"We're collecting for Red-Nose Day."
"That was yesterday."
"Yeah, well we don't give it in 'til tomorrow."
I am only half listening as hubby debates whether or not to toss a quid or two at the pair of ragamuffin's at the door. Not as easily parted from his cash as I am, he wants to know what feats they've pledged for sponsorship. I can tell he's none too impressed with the sheet of plain paper they are touting for a kosher sponsorship form. Grudgingly, he coughs up the minimum extortion fee to get them off the doorstep, and comes through for a moan.
"I swear that's the same kids who came to collect the Christian Aid envelope, y'know!"
"Look on the bright side - the money was probably aimed at them in the first place, they've just cut out the middle man, is all."
(Once a year envelopes are posted through the door asking for a donation to Christian Aid. Volunteer's stop by later in the week to collect them. Last time round it was picked up by a pair of impostors. The real volunteer had had a hard night of it when he later came a-calling, having to break the news that we'd all been duped.)
Before hubby could fully launch himself off on to one, Abby cut him off mid-flow, thundering down the stairs, screaming, "Dad, dad! They're smashing up the flag-pole - look! Look!"
She'd spied them from the upstairs window. Little bastards obviously felt we hadn't coughed up enough protection money. Hubby made to go after them, but I stayed him. What was the point? They were already moving on. Sure, he could have caught up with them, then what? He could hardly swing for them, could he? If he ranted and raved, we'd only open ourselves up as a prime target for further raids.
Yes, I know, I know, it's a pathetic mind-set to have, and I hate myself for it.
We lead a mostly peaceful life, and I have no intentions of changing that. We have four relatively happy kids, and no friction with our neighbours. These kids are not from around here, they are from the housing estate a couple of miles down the road - aside from when they invade the river in the Summer (spraying graffiti all over the glen) we have few to little dealings with them, and I much prefer to keep it that way.
When did I become such a coward?
Even in London, I was the first one to confront any disrespectful louts. But back when you are single and young, you have the belief you are invulnerable. Now I am just frustrated and angry at how gutless I've become.
Poor little Abby, her Manchester United flag flying days have been temporarily grounded. The line has been cut, the pole tilted and the top lopped off. Maybe we can fix it. I guess we can try. It's no big deal in the great scheme of things.
It's just that bad taste sitting in my mouth that I find the hardest to swallow.