THE PAPERS have been ibrating with pre-menstrual ension. Even Private Eye had a photograph of a distressed McEnroe on its cover saying: 'It must be pre-menstrual tension.'
That made me think. Thousands of words about how women suffer, but nothing about men. Actually we are the real victims. Even the milder cases which don't involve physical violence can spread psychological mayhem whose effects are no respecter of gender.
Wives and daughters are. 1 suppose, the burden of the average man. When the cry of 'havoc' is raised in the home we can do little but make sympathetic noises through gritted teeth.
Fortunately our own sy inptoms can be temporarily relieved with alcohol replacement therapy. Nor are inveterate bachelors immune PMT reverberates through the office environment, too, Even the clergy are not exempt. I once asked a group of engaged couples whether any of them had suffered; amid the forest of hands I spotted the chaplain.
He suffered from his housekeeper; from my sheltered lay perspective I'd never thought of that. The only person present who denied that it existed was the male doctor, Still he was very young, and it took place a few years ago. I expect he. knows better now.
New diseases are always popular with the Press, but PMT must surely be as old as the human race.
Its a wonder that Eve didn't plead it in mitigation over that unfortunate apple incident; it may well have been responsible for the Fall.
The novelty lies in the fact that a cure, or at least a substantial palliative, has been found. Once a condition has a cure it can be accepted as a real disease. Perhaps Dr Katharina Dalton will prove to have been one of the great benefactors.
She would certainly deserve it because, like many medical innovators, she had to fight for years against the establishment to make her point and enable the benefits of the treatment she developed to be more widely available.
Certainly many of my friends can testify to the help she has personally given them.
We have yet to sec the first plea by a husband that his crime was caused by being upset by his wife's PMT. But why not? Many husbands exhibit symptoms related to their wives' pregnancies.
I have a friend who goes off his food about three months before his wife gives birth; he gets tetchy and his hair starts to fall out. We celebrate the eventual birth with as much relief as enthusiasm. IT HAS been a matter of some concern to me that never, throughout a long Catholic life, have I been asked to take a collection in church.
I have never, so to speak, received the accolade of the green baize plate. It's not that I'm paranoid abut it, it's just that I suspect that the word goes round the clerical grapevine: 'Don't trust that chap with a plate, he's got such a shifty look.'
I think I'd be rather good at it; after all I've practised long enough. There seem to be several skills.
The first is the ability to give a look of longsuffering exasperation to people who, unwarned by the approaching rattle, have failed to get their offering ready in time.
This should be supported by a well developed severe glare reserved for the infant who refuses to unlatch his closed fist held suspended by his parent over the plate.
But my masterpiece would be the elegantly raised eyebrow which I have prepared for the parishioner who seeks with an apologetic shrug to intimate that, by some mischance, he has left his money in the pocket of his other trousers.
I bet I could double the collection in no time.
The gentleman who covers the pews where I normally sit was such a ferocious mien that get quite apprehensive as he approaches; I'm sure he can spot foreign currency a mile off. I envy him — what a delicious sense of power.
THE BORGIAS and Brideshead Revisited continue their weary way, and cause great religious conversations in the office.
Pope Alexander doesn't seem to give any scandal; there's a general acceptance that all these things happened a long while ago — and anyhow a villain's a villain whatever his denomination.
But Brideshead is a different matter. These are supposed to be good Catholics and people find it hard to understand why religious commitment should be so destructive.
Of course it has to be so the great forces which work on man bring out the best or the worst in him.
The evidence accumulates, although its not conclusive and perhaps could never ben, that religious people fall into two broad classes.
The first consists of people who have made a free, mature choice of commitment. Their faith invades their whole being and is generally reflected in their behaviour — or 'works' as the jargon has it. The others, unfortunately the majority, have made a commitment which owes rather more to habit or psychological rolile.
This would explain why religious people. and Catholics are prominent here, score highly on measurements such as intolerance, prejudice, petty dishonesty and infantile dependence on authority.
But I suspect the division is over-simplified; most of us are trying to promote ourselves from the second class into the first. And not often succeeding.
RIGHTEOUSNESS is the real trap. To think that one holds the truth, instead of being a weary pilgrim in search of it, is not faith but arrogance; it leads to the rape of other men's minds.
The deification of external authority is not humility but a surrender of that most Godgiven potentiality — personal autonomy; it has led to moral degeneracy in many ages, not least our own.
The belief that membership of a divine foundation exonerates one from the ordinary decencies that one many owes another has led, and leads, to many injustices.
All this is hard to cure because the sense of righteousness conceals the inner corruption: the worse one becomes the better one feels about it.
Perhaps Lady Marchmain, like the Pharisees, belongs to history. But each age has its own brand of unconscious hypocrisy. What is ours?
FASHIONS in morality change at great speed. Currently the unforgivable social sin is to be a smoker. We are confined in ghettoes at the remote ends of suburban trains and constantly assailed by notices demanding the extinction of the filthy weed or even thanking us in advance for eschewing it.
Doctors tell us that our end is nigh and that we must prepare to meet our doom. It has even spread to my own family. The innocent habit, inculcated by my Jesuit education, of wakening my lungs with a bolt of blue pipe smoke from tobacco which has matured nicely overnight, is frowned upon.
When I visit my son and his wife I am obliged to smoke in the garden lest I contaminate the delicately balanced atmosphere.
The only comparable offence is riding a motorcycle. This is regarded as foolhardy, likely w be a drain on the Health Service and probably against the natural law.
Besides the clear tendency to self-destruction w hich I exhibit I am also a grave nuisance to car drivers in putting them to the trouble of focusing on me in order to avoid the inconvenience of mopping me up after they have justifiably pulled out into my path.
But they need not worry we are a dying breed. The few of us who survive patches of spilled diesel fuel or the stretches of road excoriated in anticipation of new surfacing are eventually caught by the metal manhole covers thoughtfully placed by local authorities on the apex of corners.
Luckily my two major vices are compatible. There is nothing more glorious than smoking a pipe while riding a motorcycle; the sense of wicked pleasure is quite overwhelming.