There’s nothing wrong with a sample of one who gets out a lot.

Sitting in a hairdressing salon in London’s Surrey Quays last week, I overheard a conversation between two young girls (mid twenties – one the coiffista, the other the client) on the subject of families, and getting away from them. It went like this.

Yer need yer own space doncha?
Yeh, but yer need to get back an’ see yer mum.
Yeh. But yer own space is nice.
Oh yeh, yeh.
You got a partner?
Yeh, my Dean- ‘e’s lovely. Cooks an’ that ‘e does.
You got any kids?
Not wiv Dean, nah. I ‘ad a likkle girl though, wiv me ex.
Oh right. Is she wiv you?
Nah, she’s wiv ‘er Dad in Leeds. Lovely bloke. Just dint work out, yer know?
Yeh, course. You see ‘er much?
Nah. Issashame an’ that, but she’s got annuva life now.
Yeh, s;pose so.

Last Christmas, we stayed with friends in Sussex. Mutual friends came to lunch on Boxing Day. Their neighbours had split up, it seemed. Dad had gone off with somebody half his age. They’ve got three children at public school, and the deserted mum is frantic because the caring hubby’s closing words as he slammed the front door on Christmas Eve were “You’ll have to fight me for every penny”.

We have another chum who’s been through three partners in seven years. The kids dread going home, in case another stranger’s arrived while they were away at University.

Our wood supplier has just split up with his partner. They have two children under five. They both say it’s amicable. I wonder what the kids think.

Another friend has four children by two women. He’s passionate about his business, and thus spends three weeks in four globetrotting. Of the four kids, one is a member of a hard-line feminist revolutionary Group, one a control-freak incapable of dealing with colleagues, one a drug addict, and one anorexic. His wife asked me last year what I thought was wrong with our children these days.

These apparently small-scale examples are entirely valid for two reasons. First, because if I added all such similar experiences up since (say) 2005, I would have a robust quantitative sample…certainly big enough to satisfy an old-fashioned market researcher like me. And second, because they were all brought up and discussed not as horrific, one-off exceptions, but as further examples of ‘life today’.

What the examples validate is the existence at all levels of society of a thoughtless preference for personal gratification above the crucially important task of all parents: to provide a settled and loving home environment for their children, and – if serendipity and being human means that isn’t possible – then at the very least to put the kids first, and remain in charge of them. I have to say that, when childless people show irritation in the presence of ghastly children and their pathetically indulgent parents, even as a parent myself I identify with the childless folks completely.

One of the conscious deceits of New Labour is that we must not allow personal observation to ‘cloud’ our judgement of ‘the bigger picture’. But the bigger picture is to be found in the aggregation of the smaller snapshots. Society is made up of millions of loving family units and gratuitously abandoned responsibilities. Our personal observations are invaluable, and should not be dismissed as bigotry. We are all individual monitors of cultural decline, and should stop apologising for it.

7 thoughts on “There’s nothing wrong with a sample of one who gets out a lot.

  1. Just the sort of thing Nanny state looks out for so that she can provide advice. Maybe you could get a handout to start up an agency to deal with this sort of thing. Cant have couples splitting up, can we?Very unlike you, this post


  2. Dear AnonYes we can and do have people splitting up, as indeed my first wife and I did 20 years ago. But the kids came first – and now they're adults, it shows.It's hard to miss the point of this piece by a wider margin than you seem to have done. Where in this (or anywhere else) have I suggested this has got anything at all to do with Nanny State? The article is an attack on irresponsibility and denial, period. Sorry you got the wrong end of the stick.JW


  3. Wonderful post!Lefties seem to have a problem with anyone making personal observations on society – particularly when these observations throw up evidence to support the notion of a broken society (something which the left are at pains to deny exists) People who 'observe' are then branded 'bigots' as you so rightly suggest.I am one of those 'childless' (through choice) people who do get terribly irritated by children exhibiting ghastly behaviour in the presence of 'parents' who don't give a damn. It is a constant source of frustration.The meddling nanny state has cultured a generation of parents who genuinely believe that it's the responsibility of anyone but themselves to raise their children, blaming schools, teachers etc for poor behaviour and low academic achievement. If little Johnny doesn't get level 4 in his SATS it must be the schools fault. God forbid the finger's pointed closer to home.


  4. Bigger picture, details… Our rulers obviously know the difference, and equally obviously concern themselves only with the bigger picture. So the piddling little matter of who we little people vote for as individuals should not, therefore, be of any interest to them at all, as compared with the bigger picture of who ends up with the power they all crave so desperately. I use the terms "we" "them" and "they" quite deliberately.


  5. The government seem to have a hatred of families – I'm not distinguishing between any of the political parties, as they are all as bad as each other.How difficult is it to teach your children moral values, such as faithfulness and personal decency, when the red party allows vthe MOJ to punish people who report instututional child abuse, the leader of the yellow party is unable to keep his flies zipped up for a few moments and the leader of the blue party allows pictures of his wife flaunting herself and flashing her knickers all over the National press and then unconvincingly pretends that he knew nothing about it? d better not say anything about the House of Lords and all the rest lest I get on to the subject of naked boys on rocking horses. It would be a nice thing if those in authority would set a good example to the rest of society once in a while.


  6. I absolutely hold the welfare state responsible for this situation.When you create a society that has a guaranteed safety net for every stupid and irresponsible action, then you remove the need for anyone to care about the results of their actions.Add to this the fact that even if a parent might like to apply some sanction against an errant child, then some interfering Government department will sweep into action and take the parent to court for some human rights abuse against the child. Children are taught in school that NO-ONE has a right to prevent them doing anything they want. Then when it all goes wrong the state blames the helpless parents.It is time to make everyone responsible for their actions and to pay the cost.


  7. AnonHear-hear. Self-respect and person responsibility are key to changing the main problem: a culture based on woolly wishful thinking rather than fairness for all citizens and equality before the law.


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