If a county could be said to have a hobby, then Bigtownshire’s is blethering and I can tell you they take it seriously around here. As I have mentioned before, many’s the time I’ve had to thread my way between two farmers who are passing the time of day through their Land Rover windows on my way down to the paper shop and you can bet that half the time they’ll still be there when I’m on my way back.
But it’s not just the farmers, and it’s not just people who know each other either. If the county also had a motto it would be ‘there are no strangers, just people who you’re about to discover used to live next door to your old head teacher’ or some such connection. A recent writing exercise invited me to observe what people were reading in public and from that imagine their inner lives and write them a brief back story. Hah. Whoever invented that did not live around here, that’s clear. Even were you to find someone actually reading in public, a bus in Bigtown is treated as a chance to make the acquaintance of your fellow passengers and discover how they might be related to you and your world, in order to enjoy a nice wee blether to speed the journey along. A twenty-minute bus journey would therefore likely furnish you with their entire real life story, in more detail than you ever really needed.
Normally I tend to just keep quiet and listen but the Brompton is a great ice breaker, especially once it’s launched itself off the luggage rack onto someone’s feet, so on my bus trip to catch the train to Edinburgh last weekend I found myself part of the general conversation. We touched on on the best way to keep the bike in place (wedge it in with my bag), whether or not it was a handy wee thing (it was, obviously), the general dreadfulness of the weather (dreadful), lateness of the bus (shocking) and it was only lack of time that kept us from the price of fish and whether any of my friends or relations had any remote connection to my fellow passengers. ‘Bye for now,’ said one of my new best friends as she got off the bus, as if we would soon be reunited to continue our conversation.
Indeed, knowing the way things work around here, she was probably right.