Encounters of the random kind

I seem to attract odd people, or at least odd situations – there was the woman who whacked me at Oxford Circus, and the incident of the naked women on the toilet with the door open at the gym, to name but two.

In the last couple of weeks there appears to have been a sudden prevalence of these encounters, in fact the three chronicled below all happened in the space of 24 hours. I wonder whether I have some beacon on my head that attracts such things…

1. The tourist photo shoot
In the defence of these total strangers, we were in Hyde Park, there was snow on the ground and the sun was starting to set – all those things combine to produce a near perfect photo opportunity. A man stopped me as I trudged through the snowy fields (deliberately ignoring the dry path – who wouldn’t want to tramp on snow?) and asked in broken English if I’d take a photo of him and his friend. Once I’d realised he wasn’t trying to mug me (ever a typical Londoner) I was happy to, and took a couple. So far, not so weird…

…Then the guy stood next to me and indicated to his friend that he should take a photo of the two of us. I’m wondering if it was the presence of the matching purple ski-jacket/purple wellies combo that attracted him? Anyway, for some reason, two guys are going to be returning from their London jaunt with an odd photo of a purple girl standing in the snow.

2. The French school boys
Firstly, this took place less than half an hour after the photo-shoot. Secondly, it also involved tourists (the bane of the Londoners life – particularly mine, as I appear to be the perfect person to ask for directions). Outside Hyde Park, two French teenagers approached me with matchsticks. Being a cynical Londoner, I was expecting a scam  – what I ended up with was my participation in an English conversation class. Apparently the boys’ teacher had challenged them to approach total strangers and engage them in conversation about matchsticks. I guess that’s one way of forcing them to use their English vocab – when we visited France as school girls we simply practised by going to boulangeries and buying croissants (or, if we were feeling adventurous, pain au chocolat). Anyway, I did not accept their offer of buying matchsticks for 15p.

3. The woman in the steam room
The first rule of steam rooms (and saunas) is that YOU DO NOT TALK TO STRANGERS IN THEM! Seriously, why are people unaware of this fact?? The only time I’ve ever chatted in a steam room was when my friend Claire and I had a mini-spa day and basically chatted our way around the venue – but we were not strangers and there was no one else there to disturb. This doesn’t stop certain people though, a while ago I had the very uncomfortable experience of watching a woman try to flirt with a guy in the sauna, she really didn’t know when to give up.

Relaxing in the steam room after a swim, I replied politely when a woman asked me if I’d had a good swim – but this encouraged her. On asked whether I just swam or counted lengths, I replied that I’d just swum 50, which elicited an exclamation of “But darling! That’s phenomenal!” [It really isn’t, it’s not an Olympic sized pool.] Silent, apart from a brief “thanks”, seemed to suggest to her that I wasn’t up for chatting. However, once out of the room and gathering my things together, we got into a conversation about the water temperature versus the outside temperature (and the ridiculousness of the gym to have a hose blasting cold water into a warm pool during sub-zero daytime temperatures). For some reason she took it upon herself to emphasise that I must make sure I dried my hair properly before I left – to which I replied that I’d made that mistake once, but never again. “But darling! You could have died!!” That could be a slight exaggeration…

Needless to say, I find total strangers referring to me as ‘darling’ very bizarre.

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