What with the heatwave, grandchildren and the autumn harvest my few remaining brain cells have gone into meltdown and are hiding in the dark recesses of my brain.
Like the Elephant’s Child I was born with satiable curtiosities. Kind people might refer to this as taking an intelligent interest in things, but unfortunately owing to my innately shallow nature I have to admit that I am just extremely nosy. Apparently my first words were ‘What that?’ And I still want to know. In my youth I was an avid eavesdropper, but sadly my hearing is no longer up to this unless I am lucky enough to come across people having a screaming row. Pre Covid 19 supermarkets were a rich source of titbits. I could linger over the herbs for ages if there was a good matrimonial going on by the adjacent sauces. When I was young there were things called ‘party lines’ that meant you had to share your telephone with someone else! I am a bit vague as to how it actually worked (I think it happened because there physically not enough cables) but I do remember that if you picked up the ‘phone to make a call there would often be someone else on it talking to a friend. Most people found this annoying but I thought it was fascinating. Here was a window into someone else’s life. It was the same with actual windows into people’s houses as seen from a train. The stories that you could make up and if only I hadn’t been so busy being nosy I might have put my imagination to good use and written The Girl on the Train..
There is an unworn dress in my wardrobe that I was forced to buy because, whilst at a country fair, I saw a woman pass out. Desperate to find out what was wrong I stayed at the next door stall going through racks of unsuitable dresses until the St John’s Ambulance arrived. I’m not completely heartless, there were people with her and as it turned out the lady in question had succumbed to a combination of sunshine and alcohol, but, having spent so long on the other stall I felt duty bound to buy a dress.
Postcards are obviously fair game – I am incapable of entering a block of flats without checking to see if there is any interesting mail in the hall and would certainly read any postcard that happened to be lying around. I wouldn’t go so far as to open someone else’s letter, but if it was right there in front of me it would be very difficult to resist reading it. Bathroom cabinets are just begging to be inspected. I don’t think I have ever used the knowledge of someone owning athlete’s foot powder or cream for haemorrhoids against them – I’m not a blackmailer, just, as I may have mentioned, incurably nosy. And I don’t store this knowledge for any nefarious purpose, although I do sometimes see myself as a latter day Miss Marple. However, unlike St Mary Mead there is a rather a dearth of murders in my village. In our neighbourhood Watch newsletter the most we get is the information that two men in a white van have been seen acting suspiciously and that a local farm has had a chainsaw stolen from his barn. I scan the surrounding area for white vans with two men who could be acting suspiciously – unfortunately I am mostly spoilt for choice. What two men in a white van don’t look suspicious? At the moment this is most likely because they are worried that Boris’s obesity police are going to nick them for wolfing down a high calorie snack. An old gamekeeper once told me that his grandson had offered him a pasty from a well known company, and he said to me ‘It was so disgusting, I couldn’t finish it so I gave it to the dog and even he had to lick his own arse afterwards to take the taste away’. Oh dear, I’ve lowered the tone again.
Back to my nosiness. It does cause my butterfly brain to hover over all sorts of strange subjects – in a pub quiz when it comes to trivia I’m your woman. For example I can name all the Kardashian sisters and I know that a cockroach can live for several weeks without its head. Facts that are not necessarily connected and this is not information that will be much use in every day life but facts that stick in my brain long after I have forgotten my pin number.
Idle curiosity that makes me wonder about the modern world. What is Tik Tok? I don’t imagine that it will ever be part of my life but it is probably important to be aware of it. On the other hand I’d be a pretty sad Grandmother if I was posting things on it. Do you post on Tik Tok? I have no idea.
Tattoos – there’s another thing. Why? I don’t mind what anyone does, within reason as long as they aren’t harming anyone else, but why does anyone actually want a tattoo? It is a total mystery to me.
And what about the expression ‘See you Later’? I bought some petrol last week at a motorway service station and the boy at the till said this to me cheerily after I had paid – I should be used to it by now as it is ubiquitous but it still catches me unawares – was this boy the grandchild of one of my friends, did he live somewhere near me? Somehow, I think not.
So, what to do with this nosiness? I’ve already established that I missed the boat with The Girl on the Train? Or missed the train even! So, how can I put it to good use? Some friends of my parents once heard late night screams coming from a neighbouring flat and they assumed that the young couple who lived their with in the throes of passion so they, after some deliberation, decided not to call the police. The next day they it turned out that the wretched girl had been stabbed after an unpleasant domestic row. Happily, she survived, but not thanks to the neighbours who weren’t, as it turned out, nosy enough. On the other hand interfering in other people’s lives is not a very British way to behave, at least it never was, we used to be a nation of live and let live. Not any more. Covid seems to have brought out the worst and the best in us. Lovely, helpful WhatsApp groups have sprung up all over the place. But so too has an unpleasant habit of snitching on other people. If we all stay in our own bubbles and never venture out this wretched disease will stay with us forever, some people may be pushing it a bit too far, but if our neighbours have a party and we’re nervous we should just stay away, not call the police, shouldn’t we?
Maybe I shall just have to resign myself to being the trivia expert on any quiz team and hope that there are some questions for us butterfly brains and that they are not all about History, Geography and Sport – topics, that by necessity, I leave to others.