There was a time in Hastings, mainly when my children were small, when I could hardly bear to go into the supermarket or the town centre because so many people were so vile to their children.
Now, you mustn’t misunderstand. As a mother I was entirely capable of losing it completely, and yelling at my children or walloping their bottoms if all else seemed to have failed.
But the unkindness and indifference many people showed their kids was more than depressing – it was really upsetting.
Then about ten or fifteen years back, things seemed to be improving. Now, I don’t know why – recession maybe? People under too much pressure? – it’s back. A couple of times I have walked out of stores because I just couldn’t bear the unkindness of parents to their children.
Yesterday, walking through the centre of Hastings towards me, came a man holding aloft a small child – small enough to be wearing reins. The child was held awkwardly sideways in his father’s arms, crying desperately while his father yelled in his ear at the top of his voice “Walk! Walk!”
Nobody took any notice. Nobody ever does. We have a system in England: turn a blind eye, wait til it’s too late, blame a social worker.
I was furious. Absolutely adrenalin-drenched furious. But not sure what to do.
So I just turned and watched the man and the child as they passed me in the street. Stood and watched them. People know when you’re watching them. After a few steps the man turned back to look, and saw me just standing, and watching. My turn to be yelled at. “WHAT?”
I didn’t say anything. I just continued to stand there and watch him. He set the child down and they crossed the road, he from time to time glancing back to see if I was still watching him. I was. He reached his wife, the child’s mother, who was waiting nervously by Marks and Spencer. The man crouched down and put his arm round the child. I went on watching them. He stood up and looked back to see if I was still watching. Yes, I was. He gestured at me, a twirl of his hand, that I should turn away and go. I didn’t. I carried on watching him.
Our curate from church came by. “Hello,” she said; “what are you doing? You look like a statue standing there so still.”
“I’m watching that man,” I told her, “who was shouting and screaming at his child.”
The child was now enjoying clambering along the edge of the railings while his parents walked alongside on the pavement (sidewalk). He was okay now. So I went on my way.
There are not many things one can do in these situations. But I felt it had made a small difference to know someone was watching. Made the man re-evaluate, maybe.
Flowerpots are like coathangers in that they do accumulate.
And a vintage ceramic chamberpot. With cracks in it . . . uh-oh . . .