For anyone who is still confused, I returned home from my holiday over two months ago. The present tense of this narrative is not supposed to imply that it takes place in the present time.
I have met several social anxiety sufferers over the years since discovering the disorder. Some are extremely quiet and reserved. Others are warm and bubbly; you wouldn’t know the problems that hide below the surface. P is somewhere in between. I meet him for the first time in his home town of Southampton and we spend most of the day together. He apologises for himself and for the town (which I’ve never visited before), but really he has nothing to apologise for and I enjoy my day out.
We visit an art gallery, which includes pictures of famous writers, and we walk along the remaining walls of the city. The walls are not quite as impressive as those of Jerusalem, or of Chester which I visited once, but, knowing nothing about the history of Southampton, I’m interested to see a little of it. We even spot the mayor of Southampton, by chance, talking in a shopping centre.
P is the only person I meet on my trip who thinks – or owns up to thinking – that I have a foreign accent. Crikey! I know I’ve been out of the country for a long time, but still….