Monthly Archives: July 2018


As winter approaches flu jabs become necessary especially for elderly people who suffer from type-2 diabetes, as a precautionary measure to prevent them being unnecessarily vulnerable to the risk of being laid low by the deadly virus. However, we are now told that a single jab, which protects against all strains of flu for up to a decade, could be available on the NHS in just 2 years. The result of a UK human trial announced recently suggest the jab is more effective than existing vaccines, which target only a few types of the virus. Its creators claim it will end the scourge of flu globally, turning it into a mild illness rather than a killer.

The flu-V jab, which is the work of British company IMUTEX, is said to fight off every strain – from the yearly winter virus to virulent strains such as swine flu and the recent Aussie flu. It is likely to cost between £20 and £50 per person, and will need to be given only every 5 to 10 years. Current vaccines target proteins on the virus surface, but regions of these proteins constantly change in a bid to fool the immune system. This means the virus is always one step ahead of the vaccine, which is why it must be remade each year. The new jab has been created to target unchanging regions of the virus proteins by boosting the immune system’s T-cells that recognise and attack foreign invaders.

The trial involved 123 participants aged 18-60, being infected with the swine flu virus and then spending eight days in a room. 80% were prevented from getting flu after getting the jab. The vaccine was also twice as effective at limiting flu-like symptoms with 60% of those given the jab developing fewer than two symptoms. This suggests that even with people who catch the flu virus, the vaccine can reduce the impact of its symptoms. And a less severe infection for the elderly would slash the likelihood of complications and hospitalisations. After participants received flu-V, their immune cells were tested against a range of flu strains. In all instances the cells recognised and killed the virus. It is hoped the results give the vaccine a breakthrough designation from the US Food & Drug administration – fast-tracking it through the approval process and paving the way for it to become available on the NHS within 2 years.

The new study was part of the collaboration with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases which is part of the world’s largest medical research establishment, the Nation Institute of Health in Washington DC. The UK’s top flu expert, John Oxford, emeritus professor of virology at Queen Mary University of London said: ‘I am enthusiastic about universal vaccines full stop. It is recognised as being a good way forward. If one should have an effective universal flu vaccine people could relax because you could have a dose of it and it would give years of protection against whichever virus is circulating.’

Dr Ed Schmidt, from the Universal Influenza Vaccine Consortium at Groningen university Holland, said the vaccine could be a game changer, adding: ‘It would lead to a serious reduction in deaths and have a major impact. This winter, the annual jab worked in just a quarter of the population in what was called the worst epidemic in seven years.’

The NHS spends more than one hundred million pounds annually on just its flu vaccine alone. A universal jab could save the NHS around £27,000 per person over the course of their lifetime, from less sickness absences and reduced pressure.

What a relief, if the one-jab flu vaccine becomes available. The benefits of such a discovery would be tremendous. Let’s hope it will not be too long before it materialises.

No Longer With Us

Rosemary Anne Sisson (13 October 1923 – 28 July 2017) was an English television dramatist and novelist. She was described by playwright Simon Farquhar in 2014 as being “one of television’s finest period storytellers”, and in 2017 fellow dramatist Ian Curteis referred to her as “the Miss Marple of British playwriting”.



I interview her in 1987. Here is the substance of what she told me.


Rosemary Anne Sisson: My father was a scholar, a philosopher, and even when we were little, he would talk to us as if we were at table. Our opinions were welcome so long as they were sensibly held, and then he would challenge our opinion. So every opinion we held we had to be prepared to defend. That was a great intellectual exercise for little children. It was a strict upbringing though it was so full of love that we didn’t realize it, but my parents set very high standards and if we came home and said: I was second in my class, they always said, who was top? I don’t think I ever wanted to be competitive. I don’t think my sister did, but our parents were competitive on our behalf, and my mother still is. I suppose I am competitive, but not against other people. I always want to be perfect, which is a terrible thing to try to be all the time, but that was really what was asked of us. That we should always do the very best we could whatever we were doing. My sister and I always took it for granted that we would go to a good school and go to a university, and then marry. In fact I always planned to be married. The only thing I wanted was to be married and to go on the stage. I wanted to have children. And it was my sister who married and had five children; and I never went on the stage. Yet I’m a remarkably happy woman, so it’s a good example of not getting what you want but getting what, in the end, is best for you.

