Mr Patterson was sitting in the park on the bench that is nearest to the village hall. It has been a while since I last saw him so I said hello and sat beside him. He was eating what I assumed since it was indeed lunchtime, was his lunch, a bag of chips.
"Hallo Mr Patterson," I said, "how's things with you?
He chomped on a mouthful of chips, chewing rapidly in the way that people do when they don't want to speak with their mouth full. Then he swallowed in that gulping way that people do when they are keen not to leave answering for too long in case they appear rude. Unfortunately his swallow wasn't quite effective enough and as he answered he spat out a mangled chip, which Sadie the German Shepherd was quick to clear up. "UUUhhhhnnkweeeweehheeell," he answered, using the forefinger of his right hand to capture a dribble of saliva from his chin and direct it back into his mouth. He then crumpled the chip bag into a ball and tossed it, without too much effort at marksmanship in the direction of the litter bin at the end of the bench, where it missed it's target and fell onto the grass. Sadie then tore the bag into shreds as she searched for even the tiniest morsel left in the bag. Mr Patterson fished in his jacket pocket and took out a large linen handkerchief with which he wiped his mouth and hands, "I'm well thank you," he finally managed to inform me, and smiled shyly. Shyly because he is a very shy man indeed.
Mr Patterson, who I would think is in his late forties early fifties, lives with his aged parents on a smallholding locally. He is employed by his parents to help on the smallholding, but his main interest in life is engineering. Old engines in particular, which he takes apart and puts back together again.
"Are you working on any old engines just now?" I ask him, by way of getting a conversation going.
"Not at present John," he answers much to my surprise, because Mr Patterson is always working on one engine or another. "To tell the truth," he goes on, "I'm far too busy with my girlfriend these days."
This news is another surprise to me. Mr Patterson has a girlfriend? Mr Patterson has never to my knowledge had a girlfriend before. He has certainly not in all the years I have known him mentioned a girlfriend to me. I am intrigued but decide not to pursue the matter, believing that his having a girlfriend is a private matter and it would be wrong of me to probe too deeply.
However, any curiousity I might have regarding the intensely shy Mr Patterson's girlfriend is quickly satisfied as he proceeds to tell me all about her. He is totally smitten. It's my girlfriend this, and my girlfriend that. She said this, she said that. I actually, rather than being pleased for Mr Patterson begin to feel sorry for him. The more he talks about her, the more obvious it seems to me that he is being totally controlled by her. Poor Mr Patterson he is so in love
Unbelievably it turns out that he hasn't even met the woman. She is someone he talks to on the internet. She comes from one of the Eastern Europe countries. Latvia or Lithuania I think he said. Blimey, I think to myself, if he's already this much under the thumb what's it going to be like when she finally gets to meet him in the flesh?
As we say goodbye I wish him well for the future. I hope he will be happy, I truly do. A thought suddenly occurs to me: I wonder what she calls him? I have known him for twenty something years and I still don't know his first name. I have only ever known him and addressed him as Mr Patterson, because when we first met I told him my name was John and asked what his was, he told me, "I'm Mr Patterson."
He is a very old fashioned man is Mr Patterson. I hope he manages all right in the real world. I hope his engineering skills are up to the job if things break down.