I’d never met them before and yet the Ferguson’s had been on board with walk a mile from very early on.
I’d walked from Elgin to Lossiemouth to Forres to Nairn, I was still over 20 miles from Inverness, my next official food and shelter point when I received a message with a very important ps – it said….
“If ya need a bed tonight let me know John n I will come and find you 🙂 Karen.”
Following the redonculous horizontal rain, where I felt the wetness normally reserved for lying in the bath or bobbing about in the swimming pool, I decided to accept this fabulous offer.
We texted backwards and forwards until we agreed on a pick up point. I plonked myself on the side of the (now dry) road and waited with anticipation.
The best way to imagine this scenario is to think about the meeting of pen friends.
Karen phoned to establish my exact location….
“”helloooooo!” I found myself answering with a manner ordinarily reserved for your long standing friends.
They stopped – we hugged – we shook hands – and I was made to feel at home instantly.
Over the next few days John and Karen dropped me off and picked me up – they fed me – they gave me packed lunches and their spare room – John took me to Tisos – a purveyor of fine hiking equipment when Darth, my backpack, suffered his fatal wound. While I was blagging a huge discount from the chap in the shop I introduced john to him – “This is John, I’ve known him er…”
I’d known him 3 days and yet it felt like I’d known him all my life.
Far more importantly than all the practical stuff was the warmth with which I was welcomed into their family home – the absolute friendship and trust I felt as I was introduced to their daughter, their grandchildren and karen’s parents.
John and I rapidly developed that childish relationship that only men can…in no time we were blaming each other for eating all the biscuits.
For the record Karen, it was me…
John took time out of his life too to take me to places in and around Inverness that he loved.
Incredible – it put me in mind of the man from Ghana – he had something that was very dear to his heart and he wanted to share it with me.
He took me along to loch ness, up a hill next to Inverness that gave a spectacular outlook over Inverness, the black isle and the moray firth. He showed me the cathedral and the castle – which looks not unlike the wooden castles that we played with in our youth – which is now used as the local court house.
Days of wine and roses? John informs me that the court house is more likely to smell of Buckfast and urine.
Leaving was hard. It felt…well…difficult.
We hugged, we shook hands and we promised to meet again in the not too distant future.
Camping on the west coast? Don’t mind if I do.
On my final day of walking into inverness on the cycle path I’d been surprised to find myself…well…ignored.
I said “Hello,” to roughly 20 folk – pedestrians and slow moving cyclists – and discovered that I must be made of antimatter as they all looked straight through me with absolutely no response.
John sighed and apologised for his fellow city dwellers – perhaps they were creating the equilibrium – the Ferguson’s had been so friendly, so kind, so generous and supportive something had to give elsewhere in the social fabric.
The Ferguson effect.
In all seriousness, the kindness of John and Karen made this ignorance all the more surprising.
What did these people stand to lose merely by acknowledging my existence?
Were they afraid? Shocked that someone they didn’t might not know has said hello?
Did they think that I’d recently been created at CERN? That if they interacted with me in any way we’d both cease to exist?
Yesterday I saw a tall young guy chatting to an older woman he’d just met in the post office queue.
He was larger than life, interested and interesting – slightly disinhibited, but lovely to see. Some may say there was something wrong with him – something wrong – but plenty right.
Remember though, being too kind and friendly may cause others to be borderline antagonistic.
That’s the Ferguson effect.
Walk a mile with mediocrity