Thursday, December 30, 2010

12/30 and Done

So, the Prudecutor simply substituted a column on Monday with former LWs sending in updates to prove how well she did. While updates are often welcome (it encourages that Mr Valium Drip's friend was able to overcome his initail reaction, if only a little), it struck me as self-serving when I reached the end of the column to discover that it consisted entirely of the accolades. As others have posted that it was not always the habit for an update column to be thus, I conclude that there might be some insecurity stemming perhaps from IGBP envy. It may well be a bit disconcerting when a colleague in a field where one habitually expects to do small bits of good in dribs and drabs at best suddenly does something that catches on more than expected and becomes genuinely big. While I was overemphasizing to call the Prudecutor's one reference to the IGB videos sniping, it would not surprise me if some part of the Prudecutor, whether or not she acknowledges or even recognizes so, is seething that that punk (Mr Savage) stumbled into the middle of a pot of gold. (I must be in a charitable mood to have the Prudecutor's Inner Fiend imply calling Mr Savage a Punk and not anything a bit less P.C.)

L1: Well, so much for holding charitable thoughts about the Prudecutor. Although I have long retired from softball pitching in real life, here we have, in commentariat terms, one of the biggest softballs at one of the slowest speeds of the year, and she does not come anywhere near a foul tip. Saying how wrong it was the first time around and how right it is now? Oh, good grief. Of course this is almost the *ideal* way to start a family. Meet someone after a bad protracted breakup and fall in love extremely quickly, produce a pregnancy within the first six months of the acquaintance, and then propose on the spot during a holiday without taking any time to reflect and probably with circumstances under which a refusal would have done serious damage to the future of the relationship. The only thing that would have made this better would have been if it had begun within a month or two of the breakup of the marriage.

LW1 makes this one too easy. It's all in the Alpha and the Omega. What is the first quality he cites about his fiancee? She is more sexually adventurous than his ex-wife. Even Claude Erskine Brown on a good day could figure this one out. And how does he conclude; what is the final and most important question the letter asks? Is she right to be angry with him because he's happy about his impending fatherhood! Now that is almost subtle. Out of all the possible reasons for her to be angry with him, he manages to pick the one reason that an outside observer can hardly approve without tearing up the oh-so-cuddly picture of the sweet little baby with Mommy and Daddy. Well, it was sufficiently well played to take in the Prudecutor - not that that necessarily indicates bowling out of the top drawer.

Now one might give the Prudecutor a little latitude on the grounds of her hearing en masse from the spouses of the Undecided, had she not made such melodramatic twaddle out of the ex wasting her only chance to be a mother. There are people whose reaction is that over the top, I am quite willing to grant, but they are the people who are so twisted in knots by the issue that they are writing to the Prudecutor about it. LW1's ex, for all the seven years during which he probably yanked her about like a yo-yo dangling his indecision and acting like a boat that keeps going out and coming in again towards someone trying to get on, did not consult the Prudecutor, or, as far as we know, anyone else. That would be an important line in the cross-examination of both of them. She didn't request counseling or anything in that line, and it took seven years for her to catch on that he was just using the issue as a way to jerk her around. And again, if she'd really invested all that in having children with him, she'd have picked some other response than to guarantee the end of the marriage by shutting off their sex life without actually ending the marriage herself. Who knew how much more time on her biological clock might have run down while she was already two touchdowns and a field goal behind?

I am quite happy to submit to the Jury that the real cause of LW1's state of being overjoyed is that he knew from the first that his ex would be driven right up the wall by the pregnancy (not to mention the engagement and the way in which she learned of the whole state of affairs). The Midsomer Murder in which an amateur actor playing Salieri is murdered during a performance (*Death of a Hollow Man* if memory serves) contains just this sort of situation, with the added bonus (unless LW1 cannily omitted to mention the fact; he must be asked) that the pregnant wife is a good deal younger than the ex (who would probably still take him back). But LW1 himself reminds me of the LW past whose old flame's husband could no longer be a husband to her either physically or emotionally and who was determined to provide her all the boinking necessary to sustain herself in her difficult position. One might recall that he could not go a sentence and a half without mentioning how hot she was and how she still had physical needs. LW1 is not quite so bad, but he seems at least partially cut out of the same cloth. I for one would be well amused if it turned out that the new woman's sexual adventurousness decreases almost totally after childbirth. Then Wife #2 will have the baby that she really wanted all along, LW1 will find himself not only miserably landed both with a wife who lost her sex drive and a baby he was right all along not to be sure he wanted, and the Ex can either tear her heart out over it all or be entertained by his misery. Apt all round. Of course, it's perfectly possible that by some bizarre fate LW1 has found Hos One True Love and they will live blisfully throughout eternity, but in that case he could at least have the compassion to have a bit of consideration for the loser.

This is not to state or suggest that XW1 handled the situation at all well. I do not blame her for putting up with LW1's indecision for seven years. It perhaps mattered more to her as a sort of confirmation of the solidity of the marriage than dealt a cruel and vicious blow to her saintly instinct to parent. She saw he'd bailed on the marriage, but could not resist the chance to be punitive on the way out. But the immediate pregnancy (which one might think extremely likely to be highly deliberate on his part; I am quite happy to submit that he was only too thrilled to get a different woman pregnant as quickly as possible just to twist the knife), the way the letter tries to slip in the Ex's still being single, and LW1's picking the one thing about his current picture for which people will not be inclined to convict him as the card he forces on the Prudecutor of her cause for justified anger... oh, he has the Ex in a neat spot and is probably winning the majority of the friends in common now that he's clearly a Winner and has established that it was all XW1's fault that they never had any children because somehow he always just knew it wasn't right. Okay. LW1 1, Prudecutor 0.

Moral: One does not have to be a great admirer of Ms Long to have developed a taste for declining annoyingly contrived marriage proposals in as devastating a manner as possible.

L2: Well, one must give the Prudecutor credit for finally taking the correct approach. There might be better comparisons out there, but she does at least make the effort to solve the situation through analogy. It strikes me that this might be largely a technical question. The exact chain of events seems a bit fuzzy. Should not LW2 have been told at the time of deposit that the check would not clear in its unsigned condition? Then, too, one must imagine that LW2 paid off some bills early rather than keeping the funds reserved for expenses related to the proposed trip, while F2 was busy making secret travel arrangements in LW2's name, in which case why F2 even bothered to send LW2 the check for the thousand dollars in the first place just confuses me to pieces. What LW2 ought actually to do I could not begin to say without having the facts before me much more clearly.

F2 reminds me rather of an old bucket (pronounced bouquet, of course). Quite the little controlling angel, isn't she, as she spreads her largesse far and wide (where others spread invitations to Candlelight Suppers)? One can almost hear Hyacinth phoning Elizabeth and issuing a command invitation to coffee at 3:25. The situation seems to justify the view expressed by Joanna Southwood in *Death on the Nile* that she finds it best to drop her friends when they lose all their money, thus to avoid having to buy terrible clothes from the boutiques they start up. Joanna only likes successful people, and claims that others just are less honest about it, and go on about how they just can't stand poor Emily or Pamela any more because her troubles have made her so *bitter,* poor dear.

I once saw advertised in a catalogue a book titled *Hyacinth Bucket's Guide to Etiquette for the Socially Less Fortunate*. Thinking that it would live in a variety of catalogues for years to come, I deferred purchasing it - and it never appeared again.

Moral: "You remember my sister Violet - the one with her own Mercedes, and a Jacuzzi, and room for a pony - but not in the Jacuzzi, of course (ha ha ha)!"

L3: Is LW3 male or female? It perhaps ought not to matter, but it may provide options for what LW3 does about BP3's ongoing difficulty. The early phrasing seems more or less male, although it's difficult to tell these days when *married* is not quite so broadly definitive an adjective as it once was. On the other hand, LW3 has sttod by and been supportive some five to seven times already without bringing up the issue, which does, although I apologize for stereotyping, sound a bit more in line with the way women are socialized.

My guess, if I absolutely were forced to make one right at this moment, is that LW3 is male and BP3 is perhaps making use of that or at least being given a generous slice of benefit from a rather small portion of doubt. If so, there are two ways LW3 can approach this. He can try ever so gently and supportively reminding her that she has been playing up gender stereotypes and asking her to be the strong feminist with whom he went into business, or he can have a little collapse of his own and give her a taste of her own medicine. If LW3 is female, it becomes a bit more tricky, although the call to be the Strong Female Role Model might still work.

BP3, with all due allowance made for her grief, reminds me a bit of Liz Probert, who does occasionally get to have it both ways in her full head-on political correctness.

Moral: "No; how would you describe me physically?" "Well, you're fat." "And should you be persecuted for saying that about me the way Claude is being for saying that about Wendy Crump?" "Of course not - you're a man!"

L4: If LW4 wants to study to be a Shakespeare professor, will the Prudecutor change her answer?

As I am calling a major foul and three jams in the penalty box for the Prudecutor, I think I shall waive either further elucidation or a moral.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

12/23 - Very Short Indeed

I begin still in a terrible mood with the Prudecutor about Monday and the MAF candidate. The incredible presumption that students in a Shakespeare class are disinterested teenagers in which she indulged her distaste for the fine arts might just have managed to insult more people who never did anything to deserve such an insult than any of her ill-chosen comments before. I stick by my hope that one day she will be tried for murder before a judge who has taken Mr Justice Bullingham, Mr Justice Graves or Mr Justice Oliphant as a role model by a jury consisting entirely of former Shakespeare professors who were all made redundant when people like the Prudecutor convinced all their deans and provosts to drop Classics for Business Studies.

L1: Here, alas, I find it necessary to recuse myself. I think I did rather fancy a kilt at that age or therabouts, although nowhere nearly to the extreme of the boy in question. But it really seems quite unfair on the column to present a LW of whom I might actually have to approve. What sort of sneaky trick is this? I might manage to avoid spoiling my mood by dwelling on the large number of small boys whose lack of such a parent (or presumably even pair of parents) and need thereof is one and the same. And happily I am not one who is automatically reminded of how his parents responded to such youthful inclinations every time he sits down. Perhaps LW1 deserves to be this year's annual recipient of the advice to Donate Large Quantities of Sperm.

L2: In this case, I can be even shorter and more to the point than I was with the previous letter. The solution to LW2's situation is a simple one. In a long life of change and infiltration, one is bound to encounter spouses of this particular nature. LW2 might be inclined to be somewhat grateful that the spouse in question is attached merely to a sister-in-law instead of to herself. Or perhaps she might be inclined to give herself credit for being a better selector than her sister-in-law. But the situation is clear. When the spouse in question inevitably calls to mind a much more widely known spouse, LW2 or some other family member need only proclaim in a loud voice that He Who Must Be Obeyed Has Spoken. If that fails to contain him...

