They take me straight back to my childhood, when I had a positive talent for falling into nettles.
I used to spend a lot of time on my uncle's' farm, and because of my inbuilt radar for finding them, I seemed intimately aquainted with every patch of nettles which grew there. As I could never get anywhere without running or jumping I usually found myself in the middle of the nettle patch before I knew it, and not for nothing are they called stinging nettles.
In the twinkling of an eye I would be covered in the characteristic raised lumps and reddened patches which were painful fires not just on , but under, my skin.
Invariably I would present myself to my Aunty Gwyneth who would call my cousin to bring some dock leaves because "she's done it again".
The thing was that although my aunty was familiar with the folk remedy (which is scentifically proven to work), of applying dock leaves to relieve the symptoms of the sting caused by the hairs of the nettle, she only used to wrap the sting in the leaves, holding them in position for a moment or so before throwing them aside. To work, the leaves of the dock have to be crushed so that the juice is released and then rubbed into the sting.
Because Aunty Gwyneth's way of applying the dock leaves never brought me relief I grew up believing that the old wives tale was not true. Still, that never stopped me going to her to have the treatment repeated, and I never once let on that the sting burned just as much after her ministrations as it had done before.
In the first instance, even to my young mind, it would have been rude to have gone on complaining when she had done all that she could; but above all it was her readiness to stop whatever she was doing to help, (even mistakenly) , which brought me back to her time after time.
After all these years it seems to me that Aunty Gwyneth may have been soothing a greater
itch for me than purely the nettle rash when, if only for a little time, she put me at the centre of her loving attention.
Remembering her encourages me to feel that I do not need to have all the answers before I offer my help. Having the willingness to wholeheartedly put somebody else before myself, even for a very little while might be enough to begin with.