I've always believed that getting into conversations with strangers is one of life's great pleasures. It's a view I inherited from my late father who, though naturally a very shy man, would always try to engage in some way with everyone he met. It had some odd lasting consequences - he liked to eat avocados with rum and brown sugar, the result of a recommendation from a bus conductor he once got chatting with. Among his effects we found scribbled notes from many chance encounters, things like a recipe for the illicit Irish drink pocheen, written on the back of a beermat.
A few days ago, I was walking back from the National Theatre after a rather disappointing outdoor show that had - a point in its favour - a spectacular firework display as its climax. As I headed towards the station, I was accosted by a man in his late fifties, with a goatee, a raincoat and a half-drunk can of beer. His accent suggested a Northern upbringing, maybe Liverpool. He carried two large plastic bags, and might have been homeless.
He asked me what he'd missed with the fireworks. I mentioned that it was part of a show, and that he could see it again if he was there at the same time the next day.
'I won't be here tomorrow. I only just got back from Holland.'
He said that his name was Kinder, and offered a hand. I told him my name, and he said that he was also a David, and that we were taking over the world. We agreed that the Prime Minister was letting the side down, but that otherwise David was a fine name. I mentioned that it was the Hebrew for 'beloved', which it turned out he already knew. He translated his full name - David Walter Kinder - as a beloved conquering child. I said that mine breaks down as a curly-haired beloved owner of a cottage.
Once we'd bonded over our names, he told me his big idea - that for one day a year, everybody should be called David Walter Kinder.
"Imagine you meet someone and say 'My name's David Walter Kinder' and he says 'So's mine'. Well, you wouldn't be able to do that person any harm, would you? Try to shoot someone with your name, you can't do it; it'd be 'Let's have some cheese on toast.'. Just for one day a year, everybody's David Walter Kinder.'
He followed this up with a second idea - that everyone should at birth have a mirror implanted next to their left eye. The thinking is similar - you wouldn't be able to hurt someone if you could see yourself in their eyes. He told me I should write a play based on this image - 'You're the brainbox, you're the one with the connections.'
I said - truthfully - that it had been inspiring to talk to him - and started walking towards the station. He mimed throwing a ball and I caught it. He said 'Your name's David Walter Kinder - shout it out.' . And I did.
When I got home I googled his name and couldn't find anything. (There's a Dr. David Kinder who slightly resembled him at an American university, which led me briefly to construct an elaborate fantasy of a brilliant career ruined by alcohol.) I'll almost certainly never meet the man again, but he's given me two images that'll stay with me till I die. It's unlikely that I'll ever write the play, but he deserves memorialising, so I hope this blog post will do.