The Herald - The Herald Magazine

We need a new code to make walkers smile and say hello

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HELLO. I said, in case you didn’t catch it the first time: Hello. Silence. This is the bit where you say hello back. Nope? Suit yourselves. This is almost as bad as that weird phenomenon in television shows where somebody says goodbye and the other person doesn’t respond.

It’s not that they’re in a huff, it’s just a stupid, unrealisti­c television convention.

If you said “Cheerio” to a friend, and they just sat there mutely staring back at you, you’d say: “I said, ‘Cheerio’. You gone deaf or something?”

Perhaps the writer just forgets to add the reciprocat­ing cheerio in the script. True, it adds nothing to the drama. But it’s ridiculous­ly unrealisti­c not to include it. Everybody says bye when, by the by, someone says bye to them.

Hello, however, is a different matter. To be unwisely candid, I confess I’m one of these people who strike up conversati­ons with complete strangers. I’m friendly. I’m the puppy that keeps getting kicked.

The Scandinavi­ans say they don’t speak to strangers because, historical­ly, they lived in isolated homesteads.

Nobody lives as isolated a life as I do and so, when I come across folk, I speak to them candidly. “Hello. I like your hat. Can I have it?”

Within seconds of meeting them, I tell them all my woes, illnesses and financial news. I think that makes me a bit American, which is fine, as I admire Americans, apart from when, in TV dramas, they put the phone down without saying, “Bye”. What’s that about? You’re talking to someone and, next thing, the line goes dead because they’ve just put the phone down without saying, “Bye”. Do they really do that in America? If so, it’s disgracefu­l.

I mention all this – hello, still with me? – as dramatic preamble to my main point, which I have written down somewhere.

Here it is: pint of bread, loaf of milk, vegan ice cream, steak pie. Hang on, that’s my shopping list.

No, here it is: an updated Countrysid­e Code is urging walkers to say hello to others and smile more. It’s being drawn up by government agencies Natural England and Natural Resources Wales.

As so often now, it’s not clear what the situation is Jockside. Forced to do some research, I find we have a Scottish Outdoor Access Code, but can’t see anything in it about smiling, though there’s something about respecting other folk’s “peace of mind”. Hmm, I like that.

I also see from my copy of The Scottish Farmer that campaigner­s want The, or A, Countrysid­e Code taught in schools.

With any luck, it can be updated to ensure that farmers behave themselves. At any rate, I’m glad to see the code’s emendation to ensure more smiling and hellos. I trust these will be made compulsory. Nothing worse than being out in the bosky beyond, then encounteri­ng someone who doesn’t reply to your hello. I end up wrestling my right leg to the ground, pinning it down hard, as it desperatel­y tries to boot them up the arse.

Thankfully, most people do say hello, even if some pick up the pace a little. If you’re in an urban green space, nearly everyone you encounter will be walking a hound.

Dog-walkers are a mixed bunch. Some clearly resent the task and have no interest in their surroundin­gs, or in you. Their sullen silence should result in on-the-spot fines.

Then there are the ones whose dogs bound up and put muddy paws doon your jaickit, but you don’t mind and pat the beast on the heid, and the owner looks at you as if it’s all your fault. Nutters.

And that’s before we come to the ones who shatter the peace by repeatedly bawling their hound’s name or shouting, “Heel!”, and the admirable dog doesn’t answer but just thinks, ‘Naff off, Bawjaws.’

But most dog-walkers say hello and are good, decent folk. And on that uplifting note, it’s time to say goodbye. I said: goodbye. Hello?

SOUNDS LIKE A PAM

IT’S a source of amusement to my people that most of you Earthlings give little thought to your impending nuclear destructio­n.

You think that, because your part of the planet is ruled by that smart Mr Johnson, everything will be fine.

But other countries are apt to be ruled by nutters, some of them religious or otherwise deranged.

My escape plan, using the Big Tube of Cosmic Teleportat­ion, is already in place but you, alas, will fry, possibly while listening to Pam Ayres.

This week, we learned that, in the event of impending global catastroph­e, the BBC will broadcast the delightful light poet’s voice to help you face your fate without a quivering bottom lip.

At least they’ve given the matter some thought. Readers will recall that the People’s Pam wrote in I Wish I’d Looked After Me Teeth: “I wish I’d been that much more willin’/When I had more tooth there than fillin’/ To give up gobstopper­s/For respect to my choppers/And to buy something else with me shillin’.” Quite.

The good news is that teeth become academic in a nuclear catastroph­e. Crunch down on a gobstopper, folks.

Makes no difference in the end.

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