Full disclosure

It was dark. We’d finished eating. I got up to open a bottle of wine. She looked down and frowned and pursed her lips as she sat at the kitchen table. I’d got used to that look. It was usually when I said I loved her.

“It won’t work. You just say everything, to anyone. I don’t want anyone knowing about me. I might as well get a sign made as tell you anything. It’s what you’re like.”

She looked up at me then and kept my eyes until I sat down. What she said was true. Sort of.

I do say things. A bit. Quite a lot, in fact. My truest, deepest friends will tell you. The kind ones call it ‘sharing.’ There’s a reason for it.

In my life some people have benefitted hugely from silence. My father, for one. We were one of the last houses on the new estate in the fields to have a telephone. My father worked away from home a lot. In fact he was only at the house three or maybe four times a week at the most. Even some Christmasses he’d have to work and as children we never knew when he would arrive. Then everything had to change as the whole house was geared to welcome his triumphant homecoming.

Name and rank

His parents were dead, so conveniently dead that although he talked about his father who was in a submarine accident off Blyth after WW1 (but not one that can be identified clearly, looking at any website I’ve ever found) and the mother whose foot his ex-RAF guard dog used to hold gently in its mouth none of them turned up at his wedding to my mother. In fact, nobody had ever seen a single relation of my father’s, ever. Alarm bells ringing just a teeny bit yet? They should be.

So, it’s the 1960s, we have a new house, my father has a new car every two years and he isn’t there a lot of the time. When he is the whole house is disrupted. As children when we’re asked at school what our parents do my father goes ballistic and roars around the house screaming that he’s going to complain to the school officially. Somehow he never does, officially or otherwise.

action man
The invisible man.

The time he really blew up at me was over an Action Man. Action Man, like my father who had been in the RAF during what was then called The War (we just don’t have proper wars any more) had a pay-book. With his name and serial number in it. I didn’t know anything about serial numbers, so when I had to (obviously) fill-in the details I asked my father what his serial number was. Because he’d spent six years giving this every time anybody asked for it my father recited it immediately. Then there was a silence.

“Why do you want it?”

I said it was to put it in my Action Man’s pay book. The rest of the day was shit.

I didn’t know why for years. Nearly fifteen years in fact, until I worked out that his serial number was the one thing he couldn’t fake. And as a career liar, my father faked a lot. Like many abusers, he got his victims to collude with the abuse, making excuses for him, refusing to check his lies, pretending things he said or did were a misunderstanding.

Things came to a head when my mother tried to divorce him and found out that you can’t divorce someone you aren’t actually legally married to. For example, if they were already married when they married you. And running a parallel family, although strictly speaking that part isn’t enshrined in law. John Richard Bennett, presumably the only son of Hannah Ramsey and John Bennett, who were married in the parish church of St Mary Cray, near Orpington, wasn’t born in Australia. His parents were never immigrants to the UK. He did not arrive in the UK aged two. He was not a dashing pilot. He was a liar, a bigamist and an abuser who during the war learned to work a lathe on an airfield somewhere. His fondness for the Wellington bomber he made from an Airfix kit might narrow down which airfield he was on if anyone could be bothered to find out. I can’t.

I’ve probably just done it again. John Richard Bennett, bigamist and abuser, sometime resident of Snitterfield, Warkwickshire, Gillingham, Dorset  Southwick and Trowbridge, Wiltshire, take a bow. You’re in the limelight, the place you always thought should be yours, but I think maybe for different reasons. I’ve stopped protecting abusers.

The beautiful woman in my kitchen the other night isn’t sitting at my table now. But if she ever reads this, that’s the reason why I say things. That’s why I’ve spent 20 years finding things out and telling people about them, for a living. That’s why I don’t like secrets. If people don’t want people knowing about the things they do there’s usually a good reason for it and I’ve never heard a nice one. Silence isn’t golden. It covers up abuse so everyone can pretend it isn’t happening. Silence doesn’t protect the victims, it just hides the people who look for victims. I’ve seen that happen enough.






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Social research and the Old Firm

Long long ago when the world was young or at least I was, when Latin teachers had actually fought in the Spanish Civil War (unlike Eric Blair, mine tragically wasn’t shot by a Fascist sniper) and university lecturers still awarded marks for Marx, I read Sociology at the University of Bath. I didn’t read much of it, to be honest. Like Ben in Not Your Heart Away I had a head full of ideals and romance, not for anyone in particular, just for the thingness of things. The brightness. The future. The shining plain.

Lenin. We used to go in the same pub. Not at the same time, admittedly.
Lenin. We used to go in the same pub. Not at the same time, admittedly.

I didn’t enjoy Sociology. I thought it wasted my time and its own. I didn’t see the point of it. I disliked the earnest mature student middle-class magistrate mums who thought they were contributing to ‘the revolution’ they desired, oblivious to the fact they’d almost certainly have been first against the wall if their revolution went the same way it did in Russia, thanks to a bunch of sociopathic paranoiacs. The biggest joke of all looking back was that not a single one of them realised they were in the middle of the biggest, sickest revolution this country ever went through, back in the early 1980s. But anyway, he typed, wiping the spittle from the laptop screen. Moving on.

I always liked finding things out. I didn’t like the way if an identifiable real incident was referred to that was instantly called ‘anecdotal,’ which was supposed to mean unrepresentative. It wasn’t even tested, just a knee-jerk response, as valid as “Marx for marks” or “greed is good.” Like the selective view of soviet communism, it seemed to be the collective truth that it was the principle that counted, not the facts. If something really happened then it just didn’t. Facts were irrelevant. Reactionary. Not to be trusted.