scribbles tagged ‘stranger’

The outsider. Albert Camus

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012 | tags: , , , , , ,  |

Reading Albert CamusI found Albert Camus’s ‘The outsider” profoundly disturbing. In just under 115 pages it moves the reader from a funeral through a killing to legal conviction and sentencing with straightforward and gripping prose. The protagonist appears to lack pretention. He lives with an uncomplicated world view, within a world that requires he play a role, demostrates conformity to social complexity.

Recommended for people that find human behaviour fascinating at both human and societal levels.

4 smiles:¬† ūüôā ūüôā ūüôā ūüôā¬† Ratings explained

‘The Outsider’ appears to be one of those books that teenagers are encouraged to study – there are plenty of reviews online. Somehow my teenage self missed this book, making do with¬† ‘The catcher in the rye’, ‘To kill a mockingbird‘ and slighly later with ‘On the road

Someone's notes in the 2nd hand bookI found the book disturbing because it was so easy to identify with the protagonist, to be him.  To feel his pleasure, pain, passage of time and the way others criticise any lack of socially acceptable expression of  strong emotions.

I picked up my copy from Reading town’s Oxfam, this 2nd hand copy came littered with the study notes of someone who read the book in a radically different way from me. I found the notes almost as disturbing as the book itself. The notes accuse the protagonist of being unemotional, unfeeling. Yet I read him as experiencing a wide range of normal feelings described in short sentences, using very physical descriptions.

The outsider. Albert Camus
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Saturday, October 6th, 2012 | tags: , ,  |

what did you do to your arm?

broke it

How did you do that?

fell off a bike and landed on the curb

Does it hurt?


I think she was trying to make conversation. I totally failed to help out. Her assumption that blamed me – ‘how did you do that?‘, rather than unplaced blame ‘how did that happen?’ , for the break coupled with no obvious empathy made it was easy to forget to be generous to this stranger

3 votes rating 3.3

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Stranger is stranger

Friday, July 6th, 2012 | tags: , , , ,  |

this story written on a napkin in a sushi restaurantI don’t think it was about sex. There wasn’t any sex.

It started when I noticed her in my local pub. She’d turn-up next to me at the bar when I went to buy a round. We’d exchange greetings and niceties. Or, I’d pass her when returning from the toilets and we’d exchange friendly smiles. I don’t know why she picked me.

She became an increasingly familiar stranger. During one conversation at the bar I invited her to join us.  She perched next to me, not mixing with my friends. She focussed on engaging me in conversation. The more I talked with her the further away I seemed to drift from my friends. I could see them floating away in mind and space. Leaving me,  with her, wrapped in an unpleasant isolation.

I stopped going to that pub. I enjoy feeling free. Even if I can’t go places to maintain the illusion of freedom. Then I started seeing her in the shopping centre, when roller-blading along the seafront, and worst of all – when I was walking home from work.¬† I started varying the time I left work and the route I took home. She started waiting outside the one door to the building. I knew I was being stalked. Did she know she was a stalker?

she felt like she was a car accident about to happenA game started when she walked up to me as I left work –¬† I’d ask her where she was going then turn to go the other way, when she changed her mind, I’d change my mind. The ridiculousness of the situation helped me just say

“I don’t want to walk with you or spend any time with you, I’d rather be alone, please leave me alone

what are you scared of?”

I don’t want to walk with you, talk with you or be with you, accept it, goodbye

She walked next to me, talking¬† as if I were a betraying lover that owed her an explanation. I looked straight ahead and walked on, pretending she wasn’t there, living what I wanted as if behaving like she wasn’t there would make her go away. I was extremely scared and equally determined to walk to Darren’s nearby home. She stopped at Darren’s beech hedge. I walked his garden path in the new silence feeling as-if her eyes were pawing my back.¬† Darren welcomed me with a outsized smile and hug, fed me pots of tea, listened to my burbling mess of a story before more delicious hugs and walking me home.

Alas, these things never end quite that easily

Stranger is stranger
4 votes rating 5

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familiar strangers

Monday, June 23rd, 2008 | tags: , , ,  |

Since moving to Reading I’ve found lots of familiar strangers, ¬† I see them on the bus everyday during my commute, ¬† in the local cooperative store when I’m picking up milk for my tea, ¬† behind the counters in Jacksons, ¬† in the local internet cafe.

During my 1986 final year degree course Environmental Psychology classes I  learned that people are more likely to exhibit altruistic behaviours to familiar strangers (than complete strangers)  when meeting those familiar strangers outside of the normal context.   Each will recognise the other easily but have difficulty placing the source of this familiarity.

This means that when I meet someone who normally rides on the  same  bus as me everyday,   in Jacksons,   I will think I know them and be nicer than I would be to someone totally unrecognisable.


