Cornwall Life columnist Simon Tregoning reflects on a lesson learned

PUBLISHED: 16:31 27 February 2013 | UPDATED: 19:51 05 April 2013

Cornwall Life columnist Simon Tregoning reflects on  a lesson learned

Cornwall Life columnist Simon Tregoning reflects on a lesson learned

Our columnist Simon Tregoning, reflects on a lesson learned about the closeness of his community

Close countyconnections


Our columnist Simon Tregoning, reflects on a lesson learned about the closeness of his community

In 1990 a chap called John Guare premiered a play entitled Six Degrees of Separation which postulated that any two individuals on the planet are connected by five others at most.
Cornwall is smaller - so you would expect to have closer connections - but I find that, down here, when I meet someone for the first time, it does not take long to find the first connection, and then another pops up, and then another and so on.
That leads me to the theory that we need to turn the model upside down here in the Duchy. Rather than degrees of separation, we have almost six points of connection between each and every person.
Given that, you would have thought that I would have managed to avoid what happened to me recently - one of my worst foot-in-mouth moments ever.
I was having dinner with people I had just met and thought I would break the ice with a bit of a rant on a pet subject. A risky opening gambit, but it had worked in the past as I forged a new connection with someone over a shared soapbox. This particular rant was about the detritus that could be found on Cornish beaches. One of our party asked for an example and I helpfully named a beach off the top of my head. It was his beach so much for making friends. An endless litany of sorrys defrosted the situation somewhat . . . but we have not been invited back.
Whilst licking my wounds back at home, I reflected on the six degrees of connection. I really should have known better and I have now learnt to tread more carefully; do not gesticulate rudely when driving (or at least do it well under the dashboard); do not gossip they will be related to your subject, married to them, or work with them; do not try to get one up on anyone, they are probably the source of your next favour.
That is the power of community. Where you do not have a strong community you can pretty much behave as you wish safe in the knowledge that most of the connections you make will be a one-off.
But, in a strong community, the connections work to moderate our behaviour and make us better, more considerate citizens. That can be hard work and we will probably have to say sorry more often, but it is a small price to pay.

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