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We rarely realise the colour gentle people bring to our lives until it's too late; DORINDA MCANN.

SOMETIMES I despair at the nameless, faceless bureaucracy and sheer inflexibility of big companies in this country. Take, for example, this story of my neighbours' electricity supplier: A father and his adult son who live in my street are hapless souls who would find it extremely difficult to handle the procedure you have to go through in order to talk to a human being -- let's face it, don't we all?

The son came to my door on Friday afternoon in a panic. They have a token meter for their electricity, but the meter wasn't accepting the tokens. I went to the house and tried them for myself but there is obviously a fault in the equipment. I rang the supplier and went through a long rigmarole trying to explain the situation, and eventually was told that they would be out within 24 hours.

They didn't come. The pair spent the weekend worrying about running out even though I explained that with pounds 10 in the meter they had nothing to worry about. I was back on the phone on Monday morning for 25 minutes explaining the situation to someone else and, as helpful as she was, her supervisors were totally unswayable in their decision that they would not come out until the meter showed just 50p.

I tried to explain that if they were worried about having pounds 10 left, they would be frantic at the sight of the credit going down so low. But I was told that unless they had a physical disability that required a machine driven by electricity, there was nothing they could do.

I was chewing the mat with frustration that these people could be so unfeeling and uncaring. Thank you very much your for your compassion towards your fellow man, I thought -- particularly the less fortunate ones who have enough problems just going about their daily business.

I took my frustration out on the garden, pulling out weeds here and chopping off dead heads there until I reached the pond where I stopped, lit a cigarette and, leaning on my spade, looked into the glorified puddle that has given me so much pleasure over the years.

The resident toad had his head sticking out of the duck weed. He looked at me, then closed one amber eye -- he and his Mrs have lived here for years and are perfectly at ease in my company. I sat on the stones that border his home and, as I do, reflected on life.

My beloved and I attended a funeral recently of a man called Ray. We saw him and his wife Angela infrequently, but we knew them well and it was a very sad occasion made worse by the fact that he was only my age.

As we left the churchyard another couple came up to speak to us. Eileen and Norman are also people we have known for many years, and they, like Ray and Angela, are a couple who go through life in a gentle, unobtrusive way. Sometimes we forget just how much people mean to us; we're all so busy getting on with our own lives.

Ray was a family man and he and Angela had been together since they were youngsters. Everyone liked him, he was just one of those people. I never heard anyone say anything bad about Ray -- and in Conwy that's quite an accolade.

As I cut down the dozens of dead heads on the climbing rose, I realised that I hadn't even noticed most of the blooms -- and now they were gone. It crossed my mind that roses have much in common with people. Some never get a chance to reach their full potential because they have the light stolen by others, some die as perfect buds for no apparent reason, and some die of disease.

Most go unnoticed, they just bloom and make the world a more pleasant place. Only when the blooms have gone do we realise that the world seems a little duller. And so it is with gentle people, we rarely realise the colour they bring to our lives until it's too late. And unlike roses, we only get one chance to appreciate the quiet joy they bring.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jul 24, 2004
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