More familiar strangers means more oportunities to be squishy.   Given  my natural  curmudgeonist tendencies this can only be a good thang.

familiar strangers
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on not doing nothing not being doing something

Wednesday, June 11th, 2008 | tags: , , ,  |

Ever since the stranger in Reading pointed out that the locals are prone to using double negatives to indicate a single negative, ¬† rather than a positive, ¬† I’ve been noticing this phenomenon. ¬† Examples

I don’t know nothing about it (Guv)

I didn’t eat none of it

There wasn’t nothing there

He didn’t have nothing to say

I probably didn’t notice this local language because I may not be prone to never using it myself.

on not doing nothing not being doing something
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alan’s tips

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008 | tags: , ,  |

Words of wisdom from my outrageously expensive  and  handsome young product-dispensing hairdresser:

If someone has been shouting at you for playing football near their house and generally been grumpy and verbally abusive whenever they see you, ¬† don’t get into their car when they follow you along the street and start insisting that you accept a lift from them while smiling and being uncharacteristically smarmy

As usual, ¬† I’ll be taking Alan’s tip very seriously and following up on this gem of wisdom

alan’s tips
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Reading Man not quite the stranger

Sunday, June 8th, 2008 | tags: , , ,  |

The Stranger in Reading is a 2005 Two Rivers Press edition of an  original 1810 book.   It contains  7 letters written, supposedly  anonymously, by Reading long-time resident John Man.   The book documents Man writing  as if a stranger in Reading to a friend in London and includes  a modern preface and editorial provided by  Adam Sowan.   Despite painting a not-quite desirable-place-to-live view of Reading Borough two centruies hence, the book  is a thoroughly enjoyable read that has lead to the Wendy House strapline being updated.

The orginal book is prefaced by  Sowans description of John Man and then by light, within-letter,  explanatory annotations.   The main text maintains the original creative punctuation and spelling.    Sowan cites one example sentence as containing:

 three colons, five semi colons and no fewer than thirty-two commas; yet it is surprisingly readable.

A theme throughout the book is the poor state of the contemporary paving,   depite the Reading paving act providing the following penalities:

ten shillings, by every person leaving any carriage in the street, ¬† except whilst loading or unloading; ¬† driving a wheelbarrow on the footways; throwing dust, dirt, or rubbish in the streets. ¬† Five shillings, by all persons neglecting to sweep the foot-paths before their houses every morning (Sundays excepted) before 10 O’clock. pxxx

An enjoyable glimpse into history that has value beyond people who may be interested in Reading’s history alone. ¬† I discovered ¬†how MP’s were renumerated and elected to parliaiment ¬†and how ‘the corporation’ helped run Reading Borough.

Reading Man not quite the stranger
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cute accent #5: on-demand performances

Monday, September 10th, 2007 | tags: ,  |

check-out boy (COB) #1: ¬† do you want paper or plastic? ¬† ¬† ( ‘bag’ is implied)

Wendy: ¬† I’ve bought my own (handing over an old ¬†tough bag)

COB  #2:   thankyou for bringing your own

COB  #1: can you say a sentence?

Wendy: ? (raises eyebrows and looks at COB #1 over the top of my glasses)

COB  #2: he likes your accent

COB  #1:   just say a sentence

Wendy:     (silence,   muses on how easily an ill-mannered boy can reduce a Wendy to being an on-demand  producer of sounds for his pleasure.   Luckily, I am not yet fully trained to perform vocal tricks  on demand by strangers, I simply smiled and said)   cheers   (then walked away with my tough old bag full of cheese and beer)

cute accent #5: on-demand performances
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cute accent #3: OOoooeeeeEEEEE

Friday, May 4th, 2007 | tags: ,  |

In a large communal kitchen a stranger notices that I am putting milk in the outstanding large mug of  tea that  I have just made:

Stranger: I like milk in my tea, ¬† it takes away the bitterness, ¬†I’ve heard that it’s a British thing

Wendy:   yes,   I think it might be

Stranger: OOoooeeeeEEEEE… ¬† ¬† ….from your cute accent I can tell you’re a specialist

cute accent #3: OOoooeeeeEEEEE
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stranger hugging

Sunday, June 18th, 2006 | tags: ,  |

Wendy:   hug?

Blonde in car:   (smiles and blushes)

Wendy: leant into the driver-side car window and wrapped my left arm around her ‘thankyou so much’

I had just finnished driving 100 miles along Blue Ridge Parkway in the Appalachain mountains between Blowing Rock and Asheville.   There are no gas stations on the route or signposted from the route.    

No prizes for guessing what happened to me in my rented car…. ¬†

I  discovered that:

  • A Chevy Cobra can go about 40 miles (20 of them coasting downhill) on an ’empty’ fuel tank, ¬† while flashing all sorts of lights at the driver.
  • I ¬†can tolerate an empty tank without panicking for about 20 miles.
  • 0 out of 10 American SUV drivers surveyed carry a spare couple of gallons in a container in their boot ‘just incase’. ¬†
  • the Park Rangers don’t all have either a cell or radio-phone. ¬†
  • people love to help a gal in trouble but aren’t too sharp on varied innovative solution routes.
  • I feel like I need to ask people permission to hug them in the US, ¬† unlike the UK where a good dose of hugging all round happens at the drop of a hat and especially on soccer pitches.

pictures gradually being posted on flick-r

stranger hugging
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