The snow fun is starting to fade: the central heating is on all day, waiting to infect us with its germs; neighbours’ bones are being broken on ice traps; dog poo lurks beneath each virgin crunch. Yesterday we took the boys to a new park so they could use their sled – fantastic bargain: I bought it in 1996 for £6.99; it’s made of cheap plastic (blue, naturally) but it has lasted the boys 13 winters. They were having great fun coming down a hill and we were having great fun watching them, when we were suddenly under a hail of snowballs. A bunch of lads thought we were a perfect target. Fortunately, we were just behind a young tree and it gave us some protection; I moved Toby between us. It wasn’t a normal, fun snowball fight, like my neighbour’s three daughters ganging up on him in the car park this morning; it was a malicious targeting. The Hub saw something similar the day before, when a gang of boys aimed a volley at two little girls – walking with their parents! – across the road. He was in the car and reacted quickly enough to put it between the lads and their victims, so the snowballs (some with stones inside) were intercepted before they could do any damage.
The Hub had terse words with the lads firing at us (along the lines of ‘this stick’ and ‘shove it where the sun don’t shine’), but he was wasting his breath. We moved away and the lads followed us. It was horrible. The question is, what do you do in such a situation? In his younger, healthier and angrier days it wouldn’t have been a question at all, but the Hub is a little older, a lot less healthy, and very much wiser than he once was, and he knew it wasn’t worth fighting back: if they don’t bring out sticks, knives, stones, whatever, they know the law is on their side. Any fightback on the Hub’s part and he’s the one facing jail for defending us. Britain is a mess. An Englishman’s home is no longer his castle, but the Council’s, who can walk in any time to check that you are recycling or illegally hypnotising your husband or for a thousand other reasons (see this link: http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/2785678/Shock-figures-reveal-high-numbers-of-council-staff-can-break-into-our-homes.html). If his castle can no longer be defended then it follows he’s got no chance out on the street. We did the sensible thing and walked away, but it stuck in the craw. British citizens’ rights are being lost, one snowball at a time.
If you are wondering what our boys were doing while this was happening, Spud was oblivious to it, being too busy freewheeling down wet hillsides on an abandoned road sign. Three slides in and the sled died, I’m sorry to report: the boys came down the hill together on it and hit the ramp they had been aiming for; the sled snapped in two and Tory Boy flew off on his piece to the left; Spud flew off right on the other. Thank goodness for sign-stealing vandals, I say, or how would our children be able to play?
As soon as TB realised something was going on he went on alert. He encouraged his brother to carry on sledding while he stood and watched carefully in case it all kicked off. He is very much like his father and not afraid of a fight, but he has at least listened to Dad and doesn’t now just throw himself in there. We have taught the boys not to be afraid of a fight, but to walk away from it if at all possible. I would have liked to be able to teach them to turn the other cheek but, in the world in which we live, that could easily mean a bottle in the face. I don’t want them turning a literal blind eye to trouble.
TB did not leave his post until we had walked away from the bother. I was scared for him but proud of him. But how I wish I wasn’t. I would love to live in a place where there are no thugs roaming the streets; no vandals ripping down road signs; no viciousness. I know it doesn’t exist, but I’d like to think it’s possible. Perhaps I was Sir Thomas More in a previous life.