All of us have people that we know (and have known for many many years) who inhabit the very periphery of our lives.
More often than not, we know very little about them. We may share a nod and a cheerful "good morning" with them. We may know a little about their family, or their job or their history, but in very broad strokes they remain very much part of the scenery of our lives.
Recently I have been thinking about a lady I shall call Gwen.
Gwen was in my year in secondary school, in fact, if I think on, I now realise that she was in my primary school as well. She was, as I remember, an awkward girl who always seemed to be alone in school. Big busted, old fashionably dressed and frequently bullied, Gwen always looked an unhappy girl, but apart from knowing each other's name , our paths never really crossed in or outside school as we were growing up.
School, for me was a fairly unhappy place.
When I returned to Wales in 2005, I started to occasionally bump into Gwen . Invariably it would be at the beach where I would be walking on the promenade with the dogs and she would be sitting in a car reading a newspaper. Occasionally she would be joined by an elderly lady, who by the look of her had advanced dementia, but at other times she would be alone, save for a scruffy Scottish terrier who would be let out of the car on a long lead. I used to go to the each at different times every day, so guessed that Gwen spent long, long periods reading in her car
At these times we would always swap "hello" and would chat briefly , and even though a lifetime had passed since we were both in school, I still saw the lone, sad girl that I "knew" some 40 years before.
Earlier this week I arranged with my sister-in-law to meet for a chat.
We met at a local market garden cafe during a rain storm and the place was packed with grey hairs having "coffee" and girlfriends "doing lunch". After we had sat down, I spied Gwen sat at a table and we nodded our "hellos". As usual she was alone, and looked it, and as usual ( and I know rather patronisingly) I suddenly felt very sorry for her.
I had the urge to ask Gwen to join us, but, of course I didn't. It would have been an awfully pompous and condescending thing to do, after all what the hell do I know about someone I have hardly spoken to during a lifetime?, and so when we left, all I did do, was to stop to chat briefly.
I am glad I said hello. And I am glad I didn't ask her to join us, I can cope with the vunerable and the sad when they are animals.... but as for people?
Not a good ideaDespite a 40 year gap, perhaps I just don't want to be reminded of more unhappy times