It is so heartening that the Observer and others are highlighting the disaster that is the family court system (“Families broken by unregulated court experts”, News, and “How children’s lives can be shattered by unregulated family court experts”, Special report). I totally relate to and confirm the comments voiced in both articles. “Parental alienation” is not scientific but is used by abusive partners to discredit the protective parent. It is endorsed by so-called experts earning money at the expense of the child.
Sadly, it is virtually impossible to disprove such a negative, especially as in my case no “fact-finding” exercise took place. Unlike criminal courts, it seems guilty until proved innocent is the overriding premise. In my case, too, the “expert” had no experience or expertise in my or my child’s particular case, leaving us discriminated against.
What my child wanted and repeatedly and clearly expressed was ignored and overriden. I see no justice in the system at all but there is no mechanism to fight it as it is all conducted behind closed doors. This is compounded if you are in any way disadvantaged.
Children and protective parents are being let down by a broken, secret system that must change. It must be transparent, based on facts, not conjecture or pseudo-science backed by “experts” making money on the back of it, often at the expense of the most vulnerable. For the sake of justice, the secrecy of these courts needs to end.
Name and address supplied
Darwin no mere dabbler
“Sometimes the dabbling led to spectacular breakthroughs: Charles Darwin is a famous example.” I can see what Martha Gill is getting at (“No talent required in the new and lucrative era of the gentleman amateur”, Comment), in that Darwin had a theology degree, but biology wasn’t included in the Cambridge natural sciences course until 1851 and Darwin graduated 20 years earlier.
Getting a “professional” qualification in biology, anywhere in the world, was almost impossible at that time. In summary, he was about as professional a “dabbler” as anyone could have been in the 19th century.
Brexit not reversible
William Keegan gives an excellent analysis of the impact of Brexit on the British economy (“Brexit has achieved the gold standard of self-harm”, Business). However, his conclusion that Brexit is reversible is not currently true. To qualify as an EU member, any applicant government has to show that it respects international law. This would automatically exclude the UK.
Leamington Spa, Warwickshire
Is that a bomb in your kilt?
In her fascinating article about the launch of the Stuart Christie Memorial Archive (“Anarchist, publisher, would-be assassin: recording the legacy of Stuart Christie”, News), Vanessa Thorpe described Christie’s infamous mission, dressed in a kilt, to deliver plastic explosives to Madrid as part of the failed assassination attempt on General Franco in 1964.
In his highly entertaining memoir, Granny Made Me an Anarchist, Christie explained that he wore the kilt because it was a good hiding place for the explosives.
This wheeze made him something of a local hero in the west of Scotland, where I lived at the time, as it seemed to Glaswegians a “pure deid gallus” thing to do. Christie added that his choice of clothing, coupled with his long hair, led to some reports in the foreign press that the person who tried to blow up Franco was a Scottish transvestite.
Social housing the way ahead
Sonia Sodha (“The ugly truth behind our rigged housing system – politicians live in fear of owners”, Comment) is absolutely correct in stating that “the ugly truth at the heart of the housing crisis is that politicians have zero incentive to pursue policies that would truly make housing more affordable”. However, it was politicians from Thatcher onwards who distorted the housing sector by subsidising ownership at the expense of all other forms of tenure and created this crisis. Adding fuel to a dysfunctional system is only making matters worse.
If politicians are serious about wanting to provide adequate and affordable housing, they need to promote community-based, non-market forms of tenure such as community land trusts, co-housing and other forms of social housing that could be funded by progressive taxes on properties held for speculation or investment. Which politicians are willing and able to make the case for this?
Picasso the tormentor
It is surreal of Dalya Alberge (“Always thought Picasso painted like a child? Well, he meant to”, News) to write that a child was “born of [Pablo Picasso’s] passionate love for Marie-Thérèse Walter, whom he met in 1927 when she was just 17 and he was 28 years her senior”.
The pregnancy of Walter in 1935 was the occasion both for Picasso to separate (over years) from his first wife, Olga Khokhlova, whom he never divorced, and to pick up his next famous mistress, Dora Maar, during Walter’s pregnancy. Françoise Gilot, still alive at 100 and who succeeded Maar, wrote that he had “a Bluebeard complex that made him want to cut off the heads of all the women he had collected in his little private museum.
“But he didn’t cut the heads entirely off. He preferred to have life go on and to have all those women who had shared his life at one moment or another still letting out little peeps and cries of joy or pain and making a few gestures like disjointed dolls, just to prove that there was some life left in them, that it hung by a thread and that he held the other end of the thread.”
Who are you calling posh?
I am sorry to spoil Melvyn Bragg’s little anecdote about him and Dennis Potter being two of only three members of the real working class at Oxford when they were there (“This much I know”, Magazine).
I was a student at Ruskin College at that time and, while not all of those at that institution were working class, most were, especially the large contingent of former miners.
Dr David Mervin
A matter of law
Chris Patten tells Tim Adams of his attempts to explain the concept of the rule of law to the Beijing government during his time as governor of Hong Kong (“Reflections on the death of democracy”, the New Review). Do members of the current UK government understand the concept any better?
When the late Tom Bingham’s book The Rule of Law was published in 2010, one reviewer wrote that Bingham explained the basic ideas of the rule of law simply and clearly, “as to a child or a cabinet minister”.
Never has the need been greater for someone to take cabinet ministers to one side and explain carefully what the rule of law does mean and why it is so important both nationally and internationally.
There was a crooked man
Jonathan Bouquet refers to the simile uttered by Gideon from Gideon’s Way: “As crooked as a yokel’s walking stick” (Comment). I prefer the following simile from Ray White’s book Swallow the Dog, where a young Missourian plough boy looks back at the two dozen furrows he has just ploughed, “each one as crooked as a jackleg lawyer”.