“Someone I don’t know wished me a good morning today. It stopped me in my tracks with surprise.”
My London friend was stunned that a stranger actually spoke to me and communicated.
This is not something that I experienced once whilst living in London, and it was something, I recall, getting used to quickly. The ‘you don’t look, and you don’t make eye contact’ mindset. Everyone is an Island and unless you know that other person, you do not talk. You do not see. You just look. Blankly.
One of the things I never got used to, was not saying thank you to bus drivers-that may sound silly as you get off of the bus half way down, rather than via the same doors you got on, but this was not how I was raised. Outside of The City, people talk at bus stops to pass the time, they talk in the shops, and they acknowledge people. There is a human connection. Tourists and Londoners, as a rule, do not mix. The Londoners are in a rush to get to where they need to be, for the time they need to get there. And everybody is always in a rush, and the Tourists are simply in the way.
Looking back, it would be easy for a person to feel lost, isolated and a little lonely. Even when they are surrounded by other people. Will it ever change? I doubt it. Is there another side where the feeling of community is strong? If there is, then I would like to hear of it. Maybe they can extend the hand of humanity and contact to those who stare blindly ahead on the underground. Just in case there is a person who needs that contact.
Has it been a change in the times and society that has cut people off? Today people are glued to their telephones and social media, to the point where friends go for months, even years without being in the same room. Yet they falsely feel connected and involved by seeing a few words on a computer screen. We do not need to physically meet to have a relationship any more. And that can quickly lead to an existence where you are involved, but cut off. Do not get me wrong, the contact with the outside world via a telephone can be a blessing, but, on the whole, is technology stripping us of basic, and necessary encounters with our fellow man?
Moving back to The Shire was quite a culture shock, especially when you settle into a village. I will admit to it having some advantages with being a small place, and having family live here did smooth my adaption a lot, but it was certainly different to find the neighbours friendly. To this day I do not know the name of some of the people who lived below and above my flat in London, and I was in it for six years. It wasn’t my family who made me feel the most at home here though: it was the elderly neighbours. The ones who make a fuss of my boy, stop to say good morning, hello, and generally being pleasant. The lady who works in the chemist and offered a hug the day I was clearly in the middle of dealing with a toddler melt down.
It feels different to walk down the street and be at home. To know that there is a very high chance that when you walk from one end of the village to the other, that you are going to bump into someone who does know your name and is a familiar face. Even if it’s just the lady who walks dogs.
It’s not a Lonely place.