Sunday, June 14, 2009

Defining Moments: "I'm a grown up now"

We can all remember, with a little gentle coaxing, one of the first times as a child that we felt like we were growing up.

The first one that springs to mind for me was the first time I ever crossed the main road alone. It was a route I'd travelled many times with my mother. And now she was trusting me to go alone. She trusted that I wouldn't end up like a lot of the hedgehogs, foxes and badgers did: squashed and very dead.

Not only did she trust that I would cross the road safely, she was trusting herself; that she had taught me well how to recognise when it was safe to cross the road.

She had taught me not to talk to strangers, accept sweets from them, or go and see puppies with them.

At last, I was an adult. At nine years old. I could cross the road on my own and mum trusted me with that, and all that stuff about strangers.

That stuff with strangers, you know, it changes as we get older. I realised this one night a few years ago.


I was sat in a pub when I struck up a conversation with this bloke who had a Marshall Amplification t-shirt on. Figuring he was a guitar player, or a fan of guitars at least, I kicked things off by asking him who the greatest player of all time was.

Unusually, he had the right answer. And I liked that. The answer? "You can't say that there is just one great player. That would be a load of bollocks. There are a lot of players who you could say are a lot better than average bedroom noodler."

Straight away, we were into a friendly, but not serious, conversation about music, which bands did it for us, who shouldn't have died from an OD, and all that other stuff.

Before I knew it we were buying each other beers and chain smoking and he said there was this great band on at a club tonight and that we should go.

It was at that point that I made a quick assessment as to whether I was going to end up dead in a basement after being violently sexually assaulted. It seems sensible to me, to make this kind of assessment, given how much my mum told me about strangers as a kid. And I decided I was okay.

After a quick phone call to say I would be out late (or early depending on how you look at it) we headed for the club. I'd already broken the first two rules: I had spoken to a stranger, accepted the sweets. And now I was breaking the third: I was going to see the puppies.

Turned out it was a good night and a good band. But what it got me thinking is this: At what point does it go from being unsafe to talk to strangers, take stuff from them, and go to a place where you normally would go with them, to being perfectly safe?

When does that happen?