look around in the sunlight at the primary surroundings; bright green grass, rich red earth
and pure blue sky and you think, Grief, who'd raise a child in a city?
Then you think, Well, billions do, because they have to, because that's the way the
modern world's been moving for centuries and there doesn't look like much around to
reverse that course. And suddenly you worry about the child you're talking to, imagining
this sunny openness, this cheery, inquisitive innocence being transplanted to the big bad
city where instead of being one of the most happily beautiful things you've seen, it be-
comes a liability, a point of weakness, to be exploited by those unscrupulous enough to
treat trust as gullibility and people as collateral, to be damaged.
Finally, though, with a little more thought, you accept that what you see before you
still represents such a great start in life, that just as a childhood spent in the muck and
glaur, eating dirt and falling into the nettles turns out to be a much more effective way
of inoculating a child against infections and allergies to come than keeping them antisep-
tically spotless and clean, so this farmyard, outdoorsy life of crowded rough and tumble
must have its own full suite of lessons about trust and betrayal, allegiances and self-re-
liance that will translate to any future situation; children are more resilient than we fear
and wiser than we think, and we probably worry more than we need.
* * *
Childhood: a sentimental detour .
It seems to me that almost nothing in life is so important as being loved and cared for as
a child. Maybe only an early death ever means more, has more bearing on the ultimate
shape of an existence. Even a vast lottery win or some other great stroke of fortune means
little in comparison, because the legacy of one is liable to affect so profoundly the reac-
tion to the other.
Somebody who's been loved, who has been brought up to feel respect for themselves
and to feel and show respect for others, who has felt cherished and cared for and has been
sheltered from harm as much as possible while never being deceived into thinking that
life will essentially always be painless, has something more valuable than inherited for-
tune or title, and stands a far better chance of coping with whatever challenges life sub-
sequently throws at them than somebody with only material advantages. Nothing guar-
antees success or even survival, and any auspicious start can be overwhelmed by future
calamity, but the chances of avoiding tragedy are better - and even the journey to any
eventual bitterness all the easier - with a childhood informed by love.
I have to confess an interest here; I had the great good fortune to be born to parents
who loved me and did all they could do to give me the best possible start in life. I was an
only child and so I suppose I had all the love they had to spare, and perhaps I was even