L3: A sort of half-recusal seems in order on this one. Mainly, though, I get to restore all my lack of fondness for the Prudecutor. One notes the presumption that LW3 and the boyfriend's family celebrate Christmas, which may not have great significance here in its own right but which serves as a nice accent to the heterocentric air created by the Prudecutor's response. Of course the Prudecutor would think that family is formed only by blood ties and the promise of the perpetuation of the same. It ties in neatly with her assumption regarding the daughter-in-law who didn't like her husband's ex and ex's children (of unspecified fatherhood) being included in family gatherings that her husband could simply explain to his mother that she could no longer invite the ex and that such an explanation would automatically constitute the Last Word on the subject. And of course the possessor of a mediocre soul would think it appropriate to reduce a relationship that may well have ventured into the Family Relam for both LW3 and possibly the boyfriend's mother also (presumably it appears to have veered back, or perhaps LW1 shares the limited nature of soul enjoyed by the Prudecutor) to the virtual nothingness of the Impersonal Christmas Card Displayed on the Mantlepiece. How ghastly.

Of course, LW3 could do with a good deal of cross-questioning. How much can be she trusted merely to be motivated by a desire to make sure her however-close-to-nearly-mother-in-law understands that LW3 would never, ever, ever have done anything to jeopardize HCTNMIL's good opinion rather than by a desire to make sure that the cheating cad is exposed before all his family in the most uncertain and embarrassing way possible could take a long time to ascertain with confidence. Exposing the cad will not do. However, even if neither LW3 nor HCTNMIL have any inclination for each other's presence during actual holidays, there is no necessity to demean the relationship to the level of ICCDOTM.

Moral: I can just restrain myself from foreseeing a future in which the Prudecutor's daughter dates a series of charming and delightful young women who will shake the Prudecutor's beliefs to their core before marrying someone quite like the spouse in question in L2 (not wanting to be homosexist, I shall not specify a male spouse).

L4: Again I must recuse myself, as I have had such success borrowing a roulette wheel and layout I once gave as a present that I cannot proceed in complete confidence. It would be vastly entertaining to demand of LW4 exactly how exacting the labour involved in the production of the chef d'oeuvre might have been, but the exact nature of what conclusions I might reasonably have drawn is not something I can declare with comfort. I am quite content with the cross-examination submitted by the good Submariner.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

12/16 - Wall. Head. Intobang. Repeat.

I was tempted to save my thoughts on the Heterocentric Bisexual Male from Monday for today's opening, but luck is with me. Having posted about him, I then had a few extra ideas float around, and one strikes me as not all bad. Thinking that it might be fun to get the perspective of being on the najority side of presumed universality, it then occurred to me that it might be made into a formal thing and given a particular duration of time. Eventually, the idea fleshed itself out into the possible adoption of Homocentric August, treating everyone and everything under the assumption of homosexuality until admitted otherwise for one month, which is close enough to proportional in terms of population. I thought of August because it occurred to me that the closest one might ever come to being right in such presumptions might be during summer holidays in such a place as Provincetown or somewhere similar.

I have practised one or two of the likely conversations. "A recent groom? Congratulations! Your husband is a very fortunate person. Oh - a WIFE! I'm sorry, I just would never have guessed... well, good for you! In fact, I am entirely in favour of opposite-sex marriage, and if we ever have a referendum on it here, I will definitely support it." "You wore this dress to prom? How lovely. Did your girlfriend's dress match? Oh - a BOYFRIEND! I'm sorry; I just never realized that schools around here allow opposite-sex couples at proms now. That's really great!"

There may still be a snag or two, and I may well find I haven't quite the nerve to follow through, but the idea has considerable charm.

But now, moving on to this week's crop of letters, it may be observed that one of the letters deals with the subject of diet, a topic on which I always recuse myself. Accordingly, I have arranged for the column to be undertaken by my regular substitute, C.E.B.:

Greetings to all you readers of Points for Cross-Examination who have been eagerly waiting for my return. As I have had astounding luck lately in getting my clients to settle their cases rather than make me stand up in Court and advocate for them, I have the spare time to assist dear old Rumpole with his weekly column. And who knows, a word or two in the appropriate ear and - hint, hint - we might even persaude Rumpole to reitre to Florida again, and then it might not prove a bad thing for this column to be taken over by a dashing Queen's Counsel with an encyclopedic knowledge, not of bloodstains like Rumpole, but of something much more uplifting, such as the works of Wagner. But now to the letters.

L1: Now, LW1, I am entirely on your side. Even Rumpole has frequently maintained that one is entitled to a degree of privacy, even in married life. I am reminded of the occasion when I took Liz Probert to the Opera back when Sam Ballard, our Head of Chambers, wanted us to go into partnership with solicitors. Naturally I only took Lizzie to the Opera to discuss the future of Chambers, but then unfortunately she left her program behind and bolted away at the final curtain, so that I took home two programs and left them sitting on a table where they were found by my wife. Rumpole told me at the time I should have claimed my right to silence and refused to say a word. But, facing the stern cross-examination of my wife (and some people think that Phyllida has had a more glittering career at the Bar than I have had, although I don't think they make enough allowance for the unfair advantage she has had for being a woman when the Lord Chancellor has been eager to appoint new women silks and judges), I naturally felt that I had to tell her somethijng. And, as she would surely misinterpret the truth, I told her I had taken Uncle Tom to the Opera. Actually, Liz Probert and I had met Uncle Tom on our way to Covent Garden, which was why I thought of him. Unfortunately, when I put it to Uncle Tom that I'd appreciate his backing me up, he cooperated only rather too enthusiastically, telling Phyllida I had taken him to a Show with lots of Happy Tunes. She naturally refused to believe that Wagner had written If You Were the Only Girl in the World, and the whole thing might have ended in disaster had I not thought to tell Phyllida that the whole idea of taking Liz to the Opera in the first place came from Rumpole. She thought that it would be the sort of idea he might have, and the incident more or less blew over.

Anyway, lie detector tests are not admissible in Court, so that I fail to understand what good it would do if you took it, whether you passed or failed. Now, Rumpole would have a good many questions for you. He would wonder how the question of marriage and the condition of the lie detector test had arisen in the first place. Did your boyfriend spontaneously mention this requirement, or was it something he only said because you were bringing up matrimony and wondering when he intended to propose to you. (Rumpole would also wonder why on earth you were sitting around and waiting for himj to ask you to marry him, but that's neither here nor there.) He would ask about your use of the word pinpoint, and whether it would be reasonable to assume that you might have been a bit fuzzy about strict truth on occasion, despite your testimony of your fidelity and honesty. He might go on for some time about why you didn't have the firmness of mind you appear to have now about what was or was not his business regarding your past. He would doubtless take great interest in your phrasing with regard to your compromises and sacrifices in the name of a happy partner, and why there have not been any on his side that you cared to mention.

Most of all, Rumpole would wonder why on earth the first mention of the test would not be enough to make you run for the hills. Personally, I don't think the occasional polygraph is too great a price to pay for what might be considered a more or less happy marriage overall. Only next time, do make sure that, whatever you might be suspected of doing, you've actually done. That's much more satisfactory, I can assure you.

L2: This letter, of course, is what caused Rumpole to recuse himself from the column this week and ask me to write it for him instead. You may remember the terrible dietary restrictions that were inflicted upon Rumpole by Hilda, acting in league with his physician, Dr McClintock. Of course, I don't think it right to judge Rumpole for being, well, corpulent. After all, it's not every barrister who can remain as trim as, well, need I say it, your humble servant. And he certainly had no better luck at remaining on his diet of Thin-o-Vite than your father, LW2. I cannot think how often Liz Probert or I would catch Rumpole sneakily adding a large sugar bun to his breakfast at the Tast-E-Bite Cafe.

Rumpole would no doubt have a good deal to say about the wisdom of choosing athletic holidays for a large family party in such a remote location. Then again, he might add that there could be considerable opportunities on this holiday. After all, who wants to live with a father who eats your sister's entire birthday cake all by himself? Go on your holiday and hike to your heart's content, and somehow just find an excuse to leave your father behind somewhere, no doubt after he picks a quarrel (after some judicious prodding). Leave him with a lengthy hike back to the hotel. Given the correct altitude involved, that should solve your problem. It's reminiscent of Patrick Seton's plan to take his diabetic pregnant girlfriend Alice to a chalet in Austria where she would at the inappropriate moment find herself alone without her insulin in *The Bachelors*, or Nevile Strange's nipping into Mr Treves' hotel and hanging an Out of Order sign on the lift, thus requiring that the old man with a dicky ticker would have to risk his life by walking upstairs in *Towards Zero*.

L3: Dear LW3, I am entirely on your side again, just as was the case with LW1. I too am being constantly dictated to by our Head of Chambers, Sam Ballard, as to how I am required to spend my hard-earned fees in keeping up the best traditions of the Bar. Members of Chambers are constantly being obliged to purchase tickets to the Inns of Court Dinner or the Scales of Justice Ball, or go to hear the Bishop of Sidcup giving a talk on the moral abivalence of the Rent Acts. And I must recall how, when I was defending in a case of assault in the Kitten-a-Go-Go Club, how Rumpole told me to investigate the locus in quo in order to cross-examine the witnesses on the terrain, which led to a photographer taking my picture. The picture was published in the Daily Beacon with a paragraph suggesting that such was my usual practice in the afternoons. Sam Ballard insisted that I sue the Daily Beacon for libel, despite my protest that the expense would be extreme. But nothing else would due, but I must sue, in order to uphold the Best Traditions of the Bar. As it happens, that worked out rather well, as the Daily Beacon settled the case and I received substantial damages, which, as I reminded my clark Henry, were entirely free of tax.

If he were advising you, Rumpole would compare your lot to his marriage. After all, once you've survived the first ten years, why abandon ship now? There are always little ways around these things without quitting. Are you really willing to toss it all away simply over a mandatory voluntary charitable contribution?

However, we have in Chambers someone with much greater knowledge of the true inner workings of charities than Rumpole or even Sam ballard himself. I refer, of course, to Liz Probert. Even if she has never displayed that natural taste for the Opera which I might have wished to awaken in her, Liz has an encyclopedic knowledge of the true inner workings of charitable organizations. After all, her father, Red Ron, practically ran all of his part of South London for years, and doubtless is behind a number of charitable concerns. I took the liberty of putting this question to Liz in a general way, and she said it was sure to be simple. This charity encourages corporations to mandate voluntary employer contributions. Such a charity must naturally be run on corrupt principles and practices. They are sure to have violated the sacred tenets of political correctness in a dozen ways. Find but a few, and you will have an unanswerable argument in favour of ending these enforced contributions forever. You will be a heroine to others as well as yourself.

