My journey home takes me past two strip clubs. One is of no consequence, but the other is illuminated by a pink and blue neon sign that announces to the world 'striptease'. I love it - it is just so absolutely right....very Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. I'm thrilled in a smutty teenager sort of a way when I catch a glimpse of one of the girls standing outside puffing away between dances.
Friday evening and just as I'm passing my mobile rang several times, so I pulled over. One was a call from a client I had no desire to speak with out of school hours, but the other was an unknown number which I called back. I'd left my helmet on, so figuring out who was at the other end was less than easy. It turned out to be the boys's friend Josh who put the boy on the line. He'd been mugged for his phone. Two feelings immediately overwhelmed me - one of sympathy and sadness, one of anger and frustration. I probably shouldn't have said I was in the middle of fucking London and couldn't ring Virgin to cancel his mobile phone, but I did. I rushed home as quickly as I could, but it took an eternity...and going through red traffic lights and overtaking at places I wouldn't normally dream of, was equally probably not very sensible. At home I quickly cancelled the phone, but trying to get hold of the boy was impossible...he was at a friends and I had no address and no phone number other than the one he'd called on, and when I rang that it simply went to fax. Ringing another of his friends was no help and a feeling of helplessness grew like a storm cloud coming over the horizon. Eventually I decided the only option was to go to the local police station...as I rolled into the car park my phone rang. It was the boy on his way home with the parents of another friend. It had taken an hour of anxiety to hear from him again.
He got the rollicking he was expecting, but not for the reasons he thought. He was traumatised by it all, but wouldn't accept the affectionate hug or the supportive words. He'd gone without leaving me any details of where he was going or how to get hold of his friend's parents. My fault really as I wasn't firm enough on those points. I felt I'd let him down as I couldn't get to him and help him when it mattered. And that's happened only once before - when his mother died, I've always felt guilty about having to break the news to him...and all those feelings returned with a vengeance. A parent's job is to protect their offspring, but sometimes they can't and sometimes they know deep down that not being there is the only way a child will grow up. But not one of my best moments for sure.