who comes after

Pam the Painter (my nickname for her) and I have known each other

for 25 or 30 years.  She still colours her hair, mine’s white.   She’s a different shape from me, watches different things on television but I understand her interest in architecture, she mine in images and we often like the same book  – and then not another in common for a twelvemonth. 

We have long enthusiastic exchanges about gardening, housework, what we have been “up to” and our pet hates –  men in bad shorts, housework, young women with raucous nailfile voices , buying the same thing (salad, fruit) a second time and it isn’t a patch on the first – so disappointing.  Long  ago she told me that she had never wanted to be married or have children and paused for me to tell the error of her ways.   But I couldn’t. 

  If you don’t want to be married and you don’t want to have children – don’t.  Use contraception and tell it like it is.  I wish there were a few more of you.   

This week along with our embarrassing government, the war in Ukraine and the dawning realisation of how it will impact internationally, the cost of everything from eggs to underwear –  the national press featured several horrible stories about children done to death.  I hate it.  I hate it so much, it makes me feel sick.  

  I am not one who can say “I have never raised my hand”, I have but there is a big gap between a blow to stop a small child going a under a truck (true) and extended systematic violence, designed to humiliate and destroy.

What it says about humans is that an inadequate person always looks for someone or something with even less about them than him or her.  Lots of people (men and women) think they like the idea of children – or at least can put up with them – but then get them home, to discover they are on call 24 hours a day for 20 years.  And you are stuck with it.

About halfway through the time I spent on the problem page at Woman magazine, a woman came to see me to discuss why she didn’t like her newborn child.  (You will appreciate there is an already enormous gap between someone who lashes out, often enabled by drugs or alcohol, with not much thought process to start with, and an intelligent person who wants to discuss emotions and responses and where they came from.)  

I admired her candour.

Political correctness having morphed into the cancel culture, the overpopulation of the world seems only to be discussed in large numbers and broad outlines.  Every so often, an intelligent outlet (print or vision, they’re in a minority) runs an item on how you have decided – usually a woman because she carries the child – not to reproduce.  But it takes cells from two people to make a child. 

And I have always thought that the male participation in all aspects of reproduction is very important, positively and otherwise.  I remember sharing a tv studio with a noted fertility expert who explained (I’d never heard it before) the role of abortion in fertility treatment.   And I shall never forget the men who came to the meeting to celebrate the passing of the Abortion Act – fathers and brothers, friends and partners, their arms full of children, absolutely stirring.  The old motto was “Every child a wanted child” – I still have the sash I wore.

This becomes key as BBC1 launches a mainstream picture of the world in danger from all sorts of things including overcrowding.

Don’t have five children, have three, don’t have three, have one  – or don’t have .   There is no shortage of children all over the world needing encouragement and love and education, high grade mentoring, support and investment.  Parenting is truly altruistic and if yours isn’t going to be, don’t do it.    

I remember people down the years of radio programmes saying defensively “Well, it’s natural isn’t it…”  There are a lot of other things I can think of that are so called natural too –actually the process of human development.  Don’t learn on somebody else unless you mean it for their benefit as well as yours.


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