Rosemary Anne Sisson: I went to Cheltenham Ladies’ College, which is, of course, a girls’ school that believed in intelligence in women, so all my friends were delightful and intelligent girls. I was happy there, and at home we were treated with great respect – our minds, as well as our personalities, so I never felt the slightest inhibition and we had a lot of pleasant friends. Those were the days when the boys who were your neighbours were also your friends, and you played golf and tennis together, and you went exploring the fields together, and sex didn’t enter into it. They were your friends, different, more interesting friends, but still just your friends, so I never felt any inhibitions because I was a girl.
Once I started writing, then I did feel that women writers were not treated with the respect men writers were. Certainly, when I wrote my first play after the war, it was much harder to break into the world of the theatre and critics tended not to treat you with the same respect. My first play was an historical play. The men took it for granted it was a woman’s play, and the fact that it was a very funny play and the audience adored it, and it was very exciting – none of that made any difference. I was a woman writer and therefore they judged it. It’s a very subjective, difficult thing to put your finger on, but this – Miss Sisson’s play – somehow the attitude to it was different.
Certainly in my world it was very hard to get to the top, much harder to get to the top for a woman, but once you get to the top, there are only about half a dozen of us, so it’s an enormous advantage, because everyone knows my name in the business. If they’re looking for a woman writer, I’m one of the first names they try.
There is no discrimination moneywise at all, partly because of the Writer’s Guild. I’m one of the highest-paid writers in the television business; I am in the very top bracket.
I did find when I was chairman of the Writers’ Guild that I had to be aggressive, but that was because they were a rowdy lot round the table, and, unfortunately, if you were going to keep control, like Mrs Thatcher in Parliament, you had to shout a bit and be rather ferocious. And the men didn’t like it; they would have accepted it from a man, but didn’t like it from a woman. That’s the only time I’ve had to behave like a man. I’m glad I’m not in politics.
I use every advantage a woman has. For example, very often it was difficult to get rehearsals in the early days. Directors didn’t like you there. So, instead of saying, as perhaps a man would, listen, I’d like to come to rehearsals if I may, I would always say, would you mind very much if I came to rehearsals? I’ll sit very quietly. So I’d use my woman’s charm. It was a great advantage – I didn’t threaten them in that way.
No one could have had more encouragement than I had in my private life, in our family life, and among my friends; no one could have been more lovingly encouraged and praised, and yet, still, one bad notice or adverse comment and I am knocked off my perch and have to struggle back on to it again. I find it hard to disregard.

Rosemary Anne Sisson: I’m definitely not a feminist in the sense of thinking there is no difference between men and women. I love being a woman, and I wouldn’t be anything but a woman for all the world. I’m only a feminist when my professional standing is not treated with the respect it deserves because I’m a woman. Women should get respect for being what they are. When they do work equal to men, they should get equal pay. But also they should accept their responsibilities as mother of the family and expect the father to accept his responsibilities as father of the family. Some feminists would claim that is an old-fashioned view, but I think it’s a natural view, and when you depart from Nature you get into trouble, physical, moral, and spiritual. And I’m also a Christian, so that conditions me to some extent. I do think the last shall be first and the first shall be last. I think the more you try to assert yourself and be aggressive as a woman, the less respect you will get.
Mrs Thatcher expects women to get on with it, which is certainly what would have been said in our household. You know, if you can’t manage children and a job, then don’t have children or don’t have a job, otherwise get on with it and find a way. It’s very hard, but it’s realistic. They’re asking now for nursery schools from the age of three – well, that is exactly what used to happen: people used to have nannies. So they very people who say, what a shocking thing to put your child into the care of a nanny, still want to have the child and have the job, not because they need the money, but because they want to have both. Nothing is for nothing in this hard world, I think Mrs Thatcher has said, and those of us who were brought up in that same hard school know that’s true.

