The Scent of a Rose

In my middle late teens my childhood was largely over and I found myself in a bedsitter in an unglamorous area of London, living on fish and chips and working as a clerk in a sales office. The work was unstimulating and the company ethos alien to me. I must have made a strange work colleague but I turned up everyday and inflicted my own sort of chaos on the small area for which I had responsibility. I hardly knew what was going on.

In the evening I would walk home from the tube station, collecting my fish and chips on the way and walk up the road to the front door of the house in which I lived. The house before ours had a small garden facing the street and in it grew a rose-bush with fat red roses blooming on it. I often used to stop and smell the flowers. The scent is lovely, of course, but what I most liked about it, in the urban sprawl in which I found myself was that it was natural. All around it the bricks and cements spoke of man’s growing mark on the planet but somehow that rose reminded me of simpler more seasonal landscapes in which the organic progress of all life forms developed  naturally.

All my life I have been consumed by the idea of what is “real”. Of course, everything is real, so it might be hard to explain what I’m trying to say. In the developed world we have lived in a protected hot- house where increasingly self-indulgent behaviours are protected by a sophisticated financial system. That system has grown ever more complex, and the life styles that many lead as a result seem threatened by that very system’s potential unravelling. In the wilderness of Somalia or rural China nail and hair salons are in short supply. People living in those areas would be little affected by the decline or collapse of the euro or the odd bank folding in on itself. To us in the west, however, the results would be regarded as catastrophic.

In friendships unconnected by mutual material reliance such as that found in farming or fishing communes or tribes the air kiss can take the place of intimacy and discovering who you have a real connection with can be quite hard. I met some women through my partner. She is pleasant enough though she holds a few startling alternative views regarding Chinese astrology and the like. I can handle that. we all hold some views produced by a minimum of facts and a surfeit of emotion: that’s just part of being alive. The interesting thing was that sort of piggy backing on the relationship between my partner and me she was quite friendly and asked questions about me which a stranger would not normally ask . I was politely evasive but otherwise friendly and the evening ended up with us all watching a film a chatting merrily together while snacking and  relaxing.

At the end of the film she rose to leave and, as is my custom at a late hour, I offered to escort her to her car. Away from my partner her manner became a lot more guarded and formal and I was reduced to chatting mindlessly about passing bushes to prevent the walk being undertaken in total silence. It made me think. Which part of her manner was the most real. The over familiar and personal style while in the company of her friend or  the stilted brisk silence which marked our short walk. It doesn’t matter but it does make you wonder where the real heart lies.

About Peter Wells aka Countingducks

Trying to remember what my future is
This entry was posted in character, community, Life, life2, Relationships and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to The Scent of a Rose

  1. Ok now I want fish and chips!


  2. Quite thought-provoking. First you activated nearly every sense with your detailed description of that time when you were struggling. Then you shifted to the philosophical question of “what is real?”

    There are many who would argue that nothing is real because everything is filtered through our biased senses, so everyone experiences the same object/situation/person differently. Which perception is real? All of them? None of them? Is there an objective reality when all we can tap into is subjective reality?

    But you move even deeper into the reality we choose to share with others, because we pick and choose who we present ourselves to be depending on the company and the circumstance. So who is the real person (or heart, as you put it)? I don’t think the person even knows. Who are we when all that’s left is us?

    Very deep questions with no real (oops, pun alert!) answers. Great post, Peter.


  3. I read this through quickly earlier and came back to read it more slowly now I have more time. You’ve caught exactly how people can change depending on who they are with, and how many other people are around. It’s a mysterious thing. And I don’t think the different sides that people show are necessarily any more or less real; just different aspects of the same person. All facets of the same ‘heart’. That’s not true of all people, needless to say!

    I love this (so true!):
    “We all hold some views produced by a minimum of facts and a surfeit of emotion: that’s just part of being alive.”


    • Lafemmeroar says:

      I totally agree with what you said. We have multi-personalities in dealing with different people and situations and those sides are all real.

      Counting – this is a great post that will spark lots of interesting conversation …


    • I agree, it is impossible to say one aspect of us is more “real” than another, although we like to think, or at least I do, that our more relaxed self is nearer to the kernal of our natures.


  4. barbara says:

    I am always most comfortable with people who are genuine. I tend to not trust those who are like chamelians (which I can’t spell) and adapt to whomever they’re with or where they are.

    Were they David Austin roses Peter? They’re my faves.


