Magazine article The Spectator

Second Opinion

Magazine article The Spectator

Second Opinion

Article excerpt

FROM time to time I receive letters asking me why I have nothing good to say about the human race. Don't I ever have those inspiring little moments, my correspondents ask me, when life seems, despite everything, to be almost worth living? In short, why can't I cheer up a bit?

Of course, I do sometimes see instances of man's better, nobler qualities. Only last week, for example, I saw a man in the prison who combined heroism with capacity for friendship. He looked rather morose when he entered my room, and was at first disinclined to talk.

`What's the matter?' I asked.

`It's taking me down with it,' he replied.

I inquired what the 'it' of his statement was, exactly.

`The situation.'

And what, I asked, was the situation?

'This charge.'

Which was?

'Attempted murder.'

Of whom?

`He's supposed to be my best mate or at least I thought he was.'

This, of course, was until he presented himself as the potential recipient of 20 stab wounds, from which he was still recovering slowly in hospital. I asked about the circumstances.

'I was out of my skull on crack and alcohol.'

`What were you drinking?'

`Cider.'

`The 8 per cent?'

`No, the 6 per cent. I thought it would be all right.'

`And what happened then?'

`You've got to understand the circumstances.'

`Tell me.'

Apparently, another friend - his second best mate - had beaten him up very badly three days before the incident.

`Why?' I asked.

`Because he stole my missus from me.'

`Wasn't he satisfied with her? …

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