Here's a cautionary tale about the recent adventures of an old acquaintance of mine.
Colwyn (pronounced "Colin", in case it matters) has now been retired for some years and, one sunny Saturday morning, when his wife was away on a shopping trip, he suddenly took a fancy to make a sort of personal pilgrimage to the village where he had lived as a young child.
Colwyn's parents have been dead for many years, and his surviving brother is in Australia, so his only association with the place comes from old family photos. Quite excited by this unexpected project, he realised that he'd wanted to do this for years, so he collected his camera and his travel pass, bought himself a pack of fruit pastilles and set off the 70 miles on the bus into darkest Northamptonshire to his birthplace.
He was delighted to revisit the village as an anonymous tourist. It was a beautiful morning, and the obvious first stop was the house where he had lived. He found it easily - walked straight to it - on a corner in a small council housing scheme. He was pleased that the place was nicely painted, and things were pretty much as he remembered, though there were more cars parked in front gardens, and a lot of satellite dishes.
As he stared at the place where he began what has been a long saga, involving a lot of travel and a very full working and family life, he became aware that a little girl in the garden was watching him.
"Hello," said Colwyn, full of sunshine and goodwill, "I used to live here, once upon a time - when I was your age, this was my garden."
The little girl just stared at him, so he smiled and waved cheerio, and took a few photos of the surroundings before he continued his tour. Next stop was the little park where he had first played football (and later, let it be said, he was a very fair amateur player) and where he and his little mates had played complicated games of tag in the long evenings during those forgotten summer holidays from another century. Great. There was now a rather run-down playground encroaching on one end of the traditional football pitch - round about where they used to put sweaters down for the goalposts. More photos. Of course, there was no football now - in fact there was a sign prohibiting ball games of any sort.
Next pilgrim site was his old primary school. This had been modernised extensively, and there was cricket coaching or something going on, so he didn't hang around for long. This time he didn't bother with photographs, since there was very little he recognised. He set off towards the high street, to see if he could get some lunch, and maybe a beer. On the way he was intercepted by a very large, very young police constable, who asked him could he speak to him for a moment.
Colwyn wondered if the young cop was lost, and wanted directions somewhere, so he put his camera away in his shoulder bag. The policeman grabbed the camera from him, and when Colwyn attempted to hang onto it a second policeman appeared from somewhere, and they bundled him into a patrol car. He was more than a little confused, but he was informed that he was being apprehended in terms of some byelaw or other, and would be taken to the police station (in a neighbouring town) to answer some questions.
Of course you have seen this twist coming for a while, but the little girl's mother had telephoned to report a strange old man approaching her daughter, and the police had turned up and quietly followed this obvious pervert around the sort of haunts you would expect - the park, the primary school - there was even a strange tale that he had attempted to climb into the garden of another house.
Since no-one in the area knew him, Colwyn's wife was brought - very distressed, in a police car - to identify him and give some kind of character reference. Then he was taken home, late in the evening, after being given a stern warning that there must be no repeats of this episode. Apology? - no - of course not. Colwyn says that it took some weeks for his wife to forgive him, though for what he is still unsure.
I think there is a lesson here for all of us. If you ever get an urge to go and find your roots, just give yourself a slap, will you? Don't be so bloody stupid - just switch on the TV like a good fellow, and stay at home - save the police time and inconvenience, and don't frighten all those poor mothers, who have enough to worry about. You can still have the fruit pastilles, but don't offer one to anyone else.
We'll be watching.