December REFLECTIONS 18: I said Hello To…

It has been a funny old year and I cannot claim to have said “Hello” to many new people in the past 12 months. One chance meeting does however stand out in my mind.

I belong to a Facebook Group that concerns itself with cooking on the go – meaning by and large, in Motorhomes but also has members who cook in Caravans, on Boats etc. It’s a pleasant group with a good atmosphere and the members hold shared interests. We Travel and we Eat (well).

One day earlier, this year one of the members had posted a photograph of a curry that was slow-cooking in the sink (don’t ask, it’s a thing). Why do I mention this? Keep reading…

The van in question, the one with the curry in the slow cooker in the sink, had last been heard of sited in Bordeaux. We were en route from Portugal to home, having just reached France and we were parked up on the Aire at Castets.

I was reading. Just minding my own business and perfectly absorbed, when Mr L said to me “I think that woman has a curry in her van

What? What are you on about? What woman? (I couldn’t see one from my vantage point.)

He repeated the assertion regarding curry and van, as though I hadn’t heard it the first time.

I looked up. I looked at the van that had just driven in and was the only other van on the aire. How on earth did he know/whatever made him think, that there was a curry in there? Could he really smell it from here? And why on earth did it matter?

He then explained that he believed that the van might belong to the couple owning the curry-in-the-sink job.

No, they are over in Bordeaux,” quoth I. I had been exchanging messages with G and she had mentioned that very fact in her most recent communication. I had said that we would look out for them on the road as they were heading South and give them a wave as we passed in a northerly direction.

I examined said van again and saw that it was UK-plated. It looked vaguely familiar. I checked the FB group for images and found some that matched the van, with sufficient plate showing for me to have confidence that this was indeed the correct van.

It’s G&R!” I exclaimed.

That’s what I said.”

Well no, actually, you said that you thought there was a curry in that van. But how did you know?”

“I recognised G from her profile photograph.”

Argh! He might have said that to begin with instead of leaving me all confused. I hadn’t seen G but by now R was out of the van and plugging in the hookup. I wandered over (incredibly brave, for me) and enquired if he was “Mr G” (they sport different surnames and I wasn’t sure of the etiquette or indeed if they were even a couple, it was early days). He was indeed G’s other half (these words are carefully chosen because they really are a proper pair – no sarcasm intended).

We were invited over for coffee and we went. (Uncharacteristic – we don’t socialise.) We admired the cat and the van, which is huge compared to ours and is a real home and very cosy and comfortable. We saw the curry, still in the sink.

The Curry, smelled good

I photographed the curry so that I could post to the FB group about our chance meeting with fellow members.

We got on like a house on fire with the roving pair and now that we have said “Hello” we have established an online friendship and fully expect to meet up again when travelling, who knows where or when.

During the course of this year’s liberty we did also say “Hello” to some new places. If I ever complete my Best Decision response then we shall read all about those there and I do not intend to go on at length here, just to say how much we have enjoyed exploring.

Not so much a Hello as a Hello Again but occupying my mind today, so I shall mention it. I am reading All Points North by Simon Armitage, who I first “met” back in 1993 (Little Book of Matches). I have not been reading recently and it was a great pleasure to finally tuck myself up with a book (Hello again, Reading!). It almost surprised me, the deep joy that I found in reading this particular book (Hello again, Simon Armitage!)

Simon Armitage is, for me, a perfect writer. His way with words resonates with me. He has a strong, clear and unique voice that I would recognise anywhere if it was quoted without attribution. I certainly recognise his speaking voice whenever I stumble across him on the radio. In reading Armitage, I distinctly hear Armitage.

In this I am reminded of my relationship with another favourite writer: Alan Bennett. Now, it interests me these two writers hail from not many miles apart and I myself was raised within spitting distance of both.

Another writing Voice that resonates with me is Michael Palin, and we actually share our city of Birth.

Do I hear these writers simply as Northerners, because I am a Northerner, or because they are distinctive and talented writers? Is it because they write of people, places, attitudes that I know at a gut level? Is it because they are all broadcasters and I know their speaking voices well? I am not sure that I shall ever know the answer to that but I commend the three of them to anyone who hasn’t read them.

To redress the balance on the Transatlantic side, I have similar feelings regarding Bill Bryson and Garrison Keillor – compare the similarities with my Northern lads! Then again, my all time favourite author is Margaret Atwood and I truly cannot stand the sound of her voice. I have to read her and not listen to audio books 🙂

To return to last night’s reading: Armitage relates in his memoir a visit to the set when Regeneration was being filmed. This film about the War Poets was made in 1997 and yet I had not heard of it before. It starts Jonathan Pryce… and yet, I had never heard of it. It was critically acclaimed and scores 7.0 on the IMDB – quite a feat for a film not recently released, not an action movie, not a superhero movie… not dross – and yet… never, ever, heard of it before!

I think that I need to see this film. I realise that it will need to be viewed from a strong emotional position and not when feeling fragile. But I do want to see it.

Have you seen Regeneration (clever US title is Behind the Lines)? Can you recommend it? Should I ay “Hello” to i?

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