Think of a crime-riddled urban ghetto and what place comes to mind? Harlem? Detroit? The favelas of Rio? Well, apparently you can now add the Dorset town of Boscombe to that list. The Daily Mail and several local news outlets have picked up on a sketch supposedly drawn by a ten-year-old boy of the scenes of prostitution, violence and – god forbid – PUBLIC URINATION that he can see from his bedroom window. It's been dubbed the "Sketch of Shame" and has local commenters arguing about whether Bournemouth is still a chocolate box country town or has suddenly morphed into Sodom-and-Gomorrah-on-Sea.
But here's the question no one seems to be asking: Is it actually real? Did the child actually draw it and is Boscombe really like that? Although the natural first reaction is pity, it's hard not to be sceptical about the picture. Could there perhaps be some ulterior, political motive behind it?
I got in touch with the news agency that syndicated the story. I asked one of the guys on the newsdesk how they came across it, and it turns out it didn't just show up one day in the post. Apparently, a journalist got chatting to a mother whose house overlooks the dreaded Churchill Gardens area, and she gave him the drawing that her son had done. I don't know if I was speaking to the hack that launched it into the zeitgeist, but I asked someone at the Bournemouth Echo if he thought the drawing was a fair representation of Boscombe, and his response was "Oh, definitely."
Granted, the last time we heard from Bournemouth, a 30-strong group of homeless people were marauding through the town centre high on 2C-B, but I'm not so sure I believe this story. Unfortunately its protagonists remain anonymous (presumably out of fear of reprisals from the notoriously violent cartoon stick-man gang), so it's impossible for me to turn my doubts into allegations that are levelled at anyone in particular. So instead, I'm going to lay them out here.
Doubt #1: The Note in the Garter
OK, maybe the kid has seen a few too many Lil Jon videos on MTV Base whilst he's been sheltering away from the depravity going on outside his doorstep. But that's a pretty niche part of stripper culture for a ten-year-old to pick up on. So unless the lil' squirt has been borrowing his brother's ID and hitting Spearmint Rhino, I can't see why he would think to draw that. Also, she's supposedly a prostitute not a stripper, and one who plies her trade in a park just outside Bournemouth, FFS. Unless prostitution is so rife in Boscombe that the hookers there feel comfortable wandering the streets wearing nothing but money-filled underwear, I think Daddy may have had a helping hand in this addition.
Doubt #2: The Phallic Detail
I don't want to be crude here, but just look at the cock on the top right. That's not a willy cheekily etched into a school desk with a protractor. That's a full-on, high-def porno cock. It's got the kind of testicles you only see on Safari, it's circumcised, and hands are being used to control it. Any man who's ever used the urinals at a Harvester will know that kids don't control their urine flow. Again, I can't help but think this has been ghost-drawn.
Doubt #3: The Self-Portrait
Presumably the helpless looking child in a rather skimpy pair of shorts on the left is meant to be the ten-year-old artist looking into the piss-soaked abyss in front of him. But why would a kid draw such a picture from a third-person perspective? It's because he didn't draw it. If you give a ten-year-old a pencil and paper and tell them to knock out a drawing of themselves, they won't portray themselves as a whimpering coward in their pants. They tend to see themselves as hyper-cool Bart Simpson-types, capable of fighting off bad guys with water-bombs and a backwards baseball cap. They will invariably have a skateboard or a football. This is clearly an adult's idea of what a child looks like, however inaccurate that may be.
Doubt #4: Obscure Weaponry
The thugs in the drawing seem to be armed with historic and cumbersome weaponry more befitting of the Peasants' Revolt than post-Kidulthood Britain. A meat cleaver? A scimitar?! Unless there's going to be some kind of medieval Holy War taking place in Boscombe, these seem like the work of a fantasist.
Doubt #5: Is He a Little Bit… Slow?
Let's call a spade a spade here. If this is genuine then the kid's a bit thick, isn't he? I mean, he's ten; he's staring down the barrel of secondary school and starting to notice girls at the bus stop. He shouldn't really be forgetting to put pupils in his eyes when drawing them. I'll feel terrible for saying this if it does turn out to be genuine, but it doesn't look like the work of a ten-year-old. It looks like the work of a neglectful adult pretending to be a ten-year-old, underestimating the average ten-year-old, and coming out looking like a four-year-old.
Looking at all the evidence, I'm definitely calling bullshit on this one. It doesn't look like the innocent perspective of an onlooking child, it looks like the front cover of a Richard Littlejohn novel. Let's look at some quotes that The Mail say came from the anonymous FATHER (note: not mother, as my boy on the newsdesk in Bournemouth had told me) who handed the drawing to the press:
"He sees prostitutes regularly and the people fighting with the bottle. He’s seen people urinating in the graveyard at St Clement’s church.
"The children often get woken by shouting and screaming and witness women being picked up in cars, a lot of aggressive men are around all the time."
Children don't care about public urination or people being kept awake at night, they do that themselves. This is the work of an adult whose complaints have been ignored by the local services, and has decided to pull at the heartstrings of the local councillors by using his kid as a ruse. People listen to kids; they don't listen to miserable middle-aged men who can't sleep at night. Sir, Madam, whoever the artist may be, I sympathise with you, but there must be a better way of doing it than this.
Consider yourself rumbled.
Follow Clive on Twitter: @thugclive
More news from Bournemouth:
The Day We Took Charge of an Army of Homeless Guys High on 2C-B
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