Magazine article The Spectator

Second Opinion

Magazine article The Spectator

Second Opinion

Article excerpt

IF Hamlet were alive today, he would probably ask for counselling; and this, of course, would save the lives of Polonius, Gertrude, Claudius, Laertes, etc. Hamlet would be helped to come to terms with the death of his father, and the final scene would consist of everyone hugging one another in reconciliation, the hug being the highest expression both of philosophy and of emotion known to modem man.

Is there anything that is beyond the power of counselling? It seems that even criminals believe in it, and 40,000 burglars can't be wrong.

A young man who came out of prison a couple of years ago took an overdose and ended up on our ward. I asked him why he had taken the overdose.

'They never gave me no counselling nor nothing,' he said. `That's got to be wrong.'

'What were you in prison forT I asked.

'What's that got to do with it?' he said, with surprising ferocity.

`Your counsellor might like to know,' I said, mildly, and changed the subject.

Later I discovered that he was what the layman tends carelessly to call a murderer. He had served three years for kicking a man to death, but, as it was only outside a nightclub, the court decided that the deceased probably deserved to die. Having watched the behaviour of people outside British nightclubs, I wholeheartedly concur with this view.

The one great advantage of having been in prison for killing is that it makes you irresistibly attractive to women - at least those in, or aspiring to membership of, the slut class. And this particular young man was to women what a pot of jam is to wasps: they buzzed about him in his hospital bed, waiting for him to recover so that they could go to a nightclub with him. …

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