At first we thought it a seagull. The voice was high. “Aliii…” a piercing shriek that cut the air.
Hyde Park was warm below a grey sky. Couples - young families - the odd errant sandwich eater - gazed around, curious, mildly concerned.
A small woman in pink - rucksack bouncing on her back - raced along a nearby path, looking wildly about.
She was terrified, desperate; in her cry a fatal acceptance - she could do nothing else but run from path to path to path, calling her little boy’s name. And that is what she would do until darkness fell and the park closed.
I said a quick, and as I supposed, a futile prayer for her as we rose to our feet.
“We might see him on our way,” said my daughter. “Look out for a small boy.”
“We’re only going to the toilet,” I said, “but yes, we’ll keep our eyes peeled.”
I had barely unzipped my jeans when half of Bagdhad – women all screaming - invaded the toilet. They were dragging a harassed-looking attendant. More women pushed in and my bladder miraculously dried. I held my ground, giving it one more chance.
“Smash the door. Smash the door,” two or more screamed.
“Aliii...” screamed another. (Not the woman in pink)
And then another, smaller but equally desperate voice:
“I’m on the toilet!”
“Smash the door down!”
“I’m on the toilet,” Ali sounded terrified. To be on the toilet surrounded by these door-smashing maenads. I knew how he felt. I was terrified too, wondered if there was another toilet close by.
“I’m nearly finished”
He should be so lucky.
“Smash the door!” This was one little boy who would never go to the toilet again without first telling his mother and probably not do so even after he was married.
God, though, had listened to my prayer; perhaps not in the way I intended.