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Being Human

Still on my travelling adventures this last week and I have been exposed to a much greater number of members of my own species than normal. It reminded time and again of what an interesting bunch we are.
Every so often there are times when I do wonder if the best thing to do is to develop a passion for bananas and climb back into the tree, but as we have managed to cut most of that habitat down maybe my second career as an Orang-utan is a bit of a non starter although my general physical form combined with some ginger hair dye might at least achieve the look.
But generally I felt positive towards the human race this week. Or found enough people to make me smile rather than make me frown.
Three different groups of people made me smile this week.
First off were the lovely people at Cincinnati zoo, where we were having a series of business meetings. Now, as a middle age man it is not difficult to be charmed by a bunch of young women with cute animals, but really they seemed to have found what makes people sweet and bright (I guess by genetic sequencing, pretty much every other living thing has had its genome determined as far as I can tell) and then bred a whole set of people who were more than happy to smile and chat about immature flamingos, giant tortoises or the habits of pygmy pigs.
Indeed I strongly suspect that there is indeed a captive breeding programme at the zoo that they are not telling us about, alongside the ostentatious ones such as the newly arrived Black Rhino. In fact this breeding programme might well be more important to the world than the aforementioned rhino, so I rather wish them well with it.
Up next are small children. I always wanted to be a dad, although that was not to be. So I guess I am a bit of a sucker in having my heart melted by small kids on a regular basis (and I admit, I don’t have to deal with all the difficult stuff being able to hand them back just as they go off on one.)
But what I love is the joy that small children express and the innocence and generosity in which they express it. Wave at a two year old and he or she will wave back, even though they have never seen you before and probably will never see you again.
Up until the age of six, generally you seem to skip to places rather than walk. I personally think it is a shame that we don’t skip more often as adults (it is an effective way of covering ground quickly).
We were at Osborne house on the Isle of Wight this weekend and were treated to a Punch and Judy show which again showed the ability we have when we are small to just get wrapped up in things without the barriers of cynicism. One little boy in particular was fully into assisting the policeman in the apprehension of the wayward Mr Punch, shouting at the police puppet to turn around ‘very quickly and you might just get him!’ and then lamenting sadly at yet another missed opportunity by the short felt arm of the law to catch the miscreant – ‘oh, it didn’t work this time!’
(as an aside, a policeman friend of mine who was also watching noted that it was interesting to see how few of the adult audience seemed prepared to shop Mr Punch to the forces of the law, despite him having just thrown the baby put of the window and beaten his wife to death and buried her in the cellar.)
Finally the smile from the baby being carried off the plane at Heathrow on Friday as she looked back and saw my floppy (and therefore quit silly) summer hat was huge and honest and utterly adorable. Again, as adults we lose the ability to show our joy n this way, even replacing that smile with a guarded and measured display which – while perfectly fine – lacks the vitality of such a wild grin.
So that deals with the kids. The last group of people are the other end of the spectrum. I was getting off a different plane earlier in the week behind a Chinese-American family of three generations. The tiny wizened grandmother with her leopard skin top and wild white hair had been sat next to her sunglasses wearing, gum chewing granddaughter. Typically the girl didn’t look up from her phone the whole trip, leaving her grandmother to sit in silence staring off into who know where.
As they got up to leave the plane, however, and as I let the older lady out into the aisle, she suddenly grinned at me wickedly, pointed at her younger relative and made hand gestures behind the girl’s back mimicking frantic thumb action. This was followed by an “eyes cast upwards in despair” look that almost had me in hysterics. And then she was off.
A priceless moment of humorous non verbal communication between complete strangers, and something I will treasure. Never trust the really old folks. They’re the naughtiest of the lot – and they are not worried about petty things such as embarrassment any more.
So, I’m still happy with being human (and to be honest, I’m not the greatest fan of climbing trees or bananas)


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