Magazine article The Spectator

Second Opinion

Magazine article The Spectator

Second Opinion

Article excerpt

IT is difficult to escape the less attractive aspects of modern existence, for two reasons: first, they are many, and second they are ubiquitous.

Last week there was a most unusual lull in the flow of patients into my clinic. I took the opportunity to rush to my tailor, whose shop is in an arcade with pretensions to elegance. He told me that he was moving shop shortly.

`Why?' I asked. `Rents too high?'

`No,' he replied. `The gangs. After about midday, they come out and buy and sell white powder. It's not a very nice atmosphere.'

But surely he had called our valiant police force? After all, the arcade was in the very centre of the city, with thousands of people all around.

`They don't want to know.'

I returned to the hospital, in time to see a patient. Her flat had been broken into three times, and recently someone had been shot dead just outside her door. I've known more peaceful civil wars than life on a British housing estate.

Her 14-year-old daughter - whose father `went off the scene' when she was three - was simultaneously rebellious, terrified and easily led, not exactly qualities that point to a glorious career. While she feared to go to the local shop to buy groceries for her mother, in case of meeting rapists or gangsters, she wanted to be allowed out at night in the land of the seven-foot-wide doormen until past midnight. And she was attracted to the bad as flies are attracted to ordure.

My patient, despairing of the antisocial disorder around her, had briefly flirted with a sternly puritanical church, organised along conspiratorial lines, with informers and denouncers, together with sessions of public confession of wrongdoing. …

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