Monday, 16 September 2013

A Green Woodpecker, A Speckled Wood, And Witnessing Some Truly Shocking Behaviour In Waitrose

I really hadn't intended to continue with the weekend theme of Grumpy Gits but I saw something in Waitrose that I had to share with you. I wonder what you will make of it?

There was I, queuing patiently with my basket over my arm with two people ahead of me: a lady who was being served, and a gentleman who was next in line. There was a longish queue behind us and it had taken a few minutes to reach this point, but you know what the Brits are like for queuing: everyone was patiently waiting their turn, either lost in their own thoughts or chatting to their neighbour.

The lady being served finished, and as the man in front of me stepped forward to the till, a woman in her 60s appeared, pushed roughly in front of everyone including me, physically elbowed the man at the till aside, plonked her own basket down beside the checkout and turned her back on us.

The man in front tapped her on the shoulder. "Excuse me," he said. "There is a queue."
She heaved an enormous sigh, the type people do when they are over-exaggerating their frustration. And then she said something I have never heard one human being say to another before: "Do you want my cancer?"
I couldn't believe my ears and neither, apparently, could the man.
"I'm sorry?" he queried, looking confused.
She turned round to face him. "I said," she said huffily, "do you want my cancer?"
He glanced at the young check-out girl, who looked terrified and clearly had no idea what to do. 
"Do you mean you have got cancer?" he asked the woman who'd pushed in.
"That's what I said. Do you want it?"
"I'm sorry," he said again, "but are you saying because you have cancer it's ok for you to barge past people who have been waiting and push to the front of the queue?"
Good on him, I thought, even thought I was squirming inside. I'm not sure I would have been brave enough.
"Do you want to feel sick and exhausted all the time?" she demanded. "Do you want to die?"
Oh My God (I thought) this is horrible. 
The gent stood his ground, even though it was an impossible situation.
"I am very sorry that you are ill," he told her, "but that is no reason for you to push in and be rude to other people. If you had explained first I'm sure everyone here would gladly have let you go first."
"Well, I'm going first now," she declared, turning her back on us, and gesturing at the terrified checkout girl to get on with it.
The man stood perfectly still, probably, like me, a bit shocked, then shaking his head he turned round and shrugged his shoulders at the rest of us. I smiled and raised my eyebrows in what I hoped was a gesture of support, and we all muttered things like "how extraordinary" and "what a strange way to behave," none of which had any effect on her at all.

Was he wrong? Should he have just stepped aside, let her go first and said nothing? I don't think so. Good Manners Are Important. A civilised society relies on them to work. I would have let her go in front of me gladly had she tapped my arm and said "would you mind terribly if I went first? I've had some medical treatment today and I'm feeling a bit wobbly as a result," but to barge in and then be so rude and to use her cancer to justify treating other people as less important was really shocking to witness. It did occur to me that there may well have been others in that queue who were as unwell, but a thousand times politer. It also occurred (rather uncharitably) that there might well be nothing wrong with her at all.

I think back to the various cancer patients who have come here for healing over the years (and by that stage it's usually either post-cancer recovery, or an hour of peace from a pretty horrible experience) and not one of them has ever been anything other than inspirational. Not one, no matter how sick, has ever complained, or wallowed, or been remotely negative, beyond saying "I have pain here" or "I feel pretty down today, can you help?" and none to them, to my knowledge, has ever used their illness to debase other people.

I felt, once I'd got over the shock, very sorry for this woman. Not because she has cancer- it's a sad fact today that pretty much everyone knows someone who has it or has had it, and while it is a horrible thing to go through, it is not an excuse to make other people feel bad. I felt sorry for her because she treated a whole line of people who would have helped her with such contempt that by the end of it no-one thought well of her, and that is a sad thing. Incidentally, I don't think her behaviour had anything to do with her being ill at all: I think she was just one of life's pushers-in.

I was preoccupied with thinking about this gloomily as I was sitting here typing at the computer when movement outside the window caught my eye. It was a butterfly, a beautiful Speckled Wood, who floated down out of the sky and seemed Very Interested Indeed in the windows. 

I got up and went outside and she landed on the bricks just above my head. Watching her I felt all the gloomy thoughts lift and disappear. I was very grateful that she came to visit. So just in case I have made you feel a bit hollow with these tales of miserable gits, here is the butterfly to lift your spirits too, and to prove that there are many more lovely things in the world than horrid ones.

When the BF had gone, I glanced up at the sky and saw this coming towards me...

Hmm, Glowering.
But after it spat a few cursory drops of rain it moved on elsewhere. 

There was rain in larger quantities on Sunday, which clearly brought ants to the surface, as evidenced by this Green Woodpecker who spent ages pecking at them....

He's looking a bit raggedy isn't he? Unlike M's chillies who are looking Very Smart Indeed. I had a quick look in the greenhouse (which is where the unhatched butterfly pupas are over-wintering in case they decide to do something next spring) and thought I'd take a pic to show you. Not sure what variety these are but I know M is Very Pleased With Their Hotness.

Which must mean they virtually blow your head off and leave you considering a visit to the local A&E Dept forthwith. M does not consider a chilli to be worth eating unless it is a painful experience that leaves you with life-threatening dehydration because you've lost half your body's water quota in sweat.

Talking of growing things, the corner of the patio is a small oasis of late summer flowers, with these rather doddery fuchsia's adding a welcome splodge of colour beside the delphs, who were grown from seed a tad late this spring and are only now starting to bloom in that petrolly bluey/ purpley way they have.

