Like a child in a bygone age, I sit wide-eyed on a wooden stool, gazing out at the storm of gusting wind and rain. The passers-by deal with it bravely, I mean the pedestrians, whose shallow bank-balances consign them to a closer contact with blessed Mother Nature than their richer brethren who ride past splashing them on the ankles.
For me, kissing the sky, on any excuse or none, is my ecstasy, but today a double dissuasion keeps me indoors. The weather is one but I’m not scared of wind and rain. The main shackle is leg pain, gradually subsiding as my resting muscles mend themselves.
I could stare from this upstairs window all afternoon, like a confined child with nothing to do. But the sight of these telephone wires, plucked like harp strings by the savage and tortured yew tree, makes me nervous. In childhood I would love to flirt with the danger of high seas as they crashed against the esplanade, threw pebbles across the road and mashed up anything in their way, including me if I stumbled and couldn’t escape fast enough. Adults lose this sense of reckless adventure when they have property to protect.
The pub staff put up billboards: “Great Pub Food Now Being Served” (which the wind soon blows down) and one by one the customers brave the elements to go in, including a man, dog and shopping bags. A road sweeper passes by on duty, but he too pops into the pub for a break. It's called “The Bird in Hand”---certainly worth two in the bush for its regulars.
John Milton ends his sonnet “On his Blindness” thus:
God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts. Who best
Bear his milde yoak, they serve him best. His state
Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’re Land and Ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and waite.
(I’ve had the audacity to amend the punctuation.)
Do they also serve who only sit and look? I’m sure they do! In the last few months I have observed various recent immigrants to this town, for example young Poles. They wander the streets with shaven heads, but they are not punks looking for trouble. They are Church-going Catholic boys, here legally since Poland joined the EU. They’re hungry for work and you know from their eyes they’ll find it. They see our town differently and that is their main value: fresh eyes.
Another group of young men, within the security-fenced compound of a factory, where they looked like prisoners, were shifting rain-sodden oildrums and planks and rotting cardboard and nameless trash with extraordinary enthusiasm, as if they had just arrived in the Promised Land. I guessed they are illegal immigrants. Where everyone else saw a depressing eyesore, they saw Opportunity.
It must be the way we see things that changes the world.