There is nothing more heavenly than a summer day spent at a county cricket match. The only problem is that you may have to go through purgatory and halfway through hell to get there.
Yesterday I took the train from Eastbourne to Hove to watch the Sussex-Essex game. Opposite me sat three obese, shouty, fully tattooed and trashily bejewelled representatives of the underclass. I should say they sat only intermittently, for they kept getting out of their seats and running about in pursuit of their offspring, a lad aged six or seven.
To say that the boy was unruly would, I suppose, be an insult to what his minders would describe as his right do just as he bloody well liked. Or rather they would surely have said, what he f****** well liked, for the F-word was the predominant feature of their social intercourse: the carriage was, for instance, “…too f****** hot and too f****** crowded.”
The boy expressed his freewill and exercised his right to do as he f****** well pleased by running up and down and kicking passengers randomly. He had clearly been taught the merits of inclusivity and non-discrimination, for he was perfectly non-selective in those he chose to kick: old ladies, that posh-looking young woman trying to read The Guardian, other of his contemporary oiks – and me.
He even poked a nearby baby in the eye.
His minders were hugely entertained by his antics and cheered him on vigorously. The three of them and their kick-boxer offspring ate noisily, endlessly, crisps, chocolate bars other slimy, runny sweet stuff and some provender which I couldn’t identify but which smelled of sick.
Only their latitude concerning the boy’s foul conduct was not consistent. From time to time their approval would be withdrawn and, in their robust and stentorian vernacular, they would rise up – or rather waddle up sweatily – and assume the proper dignity of responsible parenthood, as in, “Cum ’ere you little f*****! Why woz you kicking that Mrs?”
Then one of the minders would smack him. The next minute another of them would say, “You’re your mam’s little prince, int yer!”
It was the boy himself I felt most sorry for. Alternately doted on and reprimanded, caught between cloying sentiment and sheer brutality, there was no possibility of his learning how to interpret human responses to his behaviour.
A little boy already facing a life totally demoralised.
Lurching from indulgence to terror and back again inside two minutes. And this pattern repeated, world without end.
What would he be like in fifteen years’ time? Like his parents, of course: his fat-legged dad, his savage, loud-mouthed mam and her chav of a sister – if it was her sister.
The whole carriage knew they weren’t underprivileged or socially-excluded or deprived – or, as we used to say, poor – for they announced several times to the whole carriage that they were going on a fortnight’s seaside holiday.
No, they weren’t poor. They were the products of our secularised educashun and welfare system.