I have just been tended to by a tree surgeon. Yes, me, not our olives.
It was a significant relief, a comprehensive sensory hour very well-spent (again) up the hill in the village.
Well, I needed it: Sinusitis not woodworm, although there are ample symptoms that I am in the leaf-turn autumn of life.
All friendships sustain me. Then you are weaving your journey when your path crosses with someone whose strides are far and beyond what could be deemed normal. And if they are generous with time and will wait for you, are so open to friendship and unstintingly kind, you wonder what you have done to be so fortunate.
This is a single story of local, summing up my deep gratitude for all people and things local. And in equal measure it is a straight-arm, palm of hand to the stew of noise clogging the world, that dush-dush-dush base beat of news and tosh pumping from all directions, round the clock. If we allow it.
So, to my friend.
Eighteen years ago, within days of we immigrants rolling up in the January with two young children, our glut of enthusiasm and a dearth of knowledge, so many people came to bed us in. My friend was among the first, the local arborist in his little white Citroen van, finding time for us while helping to sustain this valley’s patchwork of farms. He taught us how to prune the vineyard, groves and orchard. He and his wife invited us into their home.
One year on and the snow stayed for a month, freezing to death all greenery on so many of our olives. We were devastated. We thought we had lost them. My friend saved them all. I think of him every time I look across the grove.
Two years on and our three-year-old son was taken critically ill with pneumonia. We had to leave the farmhouse so we could replace the broken, dusty floors. Where could we live for these months? The arborist, his wife and their young daughter gave us space.
Soon after that he told us of his wish to study Chinese medicine and acupuncture. And so he did, for years. He qualified and his care turned from trees to people. That was the pain relief I have been so grateful to receive this week.
But there is more, much more to this story.
About 10 years ago he said he intended to study again. Mainstream medicine this time. He qualified as a doctor in 2015.
I nearly died of pancreatitis four years ago. During my four-week sojourn in intensive care he came to see me almost every morning in the university hospital where he was taking his finals. The psychological significance of that was immeasurable. Then and now he is there for me, for us all.
This is not awe at achievement, however momentous, but a deeper feeling, an appreciation at the weave of local life of which this is yet a modest strand. There are so many more I could tell you about, and should, and will… all just as important in their way.
If pressed on how he saw himself, his worth or wish thereof, I have no doubt my friend would struggle, laugh, then list, quietly – husband, father, son, brother and neighbour, but neither his knowledge nor calling. Which makes him just one among the many, just as he would want it to be.