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This is it! I've given up work -retired from the rat race and am about to start on a 10 year adventure, doing all those things I've been meaning to do but never had the time to do them. I've offloaded my responsibilities and it is now my time. So follow my adventures and see whether I actually manage anything!



Thursday, 20 August 2015

Never judge a book by its cover

 If any of you have been following my 'Above the Underground' challenge on my other blog here you will know that I have completed, the first of the Underground lines I am researching. It became more and more difficult the further from Central London that I travelled as there was less interesting places to discover. It took me a year to complete just that one line so this challenge is going to keep me busy for many years to come.


Although this series of posts is all about the places I find above the Underground, I think it is relevant to mention the people I encounter if they are part of the fabric of the area. I have now started travelling and researching the Central line which takes you from the Essex countryside through the centre of London and out to the West of London. This led to my meeting this gentleman as I was enjoying the serenity of a beautiful country churchyard. My first impressions were of a homeless, down and out whose downfall was probably caused by drink/drugs. However, he engaged in polite conversation, telling me a little bit about the church and asking if I was familiar with this area. He showed a keen interest in my reasons for visiting the church. As I was eager to see a little of Epping Forest, whilst so close, I asked if he could direct me to the nearest main pathway. He offered to show me some of the Forest and if I had time a place called Copped Hall.
I know at this point many of you must be thinking that I would be mad to even consider going off into an unfamiliar, very large forest with a vagrant, about whom, I knew nothing. But, I have always relied on my instincts. If you recall from a previous post I was in a similar situation in Kensal Green cemetery that had me turning on my heels and leaving the cemetery as quickly as possible. I had a good feeling about C and so spent the next four hours in his company.

 It turned out that he had been living in the forest for over two years and as we walked deeper into the forest he showed me where he lived. By now he had told me a little about his life. Brought up by a father who was in the Armed forces he moved around a lot as a child. His memories of his father were of a bully who showed no affection towards his children, but he referred to his mother as an angel and obviously adored her until her death a number of years ago. C followed his father into the services and joined the army which he seemed to enjoy as he recounted a number of stories from that part of his life. After leaving the army he became a professional diver working on structures like the Thames Barrier and the oil rigs.
 I was curious to know how he had ended up living in a tent in the Forest. He went on to explain that he had Bipolar Disorder which led to the break up of his marriage and ultimately being disowned by his son. He found it more and more difficult to cope. Feeling that life had nothing to offer he took a trip to the Forest with the idea of ending his life. Walking round the Forest on that first day and night he felt calmer than he had ever felt. Sleeping out for a couple of nights led to another couple until he bought himself a tent and sleeping bag and never looked back. He no longer feels the need for medication and feels able to cope with his mental health problems.

He related many instances of the kindness of the local community. C is well known amongst the dog walkers in the Forest who often stop for a chat or leave him items that he might find useful. As he has worked all his life he is in receipt of a pension and is in no need of charity. We returned from our walk to Copped Hall via a main pathway and a number of people stopped to say 'Hello'. He now suffers from arthritis and doesn't know how much longer he will be able to bend down to get in and out of the tent and as a consequence is unsure of his future but I felt the people in the village will give him the support he may need.

 I felt richer for having met C and pleased that I didn't reject his offer of guiding me through the Forest. Before saying goodbye I offered to buy him a drink in the pub in the village. He accepted my offer but insisted on paying. He is such a gentleman and a living testament to the saying,'Never judge a book by its cover'.


16 comments:

  1. What a delightful story Marie. I'm pleased that you gave C the narrow berth he clearly deserved.

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  2. Hello, what a great story and an interesting man. It is true you can not judge a book by itt's cover. I am happy you got acquainted with this man and learned his history. Have a happy day!

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  3. What a marvelous story! You are much braver than I would ever be in that situation. Well I should say in any situation because I rarely go out exploring on my own. What a lovely, caring gentleman. It is sad his son has no interest in knowing him at this stage in life.

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  4. What a wonderful story! I hope everything good comes to C, since he certainly deserves it. Thank you for sharing your new friend with me. :-)

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  5. This is such a great story!

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  6. What a great story. It's wonderful he has found peace and happiness in the forest but it must be difficult in the winter. I believe encounters like that are not accidental but "meant to be".

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  7. A very interesting man ! He seems to be happy with the life he has chosen. Really liked your post !

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  8. Indeed! What a fabulous story and wonderful message too. Give yourself a pat on the back. Nice work.

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  9. What an interesting character ..... days like and people like this this enrich our lives.

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  10. In these days of terror, unrest and violence around the world, how refreshing and encouraging to read your post. Doubtless your encounter with "C" also brightened his day. Congratulations on your continuing adventurous spirit and compassionate outreach. Happy weekend!

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  11. My immediate reaction would have been to reject him. While sometimes you can say no, and then change your mind after some thought, it would not have been so in this case and your, and probably his lives are richer because you did say yes. I have told myself to be kinder to the those who seem less fortunate but may not really be.

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  12. Warning bells went off when reading this. you are a brave lady to rely on your instincts. isn't it a shame that we have to be so fearful of people? I agree that this was no chance meeting. I feel like some people cross our paths for a reason.

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  13. What a sad story - bipolar disorder often wreaks havoc in marriages:( Good he can live there at least!

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  14. Too often nowadays we don't do things because we have heard all of the scary stories in the news. However, for every scary story there must be so many more good stories about people who are the polar opposite of what you would have expected. Good on you for following your instinct and allowing this person in your life!

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  15. Wonderful. We all need to be more trusting if people. After all we are the 'strangers' too. K

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  16. That is an amazing story. I'm glad that you are a good judge of character.

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