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Monday, 23 February 2009

SEVEN DOGS AND AN AWFUL LOT OF TEENAGERS

Esther, my next door neighbour has been away - and I was out when a man with long hair and seven dogs knocked on her door.
Apparently, he banged her door and rang her bell for half an hour. He even went round and banged on her front window, trampling across her bulbs on the way.
What I don't think Esther has mentioned is that after she scarpered off to Mars I found several pots of globe artichokes in her back garden. Spares. She must have been planning a globe artichoke farm, there were so many of them. (Talk about obsessed!) Anyway, I planted two out, one at the front and one beside the holly beside her front door. The one at the front remained small - but flowered. The one by the holly grew taller - but didn't flower. I kept a third in a pot on my windowsill (I still have it). I let the rest die. (I was having enough trouble with her tomatoes without having to worry about her potted artichokes as well.)
If I had seen the man, I might have called out to warn him about the artichoke and the bulbs. No I wouldn't. I'd have looked out and worried. And if Esther had been there - well, she'd have opened the door, so it wouldn't have happened. (Ming thinks it may have been a man about a boat. He has some funny friends.)
As it was she wasn't there and nor was I, so, after a half an hour of him trampling and banging a couple of teenagers who were hanging out on a nearby corner went over and said they thought Esther (I mean Mary) was out. Which she was.
After that, he went away. Maybe he was disconcerted by being spoken to by teenagers. Maybe he thought they were being insolent in pointing out the obvious. (Well, it should have been obvious by then.) Anyway, he went.
This has got me thinking about teenagers.
* * * * *
.
A few years ago, in the winter, around nine or ten o'clock at night, when it was dark, about fifty of them ran up our road, milling about and shouting. They seemed to be chasing three young men who, finding themselves cornered, turned and managed to run back through the crowd and escape.
For a while, all was noise and chaos. Neighbours (like me) came to their windows and looked out anxiously. Esther went out and spoke to them. She asked one of the girls what was happening. The girl said they were playing Number Knock. Number Knock? A grown man was hurrying by on the pavement as fast as he could. Esther asked him if he knew what Number Knock was and whether it mattered. He said he did. And it did. And went.
But it wasn't clear why it mattered. Did it matter to him because he didn't like the rush and the noise. Or did he think it mattered to the three young men who had run back through the crowd? After a bit of caffluffle, it went quiet - and they were gone. All of them.
* * * * *
The next day, Esther phoned the local Secondary School to ask about Number Knock. The lady who answered the phone didn't know and didn't see why she should. Esther said that since nearly all the teenagers in the area were in the school's care for most days throughout most of the year, the school might be presumed to be an authority on teenage activity. Ha!. So we were left with not knowing whether we should leave it be, or intervene, or phone the police if Number Knock came down our street again. It hasn't. But what if?
* * * * *
Then, a couple of years later, there was another mystifying teenage event. About the same number of teenagers, forty or fifty of them gathered in our park. They arrived gradually, in groups, until there they all were, sitting on the tables, sitting on the little roundabout, sitting on the very little slide, sitting on the little rocking chicken thing - and telling the little children who were playing there that they should leave the park or have their heads bashed in.
Some mums went to remonstrate.
Some mums phoned the police.
Two policemen arrived in a car.
They ambled towards the teenagers.
The teenagers ambled away in groups, just as they had arrived.
And that was it.
They'd done no harm. They'd just sat. I don't think they would have bashed the heads of the little children. On the other hand, the meagre toys in the park are for little children to play on, not for the big teenagers to sit on. So it was right that they should give way.
So . . . there they were. Then . . . there they weren't.
I'm rambling on about this because I have the care of Ceres and it weighs on me.
* * * * *
I've always reckoned that if you are confident and polite you can negotiate your way through most crowds, drunk or not, and find a way round almost all awkward individuals.
People with mental health problems who decide to harangue you at bus stops can be frightening and embarrassing - and you are stuck if you need the bus, which you do, or you wouldn't be at the bus stop - so you are an un-moving target. But the bus will come in the end (with luck) and whisk you away. So that's alright.
* * * * *
But, over the last few years, I've noticed people with empty eyes. Un-meetable eyes. Eyes I dare not look into. There is no relating there. No negotiating.
There aren't many of them - but seen them, I have.
They walk straight ahead, full of fierce purpose, looking neither to the right nor to the left - just on, straight on. Fast.
I fear them.
They walk alone.
I think they walk in otherwise benign crowds - like missed grit in rice.
It's Ceres I have to advise. And I don't know what to say.
* * * * *
P.S. He didn't stand on the artichoke. Phew!
_____

3 comments:

  1. Lucy,
    I am as usual utterly captivated by your stories.
    the caffluffle and number knock. the mystery of the teenages who came all at once, and then left...and a frightening image of some people in crowds like grit in rice.
    You are so talented, lucy. You have such a unique voice.

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  2. Did you ever find out about the knocking game? It sounds like the teens have nothing better to do, which is a shame. I always liked my niece and nephew as teens, but they only hung around in small groups. And "caffuffle" reminds me of Little Britain, which at first I didn't like but then I really did. But my library only has the first season DVD. I ask you!!

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  3. Hello Philip and Monica - I hadn't realised the moderating thing was on. Apologies.

    We never found out about the Number Knock game - and it hasn't been up our street since.

    The crowd itself seemed good humoured enough but there was a lot of shouting and what we really needed to know (but couldn't work out)was whether the people who were being chased were enjoying it as much as the people doing the chasing.

    Lucy

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