When I lived in London, I soon learned to avoid people sitting in the street. I became adept at walking over figures slumped in doorways, or averting my gaze from the sad stare of a man sitting on the pavement. In the centre of that city, such people were everywhere, it seemed. Become engaged with them, and you never know what to expect. Perhaps a request for money, or the need to summon assistance for their medical problem, or dilapidated condition. You keep walking, don’t look directly into their eyes, and you get on with your own busy life, dealing with the problems that matter to you. If this seems unkind, I can offer no explanation other than that is what we did, devoid of conscience.
There are exceptions of course. An old lady, fallen over and injured, will soon attract a crowd of those offering to help; telephoning for an ambulance, or using their first-aid skills. A lost child will usually find themselves being asked if they are alright, with someone sure to help reunite them with their parents, or escort them to the safety of a passing police officer. However, an adult male sitting slumped on a bench, looking fed up or depressed, will generally be given a wide berth.
Yesterday, I was out walking with Ollie as usual, and ventured over onto Hoe Rough. After steady rain, the ground was once again muddy and wet, making walking difficult, and more tiring than usual. After I had been trudging around for over an hour, I felt that I needed to rest, so headed to the wooded dell, where I know that I can find a convenient tree branch on the ground. I was sitting there for a good ten minutes, low to the ground, hunched against the persistent drizzle. Ollie was nearby, running around and sniffing, as is his habit. I sat there, mind whirring, thinking about lots of things as I leaned forward, elbows on my knees.
I was suddenly startled by someone calling to me from the path. I looked up, and saw a man with a large Boxer dog, which he was walking on a lead. “Are you all right?” He asked again. “I saw your dog on its own, and then noticed you slumped on that tree. I thought that you might be unwell, or have injured yourself.” I assured the man that I was just resting, and thanked him for his concern. He walked off, giving me a cheery wave as he left.
That got me thinking.
Is it just different in rural Norfolk, or is he simply a better person than I am?