A seventy-something man stood stock still, on the path from the health centre. There was no-one near. Some thought or mental image had immobilised him. He seemed perfectly well but I understood his stillness.
Sometimes an impression, a mental picture or a memory comes into my mind and as I try, in a literal sense, to comprehend it, I stand quite still. It can happen in the supermarket, while Mrs Llew walks on, tracking the shelves with the help of her computer-generated shopping grid. On returning in search of me she will say: ‘I assumed you’d gone into a trance or were talking to someone.’
I’ve a friend I’ve known for more than 40 years who, even as a young man, would if a thought struck him , stand quite still, even in the middle of a busy road. Sometimes I would have to be quite violent in pushing him to safety.
Such a memory or an image from the past lived again, seen in a new context for the first time, can be disconcerting,even shaming: some moment of pomposity or pretension – or a memory of something done or said, believed at the time to be for the most noble of reasons and now recognised as containing a generous measure of self-regard.
The lines of T.S. Eliot occur to me: ‘every moment is a new and shocking/Valuation of all we have been’ (Four Quartets: East Coker).
I was taken back 50 years today when I tried to revive a tin of black shoe polish. I put a match to it and the smoke from it took me back to my RAF billet and my agonised attempts to use the melted wax to‘bull’ my boots to looking-glass perfection. There are many memories to evaluate from that time and this National Serviceman was not in the heroic mould of the military of today – or of his 1939-45 war predecessors.
We continue living, evaluating and, God willing, reconciling while, as Spring approaches again, in Towersey churchyard celandines begin to appear amidst the carpet – the so welcome carpet- of snowdrops in full bloom, and some new memorials can be seen.