Just the oddest thing happened today.
I’m a reclusive type and don’t go out much. Through this winter with its rain wind snow ice cold, I’ve near hibernated and been out very little. Yesterday I decided I needed more exercise – and Fi said well why not walk down to the masonry with Hebe in the mornings. Aha yes! I thought – I meant to do that! I can work a split shift – writing and correspondence from the early hour when I wake, then get up for breakfast bath walk and all the active jobs – ironing and preparing meals and doing what Magdalena calls ‘gadding about’ :0) Then back to writing in the evening.
So for the first time in a long time I walked down to the sea’s edge, where the masonry is, with Hebe today. We went our usual route, through the park, crossing the busy road that bisects Bohemia, then down the road where Rosie lives, along the alley, then various little backstreets down to the sea.
On Bohemia, the side of the road with the baker and pharmacy and grocer’s store is busy. The other side with the fishbait shop, the dry-cleaner and the double-glazing showroom is not.
Hebe and I came up from the park ready to cross the road at Bohemia. I saw a chance to cross, nothing coming but a little red car going quite slowly, and went for it. Hebe opted for caution and waited. Then a wave of traffic came from nowhere, so we both waited: she waited to cross and I waited for her. So it came about that, after a winter of going out hardly at all, on a route that consisted mainly of alleys, backstreets and the park, I stood doing nothing by a busy road on the side of the street where I was more visible, for a minute or so.
There is an odd thing about me: nobody recognises me. Sometimes they don’t even see me at all. Even people I’ve known for years. They will pass me inches away and not see me. Even my family. I can go into a small shop and stand browsing beside a woman who counts herself a dear friend, safe in the knowledge that she won’t breach the peace of my solitude because she won’t see me. But all that’s changed. Now I wear Plain dress (well, I call it Plain - quaint and old-fashioned, with headcovering), everybody recognises me – because no one else dresses like this.
This winter a friend from Quaker meeting asked if anyone wanted to share a subscription to The Friend – I gladly put my hand up for that. We agreed that she would take out the subscription, I’d pay half, she’d get the journals then pass them on to me. Only she sometimes forgets. I don’t mind at all because I don’t get round to reading them right away – I just like to have them by for when there’s a quiet moment (Ha! A what?). Anyway she’d accumulated a pile of three or four that she kept forgetting to bring to meeting, so this morning she set out to find me. She had my address but didn’t know where my house was – unfamiliar neighbourhood. So she came up from the sea driving slowly along Bohemia while her husband followed the map. And they saw me just standing there.
A couple of minutes before I’d been down in the park out of sight of any driver. A minute before I’d been on the busy side of the road, divided also by a stream of traffic from the direction my friend was taking in her car. A minute later I’d be round the corner in Rosie’s road. Just for that brief while out of the whole of this winter I was standing there alone on that less crowded side of the street, wearing highly recognisable Plain dress, doing nothing in particular; in the same minute as my friends drove by looking for me.
They saw me, they waved, they managed to pull up to the edge of the road, and they were able to hand me the copies of The Friend and then drive away. Meanwhile Hebe had crossed Bohemia, so we were ready to duck down the next little road out of sight.
How weird is all of that?!