Because (my old English teacher would go berserk at me for starting a sentence with ‘because’, but he died seven years ago so I’m going to risk it) I am a happy kind of soul who thinks it is simply good manners to talk to others, I have a habit of making conversation with anyone who is unfortunate enough to run into my path.
Mrs Canavan tells me off for it all the time. She complains we can’t go anywhere without me stopping to converse with others.
Disappointingly, however, I often find that the people to whom I speak don’t seem as keen about having a chat as I do and instead view me as some kind of – how can I put this? – deranged nutter.
For instance, I was out for a jog the other day near Fairhaven Lake and saw a woman running towards me with what were obviously her three young children.
“Congratulations,” I remarked cheerily as I passed, “on teaching your kids the importance of fresh air and exercise instead of allowing them to sit inside playing computer games.”
This was clearly a compliment, yet she was clearly alarmed, veered away sharply while grabbing protectively at the hands of her children, and looked at me as if I, if not on day release from Broadmoor, then at the very least had previously spent a lengthy spell inside there.
The problem is that people in general don’t like talking to strangers these days, especially the young, who – at the risk of being accused of wearing a large pair of rose-tinted spectacles – are different from previous generations in that they don’t talk much full-stop, their idea of a conversation to message each other on social media.
Anyway, getting back to the point at hand, my fondness for reviving the old-fashioned art of conversation and kindness happened again this week when Mrs Canavan and I were walking at Nicky Nook, near Garstang.
I was well ahead of Mrs C, a not unusual occurrence as she stops every two minutes to either send a text, take a picture of a wildflower, or complain loudly that her feet are sore and why the hell did we have to come on this walk anyway?
A young lad appeared ahead on the path and I noticed he was wearing a Fylde rugby club top. “Hello there little’un,” I said as we met. “Are you from Lytham?”
He looked a little scared, so I tried a bit harder.
“Support Fylde do you? Good team aren’t they? I sometimes go there myself. Do you?”
His parents then rounded the corner and saw a bearded, middle-aged man in shorts and an ill-fitting fleece talking to their son.
“Daniel,” the mother cried, a hint of panic in her voice, “can you come here a minute please?”, which, roughly translated, meant: “Daniel, move away from that weird stranger who has engaged you in conversation in a secluded area of the countryside; run, child, run for your life.”
Mrs Canavan arrived just in time to see a slightly tearful boy running away from me at speed and asked what I’d been doing. I told her of the exchange.
“You can’t do that,” she said. “Why?” I asked, genuinely confused.
“Because you cannot stop and ask an eight-year-old boy where he lives – it’s the kind of thing that will get you arrested.”
I was about to open my mouth and say ‘don’t be ridiculous’, then reflected on what had happened and realised, with sadness, that she was right.
It’s a slightly sad world we live in really. Maybe I need to keep my mouth shut a bit more and start messaging people on social media instead.
It’s so vital youngsters are taught about war
Not for me a weekend of watching Andy Murray chunner his way to Wimbledon victory or taking in the latest England-free action from the European Championships.
Instead I donned a flat cap and some vaguely old-fashioned looking clothes and spent five hours singing First World War songs in Heaton Park in north Manchester.
It was part of a string of events around the UK to mark 100 years since the Battle of the Somme, when more than a million men lost their lives in four-and-a-half months of, arguably, utterly futile fighting.
I do a bit of singing around the Fylde coast and was contacted by the organisers – who I can only assume were getting desperate – to perform songs from the era.
This basically meant I wandered around the park – where a big exhibition had been set up – singing ‘A Long Way to Tipperary’ approximately 97 times and at the end of the day had a throat so sore that I have been sucking on Halls Soothers ever since.
It was a really worthwhile event though, and great to see so many youngsters there too – it’s imperative they are taught about the horrors suffered back then.