Dot writes: the shameful element of pleasurable titillation in learning about the state of the end house has now definitely given way to feeling very sad and, at least in my case, decidedly guilty regarding the plight of that little girl. More active friends (specifically, a friend who lives just round the corner and works for Unicef) are making enquiries to see if they can trace the family and get something done about the wretched condition those children are growing up in. Duessa has left no forwarding address and we didn’t know her surname, but I asked the landlord and now have at least the latter piece of information. Apparently there was a social worker on the case but she seems to have achieved next to nothing, and the landlord says she is not returning calls (she’d probably like to do a flit herself after hearing the landlord’s take on all this). My friend thinks her Unicef contacts might do more.
The landlord, naturally, is boiling mad. He says Duessa hadn’t paid rent for the last two months and getting in skips for all the rubbish has already cost him E1000. He was unsparing in filling in further details of how horrible it was in there, for example with specifics of the rubbish that was strewn about the bedrooms: not just vodka bottles, but used condoms, used sanitary pads and soiled underwear, and pornographic videos under the bed. He says there were no plates or cutlery or anything to eat off, which is another odd point as I’ve seen the little girl eating from a bowl before: Duessa must have moved the dinner service and left behind most of the family’s clothes, which is decidedly peculiar. For me the saddest point, though, is that she left behind all the baby albums, the photographs and the locks of first hair. I find that abandonment of memories absolutely heartbreaking. It’s that even more than the poor diet and the dirt that makes me think the little girl is badly neglected.
So now I’m wondering why I didn’t do anything. I’d probably been in that house more than anyone in the development, and I knew it was smelly and dirty, though I hadn’t registered all the stuff about condoms etc. I’d seen the little girl eat scrambled egg in a bowl for her dinner and get pizza delivered four times a week. I’d seen how eager she was for company and attention. To be honest Ken and I had become very irritated at the way she was always ringing our doorbell, often only ten minutes after we’d said it was time for our dinner, and it also narked us that she was constantly eating our food, usually the nicest fruit which she would nibble and then leave; we had become rather less friendly to her than we’d been when we first moved in. I did at least pay her some attention. But it didn’t really occur to me to intervene in any major way. The instinct to leave other people’s family arrangements alone is very strong indeed.