Cautionary Tales For The Modern World

I was talking to some friends the other day and the idea of modern cautionary tales popped up.

A couple of minutes’ thought and you can easily work out what sort of thing you could cover.

The ultra-productivity associated with drinking too much coffee, coupled with the crippling come-down. The perils of umbrella usage in busy places. Anything involving melted cheese.

Then one of them, feeling mischievous, threw down a gauntlet inspired by a minor anecdote from my childhood. A mere footnote on my (pretty dull) life’s story, the implication was that he wanted to see it blown up to life-changing levels.

Challenge accepted.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I wish I could remember how old I was exactly.

I was at Legoland with my family. Unfortunately, the only part of this sentence that suggests how long ago this was is the fact I’ve not been to Legoland in years. My love of Lego itself is undying.

At any rate, I was certainly still at school. Most likely Juniors.

The day itself retains a kind of happy haze. I know it was special, and I know it was fun, but the ensuing years mean that unfortunately the finer details have since become lost.

We were regular visitors then. Apparently we’d visited the place when it was a safari park previously, but I was too young to properly remember it. There’s a hazy memory of a 4×4 with a zebra paint job, that’s all, and even that may have actually been a Lego set I’ve merged into the scenario. No, this park was always Legoland to me – and home to some incredible bacon sandwiches.

I had a mild obsession with their Driving School, too. You could go round a little set of roads and get a little fake driving licence. I collected a lot of them over the years. And yet, I’ve not driven since. I think the prospect of not driving a car made of Lego is just too much.

Near the Driving School was a small lake, complete with a lighthouse. Here, stunt people regularly took part in stunt shows, with the swashbuckling at the top of the tower usually resulting in people falling into the water, climbing back up to the top, and falling in again. I remember trying to work out how they managed to do it all so fast.

Leading to this lake was a small hill, lined with a collection of brightly-coloured houses and shops. Obviously the architecture was inspired by the little plastic building blocks.

It was here that the incident took place.

I was a little ahead of my family; not so far that I was on my own, but far enough that we weren’t obviously together if you glanced at us.

Out of the shop or cafe – I forget what it was, but it was on the corner – came a family. The man looked at me. He had sunglasses and a baseball cap on, yet he looked familiar.

It was a fleeting glance, but stayed forever etched in my memory.

I’ve never been blessed with particularly chiselled features. In fact, if you caught me at the right time during my youth, I could probably be described as outright “doughy”. I wasn’t quite at this stage yet, but I was certainly at the stage where I was insisting on having my hair cut in a certain way. Grade three, all over.

I looked just like the mysterious man that had looked at me coming out of the shop. It was unnerving; like looking into a mirror and seeing your older self looking back, if only for a second.

There was a stir. A faint murmur or recognition rippled among the strangers I was near.

“That’s John Parrott, isn’t it?”

And so I had to face the fact that, for some reason, I had a passing resemblance to an 80s and 90s snooker star.

My Mum didn’t help. When she caught up to me, she swore blind that somebody thought I was one of his children, starting to stray as they left the establishment.

To hear her tell the story, there was a bit of a ruckus as she had to convince someone that I was actually her child, and they shouldn’t call park security. If this really happened, I was oblivious to it.

I still don’t know for sure if she was trying to wind me up, but I know this; sometimes I look in the mirror and it isn’t me looking back, it’s Mister Parrott. I still get a faint sense of unease when I watch snooker – as if my face will warp and I’ll suddenly look like another player if the wind changes direction or something.

So, parents, let this be a lesson to you. Beware of taking your children to places where John Parrott is. Assuming your child looks slightly like a dinky version of John Parrott.

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