A note came home from school yesterday. Usually, they say things like "Coffee morning on Saturday" which makes you think: "Great. Cake." Sometimes, they say: "Remember your child needs a sun hat and sun cream" which makes you think: "God we live in a paternalistic society." Then: "I have no idea where the sun hats are." This note, in my six-year-old's Spiderman rucksack, said on Friday 11th May "a man with a goatee beard, driving a small green car tried to pick up a y4 pupil" outside another village school a few miles away. It went on: "The attempt was unsuccessful but please make sure that your children are aware of stranger danger and remain vigilant at all times."
You read it twice. You feel your skin chill. As you read it the second time, sitting in your kitchen with your child safe home from school and drinking milk, you think. Whether the sort of man who "keeps himself to himself" as they always say of monsters, when discovered, is watching every news bulletin with budding envy in his twisted heart, not horror. Whether on Friday, he turned the key to start up his small green car, still thinking of perfection. And told himself: "It's a nice day. I'll go for a drive."
What do you say to your children? What warnings do you give them? Do you make them turn away from an old lady's kind words in the bakers? Drill them in fear? Talk of black clad childcatchers? Sweets with too high a price. Puppies and secret birthday parties, promised but never delivered? Say there are those who want to hurt children, feed them poison candy, take them away from mummies and daddies? Do you talk of evil? Say it drives a car? Tell them to shout "No" so loud that trees fall down, refuse lifts, run screaming like banshees from men with goatees? Or smiles. Do you say: "Look, here in the paper. This little girl is called Madeleine"?