IT was not the most original, insightful comment – nor, in the circumstances, the most unexpected. But in those circumstances it had a certain undeniable aptness.
The man rose from his riverside bench, saw me with my camera and my dog, and said: “Makes the troubles of the world seem a million miles away, doesn’t it?”
I don’t know exactly which troubles he had in mind.
It might have been the so-called War on Terror, the threat of a renewed Cold War, the real wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the war of words between senators McCain and Obama.
It might have been global warming, the plight of penguins and polar bears, the catastrophic decline in bees (which could lead to a catastrophic decline in us).
It might have been the prospect of renewed investment in nuclear power in Korea, Iran and Suffolk.
All of these potential terrors nag constantly at the back of my mind, as regular readers will know.
But given his striped suit and the headline news of the day, I’d say it was probably the turmoil in the money markets and threatened collapse of the world banking system he had in mind. Which is sure to have consequences both predicted and unforeseen, which may or may not be dire.
But all of those things seemed, if not literally a million miles away, then pretty remote on a glorious morning by the Deben.
From that bench he may have been watching a cormorant diving for fish and guessing whereabouts on the water’s surface it would next appear. (A few days earlier he could have played the same guessing-game in the same place, as I did, with a full-grown seal as the subject.)
He may have been watching a pair of black-tailed godwit strutting along the water’s edge, their long bills probing in the shallows. Or listening to the haunting, bubbling call of a flying curlew. He may just have spotted a kingfisher – first an almost inexplicable pulse of red, then the more familiar departing streak of brilliant blue.
He undoubtedly watched the sunlight striking through the mist on a small boat as it manoeuvred, tan sails rippling in the breeze, before the back-drop of Woodbridge’s picturesque tidemill.
He will have seen the wind in the willows tug at the turning leaves. He may, if he was observant, have spotted tiny rainbows caught in the dewy cobwebs hung on the gorse bushes.
And he may have thought, as I did, that it’s not a bad old world really. One well worth preserving from its troubles.