Gusty Blusts

and other stories The Weird and Wonderful World of "J"
Approx 456 words | Read time approx 2 - 4 mins

Bizarre rituals in rural places

patting wall top

What is it about elderly men and the need to wave their walking sticks? And why oh why do people feel the need to pat walls?

A CASUAL GLANCE out of the kitchen window had caught sight of an elderly man ambling along the top road, walking stick clenched firmly in one hand, his other hand somewhat bizarrely alternating between blowing his nose into a large spotted handkerchief and the randomly patting of wall tops.

walking stickSince he was the fifth person I’d witnessed performing the same bizarre ritual that morning it seemed that wall top tapping was evidently a popular pastime in these parts.

Yet, whenever the old guy encountered anyone, he immediately stopped in his tracks, raised his stick into the air, waved it about a bit, and then continued his walk as if nothing had happened. It was kind of inevitable that he’d end up walking down the lane and ultimately in my direction though, so I guess I really shouldn’t have been surprised when he stopped at the top of the drive and, gurning like an imbecile, raised both arms in the air (stick included) and started waving at me . . .

So what do you do? Experience tells me that smiling or waving only seems to encourage them, and responding with a less than polite hand gesture may possibly give rise to more unpredictable behaviour, and let’s face it, there’s already enough of that kind of business around these parts anyway.

So, my sensible and adult response was of course, to duck down behind the kitchen units and sort of, well, hope for the best. Only I made the mistake of peering to see if he’d gone and found him ambling with intent down the drive, toward the front door instead.

Then the strangest thing happened. The old guy must have seen me because he suddenly stopped in his tracks, raised both arms and the stick in the air, as before, and with his face one big smile, started waving at me. Well, I just didn’t have the heart to ignore him this time, so waved back. And without so much as a word, he just turned on his heels and ambled back up the lane, as if nothing had ever happened . . .

A few days later I caught sight of the stick waving stranger, waving and smiling at the top of the drive again. This time I waved back straight away and sure enough, without a word, he turned and went on his way, his stick still visible from above the wall as he continued his journey wall top tapping down the lane . . .

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