A Tale of "Social Distancing"

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    A Tale of Social Distancing

    I am standing in a queue outside the co-op in Oakley; there are about 6 people in the queue, all standing the required 2 metres apart. Conversation is at a minimum, people with their eyes to the floor to avoid contact except to stare at the shopping bag of the customer leaving the store. Has he/she got toilet rolls and how many, is there any Buckfast left and then the old lady starts to cough!

    All eyes are staring at her as the queue moves to 3 metres apart,  then a man in the queue starts to chuckle and says “Annie I told you that smoking those 20 fags a day would get you into bother, this lot looks as though they want to lynch you!” He smiles and looks his fellow villagers in the eyes, the ice is broken, the cloud has lifted and the conversation and tales begin.

    I am transported back to my youth. I am 10 years old, it’s Friday and my pocket is full of money. Ten bob/ 10 shillings, 50 p in modern money which I have saved over the past month from my half-crown weekly pocket money. I have to earn it though and feed the calves and chickens, collect the eggs, every day before and after school. I look forward to getting bigger and stronger so I can clean out the cowsheds and pigsty and maybe even get to drive the tractor, then I will get more pocket money hopefully!

    I am in Bridge Street, waiting in a queue outside the local model/toy shop. A place of wonder, stacked with Hornby Train sets and carriages, Scalextric racing cars, Corgi and Dinky models and most importantly shelves of Airfix models. The comics have been full of adverts for the latest model an Avro Lancaster Bomber, a must have for any model enthusiast. Will they have any in, the excitement and anticipation rises by the minute.

    Then in the distance I see someone coming, her blonde pigtails and shining blue eyes visible yards away. It’s Sue; she’s a girl who sits a couple of desks behind me in the Primary school. We don’t talk to girls in school, we’re boys we play with marbles and jacks and toy cars and planes and pretend to be heroes like in the Commando books .Girls play with dolls like Sindy and Barbie and giggle a lot when they look at us doing boy’s stuff. She comes closer and joins the queue behind me, I move the required 2 metres, eyes glued to the floor, my mouth dry, what can I say? What do you say to girls and then, saved by the bell, the shop door opens, I’m in and there on the shelves is the Lancaster model. Sue is forgotten, the model is grabbed and paid for and I’m off through the door to find my Mum and get home to build it.

    Time passes and I am now in the Boys Grammar School, Sue and all the other girls are in Taskers, the girl’s grammar school. I see her sometimes in the distance, her hair, her eyes, her smile and laugh always make me feel good, but I still keep to that 2 metres. I am a teenager now, and find myself thinking about Sue a lot. My friends have girlfriends and I begin to think constantly about Sue. I decide I am going to ask her to the cinema, and hop on my bike to cycle the 2 miles into town to ask her.  As I approach her house I see the  ”For Sale” sign in the garden, I knock on the door, but no answer. Then a neighbour shouts across the garden, “They’ve gone, moved to England somewhere, new job, removal van came yesterday”. I try to smile, thank him for the information and hop on my bike to ride home, my emotions are in turmoil and it starts to rain. Things have not gone as planned!

    Time passes; I meet and marry an amazing woman, raise a family and live and work in Scotland. I travel back to Wales though regularly to see my Mum, who is still on the farm and presents me with a list of jobs every time I visit, but I don’t get any pocket money!

    I am on the farm, the phone rings and it’s an old school pal from my primary and Grammar school days. He says that he has heard that I am down and that Miss Evans has died and would I like to come to the funeral. Now Miss Evans was the primary school teacher who we all loved, she never married, had no family, but treated every child that she taught like they were her own. A very special and much loved teacher and human being.
    Of course I went to the funeral and the church was packed. Afterwards tea and sandwiches were being served in the hall and a lot of us gathered there to remember and celebrate her life and reflect on how her teaching and example had made us the people we were.

    There were a lot of people in the hall and we took what seats we could as everyone milled about. About an hour had passed and then as I looked up from my tea and plate of sandwiches a pair of beautiful blue eyes were smiling down on me. It was Sue, a few wrinkles around the eyes, laughter lines on her face, short cropped blonde hair and a beautiful smile, but still exactly as I remembered her. Social distancing was the last thing on my mind as I rose and gave her a big hug and told her how delighted I was to see her.
    We talked for what seemed like hours, about Miss Evans, our partners and families and how our lives had changed and moved on. Then she said that she remembered seeing me outside a toy shop one Friday and how pleased she was because she wanted to talk to me, because she liked me. But I ignored her, wouldn’t look at her and moved 2 metres away, then ran into the shop. She thought I didn’t like her and was quite upset and she asked me why didn’t I ever talk to her or come closer when we were teenagers. So then I told her the story of my bike ride, in the rain. We laughed and agreed that obviously destiny had plotted different paths for us this time around, but maybe next time!

    So when you are next “Socially Distancing” yourself in a queue and someone smiles at you, smile back and engage in conversation. It may be short or long but all social contact helps. We are all in this together and we will come out of it together as a stronger and more united community. Don’t be a Clive and Sue!!

    Written by Clive Edwards and published on Facebook

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