Manouvering my shoulder bag around the shelves of bottles glistening seductively in the Duty Free Zone of one of London’s airports, I wander nonchalantly over to the white, round bar containing an assortment of whisky and mixing utensils. As with all freebies I’m attempting to look rich, knowledgable and interested enough to give the promotional person the impression I’ll probably actually buy the product behind it.
A sprightly, older man pops over and begins a chat as he cheerily mixes a cocktail of whisky, cranberries and some other liquid I can’t recognise. There’s plenty of minutes before I need to be at the gate so I sip it slowly, cherishing the opportunity to talk to someone outside of my usual chat-range.
Clive is 63 and has retired twice already before being so bored he took over a pub and began working at the airport. He speaks energetically in a rounded british accent, reminding me of my grandpa, although I know instantly he would take offence to this reference, clearly young at heart as he is. He’s got a friendly, comfortable way about him that I instantly warm to. In between explanations of cocktail ingredients, I discover he has a 35 year old girlfriend living in Spain who he visits once a month or so. Coincidentally, I’m thinking about moving there so we swap email addresses and decide to explore the martinis of Malaga on his next fly through.
Do we have opportunities to meet people like this in our home country or just when we travel? Being a stranger in a new place maybe makes you more open to other strangers, especially those who don’t fit your usual profile. I’m thinking of the hippy-looking busker I met on the streets of Copenhagen who, over a coffee and salmon sandwich, told the sad tale of a cheater from a cheater’s perspective, ending in an empty house and empty achievements. I like to hear about life from the middle of living it, feeling, as I do, that I’m just at the beginning of it.
Clive is no disappointment. Having failed my end of the agreement to find good cocktails somewhere in Malaga we park ourselves at Papa y Pepe’s, a tapas bar well-known for no other reason than it’s in a central location and has a name easy to remember. What I like about my story, unavoidable as it is in anything longer than a 20 minute conversation, is the way it takes a discussion straight to the meaning of life and gives others room to share their own life experiences.
I explain to Clive that I’m at the stage where I’m trying to work out what’s important. What should I go after; career, love, friends, travel, challenge, beauty, knowledge, peace, a cause, a passion? As we walk the streets in the afternoon sun, he recounts a turning point, in a lonely house three doors down from his ex-wife, at the end of a career built from a daily decision to focus primarily on himself.
In his own words, ‘I was in nobody’s world. I was in nobody’s world but my own.’
This must be a similar feeling to that philosophical question ‘If a tree falls down in the middle of the forest where no one can hear it, does it still make a sound?’ Except that your life is now the tree that no one hears.
I add a little piece to my puzzle; to hear and to be heard provides meaning. Reverberations of ourselves are found in others and these echos are affirmations of our own worth and existence. One of the top 5 regrets of the dying is not keeping in touch with their friends more. We all know the value of connection but rarely invest in it as a factor of life success.
Clive rebuilt his world, interconnected with others’ worlds this time, at the age of 50 and has enjoyed an entire one of my lifetimes over since then. He exudes what I’m fast coming to believe is the secret to happy life, cheerfulness. As Pamela Barr said;
“Above all things else, be cheerful; there is no beatitude for the despairing.”
May I be like Clive and never grow old.
And have a lover half my age.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _
Like this blog post?
See new ones by Liking MsClair on Facebook
_ _ _ _ _ _ _
You might also like: