People fascinate me. When I was at college (on two separate occasions) many years ago I studied psychology as well as numerous other subjects. And boy, was I out of my depth. A village boy with no experience of life I had no real inclination as to what the lectures were about. I remember one learned academic, a right clever so and so, using a tiger going round and round until it turned into butter (where was this story from) to illustrate her pearls of wisdom. Don't ask why, I never did find out. But as the years went by I watched, listened and learnt. And I came to realise 'There's Nowt so strange as Folk'. Which just happens to be the name of a book of short stories I wrote a year or two back. Almost daily I am reminded of this truism.
I drove through Heanor recently, a nondescript if pleasant enough little place. Nothing out of the ordinary except for a fleeting glance of one particular unusual bystander. Male, seemingly aged around seventy, dressed in combat boots, military fatigues plus a bandanna, he invited at least a second glance. The questions invited, who and why.
A large black car embellished with the inscription 'State Patrol', complete with roof light used to park in the next street to mine. It would not have looked out of place in Colorado, but it gained far more attention as it cruised the streets of Derby. And I must admit the rather ancient pseudo ambulance, complete with blue light parked in Leyburn market place in April puzzled me somewhat. Is there something I don't know.
A rough public house of my acquaintance had more than its fair share of unusual customers. The lady who frequently appeared and insisted on reading poetry on every conceivable occasion was at least different. Plus the gentleman with the worst ginger wig I ever saw was difficult to ignore. It sat on his head at an angle that suggested it had just fallen from the sky. I found myself staring with fascinated awe, pretending to look elsewhere whenever he glared menacingly in my direction. But the star for me was the customer who was a security man. At least that's the occupation he claimed. That he was of below average height was of no consequence. His uniform was immaculate and from his belt dangled one of the largest bunches of keys I have ever seen. Yet there was something about him that suggested something was amiss, not quite fitting with his chosen, claimed profession. Was it perhaps the fact that he had one leg considerably shorter than the other, making him sadly extremely lame; walking was for him difficult and laboured, making any occupation difficult and some impossible. There again, who am I to judge my fellow men.
A distant relative once painted his house in stripes whilst in an out of control fit of extreme temper. Yet he was an important man in the mining industry, highly respected and important. A teacher colleague insisted on putting newspaper on any seat prior to him sitting down, This included benches, chairs, even a ride in any vehicle, the most pristine car included was precluded by the obligitory sheet of paper.
So much obscure behaviour. Where does eccentricity end and mental illness begin I wonder. A teacher I knew used to turn his deaf aid off in the classroom. Pandemonium reined supreme, but he was oblivious. Another colleague used to line pencils up and sharpen each in turn. Only he had to have each point exactly level; so he sharpened, over and over again. The former eventually retired happily, the latter was pensioned off and eventually incarcerated in the local hospital.
So many questions, so few answers. At best our differences create variety and help make the world go round. Sometimes, just sometimes there is an edge that we would not willingly go beyond. Do you know individuals who forever remain in your memory. Or are you perhaps one of those individuals who lighten the life of others, however unintentionally!