Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Who Owns Your Body? - By Patrick Brigham

Ealing council is considering legal action against anti-abortion protesters accused of “harassing” women attending a clinic.

There are many people who think that abortion is wrong. They come from all backgrounds, either quoting the scriptures – from whichever religion, church, cult, ethnic group they belong – and the many different statistics, which are currently in favour, or available from government sources.

Everyone has a right to their opinion, to be motivated by whichever group they belong, and to protest in public if need be. This is called democracy, but when they cross the line, and actually prevent young women from receiving a safe and professional medical abortion – in an attempt to turn back the clock – then one must ask oneself if they are inspired by ignorance, prejudice, or simply contempt.

There’s a group of people in this world, who see themselves as establishment figures, which they are not and never will be. They claim the right to direct the ethics and mores of society, as if they are viewing us all from a great height. To them, the hoipolloi, grockels, numpty’s, misfits, or never will be’s of society, are a lesser order. Self proclaimed, they consider themselves to be a part of some kind of Messianic class, which somehow keeps them on their morel high ground.

It isn’t that they are bad people, or that they don’t mean well – they may be people who have brought up children, and who experience revulsion at the thought of an abortion taking place in their own family – but they also seem to be blind to the realities of modern day living, and the many pressures brought by todays society, on a young single mother.

Many of the arguments used by these zealots were around in the 60s, when post war Britain was still trying to emerge from an unimaginable black hole. As America was pouring its largess into a blighted Europe, via the Marshall Plan, the UK had to go it alone, with no handouts, a mountain of debt, and a bleak future.

But then what should come along? Suddenly we were all confronted with the beautiful people, stylish clothes, sex, drugs, rock & roll, and a feeling of release. As the song goes by Josh Dunson, there was definitely ‘Freedom in The Air,’ and believe me, we all knew what to do with it!

Incidentally, while this was all happening, a somewhat dusty and austere British Government remained blithely unaware of the implications all this euphoria would bring about. Rather like a line of pedantic plodding ducks, they simply went about their coal exports, food rationing, and bored us silly, with rather glib and simplistic speeches. Usually in a rather funny accent – reminiscent of Harry Enfield – informing us about our rosy future, what they forgot to mention was venereal disease, and unwanted pregnancies. This was because, in the past, it had always been traditionally left to the private sector!

If you consider that the 60s was about the mixing of previously well defined social classes, those young women who saw the UK as a new, classless, multi-cultured, benign country – full of adventure, and the spice of life – were very often left holding the baby. Many, who had experienced an enjoyable respite in a lay-by off the A4, often faced angry parents who had not foreseen this blight occurring, in their otherwise drab but bearable live’s. Not that many of them were always aware of their daughter’s dilemma, but they would most certainly have been aware of the catastrophe which often followed.

In those days there were many court cases, in which some ex nurse or ‘Knitting Needle Nell,’ was prosecuted for performing an illegal abortion. This was usually because their victim had ended up in the local emergency hospital, had blabbed to the duty doctor, and an arrest had subsequently been made. In mitigation the accused would always say that they were helping some poor unfortunate out, whose life would otherwise have been burdened with an unwanted child. But what we will never know, is how many young women they had managed to kill, prior to their arrest.

Dr Marie Stopes was a pioneer in the field of birth control, but one of the centers named after her in west London has become a target for protesters

Considering the stigma which an unwanted pregnancy might have caused, in the 60s, there were far more pressing matters for a young and vulnerable woman to face. Finding accommodation, adoption, getting support from the social security system, and finally – if they decided to keep their offspring – dealing with personal relationships, and eventual marriage. Men are the same the world over, when it comes to accepting someone else’s child, and so it was often the case that children were secreted away, and introduced at the last moment.

I am sure that if one was to interview some of the protesters, we would discover good people. But although todays society is no longer quite so bigoted as it was in the 60s, and obsessed with children born out of wedlock, abortion is very often the best option.

*** The result of rape is another matter, and I think it should be treated quite separately, because of the criminal aspects concerned. ***

Finally, children can be simply inconvenient – not due to some trivial whim – but due to the terrible pressures experienced by those looking for public housing, or controlled rents, and the money to pay for it. Single mothers need help, and not always available from family members, child care is also an issue if they have to go to work, or to navigate the now floored Universal Credit.

