Thursday, May 27, 2010

DP 5/27 - a Marple Day

My Monday rumination for this week has centred on the marrying couple who aren't entirely in agreement about using church facilities that would not be available to same-sex couples. I have seen at least one other poster saying that it would be no greater hypocrisy than their marrying in church facilities at all, given that the questioner says she is not religious. That point might more accurately depend on a question of degree. There are plenty of people who don't go to church or give a hoot about religious questions one way or the other who aren't at all put out by such things as graduation ceremonies being held in church halls or prayers being inserted into secular occasions. Such people, it seems, might reasonably be allowed not to rule out a church that is making a similar statement in letting them use the facility in the first place - gambling, as it were, that the family might become religious at some point and be in search of a church, in which case, what better choice? An anti-religious person would presumably have ruled out church facilities from the beginning of the search.

The prosecution chose to make a jab at not buying the idea of not marrying simply because same-sex couples cannot yet wed in most places. Perhaps the intent behind that was to invalidate what the prosecution might have seen as an attempt to weasel out of marrying entirely. But I for one find nothing wrong with a conscientious delay. Certainly in a place such as Maine or California after an unfavourable referendum result, a postponement, not that such a thing would be requested, seems a thoughtful gesture. One could write a nice little letter to the editor and send it around to various publications.

This particular questioner reminded me a bit of seeing various Republican women making the rounds recently and mentioning their support for same-sex marriage. Even if I silence my Inner Mystery Novelist who suggests that it's all part of some giant hoax to convince people with libertarian streaks who Just Don't Generally Trust Right-Wingers On Social Issues that the Rs can safely be returned to power (at which point they will just do what they've always done), I still wonder quite often how far the support extends or to what it amounts. It's not as if any of them can ever give a concrete example of a candidate against whom they voted or for whom they withheld support because of this issue. And it doesn't have to. People are entitled to have preferences on issues which are perhaps outside of the top ten in priority. Support is support to whatever extent it can be given. But I wouldn't mind once or twice seeing an interviewer ask for a practical application.

I am not entirely sure this couple should marry at all. They have stumbled into a fairly big incompatibility. The questioner's support is basically theoretical; it would be nice, but the issue is not worth giving up the "perfect" venue, as if this issue were something which gives the venue a slight blemish overshadowed by the facility's superiour amenities. The fiance's principles have a bit more in the way of teeth to them. Even if one is in a sufficiently generous mood to give the bride a pass on considering social issues as basically on the same plane as lighting, seating capacity and appeal in photographs, it does not take the genius of Professor Karl Hendricks to foresee that this couple may well turn out the way Karl and Anya did in the Christie play *Verdict* in which Karl jeopardized his university position by taking in a fellow professor who'd been unjustly treated. Eventually he lost his position, they had to relocate to England, Anya's health failed and she was murdered by a rich girl thinking herself in love with Karl. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the play was that Dame Agatha herself thought it one of her two or three best plays, but that she was practically alone in that opinion.

With this in mind, today feels like a day to invoke Miss Marple.

L1: So for the second consecutive week we have a questionable adoption. The prosecution is really laying it on extremely thick on this one, lambasting the adoptrix and urging a rather violent course of action. Now perhaps the adoption might not really have been the wisest thing in the world, but it did go through; a few questions might clarify whether there is genuine cause for concern particularly given the adoptrix's possible health limitations. I can grant that the witness may well have legitimate concern over the question of whether an adoption given her mother's age and circumstances and the condition of the adoptee was a wise idea.

But what stands out here in LW1's testimony is the ovemphatic resentment of Mamma's European holiday. How much of the objection to the adoption was financially based? It's certainly legitimate to be concerned that a parent with health concerns might be stretched. But we we have a luxury holiday that Mamma cannot afford, according to LW1. Well, that can be determined easily enough. But it could be that LW1 and her natural-born sister have been looking ahead and anticipating financial burdens they don't want to undertake, or perhaps the loss of some future financial consideration. There's enough fuzziness here that this is what would make up the bulk of my questions.

The adoptrix seems to have some admirable qualities, and has done some good even if not entirely for the best of motives. If good were only acceptable when accompanied by pure motivation, then there would be a great deal less good about in the world. I must say that, however much the adoptrix might need a holiday, three weeks at a time when the adoptee is in rather a troubled situation seems a tad ambitious. I am more or less prepared potentially to grant the adoptrix the benefit of the doubt on this point that it is not a sign that she should be thrown under the bus. But perhaps my greatest concern here is that she potentially is considerably put out that her daughters have not taken to their new "sister" in the way she'd hoped and this is among other things part of her trying to force the girl into her daughters' families. The daughters are treating the girl about as much as a real "sister" as Percival and Elaine Fortescue treat Adele as a "mother" in *A Pocket Full of Rye* when their father marries a woman of their own generation.

