Dangerous paths

Bilbo warned us, so there are no excuses. Stepping outside your door is a dangerous thing, because once you are on the road, the road that links to every other road or path, by whatever twisted or indirect route, you just never know where you might end up.

When I was younger my friends and I would play a game on those long, boring, sunny afternoons which filled the summer holidays. The game was about trying to see how far we could get by tossing a coin. In principle, we would leave the house and toss the coin with heads being right, and tails being left (or possibly vice-versa). And then we would walk until we came to a junction and we would toss the coin again to decide which way to go. Crossroads were tricky but we had a plan for those involving two throws – straight on/turn then if we had to turn, left/right.

Sometimes we went around the block and were back home in the blink of an eye, which was very disappointing. Sometimes we walked for quite a long time, and once we almost started walking to the airport, but it was a long way and we decided to go home instead.

One day we ended up in the local park, walking along by the river, and came across a little girl who had lost her shoe. She had been fishing for stickleback and her shoe had come off and floated away. We took her downstream and saw it swirling ahead of us but the water was deep and muddy, and we didn’t want to get wet and have to explain to our mothers, so we took her home and explained to her mother instead.

Life in a quiet dormitory town outside London was not all thrills and spills, I can tell you. We never found treasure, or foiled a bank robbery, or saved a dragon from a princess. But we might have done; that was the point. We never knew what might happen, and the thrill of finding out, even though it turned out to be mundane, was enough.

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