Dev and I arrived early in Liverpool on the first day of our drawing course at the Liverpool Tate Gallery, with time for a coffee and (very early) teacake at John Lewis. Well, we do have breakfast at 6 a.m. or so every day.
It's such a great coffee shop. No loud music, the staff walk quietly in rubber-soled shoes, sofas and armchairs to sit in, and at 9.30 a.m. there are only a few customers. My idea of a relaxing break.
As I looked around at the paintings on all the walls, a white-haired elderly lady, probably just a little older than me, caught my eye and smiled. She was dressed all in white, so elegant, and with a lovely fine-boned face.
My artist's eye couldn't help thinking how beautiful she was, and I had to restrain myself from crossing the couple of yards between us to say that to her. But restrain myself I did.
On the second day of the course history repeated itself, and as I sat down with my coffee she smiled at me again. So this time I felt compelled to go over and tell her how beautiful she was.
To my surprise she said "You couldn't possibly have said that to me on a better day", and her husband explained that she had very recently had a serious operation. At which she took out a photograph to show a bruised face, with a line of stitches over a cut extending from behind her ear to the hollow of her neck, and then showed me the actual cut, still healing.
We chatted for a while, and it turned out she lived just a couple of miles from us, and was so appreciative of the boost to her confidence and morale from my comment.
Second close encounter. On the fourth morning of the course we went for coffee at John Lewis as we had done each Saturday morning. A tall, very elegant and attractive woman of about 50 walked across to sit at the table next so us. She was wearing the most gorgeous long red and black velvet coat.
I do so envy tall slim women, they can carry off clothes like this with great style. I was so entranced with the coat that to stop myself tearing it from her grasp I asked if I could photograph the back, which she kindly held out for me to snap with my i-phone.
And not only that, she had bought it in a Charity Shop. There are never clothes like that in the Charity Shops I go to.
As we chatted it turned out she had lived just two doors down from us in our last property, but before we had moved there, and now lived only a few miles from our present home.
Then she mentioned that she had taught at the local primary school (up to age 11/12). Not only had she taught our two grandsons (now 28 and 25) but she remembered them and gave an accurate description of them.
Close encounters indeed.
With reference to my envy of tall slim women, never mind thinking ahead to your maturity and the fact that everything starts to drop closer and closer to the floor with age, there's another shock in store.
When I was younger I measured 5 foot 7 and a half inches. Nowadays when doctors and nurses measure me they insist that I am only 5 foot 3 inches.
SOMEONE HAS STOLEN FOUR INCHES.