National Post

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December 30, 2000

Sex-crazed papers pollute sceptred isle

Embezzling transvestite, bankrobbing mums -- it's a typical Saturday

Mordecai Richler
National Post

Much as my wife and I miss our children and grandchildren during our annual five-month sojourn in London, I, for one, am relieved they are not resident in Sodom-on-the-Thames. Were they with us here, I would be obliged to hide the morning newspaper from them for fear they might be corrupted. Take, for instance, a recent, all too typical, Saturday-morning edition of the Daily Telegraph, that sex-crazed island cousin of our much nicer National Post.

Rising for breakfast, with a song in my heart, latex gloves and tongs in hand, I stooped to retrieve the Telegraph from our front door. Wishing it came in a plain brown wrapper, hastily glancing left and right, hoping our neighbours weren't watching, lest they suspected me of being a pervert.

Turning to Page 3, I was startled by a colour photograph of an obese teenage girl holding an unrolled condom aloft like a fish she had caught. This shocker came from Look Wider, a new handbook for Girl Guides, an association that was formed 90 years ago by Baden-Powell as an alternative for girls to the Boy Scouts. Five years ago the promise by Guides "to do my duty to God" was expunged from their handbook, and now it has also banished the word "marriage." Instead, the girls are encouraged to find "partners." This came only two weeks after the distinctly mod Tessa Jowell, the minister for employment and women, said the government should not promote marriage as the ideal context for bringing up children because it would make the offspring of single or cohabiting parents feel inferior.

The dirty words "marriage" or "wives" do not occur even once in Look Wider, and "husbands" only once as in "househusbands."

Lower on Page 3 I came across the headline CROSSDRESSER IS UNFIT TO FACE £220M CHARGE, a story illustrated by a photograph of Peter Young, 42, now known as Beth, dressed as a woman. Pete, an Oxford grad who used to earn £100,000 plus six-figure bonuses at Morgan Grenfell, was accused of having hidden multi-million-pound dealings from his superiors in companies he had set up for him or her self in Luxembourg. Estranged from his wife and children, he was adjudged unfit to stand trial.

Then, on Page 7, a story I blushed to read in the presence of the mother of my children: SALACIOUS E-MAIL RETURNS TO HAUNT SENDER.

This tale dealt with the sexual proclivities of pretty, 26-year-old Claire Swire, a PR executive. It seems Miss Swire had sent what she thought was a confidential e-mail to her boyfriend, City lawyer Bradley Chait, which has since ricocheted to millions of guys round the world on the Internet; and no wonder. In it, Ms. Swire describes her oral sex technique in frank and enthusiastic detail. Her now famous proficiency in the act led to her Fulham home being inundated by a profusion of explicit Christmas cards, as well as the news that an army officer in Kosovo has used all his contacts and his satellite phone to try to reach Ms. Swire.

Things turned gruesome on Page 11, where I learned that HEIR TO £30M GETS LIFE FOR DROWNING HIS WIFE IN BATH.

Businessman Alun Phillips, 36, has been jailed for life after he was found guilty of handcuffing his wife and drowning her in the bath to avoid a "messy" divorce.

On second thought, just possibly Look Wider was on to something in not mentioning the words marriage or wives, and husbands only as substitute Mrs. Mops.

Proof, if it was needed, that you can't trust anybody these days came on Page 13, where I discovered that 36-year-old Mary Dalton, once anointed PERFECT MUM by the Daily Mail, was anything but. It turns out that Mary, daughter of a retired Oxford University music lecturer, mother of two girls, a playgroup leader and church chorister, who earned her bread as a romantic novelist, was moonlighting as a holdup artist. When her photograph appeared in the Daily Mail, a cashier at a financial advice centre in Caversham fingered the single mother as the moll who had robbed her, disguised with "Jackie Onassis-style" sunglasses. One day she had turned up at the office and passed the terrified cashier a note saying she had an armed accomplice waiting outside, making off with £1,500. Ms. Dalton, who denied robbery, was found guilty and will be sentenced late in January.

What's to become of this sceptred isle, this jewel set in a silver sea?

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In my column last week, I had written that Lucien Bouchard had declared that anybody who would vote for Chrétien obviously hated Quebec. In fact, it was Bernard Landry who had said that. I apologize for my error.

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