Friday, 14 October 2016

Storytime with Sturge: the day I almost met River Man

A picture to set the scene. The pedants among you may be
aware that this is the wrong end of the river in relation to
where this story occurs, but hopefully it at least gives the gist...
Today's story might be slightly cheating, as it's actually a story I've told before. It's not a story that actually lands anywhere, but that's a lot of why I like it; and it was funny to write it the first time knowing that the building suspense without an outcome would be entertaining (or infuriating) for the two intended readers: two of my good friends, who were at the other end of this email. I've essentially lifted the email as it was written, edited it for over-excited mistakes, and presented it as it was to them for your entertainment.

But first, you may need a little context.

Over the last couple of years that I've been working at The King's Centre, I've gone for a walk almost every lunchtime. And as I often go out around the same time, I run into (or, more accurately, sedately meander past - I am not a woman who runs on her lunch break) a lot of the same people over and over again, and one person in particular. The name 'River Man' will be familiar to a lot of you - in fact, I wrote a blog about him just under a year ago, which you can revisit for context. My interactions (or lack thereof) with River Man (RM) have made for much story-telling and excitement over time, so I thought it only fair that you got some insight into the day-to-day RM:Emily interactions.

And, having been away from the office for work or holiday (or illness) much of the last three months, I haven't caught a glimpse in an awful long time. It only seemed right to revisit the awkwardness from some months ago to keep his memory alive until we see him again...

"I thought you’d both like the most recent RM news. Today I again accidentally went out at the same time as RM – really my walk was dictated by when there weren’t several hundred teenagers milling outside the building waiting to come in for a conference we’ve been hosting for the last couple of days. As the final wave of teenagers passed, the exact time was the least of my considerations. But as it happened, RM was just at the top of the path about to turn down the river as I joined it: he glances back, notices me, and when I reach the top I wander past him where he’s stopped to admire the swans. For once he’s not on the phone. I smile briefly as I walk towards him – in that British acknowledgement of presence way, not with any invitation. I look away before I can see if the smile is returned. As I pass him, I see my two friend-colleagues, S and A, further down the river and walking towards me having been on their own lunch-walk. We wave overly dramatically at each other, slow-mo run, do a bit of dancing, etc, as I momentarily forget that RM is behind me, quite likely aware of my public displays of mental.

Swans and Cygnets. Again, the swans are moving in the opposite direction to those in the story, so forgive me that detail
for the sake of an appropriate visual aid. They are, at least, at the appropriate place on the river.
These cygnets are not at all germane
to the story, but aren't they lovely?
We stop, chat, admire the swans (who have now moved down-river to where we are), and after a few minutes they go to carry on back to the office, so I decide to return with them – a mere whiff of fresh air is all I need for refreshment, after all. I contemplate telling my colleagues that we are approaching RM, but think better of it – S is notoriously extroverted, and much more up for ridiculous social interaction than I am. She would, without doubt, attract his attention and make me incredibly embarrassed. But, as I think this, he moves off, starting to walk back to his office. There’s no harm sharing the inside-track on my River People if he’ll be out of sight in a moment, right? These are my friends! So I quietly confide, ‘Guys, just FYI, THAT’S River Man.’ But as I say it he stops, in that ambling, non-purposeful way that he does, as if he’s decided he’s not had enough of the river yet. S turns impishly to me and grins, and begins as if to run towards him. I grab her arm quickly, probably attracting more attention towards our attention towards him than I would like, and reprimand her brusquely. “DO NOT INTERFERE!” I whisper with intent. A cackles, as RM turns to see what all the fuss is about, and then carries slowly on his way. S and A weedle out of me the fact that yes, I do know where he works, and yes, it is in the same building as M who used to work with us, and yes, that is the building next door.

The conclusion of this story is not that I have now met RM, but that I am now in a heightened state of alertness. My brief moment of letting my guard down and allowing two of my friends into River World means there is now an extra chance that they will interfere. I’m afraid to let S go for a walk on her own now in case she runs into him and doesn’t have me to stop her. If she had the chance she’d definitely show him the blog post I wrote. Thank goodness she didn't.

That is all the news I have for today, but I am already slightly regretting my actions. Naughty, impish S…


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