But I shall send my Marple comparison in another direction. The adoptrix reminds me of Marina Gregg in *The Mirror Crack'd* half-adopting three children to create her perfect image of her own little family as she gets to play the role of "Mom" in inverted commas (as Margot Bence, once of the three children, later describes it). When she becomes pregnant, that's the end of her little "pretend" family, and the three semi-adoptees are all established with nice little arrangements and assorted emotional scars to sustain them later in life. Here my sense is that the adoptrix has tried to force their new "sister" on her two daughters in an emphasis of that role and they'd really just as soon not have it.

Marina Gregg didn't get a happy ending. She contacted German measles during pregnancy, which did not result in the birth of a happy, healthy child. After a nervous breakdown, divorce, remarriage and relocation to England, she met Heather Badcock at a fete, heard Heather tell a long story about meeting her (during her pregnancy) despite being told by her doctor she couldn't, realized that Heather had caused tragic damage to her child, and killed her.

The hard part is trying to think of what LW1 ought to do. She seems to be a bit of a wispy person surrounded by those more forceful - mother, sister, husband. I shall advise her to treat the new "sister" the way Elizabeth Bennet treats Lydia. If LW1 can spare the funding with a few private economies in her personal expenditure, she might contribute a little on the quiet to the "sister's" maintenance for a short period.

Moral: What will make nobody happy seems obviously the best solution.

L2: The prosecution attempts to get away with a crafty single on this one. LW2 teaches undergraduate English, which is not the same as undergraduate English Literature. These days, there are a great many courses that could be considered remedial. Given the peculiar elegance (or lack thereof) in phrasing that permeates L2, I shall guess that she teaches a course much closer to remedial than literary. She certainly does not seem up to the level required to teach Miss Austen. Perhaps this does not change anything material in the case; I just don't like to let the prosecution slip in these little assumptions.

In Agathaland, there are various cases of older women infatuated with younger men. It usually ends remarkably badly for the older women. In both "The Cornish Mystery" and "Death on the Nile" (which true Christiephiles will recall is not only a Poirot novel but also a short story featuring Mr Parker Pyne) the young man has been stringing the old woman along and ends up murdering her. In *Ordeal by Innocence* Kirsten becomes the accomplice who actually commits the murder Jacko plans (while he establishes a legitimate alibi that fails to materialize due to his witness suffering concussion and temporary loss of memory) only to discover after his arrest that he's secretly been married the whole time. There's General Macarthur's wife in *Ten Little Indians* but she's only a year older than her paramour; at least it's only the paramour who is sent to his death, though she dies of pneumonia shortly afterwards.

But none of these are Marple examples. The closest I can come to an attachment of a slightly older woman to a younger man on not very secure moral grounds might be Esther Walters and Tim Kendall in *A Caribbean Mystery*. She's a widow who doesn't know she'll inherit fifty thousand pounds when her old and ailing employer dies; he's planning to murder his wife and make it look like suicide, as he's done before. The perfect couple!

As for what LW2 ought to do, I shall provide her with some very modern advice. As it seems to me inevitable that such a highly desirable young man should have numerous females clamouring for his attention and his favours, what inevitably seems the inevitable course of action is for LW2 to consult her Inner Slore and inevitably and immediately begin sexting her inamorato. This should inevitably lead to his seizing the day (and various appendages as well best left to the Submariner to describe) and eventually the inevitable spread of the sexts far and wide across the internet. When LW2 is inevitably fired, she can then take great confort that the whole affair was her inevitable Fate all along, and that she will inevitably land in a career better suited to her talents on her next attempt.

Moral: As for what that career might be, I'm thinking that waitressing or exotic dancing seems pretty inevitable, as I see her as inevitably destined to appear on a Judge programme in some lawsuit inevitably involving unpaid rent, loans and/or credit card bills.

L3: Beyond cross-examining a few of the medical staff involved with the diagnosis, the cleanest course of action here seems to be to give LW3 an example as a sort of warning. She does not want to become Mrs Pritchard in the Miss Marple short story "The Blue Geranium". If LW3 spends all her time and energy on her illness, she might end up going in that direction. Mrs Pritchard's main interest besides her own dodgy health (which keeps her husband and her nurse in line) is fortune telling. Told that she will die when various pink flowers on her wallpaper turn blue, she becomes almost mesmerized by the idea and seems to find it quite glamourous by the time she has seen a blue primrose and a blue hollyhock with the blue geranium approaching as the next full moon comes nearer and nearer. Fortunately the poor thing (not a dear by any stretch of the imagination) is spared the indignity of knowing it was all done with litmus paper and her own smelling salts.

Moral: If LW3 must hire a nurse, she should hire a male. A young and attractive female will be Elsie Holland to her husband's Mr Symmington, and a middle-aged one will be Mrs Pritchard's Nurse Copling who kills her in an attempt to become Mrs P #2.

