Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Low standards in high places?

A Touch Of Nokoko by Kofi Akumanyi

Mr Phillip Hodson, a marriage counsellor and sex therapist, has advised in Options magazine that "if you've been unfaithful, don't rush to own up. Honesty is not always the best policy in marriage. If you have an un-serious affair in Birmingham, I don't think you have to confess in London… I don't believe in idealistic honesty. There is a lot to be said for sometimes letting sleeping dogs lie..." - The Mirror.
I must confess that I do not like people who call themselves Marriage Counsellors for the simple reason that they make themselves experts in solving other peoples' marriage problems. However, since the institution of marriage has come under a fierce attack from all angles, including homosexuals and AIDS, the gay plague, these so-called experts, no doubt, have some use to those whose marriages are under severe strain and tension.

Having said that, it is pertinent to point out that the resurrection of waning interest in Mr Cecil Parkinson and Miss Sara Keays will, without doubt, bring the profession of marriage counselling into the forefront.

Mr Parkinson, for those who do not know what it's all about in their reading of local newspapers in the past two years, was Margaret Thatcher's blue-eyed boy in the cabinet, holding the Trade and Industry portfolio - until the Sara Keays affair blew up first in their face, and then in that of the whole party.

You mean you seriously haven't heard of the scandal? Why, it is all in the Mirror - a blow-by-blow account of the steamy affair between Mr Parkinson and his secretary Miss Keays, out of which a baby girl emerged. As the story goes, this was not powerful enough evidence to convince Mr Parkinson to leave his family and marry her. Miss Keays therefore felt really cheated and used. Mr Parkinson stuck to his guns and remained with his wife and kids and publicly admitted liability. Two years after the event Miss Keays has decided to tell it all in a serialisation of the book in The Mirror for a hefty £150,000.

While the Conservative Party at which the whole publication was aimed at dismissed it as an unimportant story of "an ex-mistress of an ex- conservative minister", The Mirror believes that it is doing all of us a big service because "it is not only a history of interest to the public. Its publication is in the public interest" and that "had she not written this book we (the public) would have lost a unique record of low standards in high places."

Be it as it may, the Sara Keays affair appears to be a scandal which would not go away. It has all the ingredients of a long-running television soap opera which would be exploited for all its worth. That is why I decided to disregard my deep-rooted dislike for marriage counselling and consult one in an effort to understand this whole rather unpalatable affair. I was lucky to meet the boss of Freeboot Marriage Counselling Bureau of Carshalton, Mr J.F. Advisor. He shook my hands and the firm friendly grip felt like arm- wrestling. It told a lot about the man.

"Mr Phillip Hodson has said that it pays to tell lies to your spouse to cover up affairs. Do you agree?"

"Who is Phillip Hodson?"

"A marriage counsellor,"

"I don't know what this business is coming to. Where did he say this?"

"In a magazine called Options."

"Did he really say that? Unbelievable! That's not marriage counselling, that's aiding and abetting adultery!"

"I thought so too, except that I cannot imagine what kind of advice you would have given in such circumstances," I said.

"Well, it would depend on the circumstances, wouldn't it? Every marriage has its own peculiar problems, doesn't it? I mean, you cannot generalise so you have to play it by ear," Mr Advisor offered.

"OK, let's take Mr Parkinson and Sara Keays, for instance. If Mr Parkinson had come to you for help what would you have told him?"

"Very tricky one, indeed," Mr Advisor said, "but Mr Parkinson was Cabinet Minister, wasn't he? You see, everybody who has an affair with his secretary must be pretty sure that he can handle the fall-out which is sure to come."

"So it seems, except that public opinion seems to sway in favour of Miss Keays as the 'wounded partner'."

"That's true. The public often does that, but Mr Parkinson had two options - admitting the offence and apologising to his wife and kids and promising to be a good boy ever after or grabbing the bull by the horns and moving in with Miss Keays. He chose the former and God bless him for that."

"That's a surprising comment, coming from a person in your position," I observed.

"What position?"

"I mean as a marriage counsellor."

"Well, what did you expect? We marriage counsellors have an obligation to make marriages work, not break them up," he said, pressing the buzzer to call in his attractive secretary in the adjacent office. "You know this so-called scandal is anything but that. The British aristocracy and upper classes have always had this kind of thing happening within their circuits. You must admit that it is better than executing unwanted wives as Henry VIII did."

"You have a point there. However, should people wash their dirty linen in public as Miss Keays is doing?"

"No. It is in bad taste; it must be done in the launderette. I know that stories involving lurid details of what went on between the sheets makes juicy reading to the public but in the final analysis it doesn't do any good at all...'

He looked a bit perplexed as he gave me another vigorous handshake at the door.

I thanked him for his interesting views, said goodbye and stepped outside. When I returned two minutes later to retrieve my notebook that I forgot on his table, his secretary was taking dictation. She was sitting on his lap. No wonder the habit has caught on among the working class!

talking drums 1985-10-14 Azumah's World Crown at stake