Saturday! My life-raft day. 

The kids have plans – which don’t involve me (thankfully). 
Baby A has settled after her shower-hysteria. That girl does not like cleanliness. I gave up on gentle cajouling and platitudes many moons ago. It’s a in, scrub, out, affair. Probably brutal – but it minimises the caterwauling – never welcome anytime but especially not on life-raft day.
J has spent the morning wheezing and coughing. Had to resort to the old spacer arrangement with his inhaler because that new ‘snail’ inhaler just doesn’t hit the spot. He takes it like some patient but much- beleaguered old man – all he needs is the cap and slippers (no pipe for an asthmatic); the lumbago and the plate of tripe. He has even taken to reading the sports pages and the betting tips. Gave T a dead cert last Saturday apparently – and it came in at 8/1. 
E has gone for the village hall key. He has fretted about badminton all week and was mightily unchuffed that he was forced to wait til a decent hour this morning before chapping Mrs McG (terrifying keeper of the key) up out of her bed.
L is working. His dreams of Rockness are almost realised. He should have the readies for the ticket by the end of tomorrow’s shift.
He and I had a peculiar end to the night last night, with him telephoning from mid-road home at 11pm to ask me what he should do, there was a drunk woman with a buggy and a toddler weaving off and on the pavement in front of him. He had apparently asked if she needed any help and she’d given him a mouthful of garbled abuse. I could hear the blood dripping from his soft heart. His distress crystallised by a repeated ‘that poor baby; that poor wee boy, Mum’.
I jumped in the car and went up to get him and to assess the situation.
She was staggering towards the Terrace – I didn’t recognise her at all and hadn’t a clue what her address would be. Now that I was there and given my day job I simply could not drive away. So, I phoned the local police station… She was intoxicated and in no fit state to provide care for children. Schedule One offence. L thought he knew the woman’s name – so I gave garbled and vague details to the operator who then told me that there was a car in the area.
I waited in the stationary car. Watching as she disappeared into the gloom of the Terrace. Less than 5 minutes after I called, the police car arrived. I flagged them down and explained. But it was too late. There was no trace of her – and short of the police chapping on every door, she would remain unknown.
I’ll look for her. Over the coming days and weeks I’ll look. And I know that L will too.
It may have been a one-off. She may be a completely wonderful mum the other 364 days of the year.
When we got home we sat and talked about the realities facing other children. L’s no innocent. A fully comprehensive state-provided education and a working-class family working (or claiming benefits) in the state sector saw to that. But there is a gulf between theory and reality. He can know the possibility of x – but the reality of x is something quite different. Following from last week’s ‘collapsed man in the street’ incident, he seems to be learning fast.
Parental desire to protect and to shield is intense in situations like that. But perhaps there is a more powerful comfort to be derived. L’s response was one of active compassion. He offered help on the last two occasions. He did not pass by, averting his eyes. 
I have (maybe self-indulgently and selfishly) worried long and loud about my parenting capacity over the last two weeks (M’s going’s-ons have triggered a wave of self-doubt and recriminations). Maybe comfort can be found in L’s responses?
And now E is back with the hall key… oh, who knows what’s ahead for the other three?

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