Rosemary Anne Sisson: I was brought up to think that love and sex went together and I can’t imagine anything else. I cannot imagine going to bed with a man I didn’t love and want to spend my life with and have children with. I don’t think its conditioning, it is part of the feminine nature. It’s Nature making sure that a lot of little animals are not scattered about the place with no father.
I’ve had a very long and happy life without sex. I know many women can live without it. Obviously some women can’t. But this great need for sexual fulfilment is rather like compulsive over-eating or compulsive alcoholism. I wonder whether it’s a compensation for lack of love in their lives, whether it isn’t, in a way, a sign of insecurity for a woman to need it so continually. As if she is always trying to prove she is immensely successful because she is successful in bed.
These programmes on Woman’s Hour and television, discussing sex publicly and continually, I find very distasteful. I feel that I’m a voyeur when I’m invited to attend someone else’s sexual experiences. I wouldn’t stand on Wimbledon Common peering down at them, I don’t really want to read about it unless it’s wonderfully well done in novels, and I certainly don’t want to see it on television or films.

Rosemary Anne Sisson: I don’t know what else you can call abortion but murder. It’s a crime, it’s murder. I really don’t think that just because of my religious opinions, funnily enough, though obviously that would start me off from a certain position. Women have always been able to have contraceptives. Jane Austen said, why doesn’t she practise the simple regimen of separate rooms? when a woman had another baby. But now, when contraception is so safe and so natural, to have an unwanted baby and murder it – I see it as infanticide. There is no other word – it’s infanticide.

Rosemary Anne Sisson: One is always a tiny bit on show to men, and that is part of the pleasure. That’s probably why I enjoy the company of men, that there is a certain feminine standard which I ask of myself when I’m with men. I’m sure this is why there’s this little extra pleasure both for me and for them.
I must have a dozen at least, if not two dozen men friends, who are either fellow-writers or actors. A good example is Edward Woodward, whom I’ve known since he was in my first play. He’s one of the most attractive and sexily attractive men I’ve ever known, and I found it a great mercy I never fell in love with him. I can’t think why I didn’t except that he was married and so something in my mind forbade it. So I love him dearly, but he’s like a brother to me, like a dear, dear brother.
I didn’t meet the man I loved enough to marry. If I had, I would not have written until the children were grown up. So I have absolutely no sympathy with people who marry and have children and then grumble that they’re not their own person any more. When you marry and have children, that’s a marvellous, wonderful thing, and I’ve never had it, but I’ve had great compensations. I didn’t meet any eligible men because of the war breaking out. All the boys I knew and who might well have been the ones I would marry, went off to war. Some were killed – at least three of our close friends were killed – and two lost legs. And after the war, then, in a way, it was beginning to be too late; I was very choosy by then. I was still marriageable, but I wasn’t prepared to marry just for the sake of marrying. I had about five proposals, and one I came quite close to – he was going to be a vicar, a minister, and absolutely delightful when he was courting me, writing lovely letters every day. Then, unfortunately, he sent me one of his sermons, and it was dreadful. I thought, he’s not as clever as I am, and if I’m going to marry a man, he’s got to be cleverer, stronger, wiser, better than I am. I couldn’t bear to be married to a fool.
I like men who are strong and kind, but also very intelligent, and if I can get that combination, I do find that quire irresistible. I really don’t think I am at all seduced by power, because I’ve known some cowboys who didn’t have nine dollars in their pockets and who were strong and kind and funny, and I found them very very attractive indeed. The man I don’t like is the little man who tried to assert his strength. That was another proposal I turned down, and I said, no, I couldn’t marry you, you’re not as strong as I am. And he took hold of me and said, yes, I am, I’m just as strong as you are; and I kicked him on the shins and said if you don’t let go of me I’ll scream. This was in the middle of Knightsbridge. I kicked him on this shins and screamed at the top of my voice and he let me go very quickly.
People are really, truly, dreadfully self-indulgent. They’ve been brought up to think there is a cure for everything, and they don’t believe in death. I think it’s most extraordinary. As soon as a marriage gets difficult, they think, oh, I don’t like this, this is getting difficult. Whereas I think once you marry, you marry until death do you part. All marriages go through bad stages, and you have to thole it, as my parents used to say. Thole it. My parents lived to a Golden Wedding through obviously very difficult times, and times when they almost hated each other. But they were married and loved each other, too; and to see that, to reach that, is what marriage is all about.

