Thursday, 13 November 2008

The vacant intracranial spaces

Tacking hard to the right (to my horror) I find myself concurring with Theodore Dalrymple on the absolutely tragic death of 'Baby P.' I don't always agree with Dalrymple - far from it - but sometimes I really, really do, and his intelligently sceptical, rationalist views carry much weight. When I read him, I'm reminded of Quentin Crisp, who wrote: "If you describe things as better than they are, you are considered to be a romantic; if you describe things as worse than they are, you will be called a realist; and if you describe things exactly as they are, you will be thought of as a satirist." Or as a cynic, one might add.

* * *

Staying with child-abuse, but turning from tragedy to dark farce, the case of kidnapped nine-year-old Shannon Matthews continues: American readers, this is worth exploring if you want a horrified, half-suppressed laugh.

The Times had a brilliantly snobbish write-up of the courtroom proceedings of the trial of Shannon's mother: I especially liked: 'The jurors were shown a simplified version of Shannon's family tree', in which the word 'simplified' conveys a kind of middle-class nose-wrinkling at a large working-class family with multiple step-dads and half-siblings.

That said, one gapes in awe at the stupidity of Karen Matthews, who appears to have masterminded (if that is the correct term) the kidnapping of her own daughter in order to get the reward offered by the The Sun. The kid was dosed on temazepam by her maternal uncle and kept in a drawer under a divan bed for several weeks. 'The plan was' (says The Times) 'to release Shannon in Dewsbury Market and for Donovan [her mother's uncle] to discover her. The plan thereafter was to claim the reward which, by the time of Shannon’s discovery, was £50,000.' Slight flaw here: did they not expect the police to find it suspicious that Shannon should just be found wandering around by a member of her own family? (Whadda the chances?!) And second, did they not expect Shannon, when interviewed by the police on her recovery, to have said that she was abducted by her maternal uncle, her 'discoverer', and kept in his house?! The uncle hadn't blindfolded her or hidden his identity from her. Was she just supposed to have kept her mouth shut so that her appalling mother could snaffle the loot? Or was she supposed to have been so zonked out on pills that she thought a drawer in a divan bed was a suite at the Leeds Metropole?!

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