There was once an England where the sun shone far more often than it does today; where the summers were warmer and longer; where the winters were beautifully crisp and often snowy.; where spring and autumn were brief, necessary stops along the way to the real seasons.
For Stew Sellie, his siblings and friends, life revolved around The Crescent; a close collection of similarly sturdy council dwellings, nestled around a drive and lawns. Cars were few, and life was slow. The drive and the wider village was a safe environment. In a different world one might say it was trapped in time. But these were different times.
These were times when the only regular aircraft in the sky were military; contrails were few, and noteworthy. Cars were mostly red, with a smattering of white, blue, green and a few, older, black types. A bus serviced the village several times a day. There was a well-stocked dairy, a pub, a garage that sold petrol, a small shop and a sub post office. Farmers sold potatoes, game and other seasonal foods at the roadside. The services unavailable in the village, butcher, baker, fishmonger, library and chip shop, visited regularly in vans or estate cars that operated as shops on wheels. Somebody even came round to sharpen tools, knives and shears.
A bottle of Corona from the dairy was an investment, with a 2p return on the bottle. The pub had a side door, tucked away around the back, where any child could by all the fags, beer, chocolates, crisps, pork scratchings and pickled eggs they had money for; because the publican knew the children; because he knew they had no money of their own; knew they had no beer or fag habits; knew they would be buying for parents or older siblings.
He knew. They all must have known. They knew the children, and they knew the parents.
The adults knew each other, and they knew each others’ children. And the children knew that; and the children knew that other non-related adults in the village had the trust and authority of their own parents. They knew the faces, names and addresses of the people who shared their village – all of them. And the village knew the children and their parents.
Sure the children misbehaved, as all children, and many adults, do. But they knew the consequences of their actions. They knew it was a gamble. They respected law and order, and they respected adults. They had blind trust in both. They knew the adults had their best interests at heart. Yes, the village was a friendly, loving environment. The village was safe.
But home, the place Stew Sellie left each morning and returned to each afternoon, was not; least not always. Things went on there that would have terrified other children in the village; that would have horrified the other parents, had they known. Had they known? How could they not have known! How could they not have seen, heard or at least suspected? Yes, they knew. They knew the parents, and they knew the children. The Crescent, the village, the tight knit village, with its gossip and twitching curtains. The safe village, full of trusting children, and knowing adults. The children trusted, and the adults knew. And they did nothing. For years.
nothing . .
. . whilst the children suffered, in that safe little village.