Sunday 1 June 2008

News on the Doorstep

It isn't often - especially down in the suburban demi-paradise I call home - that news happens on your doorstep. Least of an appalling story like that which unfolded on Friday night and Saturday morning. The news began trickling in early in the morning, until it became the lead item on the morning bulletins: Two young children stabbed to death, a baby fighting for life, both parents in custody. As the initial shock wore off, one reached for the lazy assumption that this must have happened at the 'rough end' of town - the badlands (not that bad at all, really) to the North - but no, at the newsagents I learned where it had happened. It was within a (very nearly literal) stone's throw of my own house.
Turning the corner at the end of my road, I found all the accessories of a modern news 'incident' - the big vans with tall aerials, the cameras and fuzzed-up mikes, the mooching hacks and technicians with their styrofoam coffees and their professional ennui. And there, just over the road, taped off, guarded by a pair of coppers, was the house where it had happened. An ordinary, unimposing, bow-windowed detached house from, I'd guess, the 1920s - last-gasp Arts & Crafts, the front as bland as any other, with its whitewashed pebbledash and plastic windows, but some quite nice detailing surviving on the side elevations. I must have walked past it thousands of times over the years, and often, in an absent-minded way, registered the tiniest pang of aesthetic pleasure at those details. Now here it was again, this half-noticed building, isolated and starkly transformed into a 'house of horrors'. And horrors, unimaginable horrors, were indeed enacted there, behind those blank net curtains - blank but for, at the upstairs window, on the sill, a row of little plastic flower arrangements in tiny pots...
As the news developed in the course of the day, one reached again for the lazy assumptions - husband discovers wife has strayed, kills her children in his fury - and once again they were wrong. This is the latest. In the end, it appears, this may be another dreadful case of a mother sliding into such a well of unimaginable despair that there seems only one kindness she can do her children. . And, as ever, no one knew.


  1. Gollygosh Nige, never realised when you talked about leafy lanes that it was Carshaltons leafy lanes, I remember it well, summer of `64 (1964) 10.30, Saturday night, walking through the doors of the Orchid on Purley way, like falling into a vat of 25 year old Macallan with mouth open, ratio of burdz to blokes = 4 to 3, my ideal, one of the Mecca circuits bands playing Got You Under my Skin, finishing off with Laura. Midnight, pile into the car, you could park just around the corner in those days, off to Epsom or Banstead or Sutton or (and importantly,) Carshalton, up Green lane into the Wrythe (yes I know, wrong side of town, not exactly the Beeches) and ..them were the days my boy, while a tiny minority were indulging in the miserable swinging sixties, we were having a whale of a time. I remember your ponds very well, fell in one Sunday morning.
    Its the casual nature of violence that shocks the most Nige.

  2. Ah Malty - I never suspected you had a Carshalton connection! And your youthful round of pleasures sounds remarkably like my own. Yes I lived there back then too. Racinated, me...