There is a shop in the harbour that sells fudge, particularly excellent fudge. I may have partaken on the odd occasion. They concoct this ambrosial sweetmeat in front of your drooling lips, large copper vats are stirred over an open flame emitting devilish aromas which drift into the street, enticing the hardest hearts down into their lair. For those not wooed by scent, behind a picture window you can watch as they work the sugary goo on a marble slab, tempting more prey into the web from which you can never escape, at least without a bag of clotted cream flavoured or perhaps, for those with their fingers on the pulse, chilli and kale.
Yesterday we stood and watched for a while, joining a young lad and an older lady who I imagined was his grandmother.”Hello” I said to the boy “what is going on in there?” ” Without turning her face in my direction the lady said “You mustn’t talk to strangers” and yanked him away.
This has stayed with me. It made me frown. I really don’t need any more wrinkles.
I was offended, possibly wrongly so. She meant the best for the child. But I worry for us, for our culture, to live in a world where it is wrong to speak to people that we don’t yet know. Young, old, middling, our lives are enhanced by others. The ones that we happen by, those that are foist upon us or that we seek out.
We have a family joke, between myself and my mum anyway. When getting on public transport we say “Make sure you don’t speak to any strangers”. Then we laugh as we know it is inevitable, mandatory, to make new friends, to learn about others and perhaps become better people for it.
And not to frown.