An Evening At The Pub

I have been recently in a pub I had not visited for a while, and was reminded of a rather shocking experience lived in this pub some time ago.

I was, then, having my dinner in the pub, as business had kept me in London later than usual. This pub is in the heart of touristic London and is always well frequented, but rarely packed.

At the table near me sits a family of obvious British tourists (cameras, guides, the lot). Both parents (incredibile dictu) and two children, a boy and a girl; the boy perhaps seven, the girl five or six.

I eat my steak and ale pie reading a magazine (this was before the explosion of tablets and wi-fi hotspots everywhere), when I notice something strange is happening. Mother and father are intently discussing some matters of theirs, and the children start to play some very strange games. At one point, the boy has the girl sitting on her knees on the floor, her head on his crotch, and is saying rather loud “suck! suck! suck!” whilst he holds her head rather forcefully in his hands, moving her head up and down in the way that mimics a sexual act of which I think he knew (and she did not) the full significance. The parents could not possibly have overlooked (or overheard) the scene, but continued to talk with each other as if something absolutely normal, not worthy of their intervention, was taking place.

My brain started to – as far as it can – work fast, with many questions chasing each other: what is happening here; do they really mean *that* (yes, they do); why the parents do not react; should I react; have I ever seen such a situation before (no, I haven’t); what experience do I have of children’s behaviour (zero); what can I remember of our games at my age (well, *not that*); have I forgotten, or am I in front of something very creepy here (no clue, but rather the second?). Am I just out of touch with the fantasy world of children, and applying adult malice to children’s games? But I can not remember such “games” at my age, and I am absolutely sure in my time *that* was not in the cards; not even imagined, let alone enacted!
In a public place! In front of their parents busily discussing with each other, but most certainly fully aware of what was happening!

“Suck! Suck!”

Shall I intervene, I kept thinking; Is something happening here that demands my intervention, or the presence of two apparently normal parents must be enough  to calm my fears me in this respect? In all this, a question kept creeping: what do I know? What experience do I have with children that would allow me  to say whether this is “normal” or not? But still, why should it be “normal”? Was it in my time? Not that I can remember! But what do I remember? And can I (always a rather innocent boy, who had certainty only at almost eight years of age about “how children are made”) see myself as truly “representative” of the kind? If I shut up, will I will be called to answer by Almighty God for having seen and done nothing? But look, the parents are there, it all happens in their presence, and they are perfectly calm and unconcerned! What do I know? What do I know?

“Suck! suck!”

The scene was, in my eyes, straight out of Kafka, but then again if it’s happening it could be that I am a victim of my admiration for Kafka! What shall I do?

I decided in the end to throw a line in the sand: if the girl or the boy had only hinted at opening the zip, I’d have cried “stop that now!” even at the cost of a serious row. As long, though, as the thing did not become even worse I would do nothing, leave the responsibility to the parents and, in case, let the sins of the parents visit the sons, then no one ever gave me the charge to educate perfectly unknown children from the strenght of my perfect ignorance of what is normal behaviour in children of that age.

At some point (but after some interminable minute of “suck!suck!” Soundtrack) the matter settled, the children got tired o their “play” and after a while the entire family went away.

I am a man who tends to take his decisions once and not look back or being tormented by hindsight. The circumstances still make it very possible the parents knew best, and would have (rightly, if they knew what they did) resented any ingerence from a perfect stranger with no experience of dealing with children whatever.

But I still could not avoid thinking how long would it be (three months? Nine?) before the boy came to the idea of really unzipping his pants, forcing the sister on him in the same rather forceful (if clearly assented to) way he was using in the pub.

I can’t imagine any other cause for this behaviour than the boy’s exposure to porn, which again speaks books about the parents. Or perhaps I’m an idiot with no idea and no usable recollection of children’s behaviour. 


Posted on February 15, 2013, in Catholicism and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Dear Mundabor,

    Remember the old saying: “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

    Or the words of St. Catherine of Sienna: “We’ve had enough of exhortations to be silent! Cry out with a hundred thousand tongues. I see that the world is rotten because of silence.”

    You should have spoken up, even if only for the little girl who was being abused.

    Having said that, I can only hope and pray that I would have spoken up. It is hard. We have been trained to shut up and shut down by the PC police, and so we do, even when faced with evil.

    A hard read, some images now that won’t go away.

    We must pray for that little girl.

    • Thanks recoveringnovusordo,

      at least next time something like that should happen I know that I am supposed to speak.

      But again, my bigger problem was not that I wanted to speak and was afraid of the PC police (I do not suffer from such problems), but simply not knowing how such children behaviour is to be considered; the more so, because it seemed so normal to their very parents, in a crowded pub; and I am not a parent, nor have I ever been confronted with such a situation before.


