I looked across and over the fantastic vista spread out below me. Sunny landscape, trees, fields and villages. Standing at the top of a telegraph pole is the best way on earth of seeing the world and its beauty, and I was thoroughly enjoying my new job.
I thought back to my interview a few weeks ago, with my new boss, Gordon.
“Yeah, we all love it,” said Gordon, a jolly, rotund man with a shock of red hair and an eternal smile. “Trouble is that all the electrical engineers I’ve ever known are warm friendly types, and this job can be a bit lonely,” he explained. “We’re travelling alone in our vans all across the county, then climbing up and fixing problems, always on our own. Funnily enough though, most of us seem to have found new hobbies. For instance, Jimmy loves wildlife photography, and he uses a telephoto lens to get amazing shots of birds and squirrels and beavers, you name it, he’s won awards for his shots. And Dave has taken up landscape painting – some of his paintings are on the wall here in the office, we think they’re splendid. There’s something about seeing the beautiful landscape from so high up that inspires us to be creative. Me? I used to listen to nothing but rock music and country, whereas now I listen all the time to operas and classical concerts, I just can’t get enough of that lovely music.” He leaned closer, his smile got even wider. “I’ve got a feeling you’re going to fit in with our team, John. We all chat to each other on the phone of course, and we meet up here at the office on Friday afternoons and put the world to rights. . .”
And sure enough, when I met the other members of the ‘poleman’ team, they turned out to be great company, just as nice as Gordon. I was enjoying my new job.
But, as Gordon had warned me, it was pretty lonely all day, just driving the van and climbing up poles and solving the problems for householders when they suddenly lost electricity, rendering roads and even entire villages without even a streetlight in the dead of night. But while driving along and during my breaks, I admit that it was dull, it really was. The radio soon got boring, and I’m no great reader.
However, as it turned out, I didn’t need to go searching for things to pass the time.
Because my new hobby found me.
It happened one late afternoon. Twilight was approaching, and I’d just completed a complicated wiring job. I was gazing down at the glorious vista of the town of Burwash, largely views of rooftops and roads, with the lights twinkling that lovely cosy night-time yellow in the house windows.
Then, suddenly, I saw one of the rooftops looked different to the others. Kind of glowing. And I felt myself go into a trance, felt the tug of the safety harness as my body went slack.
Suddenly there I was, inside a house. In a living room.
I was sitting on a sofa next to a middle-aged lady, who was crying her eyes out. All around was the aroma of perfume and spilt whisky, and there was an empty whisky bottle on the table in front of her, also several little boxes of pills.
I put my hand on her arm and I suddenly felt the tidal wave of her misery and pain wash over me. The image in her mind’s eye transferred itself to me, and I could see her with a handsome man, who pushed her aside and walked away, as she pleaded with him to stay, but he left and slammed the door.
And, as with a trembling hand, she tipped the contents of a pill bottle into her palm, I knew I simply had to will the words He’s coming back to her again and again. As she was on the point of taking the pills, her tears stopped and she turned to look at me, but, of course, I knew I was invisible. However there was the trace of a smile on her lips as she somehow heard what I said to her and let her hand fall to the table, allowing the pills to scatter on the floor. I don’t know how much later it was that we sat like that. But finally the door behind me opened and the man I’d just seen in my head came in, apologising, taking her in his arms.
The second time it happened was equally harrowing. It was daytime, and below me was a large cemetery, and, as before, right out of the blue while I was still high up fastened to the pole, I arrived beside a man who was seated on a bench, staring at a grave that was covered with flowers, but had no headstone, clearly that of someone recently deceased. The man was weeping, shaking his head in misery. Just as before I managed to get beside him, and put a hand on his arm. This time I knew just what the right words to say were, because I was aware of someone else nearby. A woman.
“She’s still with you,” I whispered over and over in his ear. “She’s still with you.”
He looked around, shocked, wondering where the words had come from, but you could tell he was aware that something was different. There was suddenly peace in eyes that had been alive with misery a second before. “And you’re not alone.” I added.
It happened again next day. A pole just outside Wattiscombe, a large town near the sea, where a huge swathe had been in darkness until I’d done my stuff and to my relief I saw the lights of part of the town suddenly snap alive, as if by magic.
This time the glowing roof was that of a huge complex of buildings. I fetched up in a room in a hospital. A young woman was in bed, attached to wires and tubes. Her family were all sitting around, sunk in gloom. I sat between the older man and woman, and sensed the woman was the most likely to feel something, so I put my hand on her arm and whispered:
“She’ll be okay. I promise she’s going to be okay.”
Just as before I didn’t know what prompted me to say those words.
Because you see, It wasn’t me saying them.
It was just like my work, making electrical connections, only this time I was part of the circuit. Someone else was delivering something to the people in torment, and they were working through me, I was just the conduit, the cable, that linked the person to that higher power, whatever it might be.
At our next Friday afternoon get-together, me and my new pals were eating cakes and drinking tea and discussing the hobby we all had in common, football.
“I want a private word with you, John,” Gordon said to me while the others were occupied. “I want to tell you that you’ve done well this month. I really hope you’ll stay with us.”
“I’ve enjoyed it very much,” I replied. “I’d love to stay.”
“Not getting too lonely?”
“And what I was telling you about a hobby being a bit of company when you get fed up on your own. Have you discovered anything new to pass the time?”
“I’m working on it.”