They look very angry, those ladies outside the Marie Stopes clinic, although from the photographs, I cannot see any priests, from any religious group, or men for that matter. So, my inclination is to know more about these ladies themselves, and not the unborn children they claim to represent.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

A Day In The Life Of a Writer – By Patrick Brigham

Many writers are self indulgent, but there is a difference between living the writer's life, and actually writing. The real work is done by modest hard working, and imaginative people, who seldom receive just payment for their dedication to literature. Their work, which is often judged by total Philistines - who think that books are a commodity, rather like a bar of chocolate, that can be consumed and forgotten about – often seems lost in the fog of commercialism, and the ever crowded publishing marketplace.
When you consider the number of books any one writer can publish during their lifetime, it is hard to accept that level of disdain, especially from those who seem to have little value for art or literature, and are only interested in its price tag. Because, to be a writer, is to expect very little, - other than occasional recognition - a modest income, and frequent misinterpretation. Should you choose to be a writer, unless you are John Le Carre or J.K.Rowling, you had better get used to the idea that your life will be one long struggle, unless you are very fortunate indeed.
When I wake up in the morning, I sometimes lay in bed for half an hour or so, to decide what I am going to write. In a kind of subconscious state, my mind seems to be able to conjure up all sorts of incidents and ideas, which can fit into a story that I am writing, or a magazine article I will publish. This routine somehow puts so called writer’s block into limbo, the choice between journalism or a book being a very good elixir; the practical versus the improbable. But, that’s just the beginning.
These days, unless one is financially independent, one cannot lock oneself away in a garret, and just write. It sounds good, but now we are going back to thoughts of self indulgence. The reality is different, because - like it or not - people do not just buy books these days, they follow genres.
There are more books on the internet written by so called experts, telling you what and how to write, and more rules on how to describe your writing, than you can shake a stick at. Maybe we should all write a ‘How To Write’ book or two, it might fill the coffers more easily. But the simple truth is, no matter how we might dislike the idea, Amazon has taken over our lives, and tells us what and how to write. So, when I sit at my desktop computer of a morning, I am no longer in control of my story line, the characters I portray, nor my vocabulary, because, I now have to write with the consumer in mind, and of course, those ever necessary reviewers.
Most recently, concerning my current murder mystery, a reviewer stated that I used archaic or out of date English. Another confused me with a different writer altogether – whose protagonist rushes around hitting and shooting people – saying that my book was slow and unreadable. Placed within a catalogue of five star reviews, I wasn’t sure if these remarks either reflected me, or even the critic themselves. But, in the end, it was clearly Amazon who was at fault, and one more example of their tinkering with the world of literature. You see, for some reason they put this other writer on the same page as all my books, for their own commercial reasons, and they have no intention of altering their marketing strategy for me. I know, they said so!
In my most recent novel, I have steered away from murder mystery, and following a thread from Chekov, I have decided to write about the rain, and how it alters our lives, especially when it leads to flooding. People act differently in these circumstances, as many Americans well know from the recent Texas tragedy.
But my story is about Greece, where I now live, and the Greeks - their mores and prejudices - their values, and often their loneliness. The rain can change all that, but how can I explain this to Amazon. In fact, how would Anton Chekov have explained his writing to an Amazon audience, had he been alive today? But then again, he is so famous his name alone would be enough.
I suppose it is coffee which keeps me going. The sun may shine all day for me in Greece, and I have to find good reason to stay indoors and write. So I have become addicted to this awakening and essential brew, which keeps my mind alert, my imagination in full flight, and somehow stops all the clocks in the house. Even so, the world still goes on outside, debts have to be paid, friendships nurtured, and conversations need to occur where we speak of nothing in particular, and everything in general. This is called life, I suppose?
I get up from my desk, and look through the window. It is late Summer, and the pollen is choking the villagers. They sneeze and stumble past in the heat, to get their days' supplies from the air conditioned supermarket. As I watch them pass my house, I wonder why it is I write at all, considering what I have just written? But I know the answer. It is the answer we all give, the one which causes so much embarrassment and confusion, when we are casually asked why we write.
”I just have to write. If I don’t I become edgy and neurotic; anyway, I have to finish this story, I can’t just leave it, it won’t write itself!”
But in actual fact, it often does write itself. It is as though someones hand is guiding our fingers, as they rattle away on the computer keyboard, or the pen, as it scrawls across a school notebook. Perhaps it is Micky Spillane calling , or even Anton Chekov - who knows?