Another great day's climbing, we'd parped ourselves up a couple of routes, taken some photos, scraped our hands and arms on the coarse grit, drunk our tea and eaten our cake.
We were packing up, chatting to a couple who hadn't climbed for a few years and were heading up a VS then suddenly, as fast as Mr Benn's shopkeeper, a man appeared.
This broad Burnley accent asked us what route we'd just done, what was the grade, had we done it before. We turned to see a thin, wiry man in his 70s. From the top of his bobble hat with its wilted dandelion to the soles of his old, faithful leather boots, he was a wonderful eccentric.His questions came think and fast, earnest but polite. We gave him more than the time of day, listened to him. He told us that after starting his career as a physics teacher, he'd gone back to university to do a degree in maths. When he wasn't learning, he was walking, when he wasn't walking, he was cycling, when he wasn't cycling, he was catching the bus.We shared out time and our slicesof melon with him. He relished them.
The day before we'd bought a Big Issue from a seller in Leeds city centre.We'd seen him before, he looked thinner, sadder, distant, probably back on drugs. He was just downwind of one of the best buskers I've ever heard, the punters were throwing their cash at her but ignoring the seller. He was quite sanguine about it. We chatted for five or ten minutes then said goodbye.
Sometimes we avoid people who are different, a little scary, a lttle odd. I always remember a Big Issue seller in Wakefield who'd spring in front of you with a great big smile. I never bought one from him, then I read in the local paper he'd died, he was just 25. I felt quite sad and a little responsible, what if I'd have bought a copy regularly? Or just given him the time of day? Probably nothing different, but I promised myself I'd give people time, especially those who others ignore.