It's grey, dark and windy here, the day before Christmas eve - a complete change from last year, when it was minus 10 and we had been knee-deep in snow since mid-november.
When I was a kid at home in Surrey, I used to make myself believe that no harm could possibly come to me on Christmas night itself, and would wander out into the snowy dark of the woods without any of the sense of fear and trepidation that would normally have accompanied me on any other night. As far as I was concerned, there could have been an escaped tiger lurking in the bush right next to me, but it would be incapable of doing anything so shocking as eating me on this holy night of all nights, and it was an exhilarating feeling to be so impossibly invulnerable.
There could have been a human Magwitch waiting to pounce as well, but apart from anything else, I had seen the film and knew that - even if it were not Christmas - no real harm would come to the young boy.
The only way I can suspend my disbelief for any longer than a few seconds these days is when I am watching a Harry Potter film, but even these fantasies, J.K. Rowling has prepared the kids for all the dangers and pitfalls which lie in wait outside Hogwarts, albeit in a rather exaggerated form.
I was about to say that not many of us will have to face He Who Should Not Be Named anytime in the near future, then I remembered what happened to me last night, and changed my mind. He is still out there, and up to all his old tricks.
I casually asked a couple of friends of mine how they were, and they replied by saying that they were very worried and depressed by their 20-something year-old son. I knew that their son had been through a grueling and harrowing time whilst struggling to cope with a heroin habit, but I thought that - after a spell in hospital for a well-earned lung infection - he was on his way to recovery with the 'help' of methadone, and was ensconced in his own sheltered flat and not the home of his parents, from whom he had stolen many things to sell for reasons which were not as obvious as they first thought.
When you are on a downward spiral like his, you tend to pick up a lot of dark and unpleasant acquaintances, then as you try to climb out of the hole and into the light, half the battle is trying to rid yourself of all the blood-suckers who latched onto you when you were at your most vulnerable. So it is with their son, and he only has a matter of a couple of days to succeed - up until Christmas day, in fact. His parents can only sit back and watch.
Two extremely unpleasant and ruthless thugs who locked onto him, know that he has to attend a pharmacy every day at a certain time to receive his dose of methadone which he has to drink in front of the pharmacists to prove he is not going to sell it and buy the real thing with the money. This is when they meet him every day, and take whatever money he has on him away, which has left him unable to pay the rent on his flat. This means he will be evicted very soon - probably just after Christmas.
Not content with the small change, his tormentors have forced him to steal from his parents - not for his drugs money, but more money for themselves. They got a little bored with him recently, and arranged to have him pushed in front of their speeding car, but the man who was supposed to do the pushing backed out in the last second, sparing his life. Their son is pathetically grateful for this, and even admires the man for his cowardice.
The most astounding thing about this near murder is that it was all witnessed by two policemen who were secretly following the two thugs, but the police have done absolutely nothing about it. Why? Because if the plot had succeeded, they would have killed two birds with one stone - one more junkie off the streets for good, and three nice, fat convictions for murder which would look very good on their C.V.s.
Now that we know the situation, some strings are being pulled, some favours brought in, some words are being whispered in ears and - with a bit of luck - we can get him left alone to rebuild his life before they literally milk him to death. These guys will not stop until the source of their meagre income dries up all together, unless something is done about them. Something is being done, in the most peaceful and reasonable way possible under the circumstances. Peer pressure.
Lets hope he and his family have a peaceful and restful Christmas this year.