Today I went for a walk along the Helford Passage http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helford_Passage as it is a fantastic place to reflect and gain some peace and clarity.
It would be easy to assume that Cornwall is a place of constant idyll, where the only terrible thing to happen is a hard frost or the fox getting into the hen house.
However, this last week or so I have been feeling a little disturbed. I am months behind time, primarily because I don’t read the Daily Mail or Mirror and somehow missed the saga in the West Briton.
Only recently I discovered that an old school colleague of mine, in his 50s, left the school I was teaching at about the same time. He then went on to have a relationship with a 16-year-old pupil (despite being married for the third time already). Apparently they were just within the law because she was 16 and he was no-longer a teacher.
I’m not sure why this has had such a profound effect on me, but I feel like I have seen a very nasty road traffic accident and every so often have flashbacks.
I suppose the difference in the country, as opposed to the city, is this kind of scandal effects so many people as we all know him - or his family or her estranged distraught parents or her cousin’s cousin. I used to sit and watch him eat his sandwiches in the staff room and think someone who loved him very much must have made them, as they looked sumptuous (perhaps he loved himself just a little too much).
I suppose I empathise with the girl’s mother, unable to bring her home, because of the Children’s Act: her will reigns supreme. It is a similar situation as when a young adult become infatuated with a guru and joins a cult. I have two daughters who are young women and I would have been horrified if they had gone to live with a man 30 odd years older.
Believe me I l have nothing against 50 something men, I have many friends who are and much older. I appreciate schoolgirl crushes and the Police’s “Don’t Stand Too Close To Me” was an ‘80s fave. Jane Eyre is my favourite book and the age gap in her eventual marriage was considerable.
I think what distresses me most is that the girl had no opportunity to reflect away from the situation. Let’s face it if a young woman is told repeatedly that she is beautiful, loved, unique bla, bla she will succumb to the intoxication of being adored, especially if she doesn’t hear that kind of affirmation from any other place. She would be vulnerable and susceptible to persuasion.
My opinion for what it is worth is that she should have been taken to a place of safety, away from all influences so she could have some intensive therapy and be totally aware of the life choices she was making. There should be a clause in the Children’s Act to allow a multi-agency decision to be made concerning the well-being of a schoolgirl prior to her taking exams and still in full-time education. Obviously the law, as it stands, didn’t allow any caring adult to step in and protect her from what could be a catastrophic life choice
Now, two years on and she is in a marriage that apparently is totally ‘fulfilling’. Having many married friends and from personal experience I know married life is a battle – ‘for better for worse’. Without the love and support of family this couple are going to walk a rocky road.
I had assumed that in other cultures that this kind of situation might be commonplace, but having carried out a bit of research 18 is the average age for marriage in nearly all countries worldwide. Yet shacking up with someone is perfectly law-abiding as this case shows.
Looking at recent photos of the couple they appear to be in that euphoric first phase of most relationships and they have presented a normalised front to what is extraordinary.
My hope is that the young woman has someone she can turn to in the future when she will inevitably face tough times. Work stress, sickness, money worries hound every marriage.
I know the village she comes from well. I used to horse ride weekly around its lanes and fields. It is the kind of seaside village where everyone greets you – everyone. It just goes to show that the forces in a man’s heart and mind are just as at work in a picturesque rural place as anywhere else.