Thursday, 26 November 2015

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Arthur, a sure cure for the January blues

Dpending on who you Googled, Monday was supposed to be the most depressing day of the year. Though some sites reckon it’s the one to come.

Deep joy... not.

Dark, dank, cold. Not yet pay-day, winter ailments kicking in and December’s pittance all spent up.

To paraphrase a Masterchef fruit and veg man: coping doesn’t get any tougher than this.

Pick a Monday – any January Monday. They call it Blue, with some scientific authority apparently. Mind you, they weren’t around for my tearful Tuesday or woeful Wednesday.

Still, there’s no use complaining about start-of-year doldrums. They’ll hang around whether invited or not. That’s January for you. A smile can be as rare as rocking horse manure.

It’s during a month such as this – with all the blue days it presents – when everybody needs an Arthur. A brief encounter with him would be enough to turn anyone’s frown upside down.

And wasn’t I the lucky one? I had a brief encounter with Arthur in Brampton.

Now, don’t start racing to rashly imagined conclusions. No wrong assumptions, if you please. Ours wasn’t a Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson kind of Brief Encounter.

Nothing untoward. No smouldering glances of guilty, flirtatious connection. No steam trains – and Arthur wasn’t wearing a trilby.

We didn’t meet in a railway station tea room. Our eyes didn’t lock romantically across the platform at Brampton Junction.

It was so dark and miserable, our eyes would have struggled to meet at all had not the window lights from Jobson’s chemist shop been casting their beams across the wet pavement. And had not Arthur spoken up.

“Is that a newspaper woman I see before me?”

There are mixed blessings in having your picture at the head of a column like this. Mostly they’re of the pleasing kind. Though, to be perfectly frank, they can also prompt worries about early onset dementia.

Friendly greetings of “Hello Anne, nice to see you!” have been known to plunge me into days of shameful concern and desperate memory-dredging. Who was that person? Why can I no longer remember a face? How long before I can’t find my way home or lose my car keys in the fridge?

It has taken a wee while to learn to rejoice in the sheer good fortune of people I don’t know feeling they know me well.

Then there’s the more amusing out of the blue: “Excuse me but has anyone mentioned you look a lot like that woman in The Cumberland News?”

That one always raises a smile. And there’s Arthur. Stepping out of the chemist’s into the rain to teach January depressives that all they really need to do is get out more, lift their eyes from the floor and engage.

“Well yes, I am that woman,” I told him, pleased to see a kindly face on one of January’s bluest days. “I don’t want you to think I stop all women in the street,” he said. “Only the pretty ones.”

There’s nothing like a charming gentleman’s lie to break the gloom, still a chilling wind and start up a mood-enhancing conversation.

And I can’t think of any place I’ve known outside Cumbria where an unsolicited approach from a strange man on a dark evening wouldn’t have made me clutch my bag more tightly and prepare to yell for rescue.

He was on his way to the doctor’s. So was I. We linked arms – all cosy-like – and crossed the road to the medical practice together.

“Don’t go too fast now,” he said. “I’ve a bad leg. And I’m not as young as I was.”

He told me he’d fallen in the snow last winter and hurt his hip. But Arthur insisted he had no good reason to complain. Not really. Things could have turned out an awful lot worse.

He was still chatting airily as we approached the receptionist’s desk together. “You didn’t tell me your name,” I said to him. “I need to know because you’ve given me the one bright spot in my truly awful day – and I believe you’ve just made everything all right again.”

I was hoping he wouldn’t think me too prying or pushy.

“It’s Arthur,” he said. “And I’m going to mark today in my diary.”

“Well Arthur, I’m going to start a campaign to have you put on prescription. You are precisely what everybody needs to chase away the January depressions of a Blue Monday. And Tuesday. And Wednesday. And...”


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