A truly lovely thing happened today.
A delivery arrived. The dogs barked and I poked my head out of the door to see the van. I was all ready to go through the pantomime of gesturing about social distancing and what the driver wanted me to do. I’ve only had one delivery since this whole thing started, and that affair was rather sinister and paranoid. So I braced myself, afraid of putting a foot wrong.
But this gentleman marched towards me with a big smile on his face. ‘I’ll just put them here,’ he said, stopping and laying the packages down, a respectable twelve feet away. Then he gazed up at the sky and made a sweeping arc with his arm. ‘I am so happy,’ he said. ‘I have a new route.’
I was slightly confused.
‘This is my favourite route,’ he said. He told me that he often drove in the north of the county, but today he got to make the lovely circle along the Dee valley and up towards the Cairngorms.
He threw his head back and gazed again at the sky.
‘And on such a day!’ he said.
The sun was shining like gangbusters and the blueness of the sky was ridiculous. His enthusiasm was so infectious that I started smiling too.
‘I’m so pleased for you,’ I said. ‘It is a very beautiful route.’
‘Beautiful!’ he yelled, almost beside himself.
We beamed at each other for a while. I thanked him and said I hoped he stayed safe.
‘Take care of yourself,’ I said.
He blinked at me. He made a small gesture with his head. He knew what I meant. I think he knew I was thanking him for being one of those people out there in the shut-down world, keeping the wheels turning.
‘I hope I see you again,’ he said, and he walked away to his van, still casting joyful glances up at the azure sky.
He was Polish. Many of the delivery drivers are. A few years ago, I worked in a shop, and there was a Polish joiner working on the exterior, putting up the sign for the new enterprise. A very, very old man walked past. As he heard the accent, he stopped abruptly. He looked up at the boy on the ladder, who could not have been more than twenty, and reached up and grasped his hand.
There were tears in the old gentleman’s eyes. ‘Your lot,’ he said to the young Pole, ‘your lot were the bravest of all of them, in the war.’
I always think of that, when I hear a Polish accent. I think of that lot, who somehow escaped from the invasion of their beloved country and came to Blighty, and got their wings, and fought like tigers in the Battle of Britain. I think of that lot, a lot.