When I was but a lad, you knew how far to push it.
Naughtiness was hardwired into my genes and I was always searching for the next opportunity to create mischief, a form of escapism if you like, from the bleakness and poverty of Labour’s 70s’ nightmare.
Playing ‘knock door run’ with a reluctant Mr Jacobs, at number 67, was a calculated gamble and the price of detection looked a lot like my Dad’s belt. At school, I always ensured I was far enough removed from trouble to avoid the slipper but involved enough to enjoy the fun.
The fear of getting caught outweighed everything though. Chants of “Fight, fight, fight” would break out occasionally but these scores were usually settled in secret, for fear of punishment from the teachers, our parents, or worse still, the local bobby. Incredibly, every village had one back then and many had been stung by the back of his hand.
Fast forward 40 years and a 14-year old girl is attacked for no apparent reason, by 20 others in Central Park, at eight o’clock at night.
Cemeteries are being used as makeshift drug dens, and according to at least one city councillor, (Richard Ferris) drug deals are being carried out in broad daylight, on our city streets.
The Mayor of Peterborough, David Sanders, claimed on my show on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, that his own council and Cambridgeshire police were “Sweeping these issues under the carpet.”
He stated that gang culture, drug dealing and anti-social behaviour were all prevalent in our schools and that everybody was avoiding an open and honest conversation about it.
Any number of listeners phoned the show to say that they dare not venture into Central Park after tea as the atmosphere changes and lawlessness reigns - for them it has become a no-go area.
The girl who was set upon by the mob in the park, 14-year-old Gabriella, told me she was picked on for fun – beaten, kicked and punched for fun.
It’s only by the grace of God that this young girl didn’t sustain a serious injury, yet those sticking the boot in had little thought for the consequences of their actions.
There was no fear either – they know that the CCTV is rubbish and that due to cutbacks, the nearest bobby is probably in Whittlesey, stuck at the railway crossing.
They are confident that their parents will probably blame their behaviour on anybody but themselves and even if they are caught, the punishment is unlikely to be a deterrent that will prevent future misdemeanours.
To discover the true scale of this problem an urgent conversation needs to be had between all interested parties - parents, council, schools, police and children.
These parks and open spaces belong to us and should not be off limits to anyone. For its own sake, society must not keep pretending everything is rosy, whilst waving a white flag to those that stick two fingers up to the law.
We must stand up and teach them some respect – Oh and a bit of fear might be good too – it certainly worked for me!