Yesterday I pootled up to Nottingham’s University Park to take a walk around the beautiful Lake at its centre. I’ve been there numerous times but never fail to be awe struck by its natural and built beauty endowed by philanthropist, Jesse Boot (of Boots chemist), in the early part of the 20th Century. (Once upon a time businessmen knew that whilst their purpose was to create profit this came with an equally important obligation to create employment and social improvement. You can of course rely on me to stick the boot in!)
Half way around the Lake I met (at a suitable distance) a local family – mum, dad, three young children. They admired my dog and the children played with her for a moment or two whilst their parents and I shared our lives in a nutshell. One of the children, a small girl of around four, headed towards me with a bunch of daisies and buttercups in her hand as a gift. I stepped aside but suggested she popped them on the grass where I could pick up safely and take a closer look and of course, check whether or not I liked butter (we agreed that I did). We smiled at each other, wished well, and went our separate ways with a memory of a shared moment and a simple kindness.
Half a Lake further and Molls (the dog) took a fancy to a middle aged man sitting on a bench with his bike propped beside him. He’d clearly done a few laps and was tucking into a container of cut fruit. He stopped to welcome Molly and to give me a smile. “Well done, Change4Life?” I remarked, which ignited a conversation about middle aged fitness regimes and a few laughs before he told me to keep safe as we walked on.
I travel these paths regularly, and have done for many years now, but right now it’s different. Deprived of simple day to day communication with others outside of our lockdown group, I am finding a particular pleasure in a face-to-face conversation with a fellow human being – just for the sake of it and just to wish each other well.
During London 2012 there was a mood of great excitement. Weird things happened, people started to chat to each other at random. It had never happened before on the London tube, and everyone was talking about a lasting legacy. Yet, how quickly we all stopped, reverted to familiar behaviours; folded back into ourselves once the Games were over. Everyone, but me, that is – I still smile and chatter to people on the tube, though I know that most consider this weird.
Let’s hope beyond Covid-19 we don’t lose ourselves in ourselves again. For my own part, I intend to pursue being weird. I hope others may do the same.
Action: Talk to someone you don’t know today and wish them good health.