In part three of what has become a serial review of the life and letters of my great uncle Archibald G. Ogden, we explore his irreverant take on the social issues of the day, and learn about legal abortion in London in 1963, the sexual revolution, and the hazards of IRA bombs and uncurbed dogs.
"Last week I was pre-occupied with arranging an abortion - all very legal, however (Bob will be relieved to learn). The 17-year old daughter of a friend of mine got involved in a one-night stand with an Indian (didn't even remember his name - sweet young kid, she must be). She, rather belatedly, told a friend of mine, who told me. I said I'd help, but only if she'd talk it over with her parents. The father, whom I know, doesn't know that I'm involved. The mother, who was introduced to me under an alias, doesn't know me from Adam & of course, doesn't know that I know who she is - Ho hum. Anyway, two psychiatrists have stated that having the child would endanger the reason of our bright little 17-years old & a Harley Street surgeon has performed the (legal) operation in the nick of time. Sometimes we think we have troubles. Oh, and why did they come to me? Americans know everything about London. See our Guide Book, page 229 - small print." (March 25, 1963)
"Indeed, Christmas was fairly quiet all over Britain. The populace did go on a gigantic spending spree, figuring, I think, that the Government ain't going to leave them much loose money during the next twelve months; but the new breathalyser tests have drivers so worried that most people drank quietly at home rather than killing themselves on the roads - the more usual way of celebrating the festive season. It may prove the ruination of some famous country pubs, but it is cutting down the motor car mayhem and might have a beneficent effect if applied in the U.S. Cold sober, the British drive like crazy. When they have a few drinks and enter a so-called motorway, neither snow, rain, fog or ice will keep them from making their appointed rounds at 80 miles per hour, and 20-car pile-ups are a commonplace. On country roads they usually kill only pedestrians. This of course helps make for a fairly agile race of country folk." (December 27, 1967)
"_______Jackson spent a couple of nights with us - en route to or from somewhere. We always like her. She seems a lot less inhibited and may even lose her virginity eventually, though she has quite a few generations of Boston Jacksons, whose shades are fighting to preserve it. At one time I thought she might be a Les. Now, I think she's just a frustrated hetero. Pity." (May 15, 1971)
"Please write Rob that he and Marla will be more than welcome here at Christmas time...I assure you that their 'lifestyle' can in no way bother us, though ours might bother them; for we have re-arranged our flat so that our 3 guest rooms have only one bed in each....What we are hoping is that the Noel-Bakers will stay in Greece this Xmas season - in which case Rob and Marla could be completely independent in our office flat, complete with double bed, bath, sitting room and kitchenette, plus central heat. That would be ideal, if only it can be made to work out. They would not be the first unmarried couple of their generation to enjoy it (actually they'd be the 4th)...You must be thinking of a different part of the family, if you think their 'lifestyle' can disturb us. It's their life style - we ain't bothered by it, even though we may occasionally prefer our own." (December 9, 1975)
"We have...been appreciating the joys of National Health (the free service for which I am taxed $300.00 a year - it's still inexpensive when it works, as it certainly did in the case of my emergency diverticulitis); but Betty's feet were becoming more and more crippled for lack of orthopedic surgery. We were told she would have to wait 2 years to have them fixed on National Health, and then they couldn't guarantee that it wouldn't be a student doing his first such case. We were lucky to get one of the best surgeons in England to do the job within a week ...She was 8 days in hospital - the saint Luke's Nursing Home for the Clergy, of all places! She's spent another week, plus, in bed here, but is now hobbling about quite happily - and has been driving the car. She gets stronger every day, and I'm sure will be her own, active self in a month or so. But at least she doesn't have to be putting off the evil day for 2 years. I really don't want to get on the subject of Barbara Castle and the National Health at the moment. The doctrinaire socialists want to do away with all private practice (if everyone can not afford it, no one should have it.) Let's share the misery, but, by God and Marx, let's have misery to share." (Oct 22, 1975)
"I lunched with Dick Plater at Scotts about a week before it was bombed, and although I do not make a habit of picking up unattended briefcases, it would never occur to me to worry about being bombed anywhere in London. Betty may be in danger this evening as she is about to go across the river to an Estate Agent's cocktail party, while I, uninvited, drink safely in my Battersea pub! It's a nuisance on rainy nights to get down on one's hands and knees to look under one's car after parking in Mayfair. Happily, it is dry today and she won't soil her party clothes." (December 9, 1975)
"(P)eople mistake me for Nureyev as I make my way to the pub. No pas des deux pour moi - I do pas de trois to avoid the Battersea dog-shit. I once received a rather rude remark from a lady whose collie was relieving himself at some length in the middle of the pavement. As I sidled around the happy couple, I asked her if it took long to train a dog always to shit where humans used to be accustomed to walk. She offered me a look of pure hatred - putting me down, quite rightly, as the kind of beastly old man who preferred children to animals (though 'beastly' may not be the correct adjective." (Oct 20, 1975)