Saturday, January 05, 2008

Unsettling confrontations

On Wednesday, this happened:

"When old people come up to your table in a bar, cafe, or restaurant, and ask "Is anyone sitting here" of the empty seats next to you, so you reply "No", imagining they want to take the seats away, but they sit down right next to you, utterly cramping either your solitude or your intimate conversation, and making you feel so angry with yourself for minding that you don't even bother with a dessert or a coffee, and get out, letting them enjoy what you had naively believed to be your own table before the advent of geriatric collectivism."

Yesterday, I had my disconcerting run-in with authority.

This morning, while walking across the park opposite the house, I was greeted by a man walking a dog, and casually returned his "Morning". He seemed to want to carry on talking, and I had to signal that I was wearing earphones under my snow hat and take them out.

"Have you see the television this morning?" he asked.

This worried me. The last time I was asked this question was at 07:00 MST on Tuesday September 11 2001 in a car part in Colorado Springs. It did not bode well. It was something that must be seen rather then just known. What had befallen whom? Was it related to the snow covering the city?

"No", I confessed.

"The Portuguese", he began. This was bad. This sounded more like a Falklands invasion than a 9/11. What had happened? Fishing dispute turned nasty? Annexation of Spanish or North African territories? He continued "Have said that they think it was Gerry and Kate who killed their daughter".

Gerry? Kate? Much as my heart goes out to the poor McCanns, I do not think of them in first-name terms. Nor does the latest twist in their unending ordeal give me pause to accost strangers before daybreak in public parks. I honestly didn't know how to respond, and mechanically busked that I'd "have a look when I got to work".

I thought the man was a bit strange. Maybe he'd lost a grandchild or even a child when he was younger, and had locked on to the McCann case as link between the news and his own experiences. Did that explain his familiar reference to the parents?

I did not risk taking any photos today. Here is a shot from our New Year break of the woods near Grantown-on-Spey. Note the complete absence of any outgoing individuals with challenging etiquettes or unwieldy social protocols.

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