Sandwiches alone

Nov 26th, 2007 | By | Category: Personal Columns

Standing in a crammed hall of people eating cake and drinking tea, I caught sight of a friend, younger than me, standing alone. Excusing myself from the group I was with, I pushed through the crowd and reached him. His wife and a friend stood a few feet away, with their backs turned, deep in conversation.

“Um, why are you standing by yourself?”



“I can’t eat sandwiches and talk to people”.

Completely baffled, I changed the subject.

How do school kids and workmen and picnickers manage? I thought. I wasn’t about to argue about the mechanics of sandwich eating. It wasn’t something you thought about, you just did it.

He is lovely. He is warm and kind and smiling and cares about his kids and makes people laugh – and he’s eccentric! But if eating sandwiches by oneself is the price of being such a nice bloke, then it’s a tiny price to pay

I don’t think my friend would be an organiser; I don’t think he would be an administrator; I don’t think he would be a manager; I don’t think he would cope with committees. The quirky smile and the bemused look would greet dealing with bureaucracy and hierarchies. To ask him to be a leader would, I think, be like asking him to engage with eating sandwiches and talking to people at the same time.

No matter. He has a perspective on the world very different from mine. If government officials do not behave in a way he thinks is fair and sensible, he ignores them. Let them come to him, he has no intention of going to them.

Eccentrics are wonderful, particularly when they know they are eccentric and don’t care in the slightest. The world needs more of them, eccentrics change the world because they are unreasonable. George Bernard Shaw wrote, “Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world. Unreasonable people attempt to adapt the world to themselves. All progress, therefore, depends on unreasonable people.”

The world has to adapt itself to my friend – and should not attempt to do so if he is eating a sandwich.

Leave Comment