In 1834 an antisocial but intrepid Englishman named Alexander Kinglake travelled east and embarked on an eight-day slog across the Sinai Desert with a small entourage of English servants and Bedouin guides. For several days Kinglake and his party made their way through sand dunes and wadis without meeting a soul. Then one day they noticed a shimmering speck on the horizon. Three camels were approaching , two of them with riders. Eventually he identified an English gentleman in a shooting jacket, accompanied by his servants. As they approached Kinglake realised he felt shy and indolent and had no wish to “stop and talk like a morning visitor” in the midst of those broad solitudes. His compatriot clearly felt similarly. So they just touched their hats and carried on as if they had passed in Bond St.
Joe Moran, Shrinking Violets, A Field Guide To Shyness
Ah, the English!
Whether you’re shy or loathsomely pushy, you’ll enjoy this field guide. Did you know Cicero was shy? He was, as Joe Moran calls it, “of the violet persuasion”, along with Charles Darwin, Agatha Christie, Tove Jansson, George Best, Alan Turing, Emily Dickinson, Dirk Bogarde, Anna Massey, and the fifth Duke of Portland in Victorian times. He so much hated meeting anyone that he spent most of his time in a series of tunnels he constructed under Wellbeck Abbey. One of them led to the railway station, where he had his own carriage with covered windows so he could go to London without any human contact.
Gert’s rather a shrinking violet herself, and her budget doesn’t run to tunnels and personal railway carriages. But at least she’ll have something to talk about next time she ventures into society.