Waiting at the station and an elderly man saw me looking up at the announcement board. He came up to tell me when the train was due (which I could see perfectly well on the board). Nice old codger, I thought. Bit lonely.
It arrived, and he sat down next to me. I can’t remember now how it was that we started chatting, but we covered a lot of ground. His name was Daniel. With a strong Irish accent, he told me about the various jobs he had turned his hand to since arriving in London as a youngster about 60 years ago. He told me about his family. His wife had died, he had a son and grandchildren. He asked about my family and I told him I had three children and that their father had left us. I told him I was going for a job interview. I was a bit put off by his obvious religiousness (not that it is any of my business). Yet we laughed a lot, about this and that. He said he wished we could go for a coffee, and I said maybe next time we meet on the train we won’t both be in a hurry. He got up to leave the train before my stop, and as he did he pressed a £20 note into my coat pocket. I was so shocked, and of course tried to give it back to him. He said ‘sorry if I’ve embarrassed you. I wanted to have a cup of coffee with you, please have one from me’ and the doors shut. I am still shocked by this.
In Waitrose, as so often. An elderly woman had in her trolley a sandwich, reduced for quick sale, which she told me as she left (a little awkward with unnecessary embarrassment) that she was buying for her dinner. We had been talking for half an hour or more in the toiletries aisle, covering topics from eyesight (I originally approached her to ask if she needed help because she was peering at the small writing on some soap) to Trump and Brexit, church, hearing, her children and grandchildren etc. She was there buying a gift for her hairdresser, who had apparently complained about receiving chocolates as a gift from this lady in the past. She told me that she was supporting one of her grandchildren, who was at a private school in Horsham. The other grandparents were helping and she felt she couldn’t let them do it alone. She said her ISAs were ‘doing nothing’ so she’d just put the lump sum needed for her grandson for the next seven years into premium bonds. Her daughter was an opera singer but then had to have an operation on her throat and was now needing financial support from her mum too. I thought she must be about my mother’s age and she was so together: lively and interested and well informed, that I felt sad again at the thought of how little my mother is partaking of or enjoying life. This lady was named Mora.
She was Irish, too. Funny, come to think of it, that so many of the people I have met since moving to this neighbourhood are Irish and (today is March 17) wishing each other happy St Patrick’s days, when until this minute I thought that everyone round here was Asian or Polish. Bloody immigrants, eh? Coming over here, enriching our lives…