AGED 11, I found myself in a playground argument with a boy about nothing really, but he clearly took exception to something I'd said because the next thing I knew a bucket of puddle water was tossed over my head.
However, just as ignominy-fuelled anger was about to be unleashed, Uncle Alex (a student teacher at the time) arrived on the scene, commanded I desist from physical retribution and indeed shake hands with the dirty water thrower. A salutary moment in a young life.
But the recall reminds of the importance of a handshake, highlighted this week when our white-gloved sovereign touched the hand of a former terrorist. Handshakes, you see, signal hope for the future. Consider the impact of the handshakes offered up by the great leaders of the modern age; when President Nixon gripped the hand of Chairman Mao in 1972, when Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat shook hands in public for the first time in 1993, and indeed when the warm, forgiving hands of Coisty and Lenny interlocked after a spate of inter-club animosity in 2011.
Hollywood, of course, has long realised the dramatic importance of the handshake, sealing the unexpected friendship, the new alliance, as when Rod Steiger and Sydney Poitier gripped wrists at the end of In The Heat Of The Night.
Indeed, recent months have shown how refusing a handshake can have dire consequences, as in the cases of Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra, and Anton Ferdinand and John Terry.
Uncle Alex was most certainly right to insist on the handshake between two angry young men. Thanks to him I appreciate it's far better to push aside differences, to reconcile, to accept that physical retaliation is not the answer, that on occasion one should take life's puddle water on the head.
Yet why do I feel that if I could have my time back again the kid would be whacked?
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