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The wandering life

Having a permanent address in a small village means that old friends always know where to find you. Facebook is not necessary. Yesterday someone showed up on our doorstep who we had literally not heard from since he stayed with us in 1989.  At the time he was with us for several months. This time he plans to stay until January.

C., now 78, spent most of his life on the road. His journeys took him to every continent. He would plan his year around the seasons of grape picking or hop picking, earning just enough at one temporary job or another to enable him to move to the next destination.

Nowadays he lives alone in a flat in northern England; grows his own vegetables, buys his clothes from charities and his books from used bookshops; doesn't own a telephone, a TV, or a computer;  doesn't bother with heating. A modest pension and government rent-subsidy permit him to live in luxury. And, although he claims to have given up travel, he still gets away three or four times a year, mostly to continental Europe.

It takes a certain quality of character to live like C. He isn't easy-going, but abides by strict principles. He is disturbed by things that normal people don't even notice. When he was here last time, distant traffic sounds from the highway four kilometers away disturbed his sleep.  He's uppity and easily distressed. He talks to every stranger, makes friends easily, but retains an aloofness. He lives like a vagabond, but exudes the aura of a man of culture and old-world values.

At 78, he's a little thicker around the waste, and just slightly stooped. But overall, the years have been kind to him. He continues to exercise three times a day: a regimen that includes eye exercises to preserve his vision. He goes for long walks; eats well, but still has that fondness for wine.

Someday he'll settle down permanently, beguiling younger people with tales of his adventures. Or perhaps he will slip a ring on his finger for one last time, and vanish.