L4: Once again, I find myself remarkably in sympathy with the LW. How could your parents even have considered selling your ancestral home? My own mummy would never have permitted such a thing. And I was always loyal to her, going back to stay with her whenever I had a little row with Phyllida, and taking her to the Opera every time I had two tickets and for some unaccountable reason everyone else in Chambers had a previous engagement for the evening...

I am convinced that your parents have found someone whose company they prefer to yours, who has cleverly insinuated his or her way into their lives, and who is now doing everything possible to push you out. For a parallel case, I would consider Tuppence's great-aunt Primrose in *By the Pricking of My Thumbs*, an elderly woman who took in a young man named Mervyn whom she claimed to be quite a kindred spirit. When Great-Aunt Primrose let her relations know that she had made a will in Mervyn's favour, the family acted in some haste, discovering just in time that Mervyn had an unsavoury past and putting the police on his tail in time to prevent anynthing happening to Great-Aunt Primrose.

I advise you, LW4, to make it quite clear to your parents that you find their conduct unacceptable, that you won't have it, and that, if they think they can replace you in the family with someone who make them more proud, they can think again. Rumpole would doubtless just tell you to grow up, stay at an hotel when you go to visit them, and be thankful they are being reasonable about your having an adult life with which they have nothing to do. But I think this situation is far too important. You must fight to get them back, even if it means you have to go so far as to get yourself fired and move back in with them.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

12/9 and a Grim Mood Indeed

My carryover comment from Monday will be to blast the Prudecutor about her response to Works With Mean Girls. "Growing up does not eradicate the more pernicious aspects of human behaviour that thrive in high school, but as all the 'It Gets Better' videos try to express, going out in the larger world often brings relief from the relentless petty vindictiveness of high school."

If anything could tempt me to launch a private prosecution of my own, I would prosecute the Prudecutor for that disgusting sentence. The only thin sliver of a wedge of a point she has in her possible defence is that both situations do deal with something that does fall somewhere on the scale of bullying. It is highly ungracious of the Prudecutor to snipe at a project of a contemporary of her own that has probably done more good to the world in a calendar quarter than her entire collected life's work. It may just be possible that she considers the project to be so widely reputed that she need not credit Mr Savage by name. Just perhaps she can be given a Non Proven on this count, if one may be so Scottish. But TRY to express? And ALL? TRY to express has quite a dismissive air about it, as if she thinks that most of the videos don't quite reach her own personal high standards for making whatever point she thinks ought to be made, although, then again, the purpose of the enterprise isn't to put together a collection that suits the purpose of an originator or some other deciding power. And to try to reduce experiences that drive many young people to the brink of suicide and tragically often beyond to the level of relentless petty vindictiveness...? And they are getting it from many places other than merely high school.

That leads me to a potential sour note in President Obama's contribution. He advises young people in torment to talk to their parents, and never makes it clear that, for many of those worst off, their parents are a huge part of the problem. But that is a minor niggle. Prime Minister Cameron's contribution is perhaps less memorable for anything he says than for the fact of the leader of a conservative party and a conservative coalition government of a major nation sayingn them, which makes one perhaps somewhat envious. One favourite of mine is Senator Franken's. He goes beyond It Gets Better and says declaratively We Will Make It Better. As someone who quite honestly (within reason) cannot give a flying fig how much the poor or the rich or anyone in between pays in taxes, I like that sort of sense of purpose.

To conclude about the Prudecutor, I can imagine a number of people presenting a case that she is not anti-gay, and on some level she might not be, but this is where all her tee-hee, oh look! ANOTHER inappropriate Brokeback pun! ain't I just a card? from that black hole of a period during the summer when I had no home internet for nearly a month comes back to bite her in the you-know-where. Reduce gay people to being fodder for excessive attempts at feeble wit, and one loses credibility when one might need it later. I'll grant that she's not a homophobe of any stripe, but if I'm on the committee I'm not voting for her as the right sort of ally to make Grand Marshal of our parade.

But on to this week's batch.

L1: My dear LW1, where do I start? There are endless possibilities here. First of all, exactly how have you discovered that this is a sexual relationship? Do you have proof beyond a reasonable doubt, proof that meets the standard of the preponderance of the eivdence, or just the hearsay that Bee has told you she's boinking the glamourous Mr A? How did your closeness come about, and was it before or after you talked to him about the divorce? Did Bee's relationship with him seem to be on an exact parallel with your own, given her mother's illness? Exactly what sort of a position of power does Mr A occupy? Does he at present or will he probably or certainly have Bee in class as a student? From whom did the initiative come? Was there pressure involved? Could you see Bee with a different 45-year-old if she'd had similar opportunities to become closen to him without the particular teacher angle? How responsible has Bee been and how do you really know?

More to the point, why would Bee ask you to be her cover for a lie of fairly large proportion? Is this the sort of thing you have done for her frequently regarding smaller matters? Is there an imbalance in your friendship that might lead her to make use of you? Is there any trace in you of envy that Bee and Mr A are a couple? Is there a chance that you might have had a relationship with him yourself had circumstances inclined him towards you instead? And why is it that the one thing that terrifies you is losing her friendship?

This whole letter seems remarkably similar to the Cracker episode *The Big Crunch*, except that the friend of the girl involved in the intergenerational relationship is the man's backup, as it were, and lies to protect him rather than to cover up for her. If we learn anything from the conduct of Kenneth, the dynamic middle-aged schoolmaster/lay pastor of a congregation that is apparently a rogue sect, it is that, unless he is confronted with absolute proof, he will, as Rafe Gorse would advise, Deny, Deny, Deny. Even when the pregnant Joanne is brought forward and proclaims her love for him, Kenneth maintains to his wife Virginia that Joanne is delusional. It takes the photographic evidence provided by his sister-in-law Norma to topple Kenneth, who immediately slides into the response, "I was tempted and fell." While Joanne is missing, Kenneth arranges an interview for Fitz and Penhaligon with Sarah, Joanne's friend, who does her best to give a very inaccurate impression of Joanne's personality, habits and hopes. Only towards the end does Sarah reveal how wonderful Kenneth is and how much she's in love with and hopes to marry him.

There are way too many possibilities here to fasten on a single one. Quite possibly Mr A has had a long line of affairs, and there's even a chance LW1 might have been a candidate in his eyes or possibly might have been half-inclined to such a possibility herself. Then again, I keep recalling Phil Donahue's interviews with couples who became couples when one of them was quite underage who did go on to marry quite successfully. And, in the interest of full disclosure, I have been in similar situations on both sides of this, though without any actual boinking.

I feel too strong a need to recuse myself to be comfortable advocating any particular course of action here, but might be up to a few specific possibilities. If Mr A has Bee in a class, that is going too far. The other students in the class don't deserve the potential drama. If Bee is not the only one, regardless of her personal level of maturity, it becomes increasingly harder to talk down the Stone Mr A Club. Then a good deal depends on the nature of the request for cover. If that is way out of character for either of the two to do for the other and for Bee to ask, it could be a huge red flag.

I don't like this letter at all because a large part of me wants to tell LW1 to talk to Mr A, but I cannot convince myself it's safe. I really must recuse myself - way too much past history. But I will pronounce myself thankful that LW1's only cause for terror is that the friendship might end. Change the dynamics of the situation a little and we almost get the Rutgers bridge jumper.

Moral: "...and several smaller cash contributions, including one to the Police Widows and Orphans Association. I'm currently collecting for cancer research. Perhaps a small donation might be in order?"

L2: as I do not have to cross-examine LW2, I shall refrain from doing so. She has had enough woe to last a considerable period of time. But I shall observe that, once again, we have a notable missing ingredient from the letter - the notrious Husband Who Apparently Has Less Input Concerning Holidays Than He Did About The Wedding.

Why she even wants to be anywhere near her mother-in-law after all this I can only speculate in the least certain of terms. But again, it's entirely her choice. Maybe she can just smile and nod at whatever the mother-in-law suggests and then just do exactly what she always knew would suit her mood and her plans all along.

It would be interesting to cross-examine the mother-in-law. What part of, "I can't face that amount of shopping," does she not understand? And is she rather like LW3, one of those who always has to control and adjust all the details of every last holiday to be exactly to her liking? That LW2 acknowledges her mother-in-law's grief adds a Solomonic touch to the letter.

I have just finished reading a very sympathetic biography of Catherine de Medici. The author concludes that she had the dreams of an empress, planning to have all her children influencing the course of history from one European capital after another, but cheapened all her ambitions by negotiating for them in the manner of a shopkeeper. She was also very much a Peace at Any Price sort. I hope for LW2's sake that she does not get stuck in a pattern of following that example.

Moral: "She looked on thrones and crowns as though they were merchandise to be bargained for. In a sense she was right, but in staying so long in the marketplace, she lost that regal presence essential to kingship."

L3: What is LW3's real problem? Has she just overdosed on Martha Stewart? Is it not the seating arrangements but that it the size of the gathering is too much for her nerves, kitchen or budget and she can't bring herself to admit it? Or were the daughter's best friend and group mere placeholders until more legitimate claimants could fill out the table? If I were inclined to gamble, I'd go for the last proposition.

It would be a little too much to hope for if we were to discover that the best friend were really a girlfriend with a toddler or two and LW3 has been unwilling to admit to her suspicions all these years. But I rather expect that LW3 needs a same-sexed child (perhaps it is the daughter and the best friend just happens to be her best friend rather than a love interest) to give a much-needed push to her concept of family. For her to be so willing to flush people away, despite her expressed regrets, after seven years - and they have really never had other plans, nor would they have the capacity to make them on shortish notice? Something is not adding up here.

This reminds me of two women I knew, both widowed after long marriages, who had been best friends and regular bridge partners for several years. One year, they were quite excited by the prospect of a nearby regional tournament where they would be able to earn enough gold points to become at long last Life Masters. They put in a great deal of practice, and entered the week full of confidence. It turned out to be a disaster. Day after day they played worse than they had in years. A discussion on the telephone after the tournament ended started a quarrel which led to a rift, and they never played bridge as partners again.

Moral: "I love her like a sister. I have three sisters, and she means as much to me as any of them."

