“Grasp the nettle,” they say.
Live a little.
Seize the day.
Little do they know that I’ve been grasping the nettle since the age of nine. As a primary school pupil it was my party piece. Literally. It was my method of choice in how to win friends and influence people. Dale Carnegie missed a trick by not including this method in his book.
If I’d been business minded I could’ve been the world’s youngest self-help guru.
“Nettles don’t sting me,” I’d say to my fellow pupils, immediately seizing their attention. I would lead them over to a patch and identify the biggest, juiciest, most sting-iest looking leaf.
“Watch this,” I would say.
I would then grasp the nettle decisively between thumb and forefinger, and wave it around a bit for the benefit of my audience. The collective look on their faces was the same one now seen on the faces of the impromptu street audiences gathered by Dynamo, or David Blaine, or whoever, as they pull a cucumber from their earhole.
(Or whatever it is that they do. I’ve never watched them, to be honest.)
My young audience would gasp with excitement. I would pass the leaf from hand to hand to show that no tell-tale red blotches had appeared. I continued to grip it tightly, of course, to negate the sting-y bit of the nettle.
Once I was sure they were impressed, then came the piece de resistance.
I would scrunch the nettle up tightly, pop it in my mouth, and eat it.
I would then wander off nonchalantly, without a word.
I was, to put it mildly, a LEGEND.
The sting in the tail of this particular story is that, although I didn’t know it at the time, I had peaked. In the intervening thirty-odd years I have never reached those same heights of intrigue, suspense and, let’s face it, street cool.
I am now less likely to grasp nettles, either literally or figuratively.
Figuratively, because I’ve developed the kind of healthy caution that makes life less interesting, and literally, because around the age of ten some kid pointed out that dogs often piss on nettles.
I feel like there’s a clever and poignant metaphor for life in there somewhere.
If only I could grasp it.
(Image: CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=369351)