Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Mysterious footpath blotches

Downstairs I have a second, small apartment which I rent short term, furnished. A recent tenant was a lovely old gentleman, Simon. Only old, not older, because he is younger than me.

He lives in Germany and some things here in Wellington mystified him.

"I've noticed blotches on the pavement," he told me in incredulous tones. "Some of them look a little bit like --- I don't know, could it be lichen? And some of them look like -- I don't know what. Could it possibly be... chewing gum?"

"Well now," I said. "It's most likely that some of them are lichen, and the others are chewing gum."

He was amazed. And I was amazed that he was amazed.

On the one hand, very likely in German cities the pavements are scraped and cleaned, so they don't have blotches. Blotches banned. Blotches deleted. Blotches despatched. Wellington underfoot may be disgusting to the foreign eye, for all I know.

On the other hand, how lovely that he could get so much fascination from a miniature quandary like this. He wasn't disgusted, he was charmed. So I was charmed. He could certainly summon up the daily smile.

Moreover, on the one foot, many old people walk heads down, staring at the pavement. That posture is one way you can spot an old person at 100 paces, even without your glasses. I suppose they've had a fall or fear a fall. It's tough when you walk like that, because you don't see the world or any of the wonderful things in it.

But on the other foot, if you walk around staring at the pavement, you may discover wonderful things there too. Like chewing gum and lichen. And by gum, down there, shimmering among the city blotches, one day you may spot an image of Elvis Presley or the Virgin Mary.

Then the boot will be on the other foot. And you'll be smiling.

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