I live in Wales. And this is the only thing on the news, and everyone’s minds, today.
After a 4 and a half week trial, and just 4 hours deliberation, they convicted Mark Bridger of the murder of April Jones yesterday. Some of the reports today are hard to read. It makes me wonder, are they allowed to reveal such harrowing things? Were these kind of details reported when I was younger, or was I just too young to be aware of them?
The court case appears to have been heavily hinged upon the testimony of a 7 year old girl, described as “April’s best friend”. I studied Forensic Linguistics for my MA, and interviewing children is something that I found particularly interesting. It is very, very difficult, and must be done with immense sensitivity – getting the child comfortable enough to tell you what happened, without leading them, without them telling you what they think you want to hear – because you want to make the grown ups happy, when you’re 7, don’t you? Little girls are thick as thieves at that age. You play together, make up worlds together, learn about life together. It has to be handed to the police at how well they dealt with that little girl, who had just lost her best friend.
The strength of Paul and Coral Jones, April’s parents, cannot be applauded enough. In their first interview, which I caught parts of last night, Paul unwaveringly says, “We’re a strong family”. What understatement, what dignity from a father who has suffered so much, and has to live with the ultimate disruption to his happy family life for the rest of his life.
Something that truly scares me is the idea of normality disrupted. It hovers around me like a shadow sometimes, sometimes closer, sometimes further away. I know it’s natural to worry about your family, but sometimes I can’t get past the idea that something, at some time, is going to happen to one of them. There’s a lot of us to worry about. People can tell you not to, that it’s so unlikely – but is it? You never really know, do you. These things do happen, and you can’t guarantee that they won’t happen to you.
I lost a close friend when I was a teenager, and I will never forget the world stopping as I got that phone call. I just went numb. I’d never really thought about what it was to lose someone before, but after that I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Every instance between us, everything that could have been. And that background hum has been in my mind ever since.
I’ve written before about the low-level guilt I feel at living away from my family. Not enough to stop me, and move me home – everyone has to spread their wings. You can’t live your life protecting everyone, no matter how hard you try. But I am often tearful in the car back from a weekend at home – what if I miss something? What if they need me, and I’m not there? And that unspoken addition – what if something happens, and I don’t see them again.
My dad’s in hospital at the moment. We had a big family party at the weekend, and then on Wednesday he went in for tests. They don’t think it’s anything serious, but I still can’t really shake that sense of foreboding. I know he’ll be fine. (I wanted to add, “this time”). But what if….? And what if I’m not there?
I know I’m paranoid. In a way I’m writing this because I don’t think people are aware sometimes, of how much I worry about them. And I know all you can do is enjoy life, and enjoy each other. Keep them in your heart, even when you aren’t there in person. And try not to worry so much.