I was doing a Cameron in the sun outside our local (posh) coffee shop when an old lady I've "good morning-ed" on a number of occasions asked if she might share my table. I think she was more needing a gossip than needing a coffee and a bake; as soon as she sat down and planted her bag she started to chat. The shop fronts onto the town square so there are many passing pedestrians. My new found companion seemed to know quite a number of these people; some stopped to talk briefly to her before moving on, Dolce Vita in Duns.
Two or three times she launched into chapter and verse regarding those who had stopped or passed by with a nod. Whilst discreet in her choice of words, it was clear that she was of a moralising bent. I was left in two minds; a little embarrassed at what I was hearing but still enough of a detective to appreciate that I was gaining information.
Her final communique concerned a young couple. The girl, aged I suppose around 18, very neat and tidy and just beginning to show the rising diaphragm of pregnancy. Her obviously boyfriend escort was just about everything she was not. Scruffy, stained and torn jeans and unkempt appearance. More of a slouch than a walk. Mrs Local Paper nodded her head to draw my attention to the couple.
The girl had gained high grades at her university qualifying examinations. Her parents were able to support their only child in whatever training path she chose. Her future was brighter than a summer sunrise. That is, until she met up with the lad. She was totally besotted and took him home to meet her mum and dad. Rightly or wrongly they formed the opinion that the friendship could only end in disaster where her further education was concerned. They tried reasoning which moved on to coercion and thence to banning. Their brainy high flyer daughter crashed like Icarus, moved in to some awful digs with her lover and terminated all contact with her parents.
My informant suggested that the young woman had become pregnant almost immediately. She had abandoned plans for university and was working in the local super-market to supplement the lad's dole money. A bright future lay in ashes. My table companion had to hurry to get all this information transferred before depositing her payment and scuttling off. I thought back to see what tit bit she might have gained from me but was comforted by the fact that she had been the one doing all and more of the talking.
After she had gone I mused on this latter-day version of the Rakes Progress. I wondered what it was that seemed to have perverted her ambitions. Given the ferocity of those who demonstrate regarding any threat to education, how can the desire to do well be, seemingly, destroyed so easily?
When one reads the statistics of single motherhood, one fears for the life style she appears to have chosen. Would her lover stay when surrounded by nappies and young baby in their marginal accommodation?
After some old man's cogitation I settled for a scenario where she had her child, the scruff dropped the pair of them and she regained her broken path whilst Granddad and Grandma took up parenting for the second time. If someone had come around with a collecting box for single mothers, I would have dropped a few bob in.