I'm not supposed to be back here tonight. I have another book to review. If only reviewing actually paid.
However, on a break, I took a look at the Telegraph's site because it usually causes much milder rage than the Mail. Not this time.
When I was a kid, I lived on a council estate. It wasn't dangerous as long as you knew which streets to avoid and as I was only a kid, I wasn't allowed to roam the streets at all hours and break things without consequence. Some were, not nearly so many as today but there were some.
My father worked in the mines so although we didn't have a lot of money and we kids didn't get pocket money, we were never hungry and never without any of the basic necessities. Aside from school, the government did not figure at all in my life and if they had tried I would have ignored them. As far as possible, I still do.
The idea that the government should find things for us to do never occurred to us. If anyone had suggested it, they would have been laughed at or treated to our best display of council estate language. Of course, if that had appeared on TV we would each have been treated to our fathers' display of what the word 'consequences' means.
I make no comment on the woman's appearance. My grandmother looked harder than her and probably was. Some of my aunties could take her down, no problem. Like her, they would be fiercely loyal to family and like her, they would have handed any of their kids in if they'd seen them rioting. We would have been tenderised prior to landing in custody too. She might look 'chav' but she's not. She has a clear sense of right and wrong and acted on it.
What makes her different from the similarly fearsome council estate women of the past is her expectation that the government should be providing entertainment for her children. None of those women would have allowed anyone from the government anywhere near their kids when I was small. The government's role, through the police, was only to tell us what not to do. As long as we weren't caught breaking any laws, we could make our own entertainment.
It wasn't hard. Wildlife abounds even in the cities and can be an endless source of fun for those who aren't terrified of everything with lots of legs and eyes. Those who are so terrified are another source of fun. Put the two together and you can occupy an entire weekend with a single game.
I wasn't the only one to fit together all those plastic boxes that pens and other little things came in to make a labyrinth, place a spider in the middle and insert flies through one of several entry points. Hours of gentle entertainment, as long as you're not a fly. You also need a little bit of damp sponge in there because spiders don't drink water directly. Oh, this was no half-assed job. No spider ever died in my care, all were released when they were too fat to eat any more.
It was inspired by the minotaur stories, because they used to treat us kids as if we were almost intelligent in those days, and teach us things that were actually interesting. Sex education was behind the bike sheds, where it should be.
Political correctness would probably ban all such entertainment now. Along with poking earwigs out of the holes in concrete posts, keeping caterpillars until they pupated and watching the butterfly/moth emerge, watching cats give birth (I was about six when ours popped), and let's not forget the perennial favourite of children for millenia - tormenting flies, slugs, ants and especially wasps. The best fun I had with wasps involved a used jam jar and an air rifle. Now that's real gun practice.
It's not that the government have to find things for kids to do. It's more that they have to stop denying kids things to do. Climbing trees is hazardous and sometimes kids fall out and hurt themselves. Riding a tatty trike with no brakes down a hill when there's a ditch at the bottom is daft but fun. Experimenting with explosives is mad but lots and lots of fun. When I was fourteen I could go into a shop that looked like a Wild West general store and buy a pound of sodium chlorate in a paper bag. A bag of sugar and a little pack of sulphur from the chemists and we were in business. No questions were asked. Nobody was hurt. Nobody was even singed although there was one instance when underwear went prematurely into the laundry. We made the fuses longer after that.
Now, at over fifty, I'd get questions and funny looks if I tried to buy chlorate or sulphur. Fourteen-year-olds have no chance.
So she's wrong. The government must not be involved in finding her kids things to do. Instead, government should stop denying them things to do. Yes they will get hurt doing some of the things we did. Yes they will sometimes break a bone and cost the NHS money. However, if they are occupied, they will not want to spend half their time in front of a Playstation and the other half stealing one.
Attitudes have changed. She talks of ten children and you might wonder how she managed to find someone to impregnate her ten times - but if she asked, would you dare say 'no'? It was ever thus. What has changed is that even though she has that family loyalty and sense of rightness that was always there in the estates, she now believes that the government are responsible for her childrens' play time.
Just one generation ago, she would have flared into rage at the very idea.