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Monday, June 3

The Not-yet-lost Boy

This is not the boy in question
I was somewhat shaken up this lunchtime. It is said that all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. Apparently this is disputedly attributed to Edmund Burke. I think this is a bit of an over-blown way of putting things, but I feel like it is true. How many times have you stood and watched a disaster happening, rather than attempting to avert it? How many times have you said "yes, but that's not my problem" or "what can I do about it?". What does it take for you to harden your heart concerning the unfolding events and just let them happen because they're someone else's problem?

To avoid any dramatic tension, I should point out that nobody was harmed in the making of this blog entry, nor did I have to done a cape, with my underpants on the outside of my trousers in order to rescue anyone from a burning building. However, I think I crossed a line. Not a bad line. I think I crossed a line from random adult into someone's dad.

There's another proverb that makes sense here, apparently it's african - it takes a community to raise a child. In other words, look out for the kiddies. I mean that in the sense of do something to help other parents and set a good example, not in the sense of that harpy Melanie Phillips and her chorus of won't someone think of the children, which is not an argument that proves anything.

This lunchtime I was walking into Bracknell past a couple where the bloke was swearing down his mobile phone and his girlfriend was listening to him. She had a hearing aid - so perhaps she was the perfect companion for this lout-mouthed Bracknellite. That said, he was being all posturing, as is common when you're defending the sod-all you have to your name, and they were quite pleasantly holding hands as they walked through the underpass. They overtook me. It wasn't a race.

A small boy, under the age of 6, overtook me too. If this was not a race, it was still an overtake-the-flat-bloke day. He ran through the underpass and turned right up the stairs the other side. I looked behind me to see who he was with. I couldn't see anyone obvious. I thought he might be with the loud couple, but they were oblivious. As the underpass is curved, I reasoned that whoever this kid was with had no clear line of sight of him. The kid was running on the high-road, above the path I was walking down. I imagined what dangers might lie in wait for him up there, and decided there were none, really, he was the other side of a safety rail.

I walked on. This is none of my business, and you can't accost a small boy in the street these days for fear of having your motives questioned.

I watched him though, because that's ok. Thirty nine year old men can watch little boys from paths with impunity. Hmmm... It doesn't sound good put like that, does it?

I reached the other side of the high road where the staircase comes back down. The kid had a choice - run further away from the main path or come back down. He came back down. I looked over my shoulder. Still no sign of an obvious parental figure for this youngster.

I had a choice to make. Do I wade into this situation? or do I leave it for nature to take its course.

I am an interfering sod at the best of times, and I really couldn't stop my fear of small boy in going missing situation. I called to him. I stood with my hands in my pockets and got him to explain where his parents were. He was with his grandfather. I asked him if he could see the grandfather anywhere near. He said he could. I couldn't. I must be getting so old that I can't see, and yet feel compelled to boss small children about. I kept the kid talking until he explained where his grandfather was and enabled me to see him. He was quite a way behind.

Now we've got a big fat man talking down to a small boy. It's quite a sight, and I was careful to have very reserved body language. I kept my hands in my pockets. An older man called to me to ask what was going on. He didn't seem worried. I think he was doing the you're not a paedophile are you? line of questioning. You know, just to be on the safe side.

I talked the kid into waiting for his grandfather when he refused to run back and find him. We waited until the grandfather arrived, I explained to the grandfather that the kid had decided to wait for him to catch up. He hadn't, but it gave the kid an out, and then I walked away, with a thank-you ringing in my ears.

I had a small melt-down. A micro-melt. That's what it's like when your kid runs off.

I will be buying ropes to keep my daughter within range.

That's not true.

Still, it was good practice for the "voice of command" that I'll need to perfect when my daughter decides she has ideas of her own.

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