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Byline: ALED BLAKE

IT'S barely 8.30am and I've already got a sinking feeling in my stomach. I'm half an hour's walk away from the office and I've just spotted someone I know 20 yards in front dawdling his way to work.

mindmatters ALEDBLAKE This is going to get awkward. I mean, I like him, I've been known to have a pint with him, sometimes we text, Facebook chat, you know the sort of thing.

It's just it's 8.30am and I suffer with terrible morning anger, it's me versus the world at this time of the day. And I know we walk the same way.

Only a select few (the girlfriend, family and very close friends) can be tolerated right now - having to make small talk will probably induce a coma, it'll be too much for me to take.

It's not the first time this has happened, as the dangers of bumping into colleagues and acquaintances first thing in the morning are worryingly high.

In the past I've used short cuts, virtually sprinting along my route just to avoid having to chat. There's only so far my small talk will take me and it's not a half-hour walk to work first thing in the morning.

I ponder the permutations of catching up with him - I'm walking faster than he is - shall I just yawn in his face to make my point and move on ahead? Probably not, no that would be rude.

Do I cross over and wave from the other side of the street, make some pretend "I'm in a rush" mime if he sees me? No, too much energy.

I decide instead to keep a distance and then take a sharp detour in an effort to get ahead.

The move backfires. He's not at the pelican crossing ahead of me, which means one thing: our paths are going to meet when he comes to cross the road.

I suffer And there he is. He's still not seen me so I keep my head down and stoop into a handily-placed corner shop before taking with an age to choose a packet of chewing gums. morning anger.

"This is nice," I say to the shopkeeper, sucking my teeth and not seeing the irony in having no trouble making small talk with a complete stranger. Only a select few He looks at me with disdain, he must know what I'm up to.

can be I take my sweets and wait at the counter looking at the shopkeeper for a few seconds saying nothing. tolerated - making. He looks back at me. I turn away and inspect some wilting coriander in a vegetable rack. "Hmm," I say.

small talk I look back over to the shopkeeper, he shakes his head. It's time to leave. could induce a My pal's now well ahead of me, in fact, he's had some kind of second wind and is making huge strides towards his destination.

coma Ten minutes later I'm at my desk, a little late, but nobody's noticed.

I make a cup of tea. A colleague wanders over for a chat.

"Good morning!" I beam. "How's it going today?" Finally, I'm ready for it. Let the small talk begin.

email: aled.blake@mediawales.co.uk
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jan 29, 2011
Words:540
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