Take a look outside. Prick your ears up and have a good listen. What do you hear?
Today, in Britain, it’s May Day – the first of two bank holidays this month. There is no school today; the fields behind my house should be littered with the little folk, climbing trees and kicking balls into my back garden. But today, there is silence. The front is silent too, except for the distant humming of a Flymo and the occasional roar of a low-flying Hercules.
Where have the children gone? Has the Pied Piper of Swindon lured them into his cave? A cave brimming with widescreen TVs, iPads, Xboxes and the like. Anything to keep the little buggers quiet.
No, of course not. They’re in their own caves; watching their widescreens, checking Facebook on their iPads and playing Call of Duty on the Xbox. Why? Are they addicted to modern technology? Too lazy and obese to play curby in the street? Or, are their parents happy to leave them be, as long as they can keep an eye on them? Much safer than being outside; running around, playing cops and robbers, topping up on vitamin D and leaving dog poo on a neighbour’s door step. Much safer because, around every corner, there are…..paedophiles……poised and in position to gobble them up. Why take the risk. Keep them in ‘til they’re at least 21!
There is a 12 year old girl in my street – a cul-de-sac of approximately 20 houses. Infrequently, I see her on her mountain bike. Helmet secure; arms, knees and elbows protected from the impact of a possible 2ft fall. If that wasn’t humiliation enough, her father stands on the payment watching his soon-to-be teenage daughter cautiously and tediously cycling her figure-of-eights.
And just as well Daddy is there to protect her. The paedophiles are everywhere! Hiding in the drains (like Stephen King’s ‘It’), crouching down in the blackberry bushes and atop the roofs of every house. Maybe the old man who lives by himself is one too. And the milkman, the bin men and the window cleaner. Why stop there? Let’s add the male primary school teacher, the school bus driver, the swimming instructor and every man who dares to smile within a 50ft radius of our children. They’re all paedophiles!
The irony with this post is that, whilst I’m being facetious, I am also a hypocrite. Whilst I wouldn’t go as far to suggest that all men are waiting for an opportunity to stuff my kids into their swag bags, brief unsettling thoughts do cross my mind, whenever a strange man is in our company.
I blame Jimmy Saville. And Rolf Harris (allegedly….checks libel textbook). Men, who could grant a sick child’s dying wishes or publically sob over Roger’s flystrike on Animal Hospital. Rolf Harris! Rolf bloody Harris! But I’ve seen him rescue a swan. He must be a nice man. Mr Tumble will be next.
My children are too small to be playing in the back fields or knocking on the neighbours’ doors and pelting it, but not for long. I wonder how my husband and I will cope when they are old enough to walk to school, play in a neighbouring street or take the bus into town. I wish they could experience the freedom I had as a child, but that is most unlikely. Whilst I may allow them a degree of liberty to run free in the woods, I will be watching them closely whilst hiding in a bush, stuck up a tree or crouching behind the cows…just in case.