Saturday, 16 July 2011

Sign of the Times

Note: I typed this up soon after the following events occurred. I resisted posting it because, scanning it over made for gloomy reading. But I’ve decided to post it after all – ‘cos life is like that.

Yesterday was a Friday like any other. Well, at least it started out like any other. My children and I walked to school, we passed through the office to say good morning to the ladies who work there, we stopped for a brief chat – nothing unusual.

But then two of the Year 6 boys in my class came in, slightly out of breath, red in the face, obviously they’d been running pretty hard. ”Some boys tried to take our stuff”, they panted.

A colleague and I took a short run/walk to see what we could see, but nothing, no-one in sight. We came back, the boys seemed ok and, coupled with the fact that we live in London (which can sometimes be an ugly place to live), thought nothing more of it.

Until the secretary came to see me. “The police are downstairs. Can you go out in a squad car with them to try and find these other lads?”

Without going into every detail, I spent the next 20 minutes slowly trawling the streets of our slightly grubby part of town, up, down, into this estate, out of that one, left, right, up, down before, over the radio came, “we’ve got them, they’re outside TK Maxx”.

At a guess, I’d say we were about three quarters of a mile away from “TK”, but, with blue lights flashing and sirens wailing – coupled with driving very very quickly on the wrong side of the road – it took less than two minutes to arrive at “the scene”, the drive was bloody terrifying, seriously.

Yes, they'd got all four of them (four against two – bullies, nothing else), yes they carted them off, yes, “our” two boys were shaken and yes, off to the station we went for them to make a statement with the very casually dressed detective. I sat with one of them while he did so (got to have an adult present, don’ cha know?) and, just behind the interviewing detective’s chair, was a basket of toys, all a bit grubby, I guess through heavy use.

The thing that made me think though (getting to the point of all this), was that the toys were suitable for toddlers and very young children. I drifted off, thinking how unfair it is.

My own children go to a nice state school with caring and dedicated staff, in freshly cleaned and pressed clothes, with their water bottles in their school bags, labelled with their names and it’s all ……. nice.

Some kids don’t have nice clothes, or a nice school. Some kids don’t have bottles and bags with their names on. Some kids sit and play in police stations while their parents / uncles / aunts / relatives / guardians sit giving statements to casually dressed detectives. Perhaps some of them are the children of victims but we were told that the room we were in, was usually used for those accused of crime but, due to them being particularly busy, it was being used for our purpose, the victim.

Sat there in that small office listening to the finer details, I was thinking about the ones who are the children of perpetrators of crime. I know it’s easy to judge, sat here typing in our spare room that doubles as an office and a study, but I couldn’t help but picture a 2 or 3 or 4 year old toddler, playing happily on the floor of an interview room, while Mum / Dad / whoever, sits three feet away, denying having stabbed someone, denies stealing that car, denies having broken that person’s house, looking for their jewellery stash.

As is usually the case, we all know that crime happens all day, every day, but until it happens on your own doorstep, it’s easy to think that everything’s rosy.

Addendum: over the next few days, I spoke with the mothers of the two boys involved. One of them, a confident speaker and person in general, had, according to Mum, become a bit withdrawn, a bit quiet, and apparently nervous when seeing other groups of boys near where they live. The withdrawn bit was noticeable in the classroom too. The other lad, who had been walking to school by himself in preparation for secondary school, had requested Dad start walking with him again, not wanting to leave the house by himself.

What a rotten shame.

Set back years by the actions of a few others who, for whatever reason, felt it ok to rough up and demand personal items from the two of them. I know we’re supposed to feel pity for those who commit crime, but it ain’t always easy.

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