Dr Elizabeth

I am lucky that in my job I often get to meet interesting people. It isn’t that my job is special or unique; I think it is more a matter of being in a position where I can ask questions, even in the form of small talk, which often reveals different stories and experiences. There is no underlying motive or salacious interest in personal details; it is a genuine curiosity about people and their experiences which is the trigger here.

There are some people that I get to know quite well through regular meetings, and others that are more of a one-time crossing of paths. It is surprising what people reveal, and I know that I too have been more likely at times to confide in strangers at points in my life. There is something almost of the confessional about sharing something which you might hesitate in telling a friend or loved one.

There are some remarkable stories that I have been told. There have been moments shared of betrayal or bewilderment at the actions of others, along with times of great joy and sorrow. Lots of laughs too as people enjoy sharing moments of humour and the random circumstances of life.

Lately, I have been thinking of one lady in particular who I knew in a professional capacity for about five years. A retired doctor, she would come in occasionally with some questions or seeking advice on one matter or another. We would get to talking and she told me many wonderful stories.

During one visit, she told me about an uncle of hers that had died whilst in his local bank. It wasn’t anything untoward; he died of natural causes. His wife had been waiting outside for him and she had wondered at what was taking so long. It was only when the ambulance officers wheeled him outside and she caught a glimpse of his socks that she realised what had happened.

I must confess that this played on my mind for a while and I ended up writing a short story – a work of fiction, apart from the identification from the socks peeping out on the stretcher.

I was saddened recently to learn that the good doctor had passed away. I will miss her wisdom, wit and generosity, and am grateful that for a while our paths crossed and that we were able to share some of our stories.

[Photo: camellias]

Advertisements

Background Noise

This weekend there has been maintenance work carried out along the railway lines in the Blue Mountains. This isn’t an unusual occurrence, but it has made me more mindful of the noises in the background. The railway lines are a couple of blocks away, but the sound of the railway carries much further than that, particularly when the wind is casting the acoustics further afield.

It isn’t that I don’t like the sound of the railway – the opposite is true. I like to pick up the light clatter of the passenger trains, or the heavier groan of the freight and coal trains as they rumble along. Twice a day there are the swifter rattles of the XPT, and the weekly passing of the long Indian Pacific. But in the absence of the railway noise, other noises come into focus.

Bird life is plentiful in the mountains, and on a soft, damp day like today it is mainly magpies and king parrots in close proximity. The parrots tend to feed in brightly plumaged clusters in trees, neatly nibbling away at seeds high up in the trees. The cackle of kookaburras carries from a distance, along with the swooping squeal of cockatoos.

Traffic sounds from the highway include the whine and moan of trucks, always on the move. Most car and bike noises are subdued in comparison for the most part. There is the occasional hum of a plane, somewhere above the low cloud cover.

Closer to home the breeze plucks a tune from a bamboo wind chime, a soft plunking sound on the air. The rainwater tank is full and there is a methodical tinkle as the overflow is caught in a container. People walking past chatter and laugh, or speed past on bikes. Dogs in the neighbourhood holler out greetings or warnings, their calls picked up along the roadway like a raucous Chinese whisper. Then the rain starts again, a soft settling upon the roof.

What makes up your background noise?

[Photo: glimpse of a king parrot]