The Social Ecologist [4]

park bench

I woke up slowly, born into a strange new world. A strange new world of grass predominately.


A world of wet grass, the occasional wooden bench and grey open skies. There was an overflowing litter bin next to my feet, and in the distance there were, interestingly, a series of arches made of brick. There was a train passing over the top of the arches.


I turned around. In the direction which I was now facing I could see a path made out of concrete, leading to a dilapidated looking pub, the name of which I couldn’t make out. Behind the pub were ranks upon ranks of council flats, going on – it seemed – for ever. Right next to me was a curious miniature hill, all covered in grass.


I was in a park.


It did not seem surprising to me when after a while two men drifted over and had a good look at me. They seemed genuinely concerned in a way that I found at variance with their rather unkempt appearance.


“You look as if you’ve been in the wars mate. Doesn’t he look as if he’s been in the wars Phil?” The man speaking sat down on the nearby bench while the other guy, the guy addressed as Phil, just stood there. He leaned over to me where I lay on the grass and shook my shoulder, “What happened to you mate? Got turned over?”


I didn’t answer.


Phil, who was a large bearded man with a big dome of a bald head looked at me impassively for a while and then suddenly laughed. “Looks like you’re not quite with it, man. You’re not the full shilling yet. Someone got you a good one on the back of your head there.” He patted the back of his own head and smiled to emphasize the point he was making.


“You could be right there”, I replied, after a long period of silence. I was anxious to say something, at least. “I can’t seem to remember much about it to tell the truth.”


“A case of amnesia if ever I saw one – a definite case.” said the first guy, with a knowledgeable expression on his face. I started to notice that his voice was very slightly slurred. He had sat down, I remembered, with an exaggerated carefulness – the sort of exaggerated carefulness commonly associated with long-term alcohol abuse, it occurred to me.


As if to dispel any further possibility of doubt Phil took out a large plastic bottle of cider from underneath his coat. He took off the top and, after taking a quick drink himself, offered it to me. “Just the thing for amnesia,” he advised me in a good-humoured fashion.


I took the bottle automatically. Something inside was telling me that it would not be a good move for me to take a drink so early in the morning, although I wished at the same time to show my gratitude for what was obviously a well-meant gesture. There was kindness in it. Somehow I felt myself to be accepted by this odd pair, despite the fact that they knew nothing of me and had never seen me before in their lives. It struck me that feeling accepted in this way was a novel experience for me.


“Thanks,” I said, “but I really can’t…”


They both assured me that I could and indicated in no uncertain terms that a drop or two would make me feel a lot better. My inhibitions unexpectedly disappeared at this point, and took a few good mouthfuls.


Strangely enough I started straightaway to feel better, just as they had said I would…






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