Monday, 12 November 2007

Dark car parks and Little Miss Sunshine

So there I was sitting in a Tesco car park waiting for a friend to do her shopping. I knew that should I go in the display fairy and the retail wizard would weave their spell and I would come out having bought unnecessary stuff. Of course a great deal of stuff is unnecessary; Maslow’s hierarchy of need puts air freshener and quilted toilet paper very low in the heirarchy. Such consumer goods shouldn’t muscle their way into any hierarchy at all; if stuff were people, quilted toilet paper would be Victoria Beckham, Peter Stringfellow or Paris Hilton. Avoiding entering temples of shopping is my current mode of pursuing retail atheism.

So I sit in the car and adopt a vacant and blank expression as one does when waiting in a dark car park. A car parks opposite me, a man gets out and disappears into the store with a small child. In the back is another child about two years old strapped into a car seat. He waves at me, I wave back. Time passes after twenty minutes I start to think that a man who leaves a child alone in a locked car for that length of time is rather stupid, worryingly stupid. I inform the security guard on the door, who nods and says it is stupid but people do it all the time. Am I being stupid? I am not a knee jerk responder to the current paranoia about children left alone; I would have been worried a year, several years, many years ago at the same behaviour.

My mother forgot about me once when I was a few weeks old and left me outside the Co-op in my pram for over an hour whilst she went home, made a cup of tea and wondered what she had forgotten in the shop. I was still there when she returned. That was in the so called halcyon days of relaxed child care pre Myra Hindley and Ian Brady. Children could be let loose then with just a bottle of Vimto and a bag of crisps. they were allowed to roam the hills, canal banks, streets and bomb sites and no harm would befall them, not the sort of harm that happens at the hands of strangers. The statistics show clearly that 99% of physical and sexual harm to children happens within the home, within the family. The bogey man usually has his feet under the family table and is in the family photo album.

After thirty minutes I decide to ask the Customer services to page the owner of the car with registration number XYZ 123 and point out that he has left a toddler alone in it. I watch the man arrive back at the car, look through the window at the now sleeping child, turn and walk back into the store. Should I have said something to him personally, I am not afraid of confronting anyone, should I have even asked customer services to request he return to his car, the child was now sleeping after all and did not appear distressed? What has bothered me most is that the security guard said that it happened a lot and didn’t seem at all worried. In his favour no young child to my knowledge has choked to death or met with a serious accident unattended in a Tesco car park, no child has been abducted from one. Perhaps I am becoming a busy body, a sticky beak, a nosey parker, a ‘disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’? His look seemed to convey that. So be it, if I can manage to avoid buying unnecessary consumer items perhaps I can also avoid not buying into the ‘best not to get involved’ culture of someone else will sort it. Leaving a minor unattended is a criminal offence, if I had told the security guard someone was trying to break into a car and steal it would he have reacted differently? Sadly I think he would; cars, property, stuff after all is far more important and in need of safe guarding

On a totally different note, I have sent off a fishing letter to a recommended literary agent re the novel. It is still the definite article, now the very definite article after feedback from writers whose opinions I value. So we shall see, feels a little like entering your child in a beauty pageant, it’s my Little Miss Sunshinestrutting her stuff but like the VW camper it may need a push

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