in the last four weeks. Both have been elderly women living alone. The news media has been making headlines from both. It is understandable but it disturbs me. There have been the usual 'lock your doors' and 'do not answer to strangers' type warnings but they have come amid details that I do not want to know.
Recently there was also an entire double page of books about such things in a book catalogue this household receives. Why, my father asked, would anyone want to read about such things? How, he wanted to know, do such books get published? He threw the catalogue into the bin in disgust.
There are similar books in the local bookshop and at the library. I assume someone reads them. I do not and I do not know anyone who does read about sadistic killers or serial killers or violent sexual abuse. I know those things exist. I know something about the psychology of such people and I do not want to know lurid details provided in racy journalistic language.
But there is something that bothers me even more than that. There are quite a number of children around here. Most of them are not free to roam the local streets. Most of them are not even permitted to play in the front garden, the driveway or the street. A few are not even permitted to play in their back garden. They certainly are not permitted to go to the local playgrounds alone. If they have bicycles they are only permitted to ride up and down their driveways or occasionally "to the end of the street and back". They have no idea how to use public transport and even crossing a road is a problem because they rarely do it on foot. When they do cross a road they cross with an adult.
On the rare occasions they go to a playground they find a highly sanitised "child-safe" place which is supposed to prevent injury - and even then I hear parents saying, "Be careful. No, don't do it like that. You might fall and hurt yourself."
Nobody wants their child hurt. Children do not want to hurt themselves. Even so it seems as if children are becoming less and less able to do some things.
I remember the first time the Whirlwind walked around here alone. She was much too young but she needed help. She knew me. She knew where I lived. She crossed two small, quiet suburban side-roads and banged furiously on our door. Fortunately I was at home. "Mummy won't get up from the floor". We rang for an ambulance and then for her father.
She was not quite four years old. Children can do a lot, especially when they need to.