Day 11: Claydon to Blakesley

We walk a full twelve miles through Northamptonshire countryside where we hunted with the Grafton Hunt all those years ago; memories of the wide fields and the golden bricks of the houses all flooded back to us.

Charles Clayton was the CEO of the UK international charity, World Vision, and now one of his consultancies is ZANE. He is a source of valuable information and advice, in particular, what works and what doesn’t. Yesterday I mentioned a couple of charitable ideas that, although popular, are flawed and can actually damage the very people we are trying to help. In fact a great deal of charitable effort is, in my view, misplaced, and amongst the most hazardous are orphanages. They sound as if they are a valuable resource, but as Charles points out they remove children from the community.If they are well run they can create jealousy, they can institutionalise children so they find it almost impossible to live normal lives when they return to the community as adults. More or less anything is better than that.

We stay in a comfortable house as the guests of a couple of professionals with a hoard of children, some their own, others were friends and there was a team of Argentinean young who I think are exchange students from Northampton High School. The daughter of the house is called Bonnie who I am sure will either be an actress or the heir to Theresa May.


Take a Risk!

One of my friends told me that she was certain all the pupils in her class of 18-year-old boys were involved in a sexual relationship – not some of them, but all of them. In my experience nothing as bleak as that statistic can occur without paying some sort of future cost in terms of vague promiscuity. I may be wrong but I recall the old song, “Everybody’s doing it, doing it, doing it” and when this becomes the norm there are usually unfortunate repercussions.


Sweet Sixteen

When both of our daughters turned 16, I sent them a letter with many of the arguments a man might use to get then into bed. Imagine: the lights are low, the house is empty, the bed alluring, and soft music is playing. The boy is handsome and you want to please him. But something makes you hesitate.

Then he will gently say some of the following:

“You can’t possibly be telling me that this is your first time, how quaint! Look your parents will never know, and you shouldn’t let them dominate you. Come on, forget the old religious claptrap, it’s sooooo yesterday… I think you must be frigid – just prove you aren’t! Why not just enjoy the moment and show you love me? Do you know, everyone is saying that you are a tease, all talk and no action. I hate to say this, but there are several girls who really like me  – so unless you come to bed with me, I’m sorry but I’ll be off. Live for the moment, this moment! Let me baptise each breast, one by one.”

Well these are a few of the ploys I know men have used in the past. The truth is that the girls – and they have most to lose – walk really tall if they say “no” and are known to be chaste; even if the boys jeer at the time, they much respect the girls who stand their ground.

But isolation at any age is a real fear and not following your peer group is very hard. When all the girls are talking about boys and you are the one who keeps herself to herself, how will you cope? Especially when everybody’s doing it, who wants to be labelled a freak?

In Ibsen’s play The Enemy of the People, the hero discovers that the majority is always wrong. In my opinion, nowhere is that more true than in the area of sex for the young.


Bulging Britain

I went to a charity presentation last weekend and there had to be about 300 people there – all professional and well pensioned, they were Oxford’s finest. I reckon the average age was a little over 60, and to be cruel at least two thirds looked to be at least two stone overweight. This is the new norm – why?

If you lunch at local caffs in Oxford Central the reason for Britain’s weight issues becomes blindingly obvious. There are tureens of creamy soups, piles of macaroons and stacks of creamy cakes larded with jam. Chocolate eclairs compete with double-sided chocolate biscuits, puff-pastry custards and caramel cream confections. Mountains of sugary snacks and crisps are meant to be washed down by latte coffee and sugary drinks.

When overweight people are in the majority then rapidly plumpness becomes the norm.

Down in the poorer parts of the city, say in Cowley, the food is even faster and far less healthy, and the food is laced with sugar and carbohydrates. You can see pre-teenaged children swelling up like Tweedle Dum and Dee, straining the zips and the buttons of their Lycra trousers.

Teams of fat people suffering from diabetes are lining up at the doors of the NHS. In the face of this tide of flab, surely it can’t survive. Diabetes and heart problems are facing the NHS like a tsunami.


Don’t Take Care!

When I walked into my gym the other week, I saw a little boy – aged perhaps five or so – on his own. When I asked him if he was lost, he looked horrified. When I smiled, his lip trembled and he started to whimper. His mother appeared, gave me a sour look, grabbed the boy and stalked off.

Of course he had been warned not to talk to dirty old men, and his mum chose not to give me the benefit of the doubt. But it’s a sad day when all elderly men are to be lumped together as potential gropers. I suppose mothers hope that if they snarl enough at us all, this might help to create a risk-free environment for their children? When, for heaven’s sake, will these mothers allow their children to take on a few gentle risks? Parents today apparently believe that because a miniscule minority of people may be dangerous, all strangers must be avoided… just to be on the safe side.

What a lonely, isolated and fearful society we are becoming. The power of the 24/7 media has become so pervasive that when someone is molested in say Scarborough, everyone the length and breadth of the UK knows about it instantly – and in great detail. This wall-to-wall media coverage gives the impression that since an army of no-gooders is lurking poised to molest children everywhere, it’s best to snarl at any stranger – just in case he (or she) turns out to be a Jack-the-Ripper sort.

Teaching children to be suspicious of everyone is misguided. There has been no golden era when people were “better” than they are today. The number of rotten people has remained constant since Adam and Eve scoffed the apple.

It’s sad to be snarled at for an act of kindness. So to all mums: don’t take care! Take a risk, and teach your children that when they are smiled at there is no harm in smiling back.


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