The friends with no name

The man who cleans the windows down the street stopped me today and asked me what was wrong with my leg. I already knew he wasn’t English and this confirmed it – turned out he’s Portuguese and that he’s had a knee replacement so had a quasi-professional interest in other knee sufferers.

But what was really interesting about him is that it made me realise that I’ve known him, or rather of him for several years and have always nodded hello. But until today I didn’t know anything else about him.

It set me thinking about all the other people in my life that I see regularly but whose names and minutiae of their lives I’m wholly ignorant about. The young woman who serves me an excellent coffee three times a week, the manageress of the launderette I’ve ‘known’ for twenty years (I do know she likes Tenerife and doesn’t like Kit Kats or winter), the fellow parishioner I’ve seen at church for years but it’s too awkward now to ask her name.

Others who I chat to regularly for a couple of minutes; the cashier in Tesco, who is always friendly, the fishmonger in the market I buy mackerel from on a Saturday, the newsagent where I buy a daily paper and who looks even more tired than I do (but then he’s up at five am). Or even one off conversations that wallpaper the days of our lives – the woman in Argos today who looked surprised that I recognised Beyonce’s music and then we had a five minute chat about her twin pregnancy and the names she might choose.

I talk to these people more often and more regularly than my family and friends and should perhaps take a keener interest in their lives. Or maybe they are just as pleased to have me as a regular, pleasant staging post in their day, perhaps it’s the very not needing to go more into detail that makes these relationships work.

Good news on the broccoli front though, the only vegetable I loathe and detest, which is now being rationed in supermarkets.


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