18 AUGUST 1967, Page 8



The editor of the SPECTATOR has told us of the sufferings he has endured by being con- fined to this island and by having to read the English press at its silliest season instead of taking a busman's holiday and reading the French press in its provincial versions. I can read any papers, anywhere, with profit. but 1 agree that the local French press is, in a good sense, provincial. I especially like the papers which have many regional editions. We have something like it in a few cases here. Thus the Glasgow edition of the Daily Express prints less London news and nonsense than does the London edition, but the local covering is not as close and revealing as that of the depart- mental editions of, say, La Depeche du Midi (once known as La DepeChe de Toulouse and, more absurdly, as 'The Manchester Guardian of France'). You can learn a lot by noting whether the great village beano is 'la fete patronale' or some more laic and republican festivity.

And that is one of the things that I like to be able to do without having to make possibly mendacious representations to the Bank of England. I did feel that the speed with which Mr Callaghan clamped down on the scoun- drels who wanted to waste money in France or Spain, the insistence on the charms of what used to be called the Scilly Islands (now the Isles of Scilly), revealed a certain Podsnappian smugness on the part of the Prime Minister and his colleagues, not to say a kind of xeno- phobia. But the press has rightly rebuked my suspicions. A good many members of the Government are going abroad on more ex- tended tours than £50 permits, starting out on an official trip and going on holiday after- wards, visiting British friends with a pied-II- terre in the Dordogne or Italy and so on. It would be good, very good, if our masters had to stay at home, just as it would be good if the masters of British Railways and London buses were forbidden to use cars. But the Daily Mail asserts that the indefatigable British tourist, by hook or by crook, is defy- ing Mr Callaghan, is getting past the £50 limit and is leaving the charms of our native land well alone. One reason for this near-treasonable attitude may be the native temper revealed by the spokesmen of 'the Trade' at the blasphemous suggestions that pubs might stay open longer and provide more varied services. Not if the fine old English Boniface (or multi- million brewers) can dodge the issue.

Grouse season

There is a more serious issue than the role of beer houses involved. Mr Peter CaIvo- coressi has rightly pointed out that one must stand for something. We don't. 'Rhodesia' isn't going to surrender and that millionaire Socialist farmer, Lord Walston, is very down on cutting off any good trade opportunities for any allegedly moral reason. Fine. But could we then have less moralising, less looking down our noses at Johnson's America or de Gaulle's France, less cheap indignation about Greece or the Congo? Why not imitate the Dutch in seventeenth century Japan, take the cash and let the Christian credit go? Do our masters (and I include a good deal of the Opposition in this group) ever realise that Europe, America, the whole world is tired of moral, political and economic lessons from us? I am continually told that we are suffering from too much pessi- mistic self-criticism. I wish we were. We are suffering from too much grousing at other people, not at all the same thing.

Queen's move

We are also suffering from a great deal of bogus patriotic nostalgia that is dreadfully revealing. Thus there is the nonsense about the fate of the 'Queen Mary,' the lamentations about its exile to Long Beach (Cal.). It deserves to go to Long Beach—and I speak in connaissance de cause. I was brought up with the greatest reverence for the Cunard Line and John Brown's. I could recite the 'sweet symphonies' of all the yards, from the Broomielaw down, before I could recite the catechism or read. I was told (correctly), just before the First World War, that more than half the ships in the world built in 1913 had been built on the Clyde. This didn't surprise me.

ships should be built on the Clyde, a firm faith shaken only by the 'Queen Mary' herself.

The ship was unfortunate. She was laid down in 1929, launched in 1931, but did not sail on her maiden voyage till 1936; that-is, after her much younger (and superior) rival, the 'Normandie.' This was nobody's fault except the National government's, but it was a fact, as was the much superior performance of the 'Queen Elizabeth' after the last war (the us navy had kindly wrecked the 'Normandie' when they took her over in 1942). I have sailed in both Queens (as well as in many other great liners, of which the most pleasant was the 'Aquitania,' which the 'Queen Mary' replaced). No. Long Beach is good enough for her. (I may say that I expressed sceptical views about the 'Queen Mary' in this journal after suffer- ing on one of her earlier voyages.)

Votes for men

I see that Mr Muggeridge (where is there not Mr Muggeridge nowadays?) has expressed his abhorrence of the Abortion Bill. I do not share his vehement and total views. Some 'termina- tions of pregnancies' seem to me justified and the once infallible church did its authority a lot of harm by pedantic scholastic reasons' for not interfering, even if the baby was bound to die anyway. This and the rigours of con- demnation of contraception suggested a remote- ness from the real world, making advice unbecoming in celibates who do not have to make the sometimes quite dreadful decisions imposed by nature, or God, on parents.

But to say this is not to say that there haven't been some odd arguments about and around Mr Steel's Bill. The object was to abolish back-street abortions with all their physical risks and aesthetic horrors. Will it in its present form? I have known seven women who have had their 'pregnancies terminated.' In no case would any of the conditions of Mr Steel's. Bill have been met. In each case the object was to save face, not life. Money was not an important object. The back streets were not very back in London, New York, Balti- more. The same kind of people will still want that kind of abortion as lon'g as women (some

of them) feel that an unplanned pregnancy is being 'caught,' is an unmitigated disaster.

Of course, there are a great many women and, perhaps, a good many groups for whom an unwanted pregnancy is just a nuisance to be terminated. Popular folklore, expressed in limericks 'like 'There was a young lady called Wintry' or that famous reply of a Glasgow matron, '0! That noise? It's just Mary jumpin' aff the dresser,' is in tune with the revealing letters of indignant women in the Guardian. What a great many people want is abortion at demand. So far so good, but should the putative father have no claim either to forbid an abortion or to insist on one? If it's all the woman's business, a lot more law will have to be tampered with. Who knows, affiliation and

alimony may suffer. Such a possibility should _ give women food for thought.

About face

am going to break my own announced rule and indulge in a grouse rather than a serious criticism. There are many things about the new Times which do not please me. I am a very conservative character, and one that annoys me is the proliferation of pictures of the staff. Even if journalists have got the jobs because of their appearance (some are very handsome —A4istair Cooke has just arrived in London to prove the point), in most cases, as with pic- tures of company directors, one would rather have the story without the illustration.