To Be A Stranger

Riding through Goring and Streatley today, there were numerous tourists about – and I found myself envying them. I ride through there, and around that region, any number of times in a year. I know it’s ‘nice’ but I can’t get overly enthusiastic about it. These people, presumably visiting the once and seemingly enjoying themselves, could see it all afresh.

No matter how hard anyone tries, it surely is impossible to recreate all that comes with seeing something for the first time. Familiarity doesn’t need to breed contempt and there are rewards to be had from getting to know a place well, but the ability to observe and appreciate that comes with having a stranger’s eyes seems to be to be unique.

Not long ago I had a meal in a Thai restaurant in Crowmarsh Gifford and ended up chatting to a family staying at the campsite by the river there, who’d come up from Rye. This wasn’t the first year they’d used Wallingford as a base to explore the region and they couldn’t have been more enthusiastic. With perfect symmetry, I’ve not long ago had a nigh-on perfect holiday in the Camber and Rye area. Obviously, I can envisage going there; I initially struggled to see why someone from there would want to come here.

Wherever we live, from sink estate to stunning coastline, I suspect we’d all gain if we could all see our worlds through a stranger’s eyes. We need to be able to turn it on; go through some kind of mental process to give us a different mindset to better see good and bad aspects of day-to-day quality of life.

More practically, perhaps a useful job of the horde of ‘twinning committees’ that seem to have spread like a virus throughout the land should be to enlist visitors from the twinned partner to write a commentary on what they’re seeing . Perhaps membership of the committee should be contingent on good descriptive powers.