Thursday 24th June, 2010 (to K)
When I was coming back from Luxembourg this last time, back from my latest obeisance at the EC's alter, I bought a Guinness in St. Pancras and sat at a table on the concourse to watch the world go by for the ten minutes until my train was due. (You were my sponsor, in fact, because when you texted me the train times you'd suggested having a beer, and the idea had grown in my mind while I trundled along in the Docklands Light Railway across the hard bright landscape of East London.) As I sat with my pint I noticed a little boy sitting beside his father against the wall of the escalator opposite. The boy was perhaps five or seven years old, and very sad about something, and he had something strange about his eyes — perhaps he had eye problems, or perhaps he had just been crying an awful lot. His father was helping him and soothing him, and gave him a drink of something. But it was easy to see that they didn't have much money, and easy to infer (perhaps mistakenly, but certainly credibly) that his pain was the result of opportunities curtailed by lack, of hopes gradually eroded by the never-ending absence of a lucky break, of a continual disconnect between the happy smiling faces of the Sky TV, SUV, Me Me Me images dangling like carrots in front as the big sticks of unemployment and underemployment loom up behind. He was hurt, and a hurt child is a well of almost infinite sadness into which we ache to pour some comfort, some love and care that can make up for their hurt and so allow us to again forget those torments of the innocent that go on and on and on all around us.
Before our child arrived I sometimes managed to forget this feeling. Now that our precious daughter lives and breathes and faces up to life in all her fragility and all her wonderful humanity my emotions are more raw, more exposed. I can bring tears to my eyes by thinking of that little boy's face and his expression, framed by the impersonal hustle and bustle of a busy London station, sustained by his father's kindness but simultaneously insulted by the price of the beer that I was drinking, or the insouciance of the carefree suits in the champagne bar above our heads.