Rosemary Anne Sisson: I think women remain faithful for longer than men, even when all hope is gone. I’ve watched my friends go through break-up of marriages and that is very upsetting. I wrote a play about Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, and to the very end of her days Catherine could not believe that her husband would not come back to her. She loved him to the end, and the more she loved him, the more angry it made him, because he wanted to be free. And I watched that played out with my married friends. So I think what Jane Austen claimed in Persuasion, that it is the gift of women to be faithful when all hope is gone, and to be loving when all hope is gone, is a feminine trait.


Sometimes to delve into the unknown can give one the comfort one needs, especially if you happen to be a coffee addict. It seems that whether you like a trendy flat white or prefer decaf, it’s news that should have you full of beans. People who drink 6 cups of coffee a day are 16% less likely to die early, a study found. The reduced risk was discovered to be similar for all types of coffee – including instant, decaffeinated or ground – suggesting the benefits are not linked to caffeine.

Scientists believe that natural anti-oxidants found in the plant’s compounds can help to protect against some cancers and cardiovascular disease. US researchers looked at the mortality rates of almost half a million Britons over 10 years in relation to their coffee intake. Generally, the more cups people drink, the lower their chances of dying sooner from those diseases. This peaked at between 6 and 7 cups, where rates fell by a sixth compared to those who never drink coffee. But even those who drink twice the recommended amount of 4 cups a day saw their chances of dying early reduced by 14%, according to the researchers from the National Cancer Institute in Maryland.

Coffee has overtaken tea as Britain’s favourite drink with an estimated 55 million cups consumed every day. The European Food Safety Agency advises that people drink no more than 4 cups a day, saying those who do run the risk of anxiety, sleeplessness, heart rhythm disturbances or heart failure. Yet the US findings suggest the health benefits extend to the decaffeinated variety without the pitfalls of coffee. The protective effect was also identified among moderate and light coffee drinkers but to a lesser degree. 2 to 5 cups, 1 cup or less than 1 cup a day, reduced early mortality by 12%, 8% and 6% respectively over the same period.

The results were adjusted for life style factors such as smoking and diet. The findings, published in Jama Internal Medicine add to the growing evidence coffee can be part of a healthy diet, the authors say. In 2016, the World Health Organization withdrew its warnings on a link between coffee and bladder cancer and instead said the drink could help protect against womb and liver cancer. However, pregnant women are at greater risk of losing their baby if they drink too much coffee, and caffeine also slightly raises the risk of bone fractures amongst women. Victoria Taylor, Senior Dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, said: ‘What is interesting is the study looked at different types of coffee consumed such as instant, ground and decaffeinated coffee. All types showed a lower risk of death with increasing coffee drinking, but more research is needed to understand what is behind this.’

As I said at the outset, delving into the unknown can give one some comfort which one needs, given the complexities that often emerge as a result of these studies.


Security in the UK is going from bad to worse as criminality seems to be on the uptake to a degree hardly seen before. Our streets are no longer safe as police resources have diminished over the years and criminals are having a field day, robbing shops on mopeds and getting away with it.

In China, a vast network of surveillance cameras seeking to cover every corner of public space is fast making Steven Spielberg’s futurist film Minority Report , where citizens can be identified and tracked through facial recognition technology, a reality.

