Stalking and talking

I wrote  a post a year ago on talking to myself and thought, yep that’s cathartic. Now my dirty secret is out there I can move on, I can deal with this openly. And then I found myself arguing with a poster on a train station. Which was fine because it was a terribly annoying poster that needed to know the reaction it was causing. And in a  way the fact someone else heard me shouldn’t matter in London where all sorts goes on.

But I became conscious that the listener-in was enjoying himself which made me wonder if this was because (a) my banter was intrinsically entertaining; (b) the listener really had no English to speak of and wondered what I was saying; or (c) they were preparing to join in and make it a three-way debate.

And therein lies the trouble with what appears to be a large unfriendly impersonal city like London. It isn’t. People talk to you; they ask you the way or to take a picture; they pass the time of day or comment on the book you are reading or your shoes.  Of course there are days when no one speaks and no one makes eye contact but then you jump out of your skin when you realise another human is talking to you.

Perhaps I need to adopt an angry face. Or to stop talking to myself. Yes that is it.

The thing is, I’ve done this for a long time. And not just a simple chat.  I have conversations with myself, taking on different roles. I don’t think I always have but I can nail for sure when I became aware that (a) I was (b) they were often out loud and (c) they could be quite, erm, boisterous.

In the early 1990s I was elevated to run the department I worked in. On one level an achievement and a matter for some personal pride; on another, it was muggins’ turn and involved some rather obvious ‘rather him than me’ ism. We were in financial difficulty back then. Something ‘had to be done’ and the person previously in charge wasn’t doing anything. It was a significant responsibility and, as with most of my career, I came to the new role fully briefly and well prepared – yeah right.

It took some months for me to get on top of things but one thing became clear very early: there had to be some personnel changes. And that meant I was going to have some of the bleakest, most awkward conversations of my working life. I began to find myself imagining the next scene, trying to think of what they might say and how I might reply. Or what was the correct pose to adopt: sympathetic; caring; hard nosed bastard?

As the time grew ever closer, so the imagined conversations became more detailed and, increasingly fraught. One evening, some time in 1994, I left the office, the night before such a meeting. It was dark, wet and late. I caught the train to West Dulwich from where it is a 12 minute walk to my house. The train was empty and the streets emptier.  As I turned into my road, I reached an imagined point in the next day’s interview where I had been accused of duplicity, of back stabbing, of moral cowardice.

I began a rather good, if possibly grandiose and maybe even a little grandiloquent riposte. I included gestures. As my hand swept – rather magnificently I seem to remember – to emphasise a killer point I became aware of a rustling in a shrub ahead and to my right. Normally I’d assume an urban fox and barely give it a thought but my senses must have been heightened. Something about the rustle made me stop and peer through the gloom into the depths of the shrub.

Staring back at me were two startled, probably terrified eyes, surrounded by thick rimmed glasses. Not a fox. Indeed patently belonging to a different class of mammals: Homo Sapiens.

The shrub was not the kind you normally associated with human nesting. It was tight packed and spiky.

‘Are you ok?’

It was an obvious thing to say. Well, obvious if it had been me saying it. But it was they who said it. This apparent shrub dweller was, in fact, someone I had seen a few times locally – probably a neighbour if I had paid attention – and, beyond their current incumbency, gave every sign of being utterly normal, by the social conventions and mores of this part of South London.

As they extracted themselves from the bush – involving, as it did a full body combing and some loss of blood – they explained that they had heard a mad man arguing with himself and decided to hide. It was only as I drew level they recognised me – my rants being common currency, not that I knew it then – and assumed I must be having some kind of fit or moment of demonic possession. They were genuinely concerned.

We parted amicably enough considering the extent of the perforations from which they had suffered. I walked home slowly. I hadn’t realised I was speaking out loud; and if I was, that I was speaking so forcefully; and how had I not seen or heard them as they leapt to safety into that shrub? I determined then and there to ensure that I kept such conversations internal in future.

Three days later, I made my way home. I had survived the much dreaded conversation – it had been civilized and constructive – but the follow up, discussing severance was due and that was the next potential crisis. As I approached the shrub a voice behind me said, ‘Glad it went well.’

I looked back at my neighbour. They said, ‘You sound relieved.’

