I know I shouldn’t talk to strangers, but I can’t help it. Life’s more fun when I do. I do a 3 hour round trip commute each day and frankly, the journey’s always that much more interesting when I’ve got someone to chat to.
There’s a whole world out there and chatting to others opens my eyes to all the interesting stuff that other people do. Granted this comes with the risk of chatting to someone with a far more glamorous lifestyle than my own (I’d need to be feeling super positive about life on the day I meet a newsreader, a pilot or an international diplomat) but I’m certain that talking to others is a good thing to do. Unless they’re asleep of course.
Weekend sailors seem to be the current norm for me. Men catching the 18.05 from Waterloo down to the Hampshire or Dorset coast for a weekend out of the city. The tell tale sign is the “Yachting World” magazine, or, like my commuting companion last Friday night, his little book of knots and other nautical stuff.
Talking to strangers on the train is one thing, but talking to strangers on an isolated part of the coast as the sun sets is something else.
Still, that’s what I found myself doing on a beautiful Saturday afternoon at Hurst Castle recently. I’d spent 3 hours exploring the pebble spit from Keyhaven to Hurst Castle and filling a sizeable memory card with photos of The Needles, Hurst Point Lighthouse and boats moored in the harbour.
On my return to the car, I was greeted by Richard, a white-haired chap with a compact camera, marching towards the castle. Informing me it was the lowest tide of the year, and that there was a sight not to be missed ‘just behind the castle’, I politely declined his company. “My mummy said not to talk to strangers” I said. Except I didn’t actually say that.
“Are you mad?” He said. Except he didn’t actually say that. That’s just what his face said. “But it’s the lowest tide of the year”, he implored, and so, in a bid to challenge my moderate sense of adventure and see this natural phenomenon, I found myself climbing over railings, jumping down groyns and listening to his tales of seafaring daring-do. Turned out he’d lived in the area all his life, was a skilled sailor, had won numerous races and was a fantastic teacher of all things tides, rocks and local knowledge.
What he was most keen to show me was a gravel outcrop, known locally as ‘The Trap’, for obvious reasons, as many unsuspecting – or foolish – yachtsmen had succumbed to the (usually) invisible rocky hazard.
Seeing The Trap so exposed had Richard grinning like a child on Christmas morning. In all his years he’d never actually seen it (apparently the water level often reaches the castle walls – the castle is to the left – and UP – of this image), so he was thrilled to have someone there to get photographic evidence of him on the shingle.
We walked back along the pebble beach as the sun set, bathing the Hampshire and Dorset coast in a beautiful warm orange glow. Another photo opportunity.
It’s a shame we have to be so cautious of others, as sometimes, it’s good to talk to strangers. There’s a whole world out there.