Wednesday, 24 February 2016

The ordinary and the extraordinary.

Sunshine, sweet ride, a lot of shovelling of shit. Excellent political discussion at breakfast. (The dear Stepfather and I cannot get enough of the Euro-argument.) Errands. Really good, pointful errands, clearing out stuff and taking it to the charity shop and things like that. I even tidied the kitchen and the office, which is a world record for me. Work, work, work, work, until my eyes crossed. Three thousand new words. My fingers would not stop typing.

I thought, quite a lot, about making every day count. Sometimes, a day just goes wonky. I can’t seem to save it. After lunch, I’m in damage limitation, merely hoping the next hours will pass fast so that I can go to sleep and wake up and get a new day. I’ll make something of that one, I think.

My days are very ordinary. I don’t save the world or meet the famous or run the government. There are few dramas, except the absurd ones of my own making, like when the tyre goes flat and I startle the neighbourhood by cussing like a fishwife. But ordinariness counts. Or at least, it counts to me. I read a book, think some thoughts, laugh at the dearness of my animals, see something adorable or moving or stimulating on the internet, feel some feelings, remember some memories, do some necessary jobs, look at some trees, gaze at the stars as I take the dogs for their last midnight outing. I chat some chat and write some emails and make some green soup. None of this really matters, but all of this really matters.

One of my errands was to the Co-Op, to get spinach and butter and bin bags. Oh, the glamour of my shopping list. Our Co-Op is a very small supermarket, down towards the river, more like a village shop than a faceless chain store. People tend to meet people they know in there and stop and chat. Everybody knows all the men and women at the check-outs. It is stitched into the heart of the community. At the Co-Op, they understand that I walk about with hay in my hair and, quite often, little smears of mud on my face, they know that I am nuts for my mare (‘How is your horse today?), a few of them know that my mother died. I know a bit about some of their own lives. With some of them, I even have little in-jokes. One of the ones I have a joke with is a gentleman of a certain age, late fifties perhaps, with glorious hippy hair and a San Francisco in the ‘70s beard. I saw him today and he did his usual gentle comedic shtick and we laughed about nothing much and talked of the sunshine which has come after the rain and said goodbye to each other with fondness.

I drove away thinking of that man. He does not just do this for me. He does it for everyone. As I left the shop, I heard him start up with the next person in line.

Working at the check-out in the Co-Op is never going to feature in any headline or aspirational article or magazine cover. There is no red carpet for the Co-Op workers. No hungry news hound is going to ask them what they think about world peace or Donald Trump. Yet, every day, that man makes the lives of many people a little bit brighter. He smiles his smiles and makes his jokes and beams goodness and friendliness from that crazy beard. Over a month, he must touch hundreds of people with his sparkling rays of sunshine.

I suddenly thought: that really counts. That means something. There will be no monument or awards ceremony or glittering prize for a man like that, but he makes a difference.

The ordinary, I thought, can be really rather extraordinary, if you just move your head and squint a little and look at it from the right direction.


  1. Very true - the threads of our lives might not be fancy, but all taken together, it weaves a nice life, if we're lucky. And when looking at what seems a plain or dull bit of fabric, you can tilt the fabric and see a shiny thread here, a bright thread there, a sturdy one over there -- all from the "ordinary" people we meet, like your bearded friend.

  2. Makes me think who is making life brighter in my world.

  3. You should print out this post and give it to him in an envelope the next time you go there. It would make such a difference in his life to be appreciated. You never know what kind of hard times he may be going through, and something like this would be better than winning a prize, really.


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