Magazine article The Spectator

Second Opinion

Magazine article The Spectator

Second Opinion

Article excerpt

IT is hardly surprising, I suppose, that in my job you cease to believe in the possibility of innocence, or even of common decency. So it was a pleasant change indeed to examine medical students last week - young people who have as yet been untouched by the evil of life. How young and fresh-faced they seemed; how full of misplaced optimism!

They divided quite naturally into two categories: the boffins, more at ease with test-tubes and computers than with people; and the saccharine, save-the-whale types, who exuded like slime the secular evangelism of the age. Still, the adult world of employment in this general sauve-qui-peut we call England will chasten them soon enough.

Decency is all very well in its way, of course, but after a few hours of it I began to suffer acutely from nostalgie de la bone. It was almost with relief that I returned to the prison; I can rely on the prisoners to tone up my nervous system and put me into a pleasant state of outrage. Recently, there has been a sudden influx of domestics into the prison. I do not mean by this butlers, handymen, chauffeurs etc., but men who are accused of a domestic. One of them told me he was aggressive in drink, though otherwise a lamb. The trouble was, he was rarely sober. While inebriated, he had attempted to strangle several women, and was now in prison for a drunken stabbing. His hands were shaking and sweat poured down his face.

`What do you conclude from all this?' I asked him.

`I've got a lot of stress,' he replied.

This is a lesson learnt only at the University of Life. …

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