week 29-31

  1. You certainly deserve a prize for persistence in unpromising circumstances. It is so much easier in a country town. I have long conversations several times a week. Too long sometimes. I try to avoid some people. I e the man who tells me his life story and how he found himself as an atheist when he reached the age of eighty.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. While filling out my paperwork for my second Covid shot earlier this morning seated outside the surgery – I almost circled NO – after several questions necessitating NO – for the final question – the final answer to which had to be YES. “Keeping us alert!” I added to the woman adjacent. We were interrupted by another old dear totally discombobulated by the process wandering back outside and though having walked by other chairs earlier looked at our two – and aired aloud: “No chairs!” “Ah – behind you?” She glanced and seemed reluctant to go there – edging closer to us – “I’ve got 77 staples up my back!” “Oh?” And then I looked down into my iPad Kindle app book. The woman adjacent to me continued the exchange to the older dear: I’ve got them down my front she replied and pulled aside her blouse to show the older woman stitches from a recent operation. It was no idle claim and then the older woman moved off to a seat to try and make sense of her registration task. And then my neighbour was called. Later in the day walking up the lane to post a note and postcards to a young stateless chap now going on for 11 years in the Villawood Gaol/Gulag – I noted a garden transformation underway. On the way back I asked what was happening and we talked of those things. Japan came up (his neighbour is an elderly Japanese woman) and that he was from Merriwa – grew up on a farm. I grew up in Tamworth – that was understandable to him. He’s a teacher – oh, my profession, too. He’s PE – a Central Coast Grammar. I’m Jim – he’s Stuart – he’s seen all kinds of old friends he has not seen in years walking past this gardening refresh! I left to let him get on with his task! Yesterday walking up to the headland/forested parts of Caves Beach on this Wallarah Peninsula – towards Pinny’s Beach – a chat with a man whose Irish accent was remarked upon – around 40 years from early 20s in Australia – from Kilkenny. As we parted from the conversation he threw a “Good onyer” at me – I seem to recall – Claire Bloom – was it? – saying that it is a direct translation from the Irish Gaelic – as opposed to the English “Good for you.” I mentioned it to him, anyway. Earlier I had mentioned the writer Lafcadio Hearn to him – a link to Japan and Ireland. Much can be covered in these kinds of oblique meetings. I was wearing my mask – he not (out in the forested way that we were) but he kept his distance/I kept the mask on and as we walked till the parting
    – we maintained that gap of two or three metres! “Good onyer!”

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Not at all, J. You inspire!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Your NRMA encounter was totally different from mine with a guy from the AANT here in Darwin, who replaced the car battery when I got back last month after months in NSW (and two weeks in quarantine). He stuck out his hand to shake when he arrived and when he left, even though it was only 2 weeks since Darwin had been in lockdown. Hard to not respond – but I sanitised my hands after he’d gone!

    Liked by 1 person

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