The latest breakthrough involved the installation of a high resolution camera system that transmits focused images from inside underground trains in the southern city of Guangzhou. The project, thought to be the world’s first underground network, started on the city’s line in January this year and is expected to appear on more routes and in other cities. When linked to the government’s huge data base and equipped with facial recognition software, the clear images can help catch pickpockets and other criminals, according to the manager of New Front, the technology company that developed the system. The detail captured on the images is in stark contrast to typically grainy surveillance images. ‘You can clearly see the expression on every passenger,’ said a report from the city’s news website, Jinyang. com.

Guangzhou’s underground is already using facial recognition at entrances where passengers’ faces are scanned and checked against police databases for fugitives. In a trial conducted last year, facial scanning was used to identify a passenger and deduct his fare from a linked personal account. Police used the technology in the Eastern city of Qingdao to catch 25 suspects among millions of revellers at a beer festival. A total of 18 cameras at the festival’s 4 entrances scanned faces, ran the images against a police data base and flagged up suspicious ones.
China is one of the world’s leaders in facial recognition technology as the authorities seek effective ways to keep an eye on its 1.4 billion people. Critics are worried that the technology will be used to act against social activists and political dissidents. However, I believe that technology in all its forms could be used by authorities for the wrong reasons, but to curb the rise of criminal activities, something must be done. Ignoring this would eventually cause the breakdown of law and order and rob the nation of a peaceful coexistence amongst its varied inhabitants,


As the publisher of Venetia’s book Mother of Darkness, I honestly believe that Venetia is a literary force to reckon with and will no doubt prove to be an excellent tutor for those who aspire to become the next generation of young writers to carry out their mission of bringing something new to the literary world, of which Britain is always an innovator.


Writer’s Masterclass:
with Venetia Welby
22nd August 2018 @ 10:30 am
The Barn at Calcot
Calcot & Spa
Near Tetbury, Gloucestershire
01666 890391

Do you have a story to tell?

Creative writing tutor and ‘Mother of Darkness’ author, Venetia Welby will be at Calcot to steer a small, relaxed group of first-time writers with advice, prose examples and classroom exercises.

Venetia’s insight, Calcot’s setting and the camaraderie of other would-be writers will conspire to inspire!

The easy going summer vibe of The Barn at Calcot will provide the perfect space for an initmate group of writers. The class size of just 18 would-be writers will allow for stimulating exchange and mutual encouragement around Venetia Welby’s guidance. Discussion and writing will be aided by a round table set-up in The Shed at The Barn and can spill out into the club-like atmosphere of The Hub as required. At lunchtime the group will move outside to The Pit – a tented spot with sofas and a pizza oven at the ready. Twenty minutes of the itinerary will see writers head out into Calcot’s surrounding gardens and grounds as observation for a writing task.

The day’s itinerary will be as follows:

· 10.30am- 11am: Arrival and coffee reception in The Hub

· 11am – 1pm: Morning class session in The Shed

· 1pm – 2pm: Break for light lunch at The Pit

· 2pm – 4pm: Afternoon class session in The Shed

Venetia Welby is a novelist and creative writing tutor who has lived and worked on four continents. When not seeking out new countries and ideas, she is actively involved in the literary scenes of London (where she lives in Bow) and Oxford.

Published in early 2017, her debut novel. ‘Mother of Darkness’ is lyrical, wry and darkly comic in its exploration of the relationship between loss, addiction and religious zeal. As the main narrative is splintered by a series of psychiatric interviews, erratic life writings, hallucinations and nods to Greek Tragedy, the novel evokes Donna Tartt’s The Secret History and the writings of Sebastian Horsley.

Price: £85 per person (to include coffee/tea and light two-course lunch with a glass of wine)

We highly recommend booking in advance as spaces are limited.


In my younger days I dreamt quite a lot. But with the advent of old age, I seem to dream very little, if at all. Although dreams in general often make little sense and can be annoyingly hard to remember in the morning, we are now told that regular dreams could slash your risk of a stroke, research suggests.

