Is 100 miles too far to go for a cup of tea?

(Cup # 13)

It's cold out. My toes are frozen, and I can't feel my finger tips as the punch away at these very keys. But that's okay. It's brilliant in fact...

I am sitting on a Chiltern Railway service from Leamington Spa to London Marylebone - and hoping that on this 2 hour long journey I might be able to grab hold of my thoughts for long enough to assemble them in to something understandable - inspirational too if I am lucky. Hopefully, this cup of tea will help.

I set out from London this morning - braving the madness that is London transport when two centimetres of snow fall on this lovely, overdramatic, and terribly unprepared city. It wasn't as bad as I had imagined it would be however, and I made my train with relative ease. I am one of the lucky ones no doubt.

Josie Sawers had emailed me last week inviting me up to Leamington Spa - a town about 100 miles north west of London, a town I only knew existed because a man named Dave Gorman lives there - supposedly anyway. The trepidation has left me now, giving way to a sense of excitement - which is comforting. It shows me that I am becoming more open - more willing to connect with people - and that, after all, is more or less the point of all this silly business.

As I sat on the train, I was plesantly surprised to hear friendly conversation between people who I can only assume had never met before. I sat alone, anxiously awaiting whoever would take up temporary residence in the seat next to mine - watching a Jamaican gentleman talk to a South African; an old woman to a young one. What a friendly bunch I had joined!

I, however, got the 'tired guy'.  We shared an exchange about the validity of our tickets, and our whether our choice of seats fell in line with the requirements of our tickets - but before I could dive into any sustainable conversation, my new friend began to nod off. He did look awfully tired.

I stepped of the train in Leamington Spa in search of a lady in the 'red puffa coat' and a black hat. She stood just outside the gates as I exited the station - only she was wearing a 'red puffa vest' and a black 'toque' - in an effort to avoid being presumptuious, as I often am - I walked right past. Now, don't take me for a rude individual - I just need some sort of assurance that I am approaching the right person, and the vocabulary with this one threw me off a little is all. After having a quick look outside the station for puffy red coats and black hats - of which I found none - I walked back in said and said hello to Josie.

As we left the station, she wondered aloud how we missed each other there - knowing I would have just walked past, and surely wouldn't have missed her red coat and hat, being that there were only about 3 other people waiting at the station - none of whom wore a red coat, or a black hat.

It is funny, isn't it - the need we have as humans to feel confident and secure. I mean, it makes sense, sure it does - but walking past the only lady around in a 'red puffa jacket'  and a black hat, to ensure that there was not another one waiting intently just out of site. Perhaps that was just my way of taking a moment to collect my confidence and bridge that gap between strangers. It's getting easier, but I still have some work to do I suppose.

Josie took me the long way through town, offering me a brief tour of Leamington Spa, as we walked to The Clarendon - a local pub close to Josie's heart. A second home. A place that has accepted and embraced her. A place that, after a long night on the piss, will pour you a pint of tea with a double shot of rum - without any judgement at all.

My hands began to sting as we walked - but I didn't care much. I was about to have cup number 13, and I felt incredible about it. I was walking through a small, snow dusted town I would never have stepped foot in otherwise. Talking with a complete stranger who was just as willing as I was to embrace the connection that we all have the potential to create.

Some ladies played scrabble as we sat at the couches across from them. I wonder what they would have thought of our meeting?

As it always seems to be with like minded individuals - the conversation between Josie and I came easily.  It was comfortable. Josie understood. She understood was I was up to, what I was trying to achieve. But what really set Josie apart from the other 12 cups was her willingness to challenge my ideas - her willingness to disagree.

I have long assumed that the state of the world as it is today - ever consumed with self service and automation, ridding itself of the necessity that is human interaction. A world of people who live in isolation, who close themselves off, socially speaking - I have assumed this to be a product of itself. As we advance our ability be more time efficient, we subsiquently remove ourselves from human connection - simply put, we don't talk to other people because we don't have the time. We create for ourselves a social circle, and it's size can fluctuate - but we tend to keep it comfortable, and save ourselves for it. Outside of that circle, we shut our mouths, and mind our business.

Josie can recognize that tendancy in the world - but she believes it is simply the way we have always been. An interesting perspective...

Maybe we fulfill the social needs that we have with those people closest to us - and isolate ourselves from the people that we don't know in an effort to survive. We create a comfortable and somewhat isolated existance (most of us anyway) so that we can feel confident that what we have create is safe, organised, and controlled. To open yourself to those who live outside your social boundaries runs the risk of allowing someone foreign to disrupt the controlled social environment that you have created.

Maybe, being isolated is the way that humans have always been in an effort to survive. It makes sense.

What do you think? Is our tendancy towards social isolation a product of our push towards time efficiency and a result of a lack of necessity? Or are we just socially isolating by nature - have we just always been that way?

With that said, Josie is as willing as I am to challenge the social trends, regardless of their origins. She sees it, however,  as an effort to challenge our DNA - striving to live in defiance of our genetic social predisposition. Either way, I will continue to meet strangers, and I think Josie will too - regardless of whether or not it's a push to recapture the human connection we used to embrace, or a quest to break free of our social genetics.

After 2 cups of tea, lunch, and a mulled cider - Josie and I took our leave from The Clarendon. She left me today with an invite to return, a promise of a warm bed that my girlfriend and I could share, and a night out. I said my goodbye's to the barman Matty, confident that I would see him again for a cup of tea and a night on the town in Leamington Spa.

As Josie and I walked back to the train station, talking of the potential for change, and the ability, and perhaps the responsibility that we all have to embrace it. There really is so much potential in the world today - and sooner that we realize that and get talking about it, the better off we will be. If all it takes is a little bit of friendly conversation to change the world, its a wonder that so many people are afraid to open their mouths.

What is your mouth doing these days?

Josie and I have ours wide open...

1 comment:

  1. Catching up on posts and wanted to share how much I loved this one.

    "We create a comfortable and somewhat isolated existance (most of us anyway) so that we can feel confident that what we have create is safe, organised, and controlled. To open yourself to those who live outside your social boundaries runs the risk of allowing someone foreign to disrupt the controlled social environment that you have created."

    Intriguing thoughts. I struggle so much with this idea myself. I have a deep desire to genuinely connect with people I interact with - even casually, but this can get me into trouble (a wise counselor once told me, "Be wise with whom you share your heart"). Has opening myself up to others ever disrupted my social environment in a negative way? Absolutely! But the good connections far outweigh the bad, so I will keep doing it - even amidst the chaotic schedules, the rushing from one place to another - I don't have time either, but it really doesn't take that long to smile, to reach out. There are surprises to be had. Really nice ones.

    Thanks for continuing to do this. I just love it.