Can you right someone else's wrong? And if so, even if it's years later?
a two-part question I've been working on for almost twenty-five
years, and the more I try to apply it to different situations the
more tied and tangled I get.
think if you take just the first part it will be straightforward, but
it's not. If you're directly related to or an acquaintance of the
perpetrator then perhaps, but most distance themselves or hide; some
deny any involvement with the offender, and in a few cases that
denial is true, but still wouldn't you want to redress their actions?
Or at the very least try to understand why, how they were led there?
anything undo the hurt, the harm, someone else has intentionally
caused? Probably not, not even if in a twisted sense it's opened up
doors that were previously unseen or closed.
once assigned a story along those lines, and the questions it raised
have bugged me ever since. At the time I was a baby-faced reporter, I
still only had a vague idea of how the real world worked, when this
supposedly feel-good tale came into the news desk from an anonymous
I didn't take the call myself, but apparently this low-gruffed male
voice gave the barest of outlines: said a woman had shown up a year
ago and started doing good, nothing big, just small deeds:
volunteering with local charities, befriending the confused and
elderly, and generally going out of her way to be helpful, and he was
suspicious. Nobody did this much good for nothing! Her name was
Angela, he said, and she was renting the flat above the dry cleaners.
That was it, he rang off without leaving his name or contact details.
paper had been running a weekly article on local heroes, good
Samaritans, that kind of thing which the public could nominate, and
this call was so bizarre it was interesting, so the Ed dispatched me
to the village where the call had been traced to interview this
this village was small, the smallest in the Surrey county; the sort
of place where everything, every cruelty, every kindness, every
stranger, was noticeable. I did what I always did in chasing up a
lead, dug around and flattered the locals. Everyone seemed to have
some anecdote or something 'beige' to say about this Angela who'd
just pitched up one day about a year ago, although everyone was vague
as to the exact date and month she arrived. Other than her good
works, nobody I spoke to knew much about her – her last name, age,
where she was from, if she had family, all those usual things you
might exchange when you're getting to know somebody, and their
ignorance made these informers blush and stammer, look down into
their drinks and mumble. A handful, however, their tongues loosened
by a free drink or lunch, were openly mistrustful; wary of this
woman's do-gooder motives.
she? What was she doing this for? If she was a Christian why didn't
she come out and say so? Those were the kind of questions they put to
me, confiding in me as someone unknown and neutral, when all I wanted
to know was where would I find her? And how could I arrange a
meeting? I'd located her flat but nobody answered when I knocked and
the owner of the dry cleaners had no interest in her comings and
goings. Whoever she was she didn't seem to want to be found. By me.
Word gets round in villages.
despite my methods I never did get to see or meet her for on the
night I and the emergency services gained access to her flat, all
that was left of her was a smooth lower leg alongside a pool of oil
as rich as butter. An greasy offensive odour, like the smell of
deep-fried chicken, hung in the air and clung to the walls and
floors, but apart from that the furnishings were untouched. There was
just the leg, the oil and some greasy soot in front of a high-backed
armchair placed near a stone fireplace. I'd heard of such cases
before, though I never imagined I'd be a witness to one, when the
coroner confirmed the cause of death as SHC (Spontaneous Human
after-event the story was spun that she was an Angel with many demons
thrust upon her.
Picture Credit: Where is Mr Krook, Bleak House by Charles Dickens