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There’s always a silver lining...

Comment
Mike Gaunt


I’m a fairly upbeat sort of chap, really. Some people call me positive. They’re right. I do tend to see the silver lining in a cloud. What about you? Are you a glass half full, or a glass half empty person?

Recently, this was pointed out to me in a conversation I was enjoying in our local hostelry with a couple (husband and wife, as it turned out) who were passing through our sleepy little area of mid-Portugal.

I had popped in with ‘she who must be obeyed’ as we were passing on the way home.

We had just settled down, with a ruby carafe, when a couple slid into the seats opposite us. ‘You’re English’, the chap said to us.

I affirmed that this was the case and inquired as to their reasons for being there, as we didn’t recognise them. It turned out that they were trundling southwards in their motorhome and had decided to stop overnight in the car park.

We had seen a sleek, modern Winnebago-type vehicle occupying several car-parking spaces and this was theirs, it appeared.

They were lamenting the sorry state of the land, with so much devastation evident. I mentioned that there may be a shortage of olive oil this year – possibly for a couple of years – as so many trees had been lost.

All of the dead wood was being felled and firebreaks are now being cleared so this doesn’t happen again. Then I shrugged and went on to point out that at least people would have enough firewood to keep warm next winter. This is when I was accused of being absurdly positive.

His argument went something like this: It’s dreadful; so much damage; horrible black land; everyone must wail and gnash their teeth, beat themselves about the head and prostrate themselves. He was a real shaft of sunlight, I have to say!

I asked if he had been here, or had suffered during some sort of natural disaster; a flood, perhaps, or an earthquake, elsewhere, but no, he hadn’t. I formed the opinion that he was simply a doom-monger.

I allowed ‘she who must be obeyed’ to describe the events of that night. We then discussed how so many were worse off than we are. We went on to explain that there had, indeed, been a time of reflection, of ‘what are we going to do?’, but then we rapidly progressed to the stoic, ‘get on with things’ and ‘make the best of a bad job’ stage. They were both a little sceptical and quite dismissive. It’s about survival, for me, at any rate, I said. If all you do is weep over what has happened yesterday, you run the risk of not enjoying today and tomorrow. 

Sadly, they didn’t ‘get it’. They were determined to be miserable.

We wished them well, nodded at some other people nearby, and made our way to another table, where we could spend time with more cheerful, upbeat, positive people. They were still alone as we left, an hour or so later.

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