Still waters run deep. That’s probably a fact. Behind every privet hedge and polished letterbox who knows what dangers lurk? Things are never quite what they seem and if you spend a lot of your life looking over your shoulder there’s probably a very good reason, though that doesn’t ever necessarily mean it’s your fault. What am I talking about; Britain isn’t privet hedges and polished letterboxes any more. It’s becoming a bit of a dump. Maybe it always was but at least it’s a balanced dump. If you think all the bad things happen on a council estate then you’d be very wrong. Malice lingers pretty much everywhere. And really it finds the warm places it needs to grow not in tower blocks or mansions or a semi-detached in Cleethorpes but in our silly little heads. And from there it does whatever it pleases.
At one point today the BBC news website ‘Most Read’ column suggested that the 9th ‘Most Read’ article was about the scary number of domestic related murders in Britain last year. On the other hand the most popular article was about Adele filing for divorce. That says an awful lot of an awful lot about the state of the news these days. And the state of the people who read it. Successful she may be but Adele has all the emotional punch of a Butlins wet t-shirt competition and unless I’m mistaken her stage act consists of the same few songs punctuated by her saying “fuckin’ ‘ell, I can’t believe I’m doin’ this” to an arena of 12 years old girls and their misty eyed mothers. Terrific. Yet, appalling as that sounds I would still rather be at a never ending Adele concert than be the victim of domestic abuse. Or worse be the abuser, come to think of it.
Doling out a good seeing to of domestic abuse, presumably to someone you’re supposed to love, is a hard thing to imagine doing if you don’t ever do it. When people slide towards suicidal thoughts it’s very hard to empathise if you’ve never had a suicidal thought in your life. It takes a special kind of mindset to want to hurt the person you live with; your partner, your children, your family. It’s not a mindset I know a great deal about – if I even tried to lay a malicious finger on Wifey she’d probably cut it off along with a few other bits, and quite right too. Sure, we get on each other’s nerves once in a while but show me a couple who don’t and I’ll show you a pair of smug twats who are hiding something.
Take Rodrigo Giraldo of Hemel Hempstead. Quite what made him think it was necessary to murder his wife in the presence of their newly adopted baby is anyone’s guess. He then took the body to a local beauty spot (presumably not in Hemel Hempstead), set it on fire, put it in a suitcase and gave it a shallow grave. Had he worked it all out in advance? Was it a crime of passion? Did she, at least in his opinion, ‘have it coming’? His son (not the newly adopted one, I deduce) suggested it was the culmination of “a lot of little tiny things”. I would suggest those little tiny things very likely meant a lot more than a little to Rodrigo than they did to his wife. But that’s just one face of domestic abuse in Britain today. Fires and suitcases and beauty spots.
Last year 173 people were killed as a result of domestic abuse in Britain and while that figure may seem small compared to say, the number of ants in the jungle, when you think about it that’s still a lot. But who cares? Certainly not Michael Rolle when he stabbed his ex-girlfriend to death in a jealous rage; jealous because he’d seen her with another man. His defence included the suggestion that she had fallen on the knife, which would be laughable if it wasn’t so sad. To Michael his jealous rage was far more important than the wellbeing of his ex-girlfriend and so she became a member of the 173 club, a club she never realised she’d applied to join. There’s plenty more. Lots of stabbing, naturally; who hasn’t got a drawer full of knives and a tissue thin motive? Mothers stabbed by sons. Girlfriends by boyfriends. Roughly a quarter of them reversed the gender role but the weight of guilt seems to fall fatter on the fellas. Hard, tough men with axes to grind? Brittle, scrawny, fucked up little losers with nothing else to fill their time? It makes no difference, someone’s still dead at the end and they’ll never know how much better or worse their lives might have been.
I’m a long way from perfect and I’ve done a few daft, shameful things in my time but this, I’m grateful to be honest to be able to say, is definitely not one of my departments. It’s not something that ever crosses my mind. It is, like Willy Wonka’s factory, a world of pure imagination. And that’s good. Good and lucky. 173 bloated, lacerated, miserable purple bodies seems like an awful lot to me (they certainly would if you put them all in your garden) and that doesn’t even take into account every black eye, cracked rib, bruised back and split lip. It doesn’t include every cigarette burn on a baby or half-starved octogenarian strapped to a bed. It doesn’t matter if the figures are better or worse in Belgium, Botswana or Bolivia. Our figures are shameful enough but, as ever, everyone has a choice. Run in anger, sing in anger, weep in anger, drive in anger, regret in anger, write in anger or punch in anger. I don’t have solution; I rarely do. What I do know is that I couldn’t care less that Adele’s getting divorced. In the grand scheme of things her domestic arrangements are the least of our worries.
G B Hewitt. 13.09.2019