I watched a boy leaning on a tree vomiting this lunchtime. I was out for ‘a run’ with the dog. The truth is I’ve not ‘run’ anywhere for eighteen months, although in order to avoid being one of the hordes of New Year Resolutionists I had a tentative trot out a couple of times last week just to check everything sort of worked. (The jury is out on that one.)
Anyway, at first I thought the boy was older than he was, probably in the grip of a hangover. As I got closer I saw he was no more than twelve, maybe younger. He had got out of a silver car, parked on the wrong side of the road. A man, probably his father, was in the driver’s seat, his elbow sticking out of the fully open car window, the engine running. Car sickness probably. Football fans perhaps – the Shrimpers were having an early kick-off.
That, I thought to myself as I passed the poor kid, is the difference between a father and a mother. The mother would be out with the kid, by the tree, as useless as the father still sitting in the car, engine running, but she would be there. Then I carried on and thought I might die myself in the far muddy corner of the park as my lungs threatened to explode. My life is not glamorous, my trainers are covered in an inch of mud at all times and when I ‘run’ I can’t always breathe. Still, I hope I would get out of the car if my child was throwing up by a tree. It would make no difference of course, but one can’t, always. I am reminded of the quote from Lady Windermere’s Fan by Oscar Wilde which said, ‘We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.’ The gutter doesn’t change but the stars do. At the moment my stars are a bit hazy, like this one.