The man in front of me has fear in his eyes. Fear, suspicion, and something else, something more subtle, that I realise after a few seconds is pity. It is the evening rush hour in London and I am standing in the middle of Carnaby Street holding aloft a placard that reads: "Free Hugs". My mission is simply to reach out to strangers, clasp them close and make them feel better about their day – no strings attached. But this man isn't convinced.
"What are you selling?" he asks.
"Nothing," I explain. "We're just offering hugs to people. For free."
The man slips his iPhone out of his jacket pocket and takes a photo, as if he cannot quite believe what he is seeing.