On the days I routinely work at the out-patients enquiry desk at the local hospital I regularly witness a series of flotillas comprising a leading man followed by two ladies in full burqah and nihab. The sequence is rather like the one you see of migrating birds which appears as a sort of triangle with a leader in the van and a graduating breadth behind. I am struck by what I see as the irony of this arrangement. As I perceive it, the cover-all garments are intended to protect the modesty of the wearers and render them more or less invisible. As you will have realised , the effect is, in our western culture, exactly the opposite: the women are infinitely more conspicuous by very reason of the total concealment of face and form. A friend recently reported her young Grandson as having asked how his little friends at the school gates would recognise their own Mummy. I have to assume it is either by a pre-arranged position or by voice. Anyway, there are no dramatic reports of any small people being inadvertantly fed at the wrong table
I have put to you many times one predicament of the elderly. There is a way in which we become totally invisible. I find myself bumped into, cut across, overtaken in to the lift and 'bus and enduring coats hung on a hook immediately behind my seat which is intended for the incumbent, only, of such seat. No "Do you mind", "excuse me" or anything indicating that there is an awareness of the presence of another human being.The Hospital provides yet another illustration. On the corner of the Enquiry Desk there is an internal telephone. Frequently, a young medic will appear, pick up the telephone, have a long consultation, put the phone down again and walk off as if leaving an own phone. The three hundred and forty fifth time this happenned, I took my courage in both hands and called after the offender "You are welcome". Not a hair was turned and, indeed, it was I who was left in the wrong for the heinous crime of churlish intervention. Not long ago, I was walking on the right of a narrowish corridor at a concert venue in order to be well-placed for the lift to the auditorium which was situated to the right in a lobby further along. As I emerged in to this lobby, I was confronted by a young woman and her male companion heading in the direction from which I had just come. I, being more than three score and ten with a stick, stopped. So did she/they. For what seemed like a very long moment this woman, half my age with no walking aid and I maintained a mute stand-off. Eventually, she did take a step backwards at which point, as I proceeded liftwards, I heard the man say, fortissimo, "I can't believe what manners have come to these days". I wish I had had the b...s to go after them and clarify who had which manners. I didn't .Clearly, there is only one thing for it: I shall Liz forth and equip myself with Burqah and hijab and let my cloak of invisibilty serve to make me as visible as the nose on your face. Prynhawn da.