Sunday, October 13, 2013

How to win friends

When we moved to the countryside from the city, twenty-five years ago, we were struck by the open friendliness of people. Passers-by would nod or smile, shopkeepers would chat and neighbours quickly became friends. There has been a gradual change: village life is drawing ever-closer to city life. Now,  bumping into people in the village has taken on a literal meaning as they walk along reading and sending text messages. There is no need to stop for a chat or to seek out the local gossip since the most private of affairs are bellowed into mobile phones for everyone to hear.

I, however, have found a way of grabbing attention.
 Meet Ruby, a twelve week old cocker spaniel who belongs to my friend, Dr P.  I look after her on Fridays while Dr P is on duty. When Ruby and I go out for a walk, everyone stops to admire her and to talk doggy-talk. We have made friends with a whole range of people from babies to octogenarians; even teenagers have put their mobile phones in their pockets in order to pet Ruby. 

This experience reminds me of walking around Hampstead, pushing my first grandchild in her pram. People would smile fondly at her if she was laughing or sleeping and sympathetically at me if she was crying. Shop assistants would chat about their own babies or grandchildren. London seemed a very friendly place.

I wonder why we need the excuse of a baby or a puppy to make contact with strangers? Is it just because we are English or is this a universal trait? Were we friendlier in the past or is that my imagination?  A friend came to visit us yesterday. He recently retired and is having a wonderful time travelling around England's canals on his narrow boat. He said that people will wave from the towpath, offer to help with the locks, walk alongside the slowly moving boat and chat about boating and life in general. But..... when he moors the boat and walks to the pub or the local shop he becomes a stranger again and is totally ignored.

Maybe a puppy, a baby or a boat is a kind of visibility cloak, temporarily singling us out as interesting or perhaps "safe" people to speak to. Whatever the reason, I am enjoying Fridays in the park with Ruby.

8 comments:

  1. Not just an English trait, not where we live, even in friendly, down-home Tennessee. But when I read your post I remembered that when our two younger sons were still at home and dating, they would always want to take Tex, our Welsh corgi, out with them to the park and places because Tex was, they said, "a chic magnet." All the girls would stop and talk to them.

    I have to tell you that I am reading Elizabeth Goudge's autobiography, can't remember the exact name but Snow is in the title, and I love reading about the time she lived in Devon, now that I have a friend from there!

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    1. Aha, Dewena, so that's why my son used to walk our dog! We never replaced our beloved dog after he died but having Ruby for a few hours is great fun.

      I didn't know that Elizabeth Goudge had lived in Devon. I must read her autobiography. I read some of her books when I was a teenager and I have her Diary of Prayer which is lovely. I am reading Mrs Miniver and I have also bought her grandaughter's book The Real Mrs Miniver to read next. You really are influencing my reading list but I'm struggling to find time to keep up!

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  2. A few months ago, I accompanied a friend through our small town as she walked her dog. I was amazed at how many people stopped and chatted, most of them strangers to us, all because of her cute puppers. Funny. Also, I so related to your porridge story. I spent some time in the hospital as a child because of appendicitis. I was given beef broth, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. After a while I just refused to eat. For years, the slightest whiff of beef broth would make me gag. To make matters worse, the little girl in the bed beside me came from a large Italian family, who would visit every night, bringing her all manner of sweets. It was torture! Haha. I can laugh now, but I felt like such a poor, pitiful pearl then. Heehee. The upshot: I love beef broth now. What doesn't kill us makes us stronger.

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    1. You are right, Jodi. It just took sixty years to make me stronger! I am now eating porridge every morning and maybe soon I will learn to love it.

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  3. How sad that you do not like porridge! Do you like muesli? I wonder if you have ever tried cooking that. Heat it in the microwave for about a minute, then it is not too gooey and has added interest in the fruit and nuts.
    I find Sainsbury's 'Taste the Difference' oats the tastiest as they have a delicious robust nuttiness. If you cook the oats a little less so that they retain their shape and chewiness, perhaps that will work for you. I like my oats soaked overnight and then cooked long and slow, but don't be too purist; porridge is one of the few foods that does not lose its soul in the microwave, so use that as your cooking-method. It is quick and easy and you do not have to stand over the thing you hate whilst it cooks. I like milk and a little salt on my porridge, and milk only with the muesli
    17 I believe, is the optimum number of tastes needed to train the taste buds to a new food, so persevere!
    Swedes (turnips as they were called where l come from) are delicious, especially when mashed with carrot, seasoned with butter and pepper; real food! (My opinion).

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    1. Strangely, I've always liked muesli. But then, no-one forced me to eat a bad version of it as a child! I am persevering and must be nearing my 17th serving now and I must admit that I'm beginning to look forward to breakfast.

      I too am a Northerner and love carrots and turnips.
      Thanks for leaving your comment.

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  4. I'm sure it is universal. Shyness takes a back seat when we see kids or dogs.

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  5. What a cute puppy. :)
    http://www.offthenutshell.blogspot.cz/

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