Those who enjoy so-called dream-phased sleep every night are much less likely to suffer a dangerous heart condition that doubles the risk of a potentially life-threatening stroke. Tests showed volunteers, who spent several hours a night in the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep, had much lower rates of atrial fibrillation, an irregular heart beat that affects at least two million people in Britain and can cause blood to pool in the chambers of the heart. Those who woke frequently were 36% more likely to develop higher rates, scientists at the University of California, Sam Francisco, found.

Atrial fibrillation is a major cause of strokes. Tiny bits of clotted blood can break away and get stuck to the narrow vessels around the brain, starving it of oxygen. The cause is unknown, though high blood pressure, chest infections and over-active thyroids are possible triggers. The Arrhythmia Alliance claims it causes 16,000 strokes a year in the UK and fears up to half a million people may not even realize they have it as they suffer no obvious symptoms. While some sufferers feel heart palpitations and get breathless, others have no idea they are ill. It develops when electrical activity in the heart goes haywire and causes the heart to beat irregularly.

As the heart no longer beats in a regular fashion, blood, which should be pumped around the body, begins to collect and thicken inside the left ventricle, the heart’s main pumping chamber. If a clot breaks away and travels up through the narrow blood vessels that feed the brain, it can cause a fatal stroke by blocking the supply of oxygen-rich blood. Common treatments for atrial fibrillation include the blood thinner Warfarin to stop clots forming and cardioversion procedures, where the heart is shocked back into normal rhythm using electrodes.

But experts now think getting a good night’s sleep would keep it at bay. Scientists tracked 5703 adults over an 11 year period, many of whom took a sleep test to measure how many times a night they woke or stirred in their sleep. The results were then matched up with how many went on to develop atrial fibrillation. The results, published in the journal Hard Rhythm, revealed that frequent stirrers were at least a third more likely to have abnormal heart rates than deep sleepers.

REM sleep makes up about a quarter of the rest the body gets every night – roughly 2 hours, while the eyes are busy twitching and muscles in the rest of the body are paralyzed to stop us acting out our dreams. Scientists think one explanation for the health benefits of dream sleep is that it has a proactive effect on the autonomic nervous system which helps control heart rate and blood pressure.

Heart expert Dr Gregory Marcus, who led the research, called for longer studies to confirm the findings. He said: ‘Trials are needed to assess whether improving sleep quality can reduce the incidents of atrial fibrillations, as well as recurrence among those who already have the disease.’

To me these findings are extremely worrying especially for those of us who have interrupted sleep during the night, and hardly ever experience the sleep-dream that claims to protect the heart.

Perhaps lack of knowledge in this case is a blessing in disguise. Who knows…?

No Longer With Us

Rebecca Marjorie Proops OBE (formerly Rayle, née Israel; 10 August 1911 – 10 November 1996) was probably best known as an agony aunt in the United Kingdom, writing the column Dear Marje for the Daily Mirrornewspaper.



She was very fond of Bob Maxwell. I interview her in 1987 and here is the substance of what she told me.



Marjorie Proops: My grandmother, my mother’s mother, was a remarkable old lady. I didn’t know her until she was bedridden and came to live with us. She was very beautiful and vain. She used to lie in bed in pretty bedjackets with lots of fancy embroidered pillows behind her white hair. She was stout but elegant. And she was a gambler. My sister and I used to go after school straight to my grandmother’s room, and she’d listen carefully to make sure my mother was out of the way, and then, from under the bedclothes, would extract her pack of cards. And, at the age of nine or ten, I was a great poker player. She also taught us lots if bawdy songs. She knew all the Edwardian music-hall bawdy songs. She talked to us frankly about everything, and I think it was mainly her influence and partly the fact that I was brought up in a pub in the City of London that I developed quite young into the person into whom I matured. I think because of this very positive childhood, both my sister and I were quite self-assured children, quite confident children. We grew up feeling we were loved and belonged, and I don’t think we had any feelings of repression, about boys or about anything.
My grandmother was very much a let’s-have-fun-today old lady. And when she heard my mother tapping along the passage outside her bedroom door, the cards and the money (we played for money) were pushed under the bedcovers and she would start telling us the story of the three bears or something. So my mother never knew. My grandmother was a great character. Wonderful.


