Magazine article The Spectator

Low Life

Magazine article The Spectator

Low Life

Article excerpt

My grandson turned three last week. His mum blew up balloons and laid on a sumptuous spread of artificial colourings, preservatives, thickeners, acidity regulators, stabilisers, emulsifiers, flavour enhancers, silicates, stearates, sweeteners, anti-caking agents, gelling agents, paraffins and waxes. We stood lovingly to one side while he, his four brothers and sisters, and an assortment of neighbouring hag-ridden young mums and their sullen kids dived in. The Mayan Diet, observed a wit. Eat as much sugary crap as you want because the world is ending next week.

The naughtiest boy present was my grandson's cousin, name of Landen. Landen is a speechless, painfully thin, malevolent little boy who has spent more time than most kids of his age being hidden in cupboards from social workers. He is regularly sent home from school for biting. Recently, he was awarded a gold star at school for not biting the teacher or any of his classmates for three days on the trot. On average it probably takes most gently raised people up to half a century to complete the spiritual journey from innocence to disillusion. Landen's journey has been short. Six years old and he's already there before me.

Whack him and he just laughs at you.

My feelings about Landen are mixed. He is a nasty little boy yet my heart goes out to him. A bit of love and understanding and a hot, nourishing meal now and again is all he needs to get him back on track. But of course we adults are so busy. And kids are very resilient, you know. And the little shit will probably grow out of it, anyhow.

When the pop ran out, I volunteered to drive to the Spar to buy more. There was the usual clamour of applications for a ride in my old coupe, far more than there were seats available. Noticing his angry apartness, I asked Landen if he'd care to join our expedition. He dumbly turned his head away. But as we were about to depart he appeared and squeezed into the back between Bailey and Macey.

The second we were rolling, I flicked on the radio. Popping out to the shop was partly an excuse to find out how West Ham were doing at home to Chelsea. They were one-nil down at half-time was the last I'd heard.

The second half was the featured Five Live match commentary. Normally, tuning in to the second-half commentary is a terrible mistake. …

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