L4: Does LW4 know with fair certainty that her sister is going to start trouble about this? Or is she just caught up in a sort of general Fairness Malaise? This seems to have influenced the Prudecutor as well, who gets this one completely wrong. Dilute a gift out by dividing it into four (and who knows how many other) parts? Pathetic. Far better to have one relation in the family have a fully or more nearly fully funded education and be able to start a lucrative business which can employ all the other family members in good positions and pull them all up than just have a whole generation get a little assistance and start life with ten years' worth of loan debts instead of twelve. Discuss it with her sister or not - who knows, LW4 may meet all the members of the younger generation and wish she'd chosen a different one to favour based on his or her own character instead of that of the parents?

Jane Austen's own brother, one of a numerous family, was taken in by better-off relations and added their surname to his own, a common enough practice at the time, and one which had full familial approval. Miss Austen wove a variation on the theme into the opening chapter of *Mansfield Park*, in which the semi-adoption of a poor niece cements the reparation of an estrangement between sisters. Miss Brodie in the novel if not the film has Sandy and Jenny, when the girls have crossed the great divide into the Senior school, teach her Greek, likening the practice to the habit of families who could only afford to send one child to school having the scholar impart his learning to his siblings.

Also, my own experience of groups that have tried to run themselves by consensus is that such groups have fared much better when one or two people have privately taken on the heavy lifting.

Moral: "The letter was not unproductive. It re-established peace and kindness. Sir Thomas sent friendly advice and professions, Lady Bertram dispatched money and baby-linen, and Mrs Norris wrote the letters."

Thursday, December 2, 2010

12/2 Here: Prudecutor There: Boat

I have been contemplating the questioner from Monday who had the World's Worst Gift Giver for a boyfriend. It reminded me that, some time ago, I had seen parts of a number of episodes of some comedy called Yes, Dear. Two married couples were the main characters, and one of the wives habitually gave her husband birthday gifts that were never what he wanted but were what she thought he should have or experience. If he wanted a round of golf at Pebble Beach, she gave him an afternoon of Swimming with Dolphins. Only, of course, if one buys into the double standard that Men Just Can't Give Good Gifts and Women Are Intuitive Geniuses Who Always Give The Perfect Thing, her gifts always worked out brilliantly. Bleah. But it occurred to me that the Monday questioner wanted him to consult her girlfriends and sisters (instead of his own family and friends) about what to get her - and the idea filled me with alarm. There are very few reasons a sane woman would want her boyfriend to spend time with her girlfriends or sisters. Besides the obvious possibility that her girlfriends/sisters can suggest far more expensive presents than would be seemly coming from the recipient, she might well be trying to get him to have an affair with one of them. A variation would be something along the line of entrapment or a test of his loyalty. But my hunch as to what is most likely is that she is trying to turn her boyfriend into a GWAP, an acronym for which I am sure astute readers need no elucidation. Now, if one desires to be a GWAP, more power to one, but I cannot approve of this devious attempt to turn him into one without his knowledge or consent. But onward:

L1: Now, the Prudecutor actually comes a good deal closer to gettingn this one than one would have expected from her. But she gets a good deal too hung up on the Clintonian aspects of the proposal. There is really quite a lot here. For one thing, when did the question of his kinks arise? Did he not open up until after the marriage and then drop the whole bomb at once? How much has the couple actually tried? Had they taken the Savage Approach of growth by baby steps, LW1 would probably have found some very minor thing she could do, or at least would have revealed that even the slightest deviation from pure vanilla extract would be a deal-breaker, and if not for her then probably for him. Whose idea was it for H1 to go into therapy? Did LW1 tell him in no uncertain terms that SHE wasn't going to do that disgusting stuff so that he'd better get rid of the desire if he could? That seems arguable.

And the Prudecutor really does not go far enough. She and Lw1 both seem to have the idea that the answer Yes will end the discussion, but it will begin a great many more negotiations. I have the sense that there is some expectation of this perhaps being a One and Done deal. It reminds of the LW whom I have never forgiven for being the one having the affair instead of her 14-year-old son who was whining that He's Never Bought Me Flowers, and Ms Mermaid's eventual opinion that maybe if he did it once or twice that would be enough to get her to see that it was not the big whoop she was making it out to be. That seems overly optimistic. There's no reason why LW1 can't find out all the details beforehand or perhaps even go and monitor an encounter, though I suspect that she has already had quite as much to do with the whole topic as she wishes, and would be grateful not to have to think of it any more. But there are practical things, especially if it's not just something he'll want to do one time only, or possibly on one or two special occasions every year. Who decides how often? Does he get to go to the dominatrix as often as he wants? Does she get to control the outlet for him (interesting perhaps in a different way)? How are they going to compromise?

Then, too, there is possibly the question of funding. If they happen to be a one-income family, that becomes quite a major question indeed, but, even if they have two incomes and each of them has by agreement a reasonable quantity for discretionary spending, there still may be things worth discussing. It seems the gut thing to do to have the entire expense come out of his discretionary funds. I could perhaps see one or two minor modifications, especially if there are any generally reasonable things LW1 might want shunted off to his outside encounters.

I have a main concern in each direction. Will LW1 really be able to let this happen without resentment? Her initial reaction may be something akin to relief, but she strikes me as the type who might become quarrelsome later on. On the other side, how is her sexuality and satisfacvtion to retain equal significance in the marriage?

It is very easy in a couple for the half with the bigger or more interesting issues to become almost the sole focus of their joint time and attention. As an example, I can cite one of the two or three episodes I saw of the Real World season not long ago in Washington, D.C. The bisexual housemate (male) found a gay boyfriend, and they were going out to mixed clubs, where the housemate kept flirting with girls. The boyfriend did not like this, especially when his request to flirt with guys met with resistance, as the housemate didn't think either of them should be flirting with other guys, but that it was perfectly okay for the boyfriend to flirt with as many girls as he wanted. Needless to say, this did not go over well. Possibly LW1 might negotiate some sort of fair compensation - has she perhaps always really wanted to indulge in Ballroom Dancing only to have accepted that H1 is not so inclined? If it's enough of a passion for her, something similar might be a suitable equivalent.

My guess is that economics will be their undoing. Her birthday will come and he won't be able to buy her a present she deems suitable, or something like that. Too bad in a way; there have been worse couples.

Moral: Why am I thinking of Go Go Gophers?

L2: Oh, good grief. Why, tell me why, has LW2 been coping with thisn on her own all this time? What, tell me what, has her husband thought, said and done about his sisters' refusal to turn their own child over to their mother? When, tell me when, is the thought of an unpleasant conversation with her mother-in-law going to matter less to LW2 than risking the life of a child who lacks the capacity to say No for herself?

The Prudecutor is almost right, but playing the Husband Game is a luxury and the stakes are too high here. The family clearly needs a villain, and LW2 is in the golden position of not being the menace to society's biological child. She should do everything in her power to get the menace off the road short of poisoning her. No, she should not have to do it. Yes, someone in the family should have done it a long time ago. For whatever reason, they just aren't going to make it happen until after it's too late. Sad but true, LW2 - if not you, who?

Moral: why am I thinking of Sweet Polly Purebred?

L3: While I don't like to make fairly broad assumptions, it may be necessary to assume that LW3 is at least apparently culturally Jewish. At least in such a case the boss' suggestion makes some tiny amount of sense, though not a great deal. (If LW3 did happen to be Jewish, a separate display might well work out quite reasonably. I have often seen it done. An ornament on a Christmas tree - ecumenically minded but iffy.) While LW3 seems potentially to be on the pillish side, I want to have sympathy for a member of a minority oppressed by the customs of an overwhelmingly large majority. Then too I have a bit of natural sympathy for a soldier in the much-vaunted War On Christmas. It is also interesting that "multiple" people complained and got nowhere. What on earth in such a case does LW3 think the Prudecutor can possibly recommend when talking top management has accomplished nothing?

I suppose L3 raises the issue of some potential downside to Christmas as a secular as well as a religious holiday - when the lines start to blur, things get uncomfortable, and, among other things, well-intended people who think the line is being crossed into state-sponsored religion end up being declared to be The Enemy by Mr O'Reilly. If I had more time, I'd check in on the progress of this year's version of that entertaining annual event, the War on Christmas.

One real downside for LW3 is that there is no obvious plus in being somewhat flexible about demands for complete equality across the board and the maintenance of complete secularity about any holiday observation. If we were to take the marriage issue, there are those who take the purist position of calling on all their straight friends to boycott the institution of marriage until it becomes available to same-sex couples as well. However, in that case, there is a distinct plus to encouraging straight friends to marry, as they are, after all, our primary source of future same-sexers. Yes, in an ideal world it might be lovely if we didn't have In God We Trust on the money or other things, but who has the resources to fight every injustice in such a Christianist nation? I can't contemplate this for too long; it will depress me.

Of course, the Prudecutor, who enjoys seeing Christians (even of the C&E variety) make idiots of themselves indulging in the excesses of the worst part of the holiday, would have to go and advise LW3 just to "get in the mood of the season and be merry". Ugh, double ugh, treble ugh. Of all advice calculated to bring out someone's inner curmudgeon! But there is something LW3 can do, which is really quite subversive. Just as atheists tend to know a good deal more about Christianity than actual Christians, there are various admirable things that some Christians actually do at this time of the year, and that more would do if they were not spending too much time quarreling about gifts or hosting or trees or any of the four zillion little distractions that so amuse the Prudecutor and keep her in a flourishing condition. Set the poor wayward souls a good example, LW3. They so need one, and being subversive may be the best way to get through this sort of adverse season.

Moral: Why am I thinking of Tennessee Tuxedo?

L4: Once again, where on earth has LW4's husband been since the couple became a couple? What other issues have their families' divergent styles already given them, and what can be anticipated? I do give LW4 some credit for balancing the habits of the families instead of preening over the superiourity of her own, and for actually including her husband in the couple's not being gamblers or wanting to go. A little of this is undone when she asks what SHE should do instead of what THEY should do, but that might be a bit blurry. It might be possible to try hinting that her husband might not be quite so solidly in the No Go Camp as she thinks, but I have too little interest in the theory to flesh it out.

I hate to get technical, and this really smacks largely of being a Technical Question. When, tell me when, did his parents decide to Christmas in Las Vegas? With everyone living so near, the timing seems a bit rushed. They could hardlym have had the plan in place well before Thanksgiving, or LW4 and her husband could have switched plans. And how much of a commitment was involved on C4's part? What exactly constitutes the Christmas celebration, and how does Christmas ever "balance out" Thanksgiving anyway when Thanksgiving is *one specific day* but Christmas gatherings and gift exchanges can occur on basically any day within a reasonable time frame either before or after? Did C4 pay his parents a Thanksgiving visit to observe the spirit and many traditions of the holiday even though they actually spent Thanksgiving itself with her family? Somehow I doubt it. Were they planning to pay her family a visit at some time during the high point of the Christmas season in order to observe the spirit and many traditions of the holiday? Somehow I rather expect so.