  5. Deana says:

    Great piece. I love the dichotomy of the roses amid strife. I even like the apparent dichotomy of the gal who was warm in the safe presence of her friend and protective when alone. I’d say both are real. My favorite real quote is from The Velveteen Rabbit, where the rabbit asks the hobby horse what is real. My iPhone is to clunky to type it, but I’m sure you can google it. Now back to trying not to burn the turkey this year.


  6. Caroline says:

    I spent a lot of time in my life coaching sessions discussing the different versions of me and how I – and everyone else – uses different versions of themselves in different circumstances and how we can change into different versions of ourselves in a split second.

    This is a fascinating post. You also got me thinking of my journeys through Southern Africa when I was so privileged to meet and listen to (with a translator) the Bushmen of the Kalahari. Not only would they be totally unaffected by the collapse of any global financial system, they wouldn’t be affected by loss of electricity or gas either! They hold so much information on plants – many of which have incredible medicinal qualities and yet as ‘civilized’ people we appear to be hell-bent on inflicting our dependencies on them and pulling them away from their connection with their environment – an environment they have managed with great skill over centuries without destroying it. Unlike us!

    For this reason I support Survival International in its campaigns of protection for the tribes of the world.

    Thank you for reminding me of so many things this evening.


    • I love the sound of your journey through southern Africa. I have long thought that people travelling out from Europe over the centuries “civilising” the world and giving them the benefit of our religious insights has caused more havoc than we can begin to imagine


  7. I’m sorry you just made me really hungry for fish n’ chips! I hate being landlocked! On another note I always find it startling when someone changes their tune…


  8. Aurora, HSP says:

    If we were not multi-faceted we would not be anything at all as humans is what I believe. Even if you break down the terms multi and faceted there is multi-face. I think we sometimes need them especially in professional settings where business is business and there is no room for emoting from anyone. it is a life long challenge to master the selves of me and fashion them into one woman who can be consistent in all arenas. Different areas of life require different protocol, action, reaction, limits, boundaries, requirements/unspoken rules of conduct are ever changing.

    I think it is ethically wrong to deliberately present a false face but I can say for certain, I am different with my friends than I am with their husbands just because of past experiences where a male mistook a friendly smile for flirting and was shocked when I didn’t want to go along. Maybe this woman experienced something similar and is cautious because of that. It is always difficult to know anyone’s “backstory.” People are so complex and many of us have backstories that would shock the regular (if I can use such a generalizing term) populace to the core. If we told them, that is.

    Your writing reminds me of Frank McCourt in Angela’s Ashes. It has a stark realism to it, yet a quality of depth that is always shining through, provoking thought and/or wonderment in the midst of chaos or harsh life realities. Thank you for sharing another well written piece. You inspire many ideas in me 🙂


  9. says:

    I agree with your readers’ that you have depth to your writing. I enjoy it.



  10. Lady E says:

    I think I agree with the sentiment of many commenters: My guess is that the real heart lies in all of our facets, and you just don’t know for what reasons, what past experience justified your guest’s sudden change of manner…


  11. backonmyown says:

    Lots to think about here, Ducks. I think we all wear masks and there’s some degree of “real” in all of them. Thanks for another great post!


  12. –Ducky,

    The Rose. Fish & Chips. The “Real” Heart.

    You bring everything together like a beautiful gift ….. X


  13. eof737 says:

    Maybe she wasn’t sure about your walking her to her car… but then again we all wear different masks at different times in our lives… sure, some are unaware of the masks but there you have it… Interesting post and food for thought. 🙂


  14. nelle says:

    More than likely her guardedness on the walk was due to realised unfamiliarity. We have a certain comfort level around those we know…and tend to act off that when a third person is in the picture.

    One thing I’ve learned along the way, and that is to be me, online or otherwise.


  15. Dawne Webber says:

    “What is real?” I think that’s the question that drives everyone with a passion for writing. Is it possible that reality is different for everyone, or is there only one reality that each of us only gets a glimpse of? Sometimes you bring out the philosopher in me 😉


  16. Texasjune says:

    I have to interject, the woman did the right thing, in my opinion. I will hug a husband friend if his wife is present – and would never do that, regardless of friendship, if she was not. I think it’s more a matter of appropriate behavior. I respect the space of other people – therefore, find it appropriate to adjust to their sensibilities. If I meet someone without that capability in a group setting, I worry they will either embarrass themselves or another guest.


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