Inspired by the challenge of talking to people I do not know, I persevere. Fortunately, I am a Quaker, which makes it much easier.

I went to a meeting I had not attended before last week, and on entering I met S. We were soon chatting away, not on anything deep, just the absurdity of having the heating on when the weather was so warm, but I felt we were making a good connection, lots of eye contact, lots of agreement, enjoying each other’s stories, smiling. It was really nice. After, I talked with J, whom I had met before, and she told me of having spent some time learning Shiatsu massage, and we shared our delight in human touch.

It is easy enough to bend down to pet a dog and so start chatting. I caught up a man with three beautiful black Labradors in the field, and we progressed from him finding the wind too strong (I said it was bracing) to talking of him having a weekend away courtesy of his wife’s employer at a place with wonderful golf courses, wasted on him because he does not play golf. As there was no queue at the petrol station, the woman easily got on to her holiday in Turkey, where she might buy an apartment as an investment for holiday lets.

At one point I was volunteering on a help line, and felt privileged to hear peoples’ stories. Sometimes I simply gave information, sometimes I sympathised as people opened their hearts. Though I would keep those stories confidential, I was disappointed on those evenings when I had few calls.

Biggest challenge for starting a conversation with strangers: the doctor’s waiting room! “Er- what are you in for?” I could have remarked on the architecture, I suppose, that atrium is rather nice, but forebore. I had to content myself with people-watching.

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