Now in theory it may be reasonable if C4 simply swap out who gets Christmas and who gets Thanksgiving each year, but why on earth it would be so impossible just to have both days with one family one year and the other the next is beyond me. This seems like a golden opportunity to do so.

Of course, the Prudector had to get on board the I Hate Vegas (at least as a possible site for Christmas observations) Train and base her whole answer on that - who cares? The main issue here is that apparently the celebration has expanded considerably. The celebrants are hardly going to travel all the way there to spend there the same amount of time in celebrating that they would have done had they remained at home. It's the greatly increased commitment of time that is the hook on which to hang this one (although she sort of backs into it, but only by accident). And for future years it might help to have it made explicit at as early a date as possible exactly what will constitute his family's Christmas observations that season.

Moral: Why am I thinking of Savoir Faire?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

11/24 - Unexpected and Rushed

And here I thought we had a week off rather than a day less.

L1: This is going to be my one parallel for the week, and a very strong one. LW1's mother is Mrs Boynton from *Appointment with Death*, perhaps almost to a T. Mrs B, who married the late Mr B after being a wardress in a prison because it suited her personality, went on to torment her stepchildren and daughter and warp them to the point that they could not function as adults. She coped with her older stepson marrying, absorbing his wife into the family, and eventually took the little group abroad to Jerusalem out of boredom with her complete triumph at home. There may be posters who think the brother ought just to sort out his own life, even though he's been raised with the specific design of not being able to do so, but he could be much worse off than he is. I am a bit interested in whether LW1, with a very interesting attachment to Mamma, is quite as free as (s)he thinks, but that seems rather a side line.

I'd also rather not get too deeply into home schooling. That it offers parents interested in doing that sort of thing the opportunity to isolate their children, that sort of danger is of the obvious kind. I always think of the passage in *The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie* when the little girls observe for the first time that Miss Brodie and Miss Mackay have political differences which for many of them is the first suggestion that it is possible for those joined together in grown-up authority to differ. I actually rather favour home schooling, but by the old-fashioned means of tutors or governesses instead of mothers, as is typically the case.

But back to LW1 and the brother. My first concern would be to assess how bad he's become. In AWD, Lenox is almost completely apathetic and Jinny is on the brink of madness, but Raymond and Carol are still capable of attempts to rebel, even if quashed, and contemplate doing away with Mrs B to save Jinny. If we can assume that the brother is more or less at Raymond's stage, the solution is to follow the AWD line. LW1 must immediately introduce the brother to someone who will represent Sarah King, the young doctor who, after getting past her initial reaction to his being dominated and warped by Mrs B, provides Raymond with enough motivation to attempt a life of his own.

No time for morals, I'm past bedtime as it is.

L2: SHE'LL have to find a new Best Man? That says more than enough. The only possible line of questioning concerns whether this is an entirely limited illness completely confined to LW2's sister having been elevated to the exalted role of Bride-to-Be, or whether it is any sort of harbinger of Life to Come. If the latter, it is the obligation of the Best Man, even if deposed, to cross-examine the Groom at length in an attempt to determine whether he truly longs for a life of being dominated. If not, do whatever is necessary to cause a break. The old standby of getting the Groom drunk and setting him up to misbehave himself (with the added modern touch of filming the encounter and putting it directly on Youtube) might do as nicely as anything else. As far as the beard is concerned, LW2's best chance there might be to inundate his sister with the writings of Mr (Andrew) Sullivan.

Moral: I am reminded of *Cards on the Table* and Mrs Oliver's annoyance that South American tribes aren't always experimenting with and developing new poisons instead of sticking with what has always worked for their fathers and grandfathers.

L3: What bizarre sort of situation is going on at this company? Is LW3 deluded? Do the bosses simply have no idea how to communicate with the employees? How is this company not bankrupt? Is LW3 about to be offered a different promotion? If not, why train her?

I suppose this letter makes a refreshing change from those letters sent in by young women in business or the law who want to take a possibly awkward moment at work and turn it into means for blackmail or at the very least professional advancement or some other advantage. But one cannot think very highly of LW3's cunning or wits if her reaction is to be shame at being seen crying outdoors instead of considering the unease or guilt the appropriate supervisor is feeling or is likely to feel for having made her cry in the first place. LW3 is too tender-hearted for success in the corporate world. I advise a future as a Benedictine.

Moral: If LW3 is familiar with *In This House of brede*, I just hope she doesn't resemble Dame Veronica.

L4: LW4 irritates me to death, almost more than her husband. He's just extremely jerkily unprofessional, with a high probability of that carrying over into the rest of his life. But are we really to say that there's no part of this the waffling LW4 likes? How clean, as it were, is her own house? I have a little idea that she might be very close to the LW of some few weeks previous who just had to lament the deficient size of her partner's apparatus, a fact which she had almost certainly made known throughout the entirety of her acquaintance. That might make a credible reason for LW4 being insufficiently outraged by her husband's outrageously unprofessional conduct.

And yet she doesn't want to cause trouble for him in his career. She might point out to him in no uncertain terms that trouble will likely find him soon. Indeed, it is hard to believe that he has not been found out already. Perhaps it would suit her self-interest to try giving him as stern a warning as she dares. But she's such a waffler. I am too irritated to continue.

Moral: He may deserve to be divorced, but LW4 has not manifested proof that she deserves to be allowed to divorce him. People who marry jerks of his class really need to show that they have learned their lesson before the first parting, or else, as has been observed by She Who Must Be Obeyed, they will just keep on marrying the same sort of person over and over, only getting slightly worse each time.

Sorry this was so scrappy.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

11/18 - Extremely Quick and Crabby

I refuse to justify this week's drivel with lengthy commentary (for me, at any rate). Besides, the answer is obviously Breakup.

L1: Surprise, surprise, the Prudecutor completely misses the point. The minor point is that LW1 apparently feels that she is entitled to issue invitations to gatherings not hosted by herself. This may or may not be of interest. I suppose it seems reasonable to assume that others of her family have been granted the same power, and that somehow the sister in question has never had to accommodate the entire Mormon Tabernacle Choir or every surviving past or present cast member of *The Mousetrap*. I shall allow others to make points about the bizarre behaviour of the hostess (if the report is accurate). The major point is that LW1 seems to have no qualm either way about separating her beau from his daughter and granddaughter for the day. She seems to take it as a matter of course that his spending the holiday in the company of what little family he has is of no importance next to her requirement of a male escort. This couple clearly must part ways at once for the sake of the granddaughter if for no other reason. Her need of a grandfather outweighs LW1's need not to descend inton the depths of her sister's house unarmed or the grandfather's need for the sort of sex life Mr Savage would wish him to have.

Moral: If I were to put up a rewrite, it would dwell at length on the numbers that other sisters have been permitted to invite to family holidays and their inferiour connections.

L2: LW2 has clearly missed the boat here. Perhaps it is not too late. The obvious thing to do would have been to make major family celebrations out of the occasions of Daddy's birthday, the couple's wedding anniversary, and other momentous occasions, as many as possible. At such a celebration it would be easy to explain that poor Herbert would feel terribly out of place so that it would be much kinder to himk not to make him attend. Of course Mamma might feel disinclined to attend herself, but she might well do so if bribed with sufficiently enticing anniversary presents.

One might also wonder whether it could be of use to approach Herbert. The tricky part here is that it's difficult to decide (at least with less than an hour's reflection) whether LW2 has a screw or two loose, her mother is just guilty and defensive, or Herbert is a controlling boor. But in almost any of the possible outcomes, the conversation ought to work, and by whatever path ought to lead to a breakup. If Herbert is a dominating boor, it should come to light reasonably soon, and Mamma can dump him. If LW2 is a bit off, Herbert will pick up on this during their discussion and realize he's better off finding someone without such baggage. And if they are both the reasonable ones and Mamma is a bit off, then they can decide between them whether that is likely to be temporary (aw - no breakup) because of uncompleted mourning or permanent, in which case Herbert can decamp with a clear conscinece.

Moral: if I were putting up a rewrite, I think it would be most fun to go for LW2 complaining about how Mamma made her take down all the life-size portraits of Daddy she's had hanging in every room of her home so that Daddy can keep watch over her, but I might add that Mamma has been asking her to call Herbert Daddy and she does not want to do so.

L3: Does the Prudecutor seriously contend that LW3 could have gotten this particular boyfriend to marry her by refusing to move in together? Highly doubtful. It may occasionally delay marriage, but would an Ideal Husband really be pushed off the Marriage track because the Ideal Wife agreed to cohabit first? And again perhaps the answer is too obvious for the Prudecutor. Why on EARTH is LW3 putting herself in such a ridiculous position? If she really wants to marry this man (and I could dedicate quite a long post to the question of why she might), then what possible reason could she have for not proposing to him herself? She must do so at once. It will almost certainly lead to a breakup, which will be all the better for both of them.

This will be my one parallel for the week - it reminds me of Northanger Abbey. Catherine Morland, in Bath among people who are much more rich and fashionable than she with very little acquaintance, is delighted to meet up again with the attractive and witty Henry Tilney. As they are about to dance, she must converse for a moment with the undesired attentions of John Thorpe, the brother of her new dear friend Isabella. Henry claims that he would have been put out of countenance had Catherine's attention been withheld from him much longer, as he regards a dance as quite a parallel to matrimony, which Catherine cannot follow. Henry then explains that they are comparable in many points - man having the advantage of choice and woman only the power of refusal, for instance. Catherine cannot quite see them in the same light, and Henry teases her by supposing that this is because the traditional obligations of marriage are reversed in dancing - the man's job is to make the experience agreeable, while the woman's is to provide the fan and the lavendar water. He also says that men who do not wish to dance or marry themselves have no business with the partners of their neighbours. Catherine's original defense is that, while she must speak to isabella's brother if he speaks to her, she does not know any other man in the room. Henry's lament about this being his only safeguard lures her into saying that she does not wish to speak to anyone else, much more satisfactory.

Moral: If I were to put up a rewrite, it would make LW3 into a Very Girly Girl and go into her highly sophisticated snooping methods and how much time and energy it has taken for her to determine that he is NOT going to propose to her, and how she has absolutely no choice in the matter and would never ever EVER do such an Unfeminine thing as to propose herself.

L4: LW4 married a man who cannot afford a Smoking Room in his house. Divorce him at once.

No moral necessary.

There - done in less than the hour which was all the time I had for it today!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

11/11 - You've Got GERD!

