When The Strangest Stranger Talks


Here’s the story of gremlins, traditionalism and Tony Randall.

I was sat on a bus, minding my own business, doing what I do on a bus. Looking outside at the flowers. Gazing up at the moon that one can see during the day at this time of the year. Wondering what I’d do if a gremlin started taking off the wheel nuts. Scream, by the way, is what I’d do. Then somebody sat down next to me and started talking to me. I didn’t know who that was, though. So what do you do?

I’m sure we’ve all been in a similar situation. You’re out in public and somebody claims to know you. You have only a matter of seconds to choose what to do. You’re scrambling for questions in your head to try to get some clues.

“So, how are things?” I say. “Oh well, do you know Michael?” she says. Nope, I think. “Yes”, I say. “Well, he’s just got into the local university”, she says. Oh, wonderful, I think. “Where are you living nowadays?” I say. “Ah, the usual”, she says. What? I think. “Hmm. And how is your husband?” I say. “Still dead”, she says. Oh Jesus, I think. “Oh, sorry to hear about that”, I say. “How are you coping?” I say. “Fine. I mean, World War 2 a long time ago”, she says. I don’t know anyone that old, I think. “Well, I’ve got to run”, I say. “Oh, before you go, how is Margaret?” she says. I don’t know a Margaret, I think. “Ah, she’s happy and healthy, I saw her just the other day with a lovely young man”, I say. “Really? But Gerald’s funereal was only last week”, she says. Oh, where’s a blackout when you need one so you can run away, I think. “It might have been her son”, I say. “She doesn’t have a son”, she says. Blackout, blackout, blackout, I think. Suddenly, there’s a blackout. Only brief. The lights return and the mysterious woman has vanished. Along with my wallet. Turns out, it was all a con.

Something like this happened to me on the bus. But the woman in question was no con artist. Being shy, I struggled for conversation. We’re very good at coming up with great questions after the fact, but mostly it was just a conversation between a stranger and herself.

“Oh, my boys are doing well”. No response from me. More of a cursory nod. “They’ve just finished university”. Another nod from me. “They were studying law”. Nod. “They quite enjoyed it”. No nod. Neck sore. “I’m doing well. Just been to the doctors about the thing”. Oh. “I’m sure you’re mother has mentioned it”. No. “How is your mother?” The nodding returns. And a little murmur. “Ah, that’s good to hear”. Huh? Oh, I missed that. I thought I saw a gremlin. Well, part ‘saw’ and part ‘praying for one’. Then the awkward silence set in. I filled that silence by singing New York, New York in my head. Probably because Tony Randall sang it in Gremlins 2.

She broke the silence. Unsurprisingly. “So, what are you doing for Mother’s Day this Sunday?” “Erm”, was my reply. I didn’t know it was Mother’s Day. I knew it was around about this time, but I hadn’t checked my calendar as I do most mornings, so I was a bit clueless as to the events of the week. I mean, it’s been a busy week. We’ve had The Slow Food Market in Bristol. No idea what that is, but it’s slow and food based. We’ve also had The Feast of Excited Insects in Korea and China. It’s a celebration of spring arriving. How insects can at all get excited by anything in two countries whose restaurants have insects as a large part of the starter, main course and desert, is anyone’s guess. And that’s just this week. Next week is the Iranian New Year. I’ll leave that there.

The answer for Mother’s Day celebrations was dinner. Here. At home. Mum doesn’t like a fuss. Flowers and a card and she is happy. She doesn’t like being taken out for a meal. She does so much and she doesn’t ask for anything in return. She also has a wicked sense of humour. And a nice smile. I can see why dad has been married to such an incredible woman for 40 years.

I got her some flowers and a card from Moonpig. In case you don’t know, it’s a website where you can order personalized cards, mugs, flowers and the like, and have them sent to arrive at a certain address at a certain date. Biggest website of its kind on Earth. And I hate it. It’s not the name, because there’s something kind of endearing about a website whose name is derived from the creator’s nickname as a child. I don’t know how he got that nickname, but it’s irrelevant. It’s the internet, again. Every single aspect of life has changed because of it. I didn’t complain when they created Facebook, which destroyed sociability. I didn’t complain when the internet streaming arrived destroying the wonderfully cheesy video rental shops. But now they’ve come for our flower and card shops. I’m really gonna miss flower shops. The aroma. The texture of the leaves. The brightness of the atmosphere. The shopkeeps who seem to talk in their own special language. And now they’re going.

It does make life easier for us shy ones. We don’t have to talk to people, anymore. No awkward meetings in shopping centres. No more pretending to know what you’re talking about in flower shops. You can be honest online. ‘Let’s have the yellow ones’. Yes, it’s a sad direction to be going in, but Sunday is a day for mums. In the UK. Not everywhere. She liked those flowers (they arrived on Saturday and with the card). And after the week I’ve had pretending to know strangers, I’ll take that victory.

Of course, I’m obliged to mention that Moonpig isn’t your only option. There’s another one called Funky Pigeon. Seriously. And who among us can deny that there’s nothing more beautiful for Mothering Sunday than a card from Funky Pigeon? Times certainly have changed, huh?

American actor, comic, producer and director, Tony Randall (1920-2004), once said: “Museums. I love museums”.

Peace Out :|:

(I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post. You can leave a comment and/or like this post below, or by clicking the little bubble on the top right if you are on the Archives Page. Feel free to check out my second and third blogs. Likes and follows greatly appreciated. Thanks)

(Note; image created by me; copyrighted 2013)


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