I’ve never been a frequent party-goer or a seeker of casual chit-chat. Even as a student attending Latin seminars in the beautiful surroundings of St John’s Lodge in Regent’s Park in London, I used to enjoy solitary walks around the Inner Circle on winter days, listening to the wind in the trees and watching the water spouting from the fountain.
I’m not anti-social. I just like to socialise differently.
Much of my socialising happens when out walking with our dog. Since we brought home our first dog in 2000, I have got to know more people than ever before. People who I knew by sight suddenly started talking to me. Bizarrely, being with an animal seems to make us appear more human, more approachable.
This morning I felt quite glum. It looked a bit dull and the atmosphere seemed damper than yesterday’s crisp cold. Still, dogs need exercise and I need exercise, so out we went.
As ever, my mood lightened as we walked, exchanged greetings with other walkers and their dogs, climbed a hill, looked out to sea and played ball.
Almost back to the car, we met a chap and his dog we had never met before. Our dogs said hello and so did we, engaging in conversation for 10 minutes that drilled down deep to the core of our lives, our families and our feelings. We talked about ageing relatives and the bittersweet feelings as we watch their health decline while cheered by the joy they have brought us.
How did we get there from two dogs rubbing noses to say hello?
We shook hands and wished each other ‘Happy New Year’.
I came home in a much more buoyant mood, having found once again, by chance, more of the milk of human kindness.
I’ve found the social style that works best for me is not to try to hard, which inevitably brings me into contact with people. What works for you?