It seemed a while since I took the bus, I wore my gloves for the first time this winter as I stood wondering would there be a bus on New Year’s Eve. Thankfully there was. A few stops up Albert got on. I hadn’t seen him as I hadn't been on the bus. It reminded me that public transport connects us not only to where we are going but with fellow passengers.
At the station, I just missed my connection but the Guard was happy to assist. I was rediscovering the power of all these incidental human interactions that don’t occur as we try to protect ourselves from Covid.
At the other end, I stopped at the cafe for a takeaway tea. Syed had wondered where I had been. I had taken the car for a month which isolated me for good or ill. It was New Year’s Eve so I wouldn't be staying late tonight plus Ciara had the car.
As I walked through the mall I appreciated the random smiles.
It was a busy day, people to see and tasks to complete. Towards 5 I found myself alone. It was dark, it was cold and it was New Year’s Eve so I quickened my pace. The trains were running well and it was not long before I was back at my home station waiting for a bus. The station normally bustling as people make their way to London to celebrate New Year’s was a lonely place. The bus came within 15 minutes and I slouched on the back seat. I felt cold and tired but content looking forward to a hot bath and a curry when I got home.
As I got off I bid the driver a good new year. The road was quiet, the lights dim, the only place to be was in the warmth of home.
Somewhere between having the bath and the curry I got distracted by WhatsApp. I decided to make a few video calls to folks I haven’t seen in a while. One friend, I haven’t seen in maybe 20 years. We have communicated but not in person.
I was reminded that she has such a contagious laugh that half the time we are laughing not talking. We met in Galway in the West of Ireland when I was 19 she was at University College and I was attached to a church while undertaking theological studies. I had little money and she was so generous in buying me coffees and the likes. Often we would sit by an open fire in her shared house with a massive pot of tea and talk and drink from it to the early hours.
She attended the church to which I was attached and with others, a natural community came into being. Thirty years on we talked about the others and what we knew of their lives. I was only there for two years but how it shaped my life.
Since turning 50 I have used it as a time to give thanks and here I am again feeling grateful for the time in Galway and its friendships.
It set me ‘hoking out’ (looking for) a photo of us from that time, it is the one above.