An only slightly exagerated autobiographical piece.
I don’t actually hate children; I just don’t like them very much. I didn’t much care for my own when they were little and so other folks’ kids don’t appeal to me one little bit. To me they are noisy, intrusive, disruptive and a whole lot of other objectionable things. For this sin of not liking children, however, I am being roundly punished by the children fairy.
I now have to live in what can only be described as an alternative children’s playground. It has the name of Wise Wood Close and is surrounded by thousands of acres of hilly moor land. Supposedly it is a quiet residential cul de sac, a haven of peace and relaxation, where the strain and stress of a working day can be shed and the cloak of tranquillity may be gratefully donned. Not so I fear.
The minefield begins as I turn right into the Close from the minor B road from which the Close branches. I stop to survey the gauntlet I am going to have to run, or in my case walk. There are two tots ahead of me, a small gang to the left trying to hide behind a dustbin left out by one of the single mothers. A trio of bigger girls is beyond the tots and further up an infant who can barely walk but is fancying himself on roller blades. At the end is a footballer, hammering his ball against my garden wall beneath the official ‘No Ball Games’ sign secured to a lamp post. A potential trick cyclist displays his skills on a home made ramp in the middle of the road. Any cartoonist would pay good money for material like this.
I put my left foot into the Close and begin to slowly walk up the incline towards my house at the top. Immediately I am spotted by tot number one. Until now she’s been talking to tot number two, who although only two feet away from her, is being regaled at top decibel. How so much noise can emanate from so small a creature must be one of the deepest mysteries of science. Now she is heading downhill towards me at a stumbling gallop. She stops herself by grabbing my left trouser leg at knee height, looks up, and because I am so far, far up and she is so far, far down adjusts her decibel control.
‘HELLO GRA YUM,’ she shouts. I feel the pain of that noise level as a physical blow.
‘Hello Lisa,’ I reply, resignedly, lifting my right hand and wiggling my fingers at her. Satisfied by this, a wide grin spreads over her little face and she lets go of me and gallops and stumbles back up the slope to her friend, tot number two.
‘GRA YUM SAID HELLO,’ she tells her confidentially, together with all thirty houses on the Close. Everyone now knows that Gra yum is home. I’d thought of asking her single mother if Lisa might need a hearing test but I know I’d only face abuse for ‘interfering,’ so I haven’t bothered. I get as far as the two tots and lift my hand again and wiggle my fingers at them. This sends them into a fit of giggles.
The next obstacle is the wheelie bin to the left. I’m doing quite well so far in that only my hearing has been threatened and not my life. But there’s time yet. Just as I think I’ve got past the seven year old boys behind the bin without incident, the pellet strikes. It stings too, right on my rump. I look behind and down to see the tell tale paper missile, folded to fit a rubber band wrapped around thumb and forefinger. I used to be a dead shot myself so I had to appreciate this particular aim. I put on a stern look and glare at the bin but pretend not to see them. They can’t hide for toffee.
Onward, ever onward toward the trio of would be sirens. These are well developed twelve and thirteen year olds all fairly obviously aspiring to the career route of single mother.
‘Hello Mr Smith,’ the eldest says, cigarette smoke trickling through her nose. I mutter, ‘hello,’ back. She then deliberately bends over to tie the shoe lace of her trainer, which doesn’t need tying, and displays her ample charms for all to see. She invites, I look.
‘Did you see him ogling? Dirty old git,’ I hear her stage whisper from a distance. I ignore it; I have more important matters to worry about in the guise of a future Olympic skating champion.
He is diminutive, determined, courageously dedicated and dangerous. Approaching me at a rate of knots he launches into what I imagine is meant to be a double Axel, fails to gain height, loses his balance and hits the road with a bang. I grab his shirt in the small of his back and pick him up.
‘Are you alright?’
‘That was a hard move wasn’t it?’
‘You’re not trying it again?’
‘Do you think you should ?’
Tiring of our scintillating conversation he wriggles free of my grasp and prepares himself for another attempt. I daren’t watch so I carry on walking.
The trick cyclist is lying on the ground, wrapped up in his bicycle, so that’s one less. It’s hard to tell where the bicycle ends and the trick cyclist begins. I don’t get involved. Only the footballer remains to impede my passage home.
I hate footballers on the Close. They cause damage and cost money hence, the ‘No Ball Games’ signs. He spotted me coming earlier so he’s stopped using my garden wall as a rebound apparatus. Pity they don’t teach them to read properly, these days, I’m thinking. Opening my mouth to enquire about his reading grade, I’m stopped by him punting the ball towards me. He then makes ‘goalie’ movements in a clear invitation to me to have a go.
Now, I used to be an amateur footballer and quite a good one too. I stop the ball with my instep, tap it a couple of feet ahead of me, take the necessary hop and step towards it and WHAM! The look on his face as his ball rocketed past his head before he could even blink was a sight to see. The sullen malevolence was still there of course because that was genetic but it was definitely tinged with respect. I nod towards the now very distant ball in the field behind him and say ‘Oops, sorry.’
My front door at long last. I enter and call to my wife that I’m home.
The Close is very quiet today.’
‘Oh, it’s Bank Holiday Monday,’ she says. ‘Most of the kids will be away visiting their fathers.’
So that’s how I got off so lightly? Of course if anyone was put an unkind hand on any one of them I’d be out there baying for blood, noose in hand. But I still don’t like children.