Let's all go mad and do the Barry bus stop boogie.
WATCHING the world go by from my window at Barry Library, I was entranced by a man standing at the bus stop in the rain.
Standing is inaccurate. He was fidgeting. No, that's not right either.
He was engaged in a periodic dance, a jig which saw him skip from the bus stop to the door of the library and back again, then shimmy to the pavement's edge, turn, and boogie back to the bus stop.
He would stand for a minute and then repeat the performance. It was so precise that I wondered if he might be in training for some routine on Strictly Come Dancing.
But occasionally there was a fascinating variation. At the pavement's edge he would gaze up at the leaden skies, smile, nod and then essay a movement which suggested that he was a shot putter throwing an imaginary shot into the road.
I looked to the weeping skies to catch a glimpse of what he had seen. It was dark and I comprehended it not.
It reminded me of the times I sat at my father's bedside as he lay dying. As the end approached he couldn't speak. Every so often he would open his eyes, gaze in wonder at the ceiling and then reach out with his hand in a movement similar to my bus stop man.
It sent me to Emily Dickinson, who is often so eloquent about death: "I've seen a dying eye Run round and round a room In search of something, as it seemed, Then cloudier become; And then, obscure with fog, And then be soldered down, Without disclosing what it be T'were blessed to have seen."
The man eventually hopped onto a bus and I took advantage of a break in the rain to return home.
Barely had I opened the front door when the phone rang. It was my friend who sees ghosts. Benign ghosts.
She is currently staying at an independent hospital which shares its name with one of nature's most graceful birds. The place in Hertfordshire "provides a comprehensive and effective recovery-focused pathway for men and women".
She was ringing to wish me a happy new year. As usual, she thanked me for helping her and told me once again that my place in heaven was assured.
Actually, I haven't been that much help to her.
She has been a tortured soul who is now on a "recovery-focused pathway" to hard-fought happiness. My meagre contribution has been to provide an occasional sympathetic ear.
Nevertheless, she maintains that I've been an inspiration to her.
Once, having read several of my musings online (including some where the ghosts of writers I've admired have joined me in my compact and bijou office), she rang to say: "You're madder than me."
Yet next year she says she will be writing for a newspaper produced at the hospital as part of her journey on her "recovery-focused pathway".
I've asked her to send me some of her work and maybe I'll share it with you.
Perhaps it was a product of the single malt whisky I've been enjoying over the festive period, but bus stop dancing man and my friend - and even my late father and me - set me thinking about reality, perceptions and dreams.
Heady stuff for this gloomy time of year.
As we start out on another year, many people will, I fear, be in a state of quiet desperation, looking out across a seemingly endless vista of economic struggle punctuated, perhaps, by a cheap two-week "staycation" where even the promise of sunshine is likely to be broken in this sodden land.
Surely we should begin to view things differently and look to the leaden skies for inspiration, do the Barry bus stop boogie, cast aside our money-fed demons and listen instead to the benign ghosts of out imaginations.
It would be fascinating to fathom what people like bus stop dancing man, my friend and my father were blessed to have seen.
Before being distracted by dancing bus stop man, I'd been reading a biography of James Joyce who, more than most, was aware of the fluidity of human identity and the unreliability of perceived reality.
Was the writer of Ulysses and Finnegan's Wake a genius, or just mad? Returning to the library, I saw a man standing at the bus stop in the rain.
It wasn't him. Nevertheless, I approached and made an attempt at conversation.
Looking along the near-deserted road, I said: "Earwicker. Here Comes Everybody," referencing James Joyce.
The man, who didn't look like the dancing type or someone who would readily appreciate Joyce's more ambitious literary efforts, looked at me quizzically. As if I were mad.
We should look to the leaden skies for inspiration in 2013, says Peter