Mark and I are lucky. It’s a rare day when a trip to the shops doesn’t result in seeing someone we know, either from church or playgroups or yoga classes or shops or libraries or God alone knows where: someone to nod to, someone to wave to, someone to say hi to, someone to pass the time of day with: even someone with whom to share your problems. Yesterday on the bus I sat next to someone from church and learned that she regularly swims a mile at Braunstone Baths (sorry, ‘leisure centre’) which amounts to 63 lengths and helps with depression. Of course meeting people like this isn’t just down to luck; it’s a result of having got involved with things and talked to people; having joined groups and taken an interest in community events – even just taking the opportunity to talk to someone on the bus. But I know from my time in London that this doesn’t always work. In London if you get involved with groups it will take ages even to be on nodding terms with other members; and no sooner have you made a friend than that friend moves house. And woe betide you if you try to talk to someone on the bus – you’ll be treated like this guy:
It used to be called alienation, but we don’t hear that word so much any more. Perhaps we are all so alienated nowadays that we don’t even see it: alienated from the planet, alienated from work; alienated from the uses of things; alienated from each other: alienated from ourselves.
I’m sure that bankers and CEOs of companies must be the most alienated people on the planet; anyone who can feel so little connection with their own land that they exploit it without paying tax in it; that they are indifferent to the fate of those people who make their profits; anyone who can state so baldly that water is not a human right: anyone who works in skyscrapers and travels in Lear jets, must be alienated from the earth. I wonder when was the last time their feet touched soil?
Come to think of it, when was the last time your feet touched soil? Not your shoes – your feet: when I had my chalet I used to go out barefoot sometimes and feel the earth beneath my feet, the grass and the soil, the tree-roots. I can’t do it here: I’d end up in A&E, both feet studded with glass like some bizarre Damien Hurst creation. Still, in summer I do occasionally go to the park and walk barefoot on the grass, and that feels good. You feel grounded; you feel you belong in the earth, like a tree.
Try it – it’s a good cure for alienation. That, and not being afraid to be the nutter on the bus…