Published: Thursday February 12, 2015.
I had my Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check a few weeks ago, and the paperwork came through last Wednesday. I requested a DBS check as part of my involvement with the Craven Players, a local amateur dramatics group, where my role now involves
herding supervising anywhere up to 20 under-16s.
Until recently, I made a point of not being the sole responsible adult for these kids. There was one occasion where I was in a village hall room with an under-16 girl, and it terrified me. Not because I was doing anything inappropriate, I wouldn’t even think about doing it, but because I’ve been conditioned that people in my position – adult males in the company of young females, outside of a domestic setting – are invariably predatory weirdos.
Down here in Cornwall, people are fairly laid back. There are some standout characters dotted around, as every community inevitably has, but there is a very low rate of crime around here. I have no doubt that my previous life east of the Tamar on the mean streets of north Oxfordshire had an impact on my first few years here. I also have no doubt that the parents dropping their kids of for a few hours on a Wednesday know that I’m not going to steal, harm or mistreat then.
Most of the parents know me. The kids know me. The parents and kids know me from a few hours every Wednesday. They don’t know me outside of that window, and now there’s a bit of paperwork available for examination that says I’m legit, as of the date it was issued. I had a background check, an enhanced one at that, and there was nothing stopping me getting a certificate and reference number.
The most trouble I’ve ever been in with the police was when I was 17 and was driving quite fast through a really big, deep puddle in a car park in north Oxfordshire. Two patrol cars pulled in, one of Thames Valley’s finest officers got out and wandered over. I rolled down the window and smiled at him. He asked what I was doing, and I said I was driving through a big puddle to make a splash. It was a council car park, it was empty, and it was 7pm on a summer evening. He smirked, and gave me some paperwork to produce my licence and insurance at the police station with a week or two. I did. That was that. Done.
I used to work at Tesco and got breathalysed a lot over one Christmas period. I started early, sometimes 5am or before, and was done by just after lunch. It was one of the best jobs I’ve had. I drove to work around the same time as the drunkards were slinking off home after a car kip, trying to beat the patrol traps. I was sober. I was working, after all. I was also pulled four times in three weeks. Each time, sober. Zero readout. I was let on my way. That was that. Done. Four times over.
I have a clean slate. I have no improper thoughts or intentions. And yet, I still feel like a creepy weirdo around these kids. I’m sure it’ll get easier and I’ll loosen up. I’ve never been a father, and it’s likely I won’t ever be one, but I assume this whole thing is far less of an issue when that happens.
My current solution to this situation is to go full bore and offer to direct the next kids production. The really crazy thing is that I’m actually looking forward to the challenge.