Well, I believe I do, at any rate. If I should suddenly stop posting, it will probably be an indication that my persistent night cough has become even more serious. But in a way it is almost entertaining, as to some extent it was to have a broken ankle. I have concocted quite an ingenious little sleeping arrangement, and am now on a pattern of being able to sleep for between 2.5 and 4 hours, wake up coughing, spend only about ten to fifteen minutes coughing up stuff, read for up to an hour, and then get another two hours of sleep, with a somewhat less severe cough-up when I finally rise. Ingratitude, thy name is Hernia - and after I've been so kind to it for fifteen years, too!

L1: Now, it is usually great fun to cross-examine a Liar. They often make good impressions on the Judge and the Jury, and one can occasionally be pushed to new heights of ingenuity in order to pull off the mask and expose the witness for the walking bag of Untruth (s)he is. But an Admitted Liar? What's the fun of that? The Jury already know the witness is lying. Soapy Sam Ballard and Claude Erskine Brown for the Prosecution know it. Mr Injustice Graves knows it. On a good day, even Ollie Oliphant might have a clue.

But here we have a rather interesting situation. We have a woman who by her own admission lies to get what she wants or to avoid confrontation. She is caught out in a lie from some months previously, a case of combined selfishness and confrontation ducking, but in which she managed the lied-for act extremely clumsily. Now she understands why her husband questions her integrity, but expresses bewilderment that he questions the paternity of a surprising conception.

It would not be the most difficult thing in the world to build up a picture of a domineering bully. Because Little Wifey knows that her tendency to tell little or not-so-little lies is a Grave Fault, she does not stand up for herself in domestic differences of opinion. Husband plays on her inner sense of guilt and keeps her on a very short financial leash. He deliberately plays on her inclination to treat herself to a spa day and builds it up to such a point that she cannot take the pressure and lies her way into the treat. Then he has a foundation for questioning the paternity of his child, presumably to cover up some indiscretion of his own. I could make such a case fairly gladly.

Now would I believe it? I rather doubt it. The admission to being a lifelong liar has the flavour of the I Know I Have a Problem speech that has been used time and again by people to buy themselves some sort of grace without ever actually addressing the problem. One notes that LW1 presents no evidence of any attempt to address the problem. Then we have the framing of how her habit of lying played out during the marriage or before it. The spa visit is presented as the Big Lie, but if anything that draws the attention to that being the only lie mentioned, and makes one wonder whether one is not being gently led into the belief that there weren't other lies in play. A neat little omission. One might almost think that maybe there was never any question of fidelity earlier.

Just possibly H1 never voiced his concern about LW1's fidelity. And just possibly it was the spa visit that was his first indicator that LW1 is a confirmed and determined liar. But this has a touch of Nevile Strange in *Towards Zero* and his setting a trail of evidence that points to himself as the killer of Lady Tressilian while arranging for the case on those facts to fall apart, to yield to a second trail incriminating his ex-wife Audrey.

LW1 very likely wanted the spa day to come out. The easy answer would be that she may have been unfaithful after all, perhaps for some time, and wanted H1 to initiate the breakup. But to accept her evidence that she has slept with no other man, one might notice how she is able to adopt an indignant posture. "How could he?" practically drips from the conclusion of her letter. Even with the acknowledged scheduling, her own word that she has never slept with any other man since they have been together ought to be accepted. I am going to guess that LW1 either consciously or subconsciously wants her husband to suspect paternity because she has been entirely faithful. Would a paternity test really never have occurred to a confirmed liar as a possible solution? She wants to be dragged into it reluctantly, as the only way she can convince him of her virtue. And then who will have the whip hand in that marriage? It reminds me of why art dealer Jimmy Lazarus offered his friend Nick(Magdala) Buckley fifty pounds for a portrait of her grandfather that was worth twenty pounds at most. He knew that she would suspect the picture of being worth more, and would have it valued only to discover the truth. The next time he offered to buy a painting from her, she wouldn't - and he knew that another of her paintings was worth at least five thousand pounds.

If I liked LW1, I might advise her to take the Caroline Crale solution from *Five Little Pigs*. Horrified that jealousy had led her into maiming her baby half-sister, she adopted an extravagance of language in an attempt to give her violent streak an outlet. If LW1 could find some outlet where she could lie creatively, extravagantly to her heart's content, she might find it possible that her instinct to lie in real life would diminish. It might not do much good, but it could be worth a try.

Sorry, I'm not up to any morals this week.

L2: This is a bit of a muddle. In a way, it's similar to that annoying L2 of last week. Why has this family continued to host year after year when it was quite clear that their daughter had serious problems? Did they think that she was just misbehaving, or that it would be good for her to get herself over what they took to be a minor problem? The way LW2 is embracing the diagnosis as the greatest part of the solution to their problems is revealing. So it takes a medical diagnosis to convince LW2 and her husband (if he has any role in the making of decisions) to have a quiet holiday that her daughter will be able to handle. Ah, the damage done by the way in so many people have just bought into the Prudecutor-supported myth that Thanksgiving is supposed to be such a Lovely Occasion for Extended Family. Bleah!

So far so good, but then LW2 goes completely off on a tangent that it would be too much for her mother to host the dinner instead, and making a neatly-veiled crack about convincing her sister to host. Aha! One might have known that there was resentment that her sister's children have been such button-pushers for D2 all these years. But getting out of putting in an appearance? Oh, good grief.

The Prudecutor does not help by demanding that D2 immediately be thrust into the role of the Patient Living an Almost Perfectly Normal Life. I am almost revolted by the immediate impulse to turn her into a Poster Girl. Hasn't she suffered enough year after year? Can't she at least experience one quiet holiday with just the immediate family before some decision is made about being open about the diagnosis? I shall not even raise the question of whether a teenager might or not be permitted input into the question of whom to tell or not tell.

Interesting also that the Prudecutor sides with LW2 about her sister "stepping up" - what is WRONG with people who think that way, insisting on magazine-quality Family Holidays?

L3: So - while M3 certainly didn't put it very well, what is exactly going on between LW3 and M3 that firs the offer would lead to such an ungainly refusal and the violent reacting impulse to boycott the holiday because an offer to host was declined less than politely? These two deserve each other. I can't bring myself to care enough about this one to say anything more, except to hope that they remain bound up in a Prudecutor-sanctioned myth of the Perfect Family Holiday Gathering for the rest of their lives, making each other miserable year after year. I shall only hope that there isn't anyone in the family who genuinely deserves better than this sort of eternal tug-of-war.

L4: Why on earth continue to hold social events at work? A shower held by, for and with co-workers seems a horrid if not disgraceful idea. Talk about taking captives! And bosses socializing in this sort of atmosphere, where an employee was being honoured for a personal occurrence? Not a good idea at all. Think back to *Manor House* and the occasion of the festivities in the Servants' Hall. The Upstairs people might make an appearance Downstairs, but clearly not in the position of equals at the party. They would make a ceremonial appearance, perhaps including a short sppech or dance, and then leave the servants to their enjoyment. Or one might go back to *Cranford* and Lady Ludlow opening the May Day fair. She crowns Helen Hutton Queen of the May, but then takes no further part in the festivities as the townfolk celebrate. In these times, when birth class has virtually died out as a social indicator, perhaps corporate rank might make do.

A properly-framed apology when one has not quite maintained one's own standard of conduct never really seems likely to be out of order. The details LW4 can determine for herslef.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

11/4 - Severely Curtailed

Mostly just the bare lines of questioning this week (of all the weeks to have been reading *The Handmaid's Tale*) - too apprehensive for much more, and not about Zenyatta, although it was a shame the Breeder's Cup was on a synthetic track last year, which was the main reason she never opposed the now-faded Rachel Alexandra.

L1: To LW1, the whole family shamed you for turning her in. Your grandparents have been a great support to you. Where do these two overlap? They don't seem to belong in the same letter. To LW1's grandmother: What sacrifice if any are you making and are you providing your daughter with necessities, luxuries, or the capacity to harm herself further? Is the money really necessary or are you just trying to coerce your grandson into a symbolic act of forgiveness? Just why do you so badly need him to validate your choices for you?

Moral: It may not make any difference to what one does, but it may modify how one does it.

L2: To LW2, exactly why have you attended every year? Why is it acceptable in your marriage for you to be upset by your hosts but not for your husband to be upset by conflict? And how does he expect you to earn their respect by confronting them if conflict would upset him so? Why not spend the occasion in a place where you actually have a chance of having a pleasant evening, which you know by experience is not in that cousin's home? Why not contact the host privately in advance to request as a favour there being no repetition of the annual bullying, and then leave with dignity when it occurs? Which members of the family actually have good opinions worth earning and keeping? Why not invite those members to see if you can start your own tradition for an actual pleasant evening in convivial company without the toxic cousin? But mainly, which sentiments are actually your husband's and which are you putting into his mouth?

To the Prudecutor: Since when should Thanksgiving be a lovely event? How many people on the planet are there who are capable of gathering with a far-too-large group of ill-matched dinner companions for a poorly-orchestrated meal the menu of which is usually conducive to irritation and friction within the party who will genuinely call the occasion a lovely event afterwards and mean it instead of lying about as convincingly as Ms Messy and Dr Susan would declare themselves BFFs? Why do you persist in advising people to tell social lies that are so unconvincing they have almost no chance of being believed?

Moral: There's a reason why Hercule Poirot believes so many more murders than might statistically be expected occur during Christmas gatherings.

L3: To LW3, why on earth does your daughter's being an independent young woman whose life seems to be on the right track make you think you ought not to tell her she literally stinks? How much are you willing to see this cost her before you do? And why does this not prevent you from telling your children other, presumably far less urgent, truths?

Moral: Tell it or smell it?

L4: To LW4, exactly what kind of leader are you? How little influence do you have that this ridiculous program is still being perpetuated? Why do you have to participate in the Kool-Aid drinking ritual? And why have you never learned the urgent need to use the restroom when these degrading exercises take place? Wouldn't you really be happier if you just learned to love Big Brother after all?

My thanks, by the way, to Mr Messy for clearing up any uncertainty about the nature of the programme.

