253. The kindness of strangers

 

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Back in 1989, when our daughter Lauren had still to reach her second birthday, Maureen and I were shown a glimpse of hell. The tiniest sliver.

We lived in an upstairs maisonette next to a busy main road in Chelmsford. It was August, or thereabouts. I did a good chunk of the childcare in those days, facilitated by my early rise and finish as a milkman. Maureen worked at Essex Cricket Club, on the catering side.

She prefaces the incident with the recollection that she brought home a spare punnet of strawberries; and went downstairs to ask whether it was wanted by Doris, our neighbour. “I’ll leave the front door open, Kev, to save taking a key – so keep an eye on Lauren,” she said. “No problem,” I replied.

I don’t recall what I was doing. The memory is that at some stage, I realised Lauren had gone from my sight. She would roam freely around the apartment, exploring and playing, so I checked every room, without panic.

That had changed, as I scrambled downstairs, and outside, to find Maureen chatting just inside Doris’s residence. “Have you got Lauren?” I said, more hopefully than I have ever spoken, before or since.

Maureen’s eyes widened. “No.”

Without stopping to discuss, we ran around to check the small garages and lawn area behind the flats, and then back to the road, scanning the pavements in each direction. Anxiety rocketing, we rushed through to the adjacent car park. Many of the cars had gone home, and I could see across to a quiet road that bordered a row of houses.

A woman stood 60 yards away, holding a child. It looked like our little girl.

We ran over, relief mushrooming as it became clear that Lauren was the child. Free as a bird, she had trotted happily along a route she would have known, towards a house where Maureen held another job, as a child-minder. Luckily for all, Lauren had kept to the pavement, and had encountered a kind human who had waited with her, talking.

Our gratitude could have filled a football ground. There were no recriminations, just joy at the outcome. Few dark thoughts about what could have transpired, as it had not.

Fair to say, though, that the future is never known.

 

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12 thoughts on “253. The kindness of strangers

  1. Luckily, it was all over within a couple of minutes, so there wasn’t enough passage of time for real panic and dread to come knocking. A fortunate escape, which sharpened up my sense of safeguarding. I should have been more vigilant, and was from there on in.

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  2. That sounds ominous. That’s not a topic I’d be over-enthusiastic to read about. I can take only a certain amount of realism, you know? Hope your Monday’s going well. Ciaosky!

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  3. The book had a redeeming end. The film, for once, did it justice. Too knackered by the job to write much at present. Maybe a blog later this week as I acclimatise.
    Still loving your book, especially the comically genius sentence: “Hama had a Caribou III integrated weight machine similar to the style used during the Inquisition and very popular before, during and after the witch-hunts.”

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  4. Hi, Kev!
    Yeah, it’s very rare for movies to do books justice, a rare and wonderful treat.

    I just left a note in one of your Essex chapters asking about new chapters, so now I have my answer here. Oh my god, I feel you. But god god god god, I hope you don’t get as bogged down as I have at work and therefore become as erratic as I have with writing. I’m usually way too tired to write. Actually even right now, my right eye has turned red and keeps watering. Total eye strain. Captioning is NOWHERE in the vicinity of the kind of home care you’re doing, though, so…….my “tired” and “eye strain” (wah wah wah)…..I don’t know. You make me feel like a pussy, that’s for sure. Very sorry to the woke ladies out there. Excuse me. But you’re experiencing exhaustion on so many different levels, too. I hope adjustment and acclimatization come as smoothly and quickly as possible……….

    Also, thanks so much for the words of encouragement to let me know you’re not projectile vomiting every time you read the book! I appreciate it. Criticism is welcome, also, as long as you don’t tear me a new one. You can see, though, the way I blah-de-blah in here is mirrored in the book, and I wish the editor had been stricter. I tried to keep it down in book II, and book II turned out longer than the one you’re reading. For the love of God, someone please stop me !!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Anyway, hang in there, Kevin. Karma is probably giving you tons of street cred as we speak.

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    1. Do you write captions for TV Stace? (Or subtitles, as us Brits call them 🙂 🙂 )
      I wouldn’t go too overboard about my new job. A lot of very helpful and committed co-workers have made sure that I don’t kill anybody, by over-medication or operating the body hoists incorrectly.
      The physical exhaustion is matched by mental anguish at the ‘colossal indignity of ageing’, to regurgitate my own term.
      I come home with any creativity sapped. And feeling dipped in a vat of melancholy. But that will pass.
      Will blog about it when the sapping is less.
      And, when I’ve read a few more chapters of Day For Night, I’ll go back on your site with some comments. My main feeling is one of huge respect. And envy at how you can spin a thought in seven different directions yet adroitly land it back on course for the next sentence. That’s a talent! 🙂 🙂

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  5. Yes, I caption for TV and movies. When I started doing it years ago, it was an extremely simple job which has since transformed into something out of my worst nightmares (at least where ever-expanding and complicated technology is involved).

    And I think blogging about your new job later will help, after the sapping has diminished a little. The physical exhaustion would probably be welcomed and even feel good if it weren’t coupled with the mental anguish which is probably exacerbating the physical difficulty to begin with. You know what I mean? Like if it was just good, clean construction work, you’d go home tired but at least not mentally drained. Hopefully there will be some silver linings ahead of you with that job.

    Thanks so much for your encouragement, too! I appreciate your observations on the meandering narrative that eventually circles back. I actually did cut that way down in the second book. People were mostly positive about that stuff but I sensed that some of it might have been a gentle veiled complaint, so I reined it in. You definitely don’t have to keep making comments as you go, Kev. Don’t worry about it! You have enough on your plate! Whenever you manage to get through it, I’d be thrilled with an honest review on Goodreads or Amazon.

    Tally ho!

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    1. Yeah, good clean construction work would be a godsend, for its relative simplicity. Even better, being a forest ranger, as the company would be more cerebral.
      Would be happy to give you an Amazon review Stace…I’ve enjoyed writing a couple of those. Deal.😎😎

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