Thursday, January 29, 2009

Conversations

People tell me things. I seem to have one of those faces that say "please tell me your life story." I don't need to know anybody's secrets: I'm not one of those who say: "I won't be your friend if you don't tell me your secrets." Your confidences are your own. I am happy to take you at face value. But people tell me things.

I went through a phase of wearing headphones (sometimes even connected to something) to try and minimise things but in the end I gave up on it. I will smile and be polite and I will listen as people tell me things.

Taxi drivers are notorious for this. It's understandable: it's a fairly solitary existence and I suspect that having a sober fare is a relief from the monotony of drunken drivelling. Sometimes it's just the usual "busy night?" "pretty quiet" pleasantries.

It's quite often football. Now, my interest in football waned with puberty but I can make all the right noises (a survival trick learned at school). And every so often we'll find that we're on the same wavelength: one old chap gave me a lengthy and knowledgeable critique of Ferenc Puskas' career one time. Cricket's safe: I'm happy to talk cricket. Though even I was taken aback the time I realised we were discussing the relative merits of A.C. McLaren and Hedley Verity. (Just for the record we retreated to the much safer ground of slagging off the Aussies and left the best of mates.)

It's not always sport. The cabbie who was doing a PhD. on the munitions industries of the Bury area was interesting.

But there is one that I think is a treasure. I've not seen him for a bit, I hope he's not gone out of business. You see, he had a habit of carrying on with the conversation once you'd paid the fare. We once got chatting about Buddhism and Joseph Conrad. Actually, it started with us talking about metaphysical poetry (we were both reading Andrew Marvell at the time) and I admitted that I struggled to read poetry though I enjoy listening to it. This led on to James Joyce, which he was struggling with. I actually find Joyce unreadable though I really enjoy hearing his work performed. A friend reckoned that my problem is that I was over-thinking it: "you've got to let yourself understand it without thinking about it. Let the words do their stuff without you having to peg them up on the pinboard." Just like the meditation the cabbie was into. He explained the principles of the workshop he was running in the local community centre. For the life of me I cannot remember or work out how we then progressed onto Joseph Conrad. I know that the linking strand was something to do with the Belgian Congo and King Leopold II but I'm damned if I can think what it was. I suddenly noticed the time: he'd been losing money for half an hour. I promised to have a look at a couple of meditative techniques he recommended, he promised to have a look at a couple of Edgar Wallace novels and we parted.

Every so often life seems quite civilised.

8 comments:

scarlet-blue said...

So what are the grizzly secrets... tell...
Sx

Mrs Pouncer said...

How quaint. I have one of those faces that says "Under no circumstances tell me anything of your backstory whatsoever. In fact, I would prefer to keep all exchanges to a bare minimum. If you are capable of communicating in Morse Code, or if you have a set of tiny flags for conversational semaphore, please deploy immediately".

And Scarlet, it is grisly, not grizzly. Unless the secrets belong to a bear.

Papercuts said...

How strange. I also wear my mp3 player when I go out, even if the battery is dead, so people won't talk to me.

Also - I feel the need to share this, but yesterday my dad bought me DVDs of every episode of Camberwick Green and Bagpuss ever made.

I'm 32. :|

PS: My word verification is 'f-l-a-y-s'...is your blog trying to tell me something?

Kevin Musgrove said...

Scarlet: shan't.

Mrs. P.: that's our management team's staff communications policy in a nutshell!

Papercuts: your dad is a national treasure. If you're good he may buy you some sherbert fountains.
(What kind of mood were you in to get a w.v. like that?)

Gadjo Dilo said...

What great cabbies you have up there! Maybe the link was Leopold Bloom (hero of Ullyses) - King Leopold (owner of the Belgian Congo) - Heart of Darkness (novel by Joseph Conrad set in the Congo). But A.C. McLaren and Hedley Verity were surely very different types of player - only a Yorkshire cabbie could have made something out of that.

scarlet-blue said...

But I like to hear all the bear facts Mrs P...
Sx

savannah said...

aren't those the absolute best conversations, sugar? i swear, i've received the best recommendations from total strangers! ;) xoxo

Daphne Wayne-Bough said...

I had that Joseph Conrad in the back of my cab once. Funny bloke - Polish. Wanted to go south of the river. The Congo river. Ah well I said, that'll be extra. Come to think of it, maybe it wasn't Joseph Conrad, I think his name was Arfur Darkness ....