And I looked round in a state of fright
~ Dreadlock Holiday. 10CC
I heard a small voice beside of me say ‘Oh dear, it’s raining.’ I looked round and saw an elderly lady, apparently sheltering from the three spots of drizzle that had managed to find their way to earth. A conversation ensued. It must have lasted around half an hour, but it seemed longer.
From such an inauspicious beginning it moved onto anecdotes, most notably the one about when she borrowed a pick axe and knocked a wall out between the kitchen and living room in her house – and did so while the kids were at school and without first consulting her husband. Apparently he neither fainted nor imploded when he got home from work, telling her instead that she was a better man than most men. She was very proud.
But then it moved onto religion so I had to be on my best behaviour. ‘Do you believe in God?’ she asked innocently. What does a person like me say to a question like that? It’s a bit complicated, you know? I tried to explain my view as concisely as possible, but I have no idea how many of the seeds fell on stony ground. ‘The way I see it,’ she continued, ‘there must be a God because I’ve done lots of things in my life and never come to any harm, so there must have been somebody looking after me, mustn’t there?’ I wanted to reply ‘that’s a rampant non-sequitur and quite absurd,’ but I nodded politely instead.
And so it went on and on. Eventually she asked:
‘Have you ever been a teacher?’
‘No,’ I replied. ‘Why do you ask?’
‘Oh, it’s just the way you explain things.’
I saw the red light again and avoided the immediate urge to say ‘That’s because I’m a prize bullshitter.’ It struck me that, being at an impressionable age, such a less than decorous term might have offended her. ‘Probably because I’m a writer,’ I said. She said she was a writer, too, because she’d decided to write her life story. ‘Nice idea,’ I replied. ‘Everybody should do that. Oh well, must be going.’
‘My name’s Eileen,’ she went on. She’d already told me so at least three times.
‘Oh, right. I’m Jeff. Bye.’
So there, you see. That’s how considerate I can be when talking to little old ladies, and all the while standing outside an Argos store deciding whether to order a new electric blanket now or wait until the winter comes on. Whatever God is, it moves in mysterious ways when it's effecting introductions.