I am feeling a teeny weeny bit tired this afternoon. This is, I think, because I ran 2 miles on Saturday, swam 1km yesterday, and swam another 500m this morning (in a different pool with fewer old ladies and more air. There was, however, a man with the strangest swimming style I've ever seen. At first I thought he was drowning and couldn't understand why the lifeguards were standing around looking so unconcerned (especially given that we know how hot under the collar they get about bombing, ducking, running, shouting, kissing and probably, if they were given the choice, swimming). No-one was diving in to save him, but then I realised he was actually making headway of sorts up the pool. If I were to describe his style as doggy paddle meets windmill in a storm, I might be getting somewhere close). 
Anyway, that is why I am tired, so before the evening round of supper preparations begin I think I will retrieve the wool from where it's spent the last year (in it's basket under the stairs squashed next to M's beer-making kits, so I really hope it doesn't smell like a brewery or I will Not Be Very Pleased) and all the squares I crocheted two winter's ago (some of which frankly it is stretching credibility to call squares at all as no one but me would recognise them as such, but I don't think there is a word to accurately describe their shape so never mind), and then I'm going to Put My Feet Up on the sofa and try to remember how to crochet. 

Frankly, it's Exhausting, all this exercise.

Wishing you all a lovely evening. We are going to watch Vera, recorded from last night. I think Brenda Blethyn is brilliant.

CT :-)


  1. A thoughtful and balanced post and I think I have to agree with the gentleman whom challenged the unfortunate lady. If she had asked I'm sure people would have understood and let her through but to believe that you have some right or privilege to be rude to other people just because you are ill is nonsense.

    Moving swiftly on, I like your Green Woodpecker photos (even though he is a bit of a scruff bag) as I find them a difficult species to get close enough for a decent shot. Nice to see the Speckled Wood too :-)

  2. I've never seen or heard anything quite like it. I felt very sorry for her because it seemed such a desperate way to go through life and when you are ill you really need people, kindness and understanding around you.

    Mr Woodpecker was some distance away (as you can tell!) - they are such shy creatures it's usually a hopeless task trying to photograph them here too :-)

  3. Thought-provoking post CT. It's very sad how unpleasant some people can be. I must admit I wouldn't have challenged her but think the gentleman was right to do so. As you and David have said if she had just explained that she wasn't very well people would have willingly let her go to the front of the queue. It must have been a pretty horrible experience :(

    Love the Speckled Wood - its so wonderful how a small event involving the natural world can cheer us up :)

    Jealous of the Green Woodpecker. We get regular visits from Great Spotted but have only ever had one from the Green species - anting on the lawn one summer.

    re: Blankets :) Yes am quite happy to post a few pics - lol!! At the minute I am half way through a Tom Baker Doctor Who type birdwatching scarf for myself in autumn leaf type colours (so I blend in :) ) but I will intersperse this with THE blanket. The squares will be quite large I think as I am hopeless at sewing. In fact, knitting squares may be as far as I get! Also have rather a strange array of colours from pastel pinks and lemons, to denim type twist to said autumnal colours. Will make a start tonight whilst watching GBBO :)

    1. I think I would have chickened out of saying anything and then spent the day chastising myself for being a coward :-)

      I was so pleased to see that little butterfly- it put all the grumpy gits of the last few days way in the distance. And it wasn't really butterfly weather either....

      The GW turns up only very occasionally and is off the second you make a noise or a movement. I think I've seen him twice this year, although we do hear them a lot.

      I will hold you to the blanket pictures- I am quite sure when you have seen mine you will die laughing :-) And I LOVE those really long woolly scarves. Think I may have to attempt one this winter too.

  4. How lovely to have a Green Woodpecker! Great to see a Speckled Wood in the light too. They only flutter around in the gloom here. As for the Waitrose incident, I'm with the man in the queue too. Am taking my Mum there tomorrow so hope I don't have any kind of stressful queue experiences myself!

    1. Waitrose is usually such a reliable place for Good Manners (!), hoping you had a non-grotty experience today.

      We've had a number of Speckled Woods recently- they are such beautiful butterflies and the timing of this one's appearance couldn't have been better.

  5. Very odd behaviour. As you mentioned, C is indeed a very horrible illness, but I don't think anything warrants such obnoxious behaviour. I'm not sure what I would have done, I can't believe the lady asked the man if he wanted her cancer! Extraordinary!

    I am glad that the beautiful BF cheered you up :) I often find that when I'm at work, bored or tired, I will check the kitchen for moths, and when I find one and release it, I instantly feel a bit better :) I rescued an angle shades the other day... fabulous!

    1. People never cease to amaze me. Just when you think you've seen most things, someone does something that makes you realise that you haven't and it is still possible for you to be shocked.

      Nature is such a wonderful antidote to people-related-horribleness in all its forms. I'm glad you managed to rescue the AS- fantastic moths, I love the way their wings fold and drape :-)

  6. Hi CT, I thought you might like to read this:

    Shocking behaviour from that woman-she has obviously not come to terms with her illness and needs help to cope. I would have stood my ground too-but faced with such rudeness you only risk acting as rude back which is not a good reflection on yourself.
    Love the images-haven't seen a green woodpecker is years!

    1. You're right- I have learnt (it took me a while) to choose my battles. Some things it's best to walk away from ;-)

      Thanks for link, will check it out :-)


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