Tuesday, 19 June 2007

How do you define charisma?

A few nights ago I had a dream concerning a shrink I saw as a teenager. I was fairly hell bent on getting myself out of boarding school, which I hated and became anorexic. Somewhat drastic measures, but I felt the times were desperate. I ended up in hospital, on and off, for years (I've had my money's worth from the NHS) so I got to know this man quite well.

He had a certain manner, this man, that made you feel very comfortable. He didn’t talk a lot but his eyes smiled at you as he listened. You sensed you could trust him. He had endless patience (he needed it with me) and never turned away anyone in genuine need of help. My mother adored him – not just because he was saving her daughter’s life, but because she found him very attractive.

I haven’t thought about this man for years but I Googled him and found that he died a couple of years ago, from cancer, aged 82. There was a picture of him which gave me a real jolt, not just because it brought back a dark knot of memories that I would much rather forget, but because I realised he had Charisma. Reading on, I found that my mother and I weren’t the only ones who thought so. According to his obit, written by his ex-wife, patients, doctors, parents, nurses – everyone adored him. He was called Peter Dally – have a look and see what you think.

So what is it that makes someone attractive? In his case, he’d had polio and his legs were wasted, one in a caliper, and he had a very bad limp. Not the macho bit then. I think it was his compassion. He was prepared to listen. He was gentle yet utterly firm: no one disagreed with his judgement. Well, not to his face. His bright twinkly blue eyes looked at you as if you were the only person that mattered. His mischievous sense of humour caught you unawares. He had no sense of hierarchy and treated student nurses with the same respect as his senior colleagues.

There was a piece on the news recently saying how important Doing Good was for celebrities nowadays. We want to know that people care, not just that they have a good looking face, or a body to drool over. Thinking about all this has made me realise that Dally’s attributes would make a great checklist for characters in any novel (well, the decent ones).

I had several fallouts with Peter Dally. Terrible arguments. How he put up with me for so long I’ll never understand. But the important thing was that he had faith in me, at a time when I had none in myself. And that’s charisma enough for me.


Cornish Dreamer said...

Compassion, perhaps, is the most precious thing that anyone can give, that and patience. It certainly sounds like he was a good man, and that you were lucky he was there to help you when you most needed it.


Akelamalu said...

What makes someone attractive? Charisma definitely - but how to define it! Thanks for dropping by my blog. :)

Flowerpot said...

Yes, RT, I was lucky. And thanks, akelamalu, for dropping by - visit me again!

Elaine Denning said...

We meet very few people in our lives who have that kind of effect on us. I'm sure you'll always hold him in your memory.

Flowerpot said...

Yes I will hold him in my memory. I'd like to be able to write to him and say, 'I don't expect you remember me, but I'm OK now.' Shame it's too late.