A man is hanging out of the windows of the block across the road, he’s quietly telling a couple of children which door to go to and what to say. One the children, polite, neat and apparently confused, goes up to a door, looks back over his shoulder towards the man and says: “Is this the one?” I don’t hear any answer but the child raises his voice and says: ‘Excuse me. Excuse me. Do you live here?’ to the person going into the block. She doesn’t answer and the children wander off, back towards the other block where the man says: ‘See that car? Yes, that blue one, that’s it. Spit on it. Spit on it.’ The children, confused enough now to feel fear, walk away.
The man continues in his low, not unfriendly tone. ‘I want to fuck you. I want to fuck you. Oh, is that how it is now? Don’t you love me any more? I want to fuck you.’ My neighbours’ adult daughter comes into our block and we say hello. “Do you know that man?” I ask. She doesn’t, but he somehow knows her name and she’s more bemused than aggrieved. She goes inside, I carry on gardening, the man continues his monotone commentary. The children have long gone.
A family just up the road allowed their two elder children to smoke dope when they were 12 and 14 years old. The parents often went away leaving the three children alone, the youngest being 10, and they would have parties in which alcohol and illegal drugs contributed to the house being trashed, time after time. The 15 year old daughter started a relationship with a 30 year old whom her parents welcomed into the home and he tattooed her at 16 with her parents consent. On a school exchange the elder son made constant Nazi references at the two young German people staying with them which the rest of the family found amusing, and at 15 the youngest daughter put up pictures of herself on Facebook snorting coke.
Dee had what used to be called ‘emotional incontinence’. She felt she must share the most intimate aspects of her life with anyone who’d listen. Her partner who was over a decade older than her and demonstrably didn’t love her; her multiple, dramatic affairs; her children both of whom were taken from family home at the age of 8 to spend the rest of their childhood in special schools; the fact that her younger child has a close resemblance to one of her lovers; her eating disorders and self-harm. She had one job working as a nursery assistant and the rest of her life was spent supported by the State. Dee was killed in a high-speed, late-night, alcohol-fueled crash.
Context is everything. Dee is, of course, Princess Diana who is venerated. Mandy is Countess of Wemyss and March. The family with dope smoking children live in a detached home in huge grounds which means that neighbours don’t need to call the police to their rowdy parties and the underage sex and drug abuse is ignored. The men in the photograph were notorious for getting excessively drunk, destroying restaurants, smashing windows, letting off fireworks in the street, and other behaviour that has been described as ‘toxic’ ‘disgusting’ and ‘shameful.’ Now, a fair number of them run our country.
All of these people and families are worthy of our care and concern, but the woman who, with great dignity, squatted down in the hedge; the man in the council flat who had been ignored for so long he was becoming dangerous; the ‘feral children’ whose boundaries are so confused, are much more likely to be dealt opprobrium, low-quality interventions and incarceration. Somehow, people who are very privileged and who demonstrate behaviours that would usually result in police and psychiatric involvement, don’t seem to be subject to the same treatment as people at the other end of the income scale.