Magazine article The Spectator

Leave Me Alone

Magazine article The Spectator

Leave Me Alone

Article excerpt

Last week saw the publication of the first national survey on stalking. For the benefit of male readers, we are referring, for a change, to women. The research was carried out by the University of Leicester. Does `stalking' really count or is it largely the fantasy of hysterical post-feminist desperados who swig too much white wine? Their cri de foie? In the old days people would have said, witheringly, `She should be so lucky to have an admirer - what with her legs.' (Does Baroness Jay have a stalker, I wonder, other than every hereditary peer?)

Actually I know a bit about stalking, having been a practitioner for many years - in the research department, that is; doing a bit of post-graduate work, you might say. A decade ago one of the first indications of success in the media, like acquiring a Louis Vuitton personal organiser, was getting yourself a stalker. It was the ultimate smart accoutrement. A relatively well-behaved and presentable stalker, that is, with good manners. Not the kind that would issue death threats - such a social error.

But then some girls at TVAM started getting bad stalkers, whose pathetic docility quickly disappeared into violent dyspepsia. The gag went awry. Then I got one, too. Well, actually, one doesn't like to boast, but I got three. Okay, these stalkers were really scraping the bottom of the barrel. I guess they should have stalked on by.

It was summer and I was sitting in the garden at home in London with my elder brother. The gate was open and a man walked in. None of us had seen him before in our lives. Nevertheless, he said he had come to take me out to dinner. His dress was respectable and bourgeois, but his aspect was deranged. He pawed on the damp June grass with the toe of one of his shiny shoes. He said again that he had come to take me out. His name was Peter; he added that we were to be married. This piece of information prompted an enormous desire to laugh nervously, but apparently this is the wrong thing to do with a stalker. They dislike humour. Can't blame them, it isn't funny. My elder brother threatened the man with the police instead. Doubtless he went on to stalk someone else, for I never heard from him again. …

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