Acts of Sanity

1. The Yorkshire Spirit

The last time I saw Clip John alive he was immaculately dressed in full dinner suit, white frilled shirt, black bow tie and highly polished brogues, strenuously digging his front garden. I knew better than be surprised at anything he did, or to question him directly, so just said, "You're looking very smart today, John".
"Oh this?" he said. "Waste of brass. Wife made me buy it for my retirement do. Worn it once. Been hanging in press this five years. Well I'm just back from the hospital. Seems I've only got a couple of months left. So I might as well get some use out of it while I can. Shoes no damn good for spadework though".

2. Abdullah's Birds

Abdullah made his own job. He washes cars in the TV station car park while the owners are in work, for ten riyalls a time. He's sometimes busy in the mornings and around the four o'clock change of shift. His best days follow the sandstorms when everything is coated with fine desert dust. The searing heat and blazing sun are to be suffered, all day, every day.
He obtained a length of link chain and fenced off two adjacent covered spaces. He placed a plastic basin in the middle. Every morning, he fills the basin with fresh water and scatters around it a few handfuls from a bag of maize. His wild bird family has now increased to about fifteen pigeons and two white doves. They are used to the cars, but any walker except Abdullah will send them in a flurry to the hot tin roof.
Sometimes all the covered spaces are taken and late arrivals drive around until reluctantly forced to leave the car in the open sun. No-one has ever asked Abdullah to remove the chain. No-one will.

3. The Motorbike

The well-to-do gentleman was first to break the rhythmic silence of the railway compartment. "What brings you this far South, son?"
"Och" said the boy, "I'm to start up in the drapers' trade in London. Family business".
His companion read perfectly the meaning of that 'Och'. "You don't want to be doing that, son. The diamond mines in South Africa, that's where I'm heading. Would you like to know more?" When the train pulled into Euston, they alighted together, still deep in conversation.
Though he didn't make his fortune, four years later he had saved enough money to buy a motorbike which he rode all the way home from South Africa to Scotland, taking with him a few diamonds and a lifetime of stories and memories. There are many ways to cut cloth.

Random Acts of Sanity

Apart from truth, for I've made up none of them, is there a common thread running through these cameos? I think there is, though it's hard to pin down. I'm reaching for the idea that we are at our most sane when doing what we have to do, regardless of what some may think of us, regardless of norms. I leave you with one more. David Jenkins was my great grandfather. Though I never knew him, my mother remembered him well and often spoke of this very night.
Thank you for reading.

4. David Jenkins, Merchant

She died on Castle Hill, and Davie knew the moment. He saw the mist come to her eye, as Tammie slipped away. Yet she walked on, between the shafts of the old fruit and vegetable lorry. The cobbled wynd guided her home as Davie stroked her mane, older by one grey mare.

Standing in her own stall, her breath was slow. She heard the rustle of the straw and kindly words as Davie's sad hands rubbed her down, one last time. Then he left her side. He knew she had to die alone, and he was not the kind of man to try her dignity.

He came back to the stable after an hour, sat down on her still-warm flank and rummaged in his pocket for his pipe and tobacco pouch. He lit up and smoked the evening into darkness, remembering all the horses he'd known. "Aye, aye, Tammie" were all the words he spoke that night.

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