An Adventurous Listener

William Blake – ‘Angels Hovering over Christ in the Sepulchre’ from

Dear Readers, you might remember how much I’m enjoying Ronald Blythe’s book ‘Next to Nature’, and last night I read something that I thought I’d share with you all. To set the scene, Blythe is riding home from Bury St Edmunds in a minicab.

‘.…an extraordinary confession from the Polish taxi-driver on the last phase home. Glancing at me, summing up whether I could take it, young, and, I thought, rather sad, he asked if I was ‘religious’. Adding that he could tell that I was ‘a gentleman’. What next?

Swerving past some cyclists, summoning up his courage, he said that he had seen an angel. Did I believe him? I told him about a great English poet called Blake, who saw angels in Golden Square in London. He told me that he was married and had a little girl. I praised his English. He was, I thought, about twenty-two and rather lost. Or maybe found. He was certainly an adventurous driver. There are times when one must be an adventurous listener. 

William Blake wrote:

‘And we are put on earth a little space,

That we may learn to bear the beams of love’.

This reminded me of a taxi ride that I took in Cork, in Ireland. The conversation turned, as it does, to children. The driver wasn’t to know that I had recently had a miscarriage, and so I quickly turned the subject to his little ones, and asked how many he had.

He hesitated for a second.

‘Four’, he said. ‘Three boys and a girl. The girl only lived for a few hours, but I can’t deny her’.

‘She lived, and was loved’, I said, swallowing hard. ‘No need to pretend she didn’t happen’.

And so we drove on, fellow travellers in the truest sense, through the impossible green of the Irish countryside.


6 thoughts on “An Adventurous Listener

  1. Ann Bronkhorst

    With family in rural Ireland, I have the impression that (nowadays) it is acceptable and welcome there to share these sad, still raw experiences, just as there is acceptance there of the disabled members of a family.

    1. Bug Woman Post author

      It’s good to talk about these things, and I’m glad we’re moving away from all the unwarranted shame and guilt that there seemed to be in the past.

  2. Liz Norbury

    You were the adventurous listener the taxi driver needed, and I’m sure your own loss helped to give you the right words to say. After we lost our baby, I had several unexpected conversations with people who had been through the same experience: we just seemed to tune into each other. Earlier this year, I got talking to a woman I met at a new choir I had joined. We both had the feeling we had met before – and then we remembered that it was just once, more than 20 years ago. She even remembered my baby’s name.

    1. Bug Woman Post author

      Ah Liz, I’m so sorry for your loss. How validating that the woman remembered your baby’s name after all these years. And you’re right, so many women have had a pregnancy loss, but nobody seems to talk about it. I didn’t realise how common it was until it happened to me, and I suppose I mention it now because I feel it should be accepted as the bereavement that it is.


Leave a Reply