Friday, 17 April 2009

Not waving but drowning......

This afternoon I popped into the office of a colleague to enquire how his week had gone and he turned to me, whilst surveying the mountain of paperwork on his desk and said simply, 'not waving but drowning.' His face held a wry smile and as it turned out all was well, but it did make me think.

How often do we confuse the cheeriness of a wave from those we think we know, friends, colleagues, lovers, with the quiet desperation of one who is slowly, if metaphorically, drowning?

Do we really 'see' the effects, good and bad, that we have on others?

How often do we appear in control when in reality we are drowning ?

Not Waving But Drowning

Stevie Smith (1950)

Nobody heard him, the dead man,

But still he lay moaning:

I was much farther out than you thought

And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking

And now he's dead

It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,

They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always

(Still the dead one lay moaning)

I was much too far out all my life

And not waving but drowning.

Born Florence Margaret Smith in Kingston upon Hull, England, the second daughter of Ethel and Charles Smith, she was christened Florence Margaret, but always called Peggy by the family.

She acquired the name Stevie as a young woman when she was riding in the park with a friend who said that she reminded him of the jockey, Steve Donaghue.

She was educated at Palmers Green High School and North London Collegiate for Girls. She spent the remainder of her life with her aunt, and worked as private secretary to Sir Neville Pearson with Sir George Newnes at Newnes Publishing Company in London from 1923 to 1953. She died of a brain tumour on 7th March 1971.


  1. Is it just me or are suddenly all the blogs about not enough time and going down with the sinking ship, etc.

    How often we get this message to spend more time, to be not so busy we don't notice a friend in dire straits, etc. And we tell ourselves we will change but do we?

  2. Sometimes it's a will and effort to rise from bed and face another day, thinking I'd rather be elsewhere. But then, the grass is always greener.... And this sad truth I found only by living long. Now, the risks I used to take - sheer folly - I look back on and shudder at with mixed delight. These are our parkbench memories, or 'parkbench memoires', if you will. ;~P
    It's good to smile, yes? To get up and say; "I'll not be undertowed." LOL
    So keep on smiling, my friend. And so shall I!

  3. As for Susan Boyle - YES - I had tears; "verklempt," as Streisand would say. But she's no Streisand, but rather a purely untainted local. And isn't she refreshingly lovely? I'm a fan!!

  4. Hello Michael,

    I suppose we should learn to YELL a little too, rather than just waving politely!!

  5. The water's choppy and I'm holding up one finger! :P

  6. Michael, for seven years I worked for the greatest principal in the U.S. I really mean it. One of his finer efforts was reminding not just the faculty, but students, staff, and custodians, that every day we are working with someone who is going through great difficulties: health, finance, emotional. etc.
    You can imagine the positive effect that had on all of us as working family each day. Now that he has been away for nearly two years, I need reminding, just as Jacqui pointed out. Thank you!
    And.. HEY!! WILLOW!!!!!( shouting) I am throwing out the life saver.....what flavor do you want!!???

  7. So true. Sometimes we really have no idea whatsoever how we've affected another intentionally or otherwise.

    What 'is' going on behind the smile, the wave, the words?

    Gives perhaps another level of meaning to the cliche "dont judge a book by its cover"...

    Excellent food for thought...