Marjorie Proops: I didn’t discover the disadvantages of being a woman until I went to art school. I realized then, for the first time, that I had physical disadvantages – the girls who were blonde and short and rounded and pretty, and didn’t wear glasses and have funny teeth, they got boyfriends and dates and things I didn’t get. And that was when I first began to realize that, if you were a boy, it didn’t matter what you looked like or who you were. If you were a girl and you were a gawky, plain kid, then your chances of having a relationship were remote. The first boy I ever really loved was a very kind art student, a Polish boy. I was trudging along the street with my large portfolio, and he said he would carry it for me and walk me home. He was the first male who actually acknowledged me as a female. And although I was probably about two feet taller and much stronger and bigger in every way, and more capable of carrying the portfolio than he was, nevertheless he made me feel attractive and feminine.
What I’d like to do for all women is make them financially independent so that they had enough money to live on. When I say live on, enough money for dignified existence, not dependent on anybody else. The lack of resources makes people slaves, puts them in a position where other people have power over them, makes them dependent and therefore forces wrong decisions about themselves and their lives, and their children, and their men.
I have never seen myself other than in an absolutely realistic light. I am no feminine charmer. I’ve always been a plain woman physically. I think that the beautiful women have a weapon, and I’ve seen them using it. Everybody, I suppose, uses whatever advantages they’ve got. What you haven’t got you can’t use. The fact that I respect people, whoever they are, whatever they do, and that I want them to like me, despite the fact that I don’t have these strong feminine assets, makes me perhaps put myself out more to be useful, to be empathetic, to try to help people, which is after all the basis of my work. My life really has been built on that realization.


Marjorie Proops: I am not really a feminist. I consider myself a personist, a humanist, in fact. There’s an awful lot of inequality and injustice in this world of ours, for both men and women, and a lot of people need help and support, not just women.
If a woman, a competent and experienced journalist who happened to be a woman, were obviously the best choice at any given time, then I see no reason why there shouldn’t be a woman editing a national newspaper.


Marjorie Proops: With increased sexual education, and knowledge and freedom, and freedom to talk about it, women are now acknowledging their own sexual needs more than they did. When I first started my agony column, women used to write and say, my husband expects me to submit to him three times a week, or a month, or whatever. Now no woman would ever use that word submit. Ever. And in those early days, women never wrote and said, how can I get an orgasm? Now they write and say, I only get one orgasm a night, or a session, or whatever and I think I ought to be getting more, can you give me some advice? So women now perceive themselves as having a right to expect gratification where previously they didn’t. If they had it, it was a bonus, a kind of secret delight that they probably didn’t talk to anybody about, including their nearest and dearest, who was perhaps providing this pleasure. But now they do write about it.
Women do fantasize, probably more than men. I don’t know. I haven’t done any research into these things. I simply gain an impression from what people write to me, and quite a lot of women write about fantasies. They fantasize about pop stars, or some bloke who reads the news on television, or Wogan or whatever. I don’t know whether men fantasize about Samantha Fox, but certainly women do see themselves as sort of Mills & Boon heroines of erotic situations.
Quite a lot of women do masturbate, and it’s easier, I think, for a woman. If she’s lying alongside a man in bed and he’s gone off to sleep, she could quietly masturbate and fulfil herself. Whereas, if he does it, then it’s not such a private thing. And so I think they are more self-sufficient sexually.


