When I was very much younger my Mum cautioned me against talking to strangers. I’m sure your Mum probably said something similar. But who are these strangers? To be honest, Mum didn’t give me much clarification at the time or since. I’m sure her intention was to keep me safe. But statistics show that most people are either harmed or killed by people they know ie not strangers. There are few really random acts of violence.
To be honest, I never much heeded her words and have spent most of my life talking to people I didn’t or don’t know. In fact I’m happy to strike up a conversation with pretty much anyone. The first instance I can recall was on a summer vacation to the Isle of Wight when I would have been around 18 months’ old. My parents (as a joke) deposited me in a large waste paper bin and walked round the corner. The joke was on them as I was rescued by a couple staying in the same hotel who heeded my cries for help. Just imagine the shocked looks on my parents faces when they returned seconds later to find me gone! Or maybe they were relieved. In any event, we were shortly reunited.
While I was at primary school, Wednesday afternoons (and Saturday mornings) I attended ballet classes. My mother was hoping (in vain) to make me lighter on my feet. As a reward for my pirouettes my parents used to take me for afternoon tea at The Queen’s Hotel, later demolished to make way for New Street Station. Most of the hotel’s other guests were regulars, ladies and gentlemen of a certain age, often on their own. Once I’d been into the kitchens to see chef, and select my cakes, I would do the rounds of the hotel lounge. No one was safe. I would stroll up, bold as brass, and seat myself comfortably on a facing chair or sofa before smiling and then disarming them with my skilful interrogation techniques. No pliers or bright lights required. Once I had the facts at my disposal, they were filed away ready to be revisited the following week when I dropped by for an update. Early and very useful training for my future career as an auditor.
Now that I think about it, I’ve spent most of my life chatting to strangers and not come to any harm. Nowadays, when I’m out riding, I regularly strike up conversations with people I don’t know. I may not know their names, but they’re not strangers. We’re all part and parcel of the brother and sisterhood of cyclists.
About a year ago, I started chatting with someone who shared my interests: football and cycling. We regularly dropped by one another’s blogs and left comments. I knew his name, where he lived, the names of his family and his email address, but that was it. We were to all intents and purposes strangers. A few months ago he made me and two other strangers a proposal we just couldn’t refuse. He suggested we pooled our efforts to write a cycling blog. It launched at the start of this year, has been well received and it’s been such a blast. Mosey over to www.velovoices.com and check it out. While I was in the UK last week, I took the opportunity to meet up with two of the threesome and found we weren’t strangers at all, just long lost brothers and sisters in arms.