Serious blog post, I’m afraid. Sorry. Just happened.
I’ve been up since 7am. Drove 120 miles from Derby to Cambridge. Got to the office near 10am. Worked until 10:30pm. Very tired.
As I drive from the office to my slum, I take a detour to Asda to buy some shopping. I need milk, and have a sudden craving for Battenburg.
I leave Asda with purchases in plastic bag. Hunter-gatherer is satisfied.
I leave the main entrance and walk across the car-park just in time to a scream, and some sobbing. A woman is on the floor, and what is obviously her husband is stood over her. Their young son looks scared, but even from this distance I can tell he’s been here before.
I’m told it’s not a good idea to get involved in “domestics”. But I’ve never been good at taking advice.
I walk over to them. Asian family. To this … man … standing over his wife. She’s sat on the floor in the muck, sobbing. He’s shouting at her in (I’m guessing) Urdu.
I put my bag of shopping on the car next to theirs, and ask if I need to call an ambulance. They barely look at me. Hoping I’ll go away.
Then I ask if I should be calling the police.
The response is immediate. I am now the centre of attention. They ALL say no. Though English is clearly not their first language, they understood that word well enough.
He assures me that there’s no problem. Misunderstanding. She tells me that if the police get involved, she’ll get beaten again. So will the son.
The son looks terrified and confused. He clearly loves his Dad – what nine-year-old doesn’t? When you’re that age, your Dad can do anything. You have arguments in school about whose is best.
But this boy also wants to protect his mother. He has become the go-between. It upsets me beyond reason that he slips so easily into this role; he has obviously had the practice.
Without asking, he translate for me when his Dad starts shouting and pointing. He’s translating his father’s abuse about his mother. To me.
Now, my world has changed since I became a parent. Things that never used to bother me before now turn me into a blubbering wreck. Any news story involving abused children. Any NSPCC advert. But this little boy is something else.
I am seeing a boy who should be looking up to his Dad, but he’s just scared. Confused. I see someone who has reached a harsh turning-point in life at least a decade too early. He will soon be deciding what kind of person he will grow up to be, and he’s not getting a good example. Is he going to learn to follow his Dad’s example? Or is he going to be better than that?
She says she won’t go home with him. Won’t let the son go either. I offer to drive them somewhere. To a friend. Anywhere. I’ll put them in a hotel for the night if that’s what they need. But she won’t do that either. When he gets home he’ll destroy her passport, she says.
So he rings a family friend to come and pick her up. She seems OK with this, though I’m not happy about him choosing the friend.
I sit with them, in front of Asda, for over an hour.
I spoke to the father. I told him how proud I am of my son. Of how I hope he’ll be everything I have failed to be. Of how he looks to me when he doesn’t know what he should do. About how much he loves his mother. I’m not sure where all my words came from. I hope he listened. I hope I made some sort of sense.
I spoke to the boy, too. I asked him if he’s going to be a good Dad when he grows up. He nods, and starts crying … so I change the subject and we talk about computer games instead.
The ‘friend’ turns up. He’s exactly what I expected. A mate of the husband’s. Appearance is everything. He is all smiles. There is no problem. Is misunderstanding. This never happen before.
She seems happier to go with them. We shake hands. All is quiet and peaceful. They all walk to the car, and I watch.
They get into the car, and then the shouting begins again in earnest. I am out of the way, so he can behave how he likes. The son is sat in the back-seat, listening to all the abuse. He waves at me through the window.
I ring the police anyway. I sit on the bench outside Asda and wait for them to arrive. I take down the car registation while I wait.
The car is still there fifteen minutes later, when the police arrive. I am worried I have made the situation worse.
Now I am home, waiting for the police to come and visit and take my statement. I am also aware that someone nicked my milk and Battenburg when I left it in the car park.
And suddenly, I am really missing my wife and children.