On the road across to White Waltham from the A4 today I said ‘good morning’ to another cyclist, a chap younger than me, I would guess West Indian in origin. He said something similar back and his voice really struck me.

I mention his descendants solely because there was something about the tone or timbre of his voice or perhaps even just his accent – I’m not sure – which if you’d heard him without seeing him would almost certainly suggest West Indian. There was a quality there that’s somehow distinct. That’s no more remarkable than being able to recognise any other accent. Secondly though, over and above that, there was a richness to his voice that – to my ears at least – was outstanding because of the way it sounded in conjunction with that ‘West Indian-ness’.

Basically, my unreasoned thought was that if he wasn’t doing so already he should be looking to work using his voice somehow; it sounded like a gift that ought to be used.

That in turn set me thinking about gifts. I can ride a bike better than some because of my basic, underlying physical shape and strengths. Others can ride far better than me, everything else aside, because they have better physical basics. And so on. There are any number of aspects to a person that you can say are natural gifts: natural singers, runners, writers, artists or whatever.

Let’s leave aside the natural curses; let’s leave aside the work that can be done to develop gifts and to overcome curses.

What I couldn’t decide was whether the thought that he ‘ought’ to use the gift of his voice was valid or stupid. ‘Ought to’ in the light of what exactly? Of course, the same goes for every other natural ‘gift’ that anyone has. It’s something of a commonplace that someone should use their gifts but there’s no justification given … And of course, perhaps a gift can become a curse if you’re not happy with it.

I don’t know where that commonplace comes from; what its basis is and whether it should be questioned. I don’t know what the final tally would be if you could tot up everyone who felt blessed by their natural abilities in one column, everyone who’s struggled with them or because of them in another.