There are some phrases in English which strike terror into my heart. One of them is 'I could tell you some stories!' especially when announced with a somewhat knowing smile. My automatic but silent response is “yes you probably could, but I would really rather you didn't'. Experience tells me that their stories will, in fact, be the complete antithesis of what that phrase implies. These stories will not be funny, entertaining, intriguing, nor, most importantly, short. They will involve tortuous irrelevant details concerning location and personnel which will add nothing to the narrative other than minutes - time which I will never regain.
In all probability, they will be an expression of self-aggrandizement in areas of sexual prowess, physical achievement, financial success or native cunning. One thing is guaranteed and that is by the end you will be silently wearing a 'wedding smile' and wondering whether justifiable homicide would be applicable in a case of this nature.
As Lesley has often pointed out, I can usually find a point of contact with virtually anybody. In a pub in a strange town last week, I found myself in a conversation about mediaeval Metallurgy with a stranger who had a fascination for historical novels. Dredging up some facts from the depths of my mind about the poor quality of medieval English weapons, I was able to facilitate this man talking to us about his passion. The weird thing is that I have little or no interest in that field of knowledge but I am interested in what people are interested in – their passions and their obsessions.
I’m not always that benevolent, though. When living in Italy, I was introduced to a visiting tourist who was described as 'also Welsh' as if this link would guarantee a meeting of minds. I took an instant dislike to him and when he almost immediately launched into a eulogy about some rugby international match, I pointed out my lack of interest in rugby and in sport in general, just to cover all the bases -though my use of a sporting metaphor, in this circumstance, is somewhat ironic. Despite my protestations of disinterest, I suffered the details of this victory until he paused for a sup of beer when I quickly wished him a good holiday and escaped.
I like people who are interesting AND interested. Taking my early morning walk a month or so ago, a morning's greeting to ta total stranger was met with an amazing reply. In the space of about twenty five seconds, this man give me a potted history of the last 20 odd years of his life. This included marriage, parenthood, divorce, career and various commercial ventures both successful and failed. Leaving me quite breathless with this barrage of concentrated information, the précis of his life ended with the phrase 'And what about you?' We talked for another twenty minutes.Yep interesting and interested is what counts.