The phone call came while I was sitting in work on a Friday afternoon, already faintly panicky about something altogether else. It was my wife. She’d just left Kenwood, the grounds of an old stately home on the edge of Hampstead Heath where it’s pleasant to thrash the kids about on a sunny day, and returned to the car to find the driver’s side window smashed in.
There’s an awful lot of glass in a car window. An awful lot. Pavement diamonds, they’re sometimes poetically known as. But the sharp nubbles of the broken window of this Skoda Octavia were not, mostly, on the pavement but on the driver’s seat. And the passenger seat. And in the footwells. And in the baby seats on the back. And in the leather pouched around the base of the gearstick. And in the door panels. And… well, passim, as indexers used to put it.
My wife had to make the car sufficiently habitable to get home without her children ending up glass-studded, eyeless and bleeding like children from a Clive Barker movie. I had the lower-key pleasure of negotiating Elephant car insurance’s automated switchboards, halfway through which process I longed to be glass-studded, eyeless and bleeding myself. And of course there was no way anyone could get the right pane of glass until Monday at the earliest, and of course a car with a broken window parked on the street voids the insurance, and of course I had to try to get a family of five to Cambridge the following afternoon, and of course that evening, as I cleared the glass from the ravaged car with a vacuum cleaner and pliers and gardening gloves, fat drops of rain started to fall and short-circuited the car alarm so that our night was punctuated by sporadic eruptions of electronic grief.
Sufficient unto the day was the evil thereof, in other words. A car seat full of broken glass is—who knew?—a huge pain in the bum. And I started—thinking of myself as a reflective type—to put myself in the shoes of the person who, quite casually, will have passed a family car on a sunny main road and thought: “What the hell? I’ll put my elbow…