L4: While I can sympathize with a member of either gender surrounded by those of the opposite who expect the benefits of Victorian gender-based treatment without being willing to supply the reciprocal treatment, I doubt it would take an expert cross-examiner to establish that LW4 has a very thin case indeed. As for an unpleasant male quick to find fault with the females around him when his own conduct has been far from irreproachable, I need look no further than Colonel Protheroe in *The Murder at the Vicarage*. I'd rather like to advise LW4 on no account to change the water bottle again as a result of the email he's been receiving, but to draw up a byzantine rota for water changing based on usage and an appropriate barter system to compensate him for his actions above and beyond the call of duty. Perhaps he can get fired quicker than LW2 if he tries.

Moral: When LW4 is found shot in the Vicarage study, what's the over/under on the number of suspects? Miss Marple had seven for Colonel Protheroe; that seems a good under/over here.


  1. While I truly enjoyed this week's offering, I do wish you would consult your thesaurus more often. Perhaps it was for effect, to illustrate the presumed writing style of LW#2, but my own instructors would have thrown me out on my own submission had I used any adverb as frequently as you did on that answer!

    Since it's the only time I've ever noticed such redundancy, I'll presume it was for the effect. But what a ghastly effect it was!

  2. Oh, CoolOne, was the use of that adverb not entirely inevitable, given the inevitableness with which the young LW spoke of her inevitable relationship? ;-)

    hrumpole, that entire entry is splendid! My question about your Monday rumination boils down to "the perfect location". To me, by the time only one location will do, the bride (and LW) is treading ever so quickly into Bridezilla territory. In the end, a festooned backyard wooden deck can work splendidly provided family and friends can gather and there is genuine love in the relationship. Fixation on anything beyond that often ends in drama, disappointment and tears. Three of my least favorite things in the world. As such, I dismissed the LW as a nitwit, even if her motives for supposedly waffling were entirely admirable (although, sadly, after the "perfect location" statement, I question if her protestations about church policy weren't all just done for dramatic effect).

    We see the adoptrix in a slightly different light. I believe that once you take children into your charge, or produce them there, they are your primary responsibility. As such, any expectation that anyone else, ever, should take care of those children, even for a microsecond, until such time that they can move out on their own, is against my basic belief. Now, it's wonderful when someone can lend a hand, but, the awesome responsibility of caring for children should not be taken lightly. And it seems to be the adoptrix has taken it far, far too lightly. If she can't find care for her adoptive daughter, guilting the others isn't the solution. Canceling or shortening the vacation, IMHO, is. I will agree that it would be wonderful if the daughters could help out, but, if they're not willing, the ultimate responsibility is squarely in the adoptrix's court. To my way of thinking, anyway.

    Your moral for LW#2 was, "As for what that career might be, I'm thinking that waitressing or exotic dancing seems pretty inevitable." Wow, hrumpole, from the top rope! Admirably done! :-)

    As for LW#4, I believe you've given him exactly as he deserves. :-)

    Good cheer, hrumpole, and wonderfully done. :-)

  3. I was rather wondering if I might inevitably remind anyone of the Miss Castaway contest, which was so wonderful, marvellous and terrific.

    SB1, I think I let the adoptrix off lightly through wanting to whack LW1 for anti-Euro resentment. It rather spoiled an otherwise almost-sympathetic reaction to the letter. The more I consider it, the more it's seeming as if this is not about the holiday but more an attempt to cram the poor girl into the women's lives as their new sister whether they like it or not. I don't like it a bit, although I also am getting a sense that the guilting route is standard operating procedure for LW1 and Mamma. Maybe I should have gone with Lewis Carroll, as they're all very unpleasant people.

  4. Great essay! Yes Alice in Wonderland would do well for most of advise seeking letters!

    As for the mother needing/taking a 3 weeks once in a lifetime vacation, I'm probably more sympathetic than most because I was raised in Belgium and France where if you don't take a 5 weeks vacation (all at once or in two segments) per year you're going to get sick and die, or in the best of case, not be productive...

    You're right, I too suspect it's the European vacation that's bugging the daughters, and perhaps they would rather that their mother spent that money on them.

    You know you can't make much or any money out of the stipend you get for fostering children. I keep on hearing the stipend is not adequate to see to all their needs and conscientious foster parents often have to pitch in. I think this foster and adoptive mother should be commended and her biological daughters should be proud of her.

    I absolutely don't forsee these daughters helping their mother financially in the future, even to ward off starvation! On a contrary, they might be after the mother's house and what little savings she has managed to set aside and are worried she'll spend the savings in Europe on herself (gasp! How iresponsible!), and that the inheritance will have to be shared 3 ways with their adopted sister instead of two....