Angela was the name of the eccentric lady in my country town when I was growing up.
In a small town like Longford, Tasmania (population well under 5000 at that time),
everyone knew Angela.
She was middle aged, she lived alone
and she walked everywhere.
She lived a few doors down from us.
She also had a goat sleeping on the bed in her spare room.
She undressed down to bra and knickers at the local clothing store
to walk out of the dressing room and announce (to the world apparently)
"This is what size I am"
She would stand by the side of the road picking and eating some strange, unknown berries from a hedge
watching the world go by,
offering them to anyone who passed.
Angela wasn't threatening.
She frequented the local businesses,
my parents' butcher shop included,
and was polite and generous.
While I am sure the majority of the small population of the town
ridiculed or pitied Angela, judged her,
she seemed happy in her world.
It appeared to be a colourful place.
I don't know what happened to her.
I don't know if she had family or friends to support her.
I don't know if her "eccentricities" led to any particular diagnosis or struggle
and, as a consequence, a (possibly involuntary) lifestyle change.
Today I realised that I haven't seen the local walking man for near to 12 months.
He is a solitary man, about my age,
always dressed in what appeared to be a heavy tweed suit,
and he walked.
I would see him a couple of times a week.
He would walk up our street
but I would see him suburbs away.
Sometimes walking on the side of the road,
never communicating with anyone
but, it seemed, often a smile played on his face.
But he has disappeared.
I worry that something has happened to him.
That he didn't have support or help.
That he has been taken away from his life
and placed somewhere where he doesn't want to be.
But I know nothing about him.
He might have actually been happily retired or unemployed,
sleeping in then reading the paper,
walking most of the day
then heading home in the later afternoon to his wife of 22 years and his pet cat,
to sit down to meat and three veg and watch the soapies on telly.
I don't remember a lot of people in my home town from my childhood
apart from family and close friends.
But I will always remember Angela with a fondness
that she made the world a bit less boring and mainstream.
For whatever reasons,
she didn't care what people thought
and she was contented to live her life the way that she wanted to.
We all tend to judge- at least (or mostly) superficially- don't we?
We see a somewhat older woman with brightly coloured hair, multiple piercings and a very short skirt
and think "Really? Seriously? Should you?"
We see a couple getting married after a whirlwind relationship
and think "Oh, that will end in tears"
I am bemused by the sheer majority of mums at our local school who pull out their knee high black boots come winter
while they are probably equally bemused by my red Docs.
Chances are that they doesn't give a toss what I think
and they feel great about themselves.
I lack some of the conformity that I see in other women of my own age
but I am self-conscious at times and hesitant in some decision making
for fear of judgement or ridicule.
It shouldn't matter, should it?
If we all do the same, live the same, wear the same,...
life is one big yawn.
It is probably worth risking a bit of judgement if it gives you some added technicolour in your life.