  2. Mundabor,
    we live in an age in which this kind of thing seems pretty normal to most people. Children do tend to imitate the behavior of others, after all, and things like this permeate our “culture” thoroughly. It does not surprise me in the least that neither the parents nor other guests saw any need to intervene. An intervention would have been met by unbelieving stares and mystified wonder, why anyone should find this kind of behavior problematic. “It was just a game”, they would have said. And it *is* just a game (for the children – see below). The most likely outcome would have been the implicit encouragement of the children by their parents. You could have worsened the situation by intervening. There is, of course, also the slight chance that the parents did not really notice what exactly was happening or that they were simply inattentive or something like this, in which case it would have been best to draw attention to the situation.
    But the situation is too complex to judge according to possible consequences. In addition, you, as a stranger, had no natural duty to act as you were not responsible for the children, especially with their parents nearby. With the benefit of hindsight, it might have been best to alert the parents as discretely as possible to the scene, making sure that they understood what was going on. If they had seen nothing wrong with it, you could not have done anything against their explicit wishes in any case. If they had in fact seen something wrong with it, they could have acted as they saw fit.

    A few words about children and their “games”: Most likely, it was just a game for the children involved. I am very sure that the children in question will not have thought about their game in “sexual” terms (for which the children have been far too young – sexuality exists at this stage usually only in a very sublimated manner). It was just a nice little fun game of imitation. Spontaneous unstructured play among children is generally enactment or re-enactment. You did not play those games, because you were not exposed to this kind of perverted behavior as a child. I was not exposed to it, either, because I had quite virtuous parents, even if they were agnostics. They are exposed to it, and therefore they play “harmlessly” with the experiences they have had in their lives. But it is a serious error to think that a child’s game is “just a game”. With children, nothing is ever “just a game”. Games are the place where children are socialized into their designated social roles. Games are a very serious matter. Which is why, for example, in civilized cultures, boys and girls tend to play different games (and are encouraged to do so) as well as sometimes playing together. They are to be socialized into very different social roles, primary among them those of father and mother. How children play is generally how they will come to live after they grow up. The correlation is not absolute, but it is very strong. Preventing children from playing perverted games is, therefore, extremely important, in any stage of their development.
    On the other hand, if you draw attention to a certain kind of “game” by trying to force them to stop it, you run the serious risk that the children will play it more often and with more enthusiasm, “just because”. Especially if the ban on it is not rigorously enforced by the parents and upheld by the overall reaction of the childrens’ social environment.

    Thinking about what you witnessed in terms of not just re-enactment of previous experiences, but also as initiation into their social roles as the adults of the future, a furious dread steals over me and I am reduced to prayer – prayer for both children involved and for those who will have to live in a society structured by the kind of interaction these children are initiated into.

    By the way, as you will have noticed by now after reading this comment, being a thinker (and frequently an “overthinker”) myself, I would have thought long enough about what to do, that the moment for action would have passed anyway… This is just the way I tend to behave when I instinctively know that something wrong is going on, but do not know how to react. In fact, after reading this and before writing this comment, I have thought more than an hour about what to do in this situation. I apologize in advance, if the comment is just as long-winded as my thinking generally tends to be…

    • Another fantastic comment from you, Catocon, and if you are neglecting your blog may I suggest that you consider writing on it more often. Your obvious qualities and talent should not go to waste if you can avoid it… 😉

      You have beautifully expressed what I meant with the idea that the game might be “innocent” for the children, and certainly it was very innocent for the girl, though more probably an “imitation” for the boy. But I was shocked anyway, as never had I experienced such behaviour; not in general, much less in public.

      I remembered later Zola’s “Germinale”, where the author describes the children of the miners simulating sexual acts they saw in their own environment; but if memory serves these were older children, not seven and five.

      There is absolutely no chance in hell the parents did not know what was going on.
      Not one bit.

      The last was what confused me most; but again, I w2ould not have been able to formulate as beautifully as you do the way children register and assimilate adults’ behaviour, because of lack of practical experience.

      It also came a character question in the equation. I am not a diplomatic man. I can’t approach the parents and say “excuse me, you may perhaps want to look at your children’s behaviour?” and simply accept if if they say “don’t worry, it’s fine, you don’t have children, it’s the way they play”. If I reach the conclusion that it is wrong and I must intervene, it would be more like “shall I call the police now or do you think you can let this stop this instant?”. But again, this is why I tend to be very deliberate in what I consider wrong, particularly considering they aren’t my children.

      Thank you again for your insightful comment!


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