There's an old man who lives round my way who daily sits on front garden walls or just stands on the pavement watching the world go by. I never know what wall he is going to turn up on as I walk back and forth to work or see him as I look out of my bedroom window, his choice of walls is plenty. I think he lives in the sheltered accommodation just down from the church.
I always make a point of speaking to him when I see him. His eyes are rheumy, the skin on his face drooping like a basset hound, he shuffles with his shoulders hunched over, but in all of that you can see the young man he once was. His eyes twinkle and laugh when you speak to him, his voice has a cheeky Irish lilt to it. We talk about the weather and where his walk is taking him that day and he reminds me every time that he goes for a walk twice a day in the winter and three times a day in the summer. On his journeys he sits on walls, staring into the world around him, not engaging with the world, but seemingly enjoying his very existence in the world.
When I first started talking to him I did it because I thought he was lost and lonely: just recently I have realised that he is far from that, but am I?
He's very obviously physically alone in the world now, but isn't letting that stop him from being part of the world, locked up in a room watching Countdown for the rest of his days. I once invited him into church for a cup of tea, he declined telling me he was ok with his own company on his walk.
Am I ok with my own company on my walk?
I have recently noticed that I have introduced a lot of 'white noise' into my life. I get up, turn on the tv or radio; his comment today was 'there's just a load if rubbish on the telly'. I then fill my head and day with the constant drone of electronic people connection on my phone, iPad, laptop and work PC; I am seemingly never ‘alone’ - and quite honestly I miss that, I miss my own company, I miss the headspace to spend time with myself and God.
I long to turn off Countdown, go for a walk twice a day and sit on walls.
My world has been made so small by ‘electronic people connection’. I need a sitting on a wall watching the world go by APP for my phone, which I am sure some clever soul will now invent! No I don't, I need an old man to teach me about life. How white noise steals your mind and soul, closes you down, makes your world small.
I feel the need to go sit on a wall, do something radical like talk to someone face to face, or write a letter, post it and enjoy the anticipation of awaiting a reply.
"What is life if full of care, we have not time to stop and stare" this poem seems one of the few things I can remember from school English lessons but it is so apt and true in today's ‘electronic people connection’ lives that make us so seemingly busy. Thank you old man that you made me stop and stare today, you're an angel.
Leisure - W. H. Davies
WHAT is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?—
No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:
No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.