My only parallel for the week will be the *Daria* episode, "The F Word," in which Mr O'Neil assigns his English class to pick something at which each of them knows (s)he can't possibly succeed and fail at it. Early results are promising. Jody fails to convince her parents to let her have any free time during the summer, Mac fails to teach Kevin the branches of the U.S. government and Daria fails to convince Jake and Helen not to let Quinn have a major shopping spree. But then there are the successes. Kevin hands the other team the football and succeeds at being a bad athlete. Brittany asks Daria for advice on boring topics of conversation with her fellow cheerleaders and succeeds at being unpopular. Most startlingly, Jane changes her hair, applies kiwi-flavoured lip gloss, dons a teddy-bear backpack and unnerves Tom by succeeding at being conventional. Kevin and Brittany are kicked off their respective squads, and Mr O'Neil is soon in despair over how his terrible assignment has brought ruin to the school. Mac and Jody eventually intercede for Kevin and Brittany while Daria and Jane convince Mr O'Neil that his failure was a success. However, the most alarming success is that of Jane, who decides to remain conventional for a while, even to the point of being invited to try out for Brittany's spot on the cheerleading squad. Sanity and order are restored when Jane, at the moment of her tryout, has a vision of dating Kevin which spooks her back into being her artistic self, while her sarcastic cheer convinces the squad to take Brittany back.

Moral: "You had bouncity-bounce?"

Thursday, October 28, 2010

10/28 - The Timsons Explain it All For You

For some reason, this week's batch of letters (rather an improvement over those of recent weeks) remind me of that great and industrious family of South London villains, the Timsons.

L1: Oh, I can hardly wait to see what the Submariner has done with this mighty pair. If the refreshers were good, this case could entertain the Old Bailey for a week or more as we go into all the pertinent and necessary details of exactly how religious the family were, how clear the prohibition of indoor relationship, how necessary to warn the couple of the dangers of self-incrimination through any admission of certain conduct, and how much exactly which party can be held accountable for The Big Bang. There must be some way to thread a needle between LW1 putting on his Big Boy Underoos and accepting his portion of the act despite his wanting to make a good impression and the girlfriend being both the primarily moved and the primary mover.

I am so disgusted with both halves of this couple that I almost want to tell them to marry at once. They clearly deserve each other. Both are willing to live with Granny's incarceration (whether or not deserved, one of the sadder points for cross-examination involved in the case) - and for what? Simply in order to avoid being adults? Are they afraid her parents will send her to her room without supper? Sadly, in the end, I must insist that they break up. Without a spine between them, they will not be able to stop her parents from sneaking their babies out of the house and getting them baptized, or reading their gay teenagers condemnatory Biblical passages assisted by sermons condoning any bullying the teens have received as righteous and thus driving them to suicide. It sounds melodramatic, but the risk is real.

The Timson angle for this letter is the case of the Tap End. Tony Timson is arrested for trying to drown his wife April when they share a bath. The whole incident was really just a case of heated feelings following a slight altercation. April had told Tony what she would be wearing to a party at Chrissie Malloy's and that Peanuts Malloy would be attending the same party. Tony didn't care for April to be wearing that particular outfit in such company, and then, however much embarrassment it cost Tony later to admit to it in the presence of Mizz Liz Probert as junior brief, April made a comparison between Tony and Peanuts on the subject of... virility. Tony expressed the assumption that most married couples shared baths, didn't they? Mr Bernard, it was revealed, couldn't do such a thing, as his wife had a hip. When the Timsons' arrangements of communal bathing became known in open court, Mr Justice Featherstone was so outraged by Tony being expected to sit with his back squashed up against the taps all the time that he unwisely appeared to opine that such circumstances almost justified an attempted murder. This even led to the intrusion of tabloid reporters phoning the Featherstone home and asking Marigold impertinent questions. Guthrie's incompetent attempt to remedy the situation required the far more skilful intervention of a legal practitioner of considerable greater talents in order to restore him to both judicial and domestic tranquility.

Moral: It is a truth universally acknowledged that no couple should marry if the parents of either possess double the amount of spine of the combined halves of the couple.

L2: And we go from bad to worse. The sterling question for cross is bound to be - Exactly How did LW2 discover the affair? And we all know the answer. Mumsy has been Talking. She told LW2, not only oblivious to the question of whether or not it spoiled the wedding for her, but both glad and doing all she could to insure that it did so. She didn't stop at telling LW2, either, and we can bet Ms Mermaid's red high heels on it. All the family knows. All her friends know. Anyone whom Mumsy has ever considered even an amiale acquaintance is under no illusion that even to acknowledge the existence of the slore (thanks, once again, to Johnny Weir for the new word) is to volunteer for excommunication. This is almost a beneficence on Mumsy's part - at least it avoids the possibility of the slore being invited to any event attended by Mumsy, LW2, family or perhaps even friends.

But that is the low-hanging fruit. I wonder where the husband is in all this. There is WE in the first sentence, followed by I'M so excited in the second. The WE in the third sentence is natural enough, as their children are being included in the ceremony (BLECH!), but there is a WE in the fourth sentence that annoys me. From the rest of the letter, that WE feels as if it applies more to LW2 and her mother than to LW2 and her husband. There follows a detailed account of the numerous roles filled by the slore as wedding planner preceding and during the ceremony. Then there is the sentence that anything connected to the wedding is painful "for us and my mom". WE can't watch the wedding video, but almost all the actions and reactions belong to Mumsy - asking LW2 to toss the veil, reconciling with Popsy, etc. Which WE exactly has been wanting to watch the wedding video - LW2 and hubby or LW2 and Mumsy? How distraught is hubby anyway? There are a lot of WEs which seem to refer to him but also seem to attribute to him more than his reasonable share of outrage involved. This is not encouraging.

I advise an immediate divorce. LW2 seems to be rather blurry on what she feels, what her husband feels, what her mother feels, and whether there is or ought to be any difference. And, on the bright side, they can still go ahead and plan another wedding, only this one will actually have teeth!

If only the slore were an official wedding planner, one could speculate merrily about whether or how she could legally turn away the business offered. It would be so much neater a picture if Mumsy pushed her friend every step of the way. Especially given the occasional case popping up in which wedding-related service providers have wanted to decline business from same-sex couples, we could have quite a nice time building up quite a fun picture.

The Timson case that springs to mind is that of the Children of the Devil. Dennis Timson robs a novelty shop of depressingly little cash and takes a box or two of novelties for good measure. As Carey Timson and his family are on holiday, Dennis stores the goods in Carey's garage and then forgets about them. Eight-year-old master criminal of the family, Carey's daughter Tracy, takes nine devil's masks to school, where she and eight friends don the mask and run about screaming for a few minutes before Tracy is apprehended. But this moderately benign caper has legs. Gareth Malloy thinks Carey told the police that the Malloys robbed the novelty shop. In retaliation, Tracy's cherubic classmate Dominic Malloy is primed by the rest of the Malloys to convince the well-meaning but credulous social worker Mirabelle Jones that Carey has introduced Tracy and Dominic to Satanic practices. Tracy is taken from her home into care in the middle of the night without even so much as a Barbara doll for consolation. Restoring her to her parents requires convincing Dennis to appear before the Crockthorpe local authority and put his hands up for the Wedges job.

Moral: It is a truth universally acknowledged that those who watch their wedding videos as frequently as LW2 does or would like to do are in want of marriages that compare favourably. [NB: See: van Arkle, Muriel - nee Heslop]

L3: This is a technical question that should never have made it past the editor as presented for the column. How much is the extra degree worth in the industry in question? That should come out easily enough, without requiring much in the way of cross. As for what LW3 ought to have done, skulking and sulking for the weeks since the tragic discovery is Not It. (Why, oh why, am I suddenly thinking of those commercials about the Heartbreak of Psoriasis?)

As breakups seem to be the order of the day, and it apears that LW3 has very probably been seen to have checked out mentally on the job, however justifiably, it might as well be made official. It would be interesting to see what would happen if LW3 were to inform the coworker of the salary difference, but that seems too improbable to suggest.

The Timsons always seem to be in the shadow of the more violent, more efficient and more successful-at-crime Malloys, a circumstance never better illustrated than in Rumpole's Last Case. Dennis and Cyril Timson are robbing a bank and have about two thousand pounds bagged from the safe when they hear the approach of a guard. They start to leave the way they entered, hear noises, go back the other way, encounter the guard. In the midst of much confusion, the guard is shot in the foot and they are apprehended. As the case heads to trial with their separate barristers each considering the merits of a cutthroat defense, the Malloys, who are rumoured to have pulled off something spectacular, are croing that the Timsons just get nicked and grass on each other. Peanuts Malloy is heard saying that the Timsons are only any good to use as ferrets. It transpires that the Malloys simply followed Dennis and Cyril into the vault, waiting for the pair to finish emptying the safe and leave, when they would have prduced the gun neither Dennis nor Cyril actually had and relieved the Timsons of the loot. When Dennis and Cyril were caught, the Malloys simply stayed where they were, then made off with about forty thousand once the coast was clear.

Moral: It is a truth universally acknowledged that confidential documents left on a scanner are to an unsupecting office worker as her box was to Pandora.

L4: Another technical question. Sigh. LW4 has already missed the boat. Maybe one occasion of illness might be passed off, but not contacting the hostess after the second occurrence with an inquiry into the health of everyone else and then (assuming no other casualties) into particular ingredients in search of a possible cause of what LW4 could at least have presented as putatively an allergic reaction? Surely any comment made now will make it plain to the friend what actually happens to be true, that LW4 believes there to be personal blame in the case, or at least believed so for some time. The friends apparently deserve better. Just drop them slowly and don't talk about it.

Perhaps LW4 has been dining with Hugh "Snake Legs" Timson, who inherited the position of family fence from the retired Uncle Percy. Police thought they could trace possession of a number of stolen silver sugar bowls to Hugh, but they found nothing from a long list of stolen articles until the bright Inspector Broom/Brush (Mr Mortimer herabout or at a nearby point making a name change for the Hammer of the Timsons) noticed a large number of bags of frozen peas in the Timson freezer and took it upon himself to order them put to the boil. One wonders what else might have taken up temporarym lodging among the eatables over the years.

Moral: It is a truth universally acknowledged that, as Julius King posits, however insincerely, in *A Fairly Honourable Defeat*, anybody can be made to drop anybody with the right tweaking.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

10/21 - Seventies Night

Being pretty disgusted, I shall be pretty brief.

L1 - One could go through the motions of cross-examining LW1 about her flexibility - but we all know the answer is Not Very. And that's fine. One might cross-examine the BF about what avenues to Paradise he might have proficiency in constructiong, but he's probably been through enough. Given such an otherwise wonderful object, some people would try every position in the almanac twice a day and thrice on Sunday to make sure they're Just Not a Match. Others might look into triangles or parallelograms, but LW1 gives off too much Marcia Brady to be sufficiently game for the sort of hard work required, and that's fine.

Moral: One might be well advised to remember that Something Suddenly Came Up bites in more than one direction.

