In my book, King Oak, Molly Hogtrough is struggling with her husband’s dereliction of duty. She recalls George’s vows when they wed and cannot forget that he also promised her a good home. However, he just can’t settle down and find steady work. He’s here, there, and everywhere, gambling at cards and playing at cricket, when he should be earning some coins to put food on their table. The work he does find is not the sort he can tell his wife about, and so he lies to put her off the scent. This dereliction of trust surely cannot be good for their marriage.  

Molly herself is not coping at all well. She worries they will end up in the workhouse, or worse that she won’t survive the impending birth of the baby (or babies) she is carrying. She turns to gin to ease her angst and in her drunken state, she keeps losing sight of her young child. Little Joe wanders off to play by the Rye Brook while she isn’t looking, and her nightmare is that he may go further, get lost in The Common’s vast forest, perhaps. Trapped by brambles, eaten by wolves. (Are there any wolves in the forest? She isn’t really sure.) But still she reaches for the flask containing her tipple. The use of alcohol to quell her fears may well come back to haunt her. A dereliction of motherhood, for what kind of a mother is she turning out to be?

George’s risky work leads him to a clearing in the forest, where stands an almost derelict barn. He wonders how anyone could let something so valuable go to rack and ruin. For George, who scratches around to provide for his family and pay his gambling debts, perhaps not in that order, it is incomprehensible that the landowner has forgotten to repair the building. And yet, there are holes in his own home’s thatched roof which he should have repaired long ago. In fact, when it rains, they no longer have enough pots to catch the drips.

And there is a storm coming.

We none of us are perfect, and George and Molly were living in a time when life was far harder than the world most of us know. There were very few safety nets, if any. If you failed in your dereliction of duty back then, it may well have led to disaster.

Dereliction can get out of hand if we don’t attend to it.

As they say, a stitch in time, saves nine.