Marjorie Proops: Women, because they are the ones who bear the children, are more tender, more tolerant, more patient, more loving. Any woman who has had a child knows that the first reaction when you have given birth (of most mothers, I am told, and certainly in my case) is, is it all right? This immediate anxiety about this little thing that is totally dependent upon you is followed immediately by the most massive sense of this little thing being in need of your care and protection. This is a fundamental feeling in all women, whether or not they have borne a child, because they have the potential for child-bearing and being mothers.
Women who have sons have to discipline themselves not to bring up their sons to believe they are young gods. From the time my son was very young, I used to think about the girl I hoped he would eventually marry, and I used to try very hard indeed to bring him up to be the sort of man who would be a great man for a girl to live with. And, in fact, my son is a very good cook. When he was a teenager, and he used to come home with a gang of friends, I used to say OK, you can empty the fridge and the freezer, do what you like, but you’ve got to do the washing up and the clearing up and all the cooking, because I’m tired after a hard day at the office. So he was not brought up to think that his exalted mother was going to slave for him any more than he was brought up to think that an exhausted wife’s job was to slave for him.
I think it’s unfortunate if a woman has to have an abortion, because there is a great trauma, an awful sense of loss and despair. On the other hand, there are lots of women and young girls, particularly, who, for various social or physical reasons, need to have an abortion. I don’t think they should be made to feel guilty. It’s a decision each woman must take for herself. I get letters from fourteen-year-old girls who tell me they are pregnant by married men, and they ask, what am I to do? I say, tell your mother immediately and get her to take you to the doctor or to the Family Planning or National Guidance Council or some other agency where, I know, they will offer this girl an abortion. And with the support of her mother and her family, this pregnancy will be aborted, and hopefully the girl won’t suffer too much trauma, though she will inevitably suffer some.


Marjorie Proops: There are far more temptations for men. If a man goes off to work, he sees young, attractive girls who, in themselves, will regard somebody else’s man as a conquest. Not necessarily a sexual conquest, but it’s a bit of fun to get a man to be unfaithful to his wife, and a little triumph. And you’ve got to be a very strong man indeed to resist. In fact, this is why I say to so many of the women who write despairing letters when they discover their husbands have been unfaithful, even though the husbands are full of regret and remorse and everything else – when they say, shall I leave him, I write back and say, no, regardless of that little aberration. It is no more than a slight illness he has suffered. Just help him to get better.
More men abandon their wives than vice versa. But an increasing number of women are leaving their husbands, because women are much more independent and stronger than they were. They are not so afraid to be on their own as they were. But generally, I think men get bored. They are tired of the sort of routine of going home to the same female, lack of excitement, lack of stimulation; they need new stimulants to arouse them.
Bob Maxwell is very affectionate, very loving. If he walked in here now, he would put his arm around me and kiss me. And my head would be on his shoulder and he would be loving and I would respond to that. That’s the sort of man I personally respond to: somebody who is warm, somebody who is loving, somebody who is loving towards me.
My husband has been retired for many years, but before he retired he was a successful businessman in the building industry. He was a director of a big London company, and we were both involved very much in each other’s jobs and lives during that period. He supported me and I supported him. I couldn’t have done my job without his support, and he tells me he couldn’t have done his, at any rate as well, without mine. So we always had that between us. I think there could have been tension when he retired and I was working still. I think that was the real testing time in our marriage. But he is a man with a great sense of humour and reality, and he waves me goodbye in the morning and says, don’t worry about a thing, dear, I’ll look after the shopping and all that kind of thing. And, indeed, he does. He runs the house. And he’s not proud about admitting it. He makes jokes about it, and he sometimes rings me up at the office and says, I’m going to Harrods, is there anything special you fancy for dinner? And this is absolutely wonderful.


Marjorie Proops: it’s inevitable that attitudes which are very deeply ingrained in some people will every now and again emerge, so that you will get men who patronize women. But, as time goes on, fewer and fewer women will put up with this situation. When I was writing a column – an ordinary column as distinct from an agony column – we used to call it the battle of the sexes. You no longer see any references to the battle of the sexes, do you? And I think that’s because the battle is largely won. There will always be conflict between men and women, and I’ve always maintained that men will never understand women fundamentally any more than women will ever understand men fundamentally. No man is ever going to know what it is like to menstruate or have PMT or give birth to a child. No woman is ever going to know what it’s like to get an erection. This fundamental physiological difference between the sexes is never going to change. Our understanding can be limited only to attitudes, not to deep emotional feelings. Until men and women realize and then accept the fact that there is a limit to their understanding of each other, then the conflicts will continue and might even become more violent.