‘Was I talking out loud?’

A nod.

‘Like last time?’

‘Pretty much.’

And I thought I was keeping everything to myself.

Occasionally – I’m no longer in a  position of authority so such stressful one to ones are a thing of the past – I find someone looking at me curiously. I force myself to assume they are surprised at my luxurious beard or dapper dress sense.

walking the dog

But I have a sneaking suspicion that I have been oversharing my overactive imagination once again.

Is this only me? Do you startle strangers into becoming shrub incumbents? And what do you talk about?

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published three anthologies of short stories and a memoir of my mother. More will appear soon. I will try and continue to blog regularly at about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
This entry was posted in humour, miscellany, thought and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

45 Responses to Stalking and talking

  1. Mick Canning says:

    Talking to yourself is fine, Geoff. Just as long as you listen!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. barbtaub says:

    Sometimes I have whole conversations or even arguments with my (imaginary) book characters. Often, I lose…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I talk to bees, birds, dogs, and the occasional person! In the case of the former, it is always to assure them that they are beautiful and I won’t hurt them. With bees, people may find it odd (until they realise it’s me) to see this woman talking to the grass brandishing a leaf as I try to get a tired bee on it to transport it to a flower.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. janmalique says:

    Really enjoyed the post! You’re not alone in having these quite personal and illuminating lone conversations. I’ve done it many times, yes, finally coming out of the, er, bushes. Usual topics are the state of the world, where humanity’s going, talking to my Muse about the next writing project, the usual stuff. As for scaring strangers, if this has happened I haven’t noticed. 🙄

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Rowena says:

    Always knew you were bonkers, in the most delightful way of course. I’m not aware of doing this myself. I have always written a lot, which could be much the same sort of thing, although I am conscious of what I’m doing. It sounds like you were under extreme stress at the time and that talking to yourself really helped you sort your thoughts out.
    xx Rowena


  6. Ritu says:

    I I talk to.myself all the time lol!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. tidalscribe says:

    One autumn I found myself saying to the bulbs I was planting ‘Goodnight, see you in the spring.’

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Don’t worry about it. They’ll all assume you are on a mobile phone

    Liked by 2 people

  9. JT Twissel says:

    I carry on conversations with myself all the time. Nothing more dapper than purple flower in your hat.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I see people like you quite often around my part of the world except they usually are really bonkers…… I too often talk out loud to myself though I keep it to a minimum in public… I think. I do have some trees I greet every morning on our walks and several other walking animals – but there are usually people attached to the animals so that is okay. I don’t think arguing with a poster is a good look though – despite your dapper beard and fetching hat! And I do think the best thing to do with a stressful job is leave it 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  11. bethanyk says:

    I spoke directly to an earth worm today

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      and how did that go; how is the planet from his her its position?


      • bethanyk says:

        I was laying down in the grass and felt it was pretty darn peaceful darn there. If I could have stayed with the worm it would have been much more peaceful than entering back into the human world! I know I sound nutty. I just try to to live in the moment and embrace it and find joy and happiness where sometimes I cannot otherwise find it. Even if it is just watching a little worm

        Liked by 1 person

      • TanGental says:

        Not nutty at all, more at ease with your space

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Norah says:

    Hilarious, Geoff. I do remember your sharing this story before, but I never tire of hearing it. I talk to myself too. But I hope not too much in public. What a great way of rehearsing dialogue for your characters – ensures you get them to sound just right.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Val says:

    I’ve been talking to myself the whole of my life, and I suspect it runs in the family!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. This made me smile. I’m the only one that listens to me so I must be the one to have the conversation and since I’m a bit hard of hearing, I must speak loudly too. I think it all makes perfect sense. And I agree, so many are talking on their cell phones that you think they are talking to themselves. This was fun to read.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Hilarious- especially “I force myself to assume they are surprised at my luxurious beard or dapper dress sense.” followed by the photo.Husband talks to himself… usually as he walks away having lost an argument. I don’t listen to the words – they’re probably rude and could cause another row. LOL.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I talk to myself quite a bit too. I talk myself through things i am not quite sure of, I berate myself for being an idiot and saying the wrong thing, and I empathise with myself when driving and getting a bit of road rage!

    Liked by 1 person

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