L2 - This is really a technical question, and I loathe technical questions. LW2 sounds like the sort of pushover that people who could really use such a friend so rarely know in real life. That guilted out because a friend of an acquaintance made the rather bizarre request for a donation of hair? The friend has clearly learned from the master - Danny Bonaduce. This has the DB touch all over it. It would not surprise me a bit if the friend has been madly jealous of LW2's hair for some time now and has seen an ingenious way to get rid of it. But LW2 has a grand opportunity to improve her friend's knowledge of literature with a reference to a well-known story about another donation of hair, and if worst comes to worst and she feels truly compelled to lie she can claim that her husband thinks he will be surprising her with a present of expensive combs.

Moral: If LW2 wouldn't (and it seems reasonable to assume so from the letter) cut off her hair to buy her husband a watch fob, she can hardly be expected to cut it off to make a wig for the child of an acquaintance when asked secondhand.

L3 - Now the potential for effective cross-examination here is off the charts. One might inquire into exactly what sort of questions LW3 had to refrain from asking in order to secure her radiantly happy marriage (and there were, one might reasonably presume, a good many of them), but the thought of being landed with another brief in a divorce case before Mrs Justice Appleby is too offputting. But one might put a few pertinent questions to the husband and the bride while LW3 happens not to be in the court. There might have been a few little games going on with LW3 that might be useful to know without LW3 being on to it.

LW3 really has a very strong air of Jan Brady about her. Noone wears the mix of righteously and overreachingly offended air in quite the same way. And the bride has broken the Girl Code. Not realizing without a word ever passing her friend's lips that the marriage was based on a veneer only of mock forgiveness extending only to the the husband, and that the vile woman who had to be blamed for 250% of the trouble between the couple was to be Shunned in Perpetuity. The bride has committed a serious offense, very serious indeed. LW3 would be quite justified if she were to seduce the groom, for instance. Or perhaps it might be more effective to create a grand scene at the wedding, rather akin to the time that Jan wore a black wig to a party.

Moral: It seems almost unfairly to LW3's benefit that Eve Plumb came out of the Brady Bunch with the most chic reputation of all, doesn't it?

L4 - So you wanted to be Susan Dey and now you realize you're not up for it? Join the queue.

Moral: (and this one's for serious Bonus Points) Honey Lingers.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

10/14 - Return of CEB

As I find myself still wondering about why various people here would find it difficult to believe in bisexuality (not to be a great cheerleader for the Bs, who are unlikely to attain true unity with the LGs as long as the Ss manage to throw up enough smoke screens to keep them divided, although there are various areas for improvement on both sides), this seems like a good day for the return of our guest columnist C.E.B.:

Greetings to regular readers of this page! As my schedule as a highly successful and much in demand Queen's Counsel appears to have provided me with yet another uncharacteristically lengthy block of free time, and as it was rather pleasant to be able to enlighten people without Rumpole tricking my witnesses in cross-examination or Phylly on the bench summing up against me, I thought I would fill in yet again.

L1: Dear LW1, I entirely empathize with your situation. Your sister and family are treating you exactly the way the Sisterhood of Radical Lawyers likes to treat me. Just because a number of young lady barristers have been attracted to me - not just my wife, Phylly, who, you may recall, was my pupil, but also Fiona Always, who told Rumpole I looked like Paul Newman, and Liz Probert, who pretends not to like me but keeps wheedling me into taking her to the Opera every now and then. But please don't think that I spend all my time pursuing young lady barristers (or typists, if we count Dot Clapton). It's not my fault that they fall in love with me. I often make a conscious effort not to attract women, and can mention at least two of my lady pupils whom I did my very best to repel, Mrs Heather Whittaker and Wendy Crump. Mrs Whittaker was middle-aged and Wendy Crump was fat. But I mustn't take up a lot of time delving into the many chapters of my rich and varied love life. Seriously, I mustn't, as Hilda Rumpole reads this column very carefully to make sure Rumpole isn't getting up to anything, and Hilda might tell Phylly something she didn't already know.

Weddings can be difficult occasions. I remember that Phylly and Marigold Featherstone thought that my remark at the Ballards' wedding about Sam being sentenced for life could have been phrased better, but at least the moment passed without any such exchange as that between you and your sister. Of course, sisters have exchanges that can be difficult to interpret, such as when I hosted a party from Chambers at the Bar Races and we met up with Fiona Always. Then Fiona's sister Jennifer Postern showed up, they called each other Sprod and Pimpsy, and said it was loathsome and disgusting to see each other. I couldn't understand it.

Now, it appears you are being accused by your family and you certainly have form (previous convictions). I am glad I am here this week instead of Rumpole. Rumpole would tell you never to plead guilty, but I know a thing or two old Horace doesn't. After all, which of us, I might ask, is a Queen's Counsel and entitled by rank to lead the other? But I have a little secret. There is a much more highly effective stratagem available to you. By all means plead guilty, and let all your family know how aware you are that you have a problem. The "I Know I Have a Problem" Admission works wonders. People fall all over themselves to be sympathetic, and quite often they don't even make you do any real work to resolve that problem. Telling the Sisterhood of radical lawyers that I know well how much I need to work on my sense of Gender Awareness (or some other of those terms that young lady barristers seem so keen on these days, such a lot of nonsense most of it) has saved my bacon on numerous occasions. Just don't tell Liz Probert.

L2: Dear LW2, you had an unfortunate reaction to a sedative and behaved, entirely beyond your own control, in an inappropriate way with a friend. Now, in some respects, this smacks of a technical question. Why your dentist would entrust you to the care of a friend without impressing upon him the importance of his seeing you home safely in person is beyond me. It seems to be asking for a lawsuit of some sort or other. At the very least it appears to be sheer negligence. There are also those who might cross-examine your friend about why he thought it acceptable to drop you at the bus stop when you had behaved inappropriately in the car, but I think his reasons will become clear during the progress of my answer.

But the true issue here is not so much what you actually did and don't remember doing, but that your friend is no longer quite so friendly with you. I regret to point out that you really cannot expect him to be after what has happened. Even if on an intellectual level he entirely accepts that you were neither in control of your actions nor acting out your true subconscious desires, it will probably prove impossible to un-ring this particular bell.

I am reminded of the time I had to interview Dave Inchcape for a seat in Chambers. Just prior to the interview, Liz Probert had accused me of being prejudiced against gays, in part because there were no gay members of Chambers. My defense, that we hadn't had any gay or lesbian applicants, ought to have been persuasive, but she simply replied that she'd like to see how I would react if we ever did. And then, when Sam Ballard accidentally knocked himself out when he accidentally hit himself with his chest expander in the middle of the case when he was leading Rumpole and defending Lady Perdita Derwent on the charge of murdering her husband, I had to interview Dave Inchcape. It was a most awkward situation. If I advised against him, and he turned out to be gay, Liz Probert would never have forgiven me. And I couldn't just come out and ask him. But I certainly would have felt awkward shaking hands with him or not having him sit on the other side of the room. I suppose, since I myself would of course be entirely incapable of passing judgment on such a point, that if he were gay, he would not have any difficulty finding partners, and then he mentioned his experiences with Tommy Tompkins, who was married and had children. Now, I had never known about Tommy. Perhaps there were other members of the Bar who'd been leading secret lives all along; it was too good a chance not to admit Dave to Chambers. And then, at the Ballards' wedding, mind you, I got the shocking news that Inchcape was a closet heterosexual when I saw him actually KISSING Liz Probert! Naturally, I was outraged.

Now I must be better at this dispensing of advice than I knew, because of course the Ballards' wedding is important for another reason. It was when Sam was coming around from a strong sedative that he became enamoured of the formidable Matey - Marguerite Plumstead, who had been Matron at the Old Bailey for years. I am certain anyone would accept that Sam, who had been a resolute bachelor for many years, would never have fallen in love with Matey had it not been for the sedative he was given after his head injury. This, I think, is the sort of corroborrating evidence that supports your claim that you had no idea what you were doing and that you would never have acted in such a way had you been in command of your faculties.

But back to your real problem. Your friend may be able to accept that what you did is not your fault, but the fact remains that his delicate straight sensibilities were assaulted in a way that he may never be able to forget, even if he can forgive them. It is similar to someone with Tourette's Syndrome whose conversation is involuntarily peppered with foul expletives. A possible romantic interet might well be able to accept the (s)he is not being CALLED all those filthy words, but having to hear them every so often in the conversation will likely and understandably be a sufficient deterrent to dating such a person. Similarly, if your friend is unable to forget your hand in his pants, then it is unlikely to matter whether or not he fully forgives you for it. After all, just consider what it might have meant if - well, something had actually responded in that situation? No offense, but it's too disturbing for me to able to contemplate any further.

L3: Dear LW3, you have discovered that your landlord is a convicted criminal of the worst variety. Now, you doubtless do not require my opinion as an expert on the Rent Acts, having already had the testimony from a number of other knowledgeable people. First, be thankful your landlord wasn't defended by Rumpole, who might have gotten him off. Then again, if it had been before Mr Justice Graves or Mr Justice Bullingham, Rumpole's reliance on brilliant cross-examination of Prosecution witnesses might have been less effective and resulted in a longer prison sentence.

Now, one thing I have learned from our Head of Chambers, Sam Ballard, even if I did call him a pompous you-know-what when he originally was less than entirely cooperative with my application for silk in his correspondence with the Lord Chancellor's office, is that so many criminals have an insufficient sense of sin. that may explain why they are so often repeat offenders, like Rumpole's favourite clients, the Timson family. My advice, andn I am sure that Sam Ballard would agree with me, is that your landlord has doubtless not served sufficient time in prison to have learned the error of his ways. It is clearly your moral duty to set him up to be caught again by the police, this time with a longer sentence in store.

L4: Dear LW4, your letter takes me back. I remember when Rumpole spent the evening with us explaining to an American visitor about the pantomime. After I cleverly supplied him with a large quantity of claret, NOT from Pommeroy's Wine Bar, he even agreed to take Tristan and Isolde to the panto. That was a magical evening for Phylly and me. We definitely were able to put the spark back in our marriage.

Now, before this occasion, we were, on occasion, able to drop the children with our friends, the Arthurian Dagos, who only go to Italian Opera, and therefore were generally at home when we wanted to go to see any Wagner. It made a very nice little arrangement, even though the Arthurian Dagos are in no way related to either of us. But then disaster struck. Phylly was away trying a long firm fraud, and the Arthurian Dagos decided it was time for us to return the favour and att end to their three children. With Phylly away, I had to take care of five children at once, which was entirely unfair. Anyway, to make a long story short, we soon discontinued the practice.

But it did teach mje an invaluable lesson which you may be able to turn to advantage. Remember your simple arithmetic. Three is greater than two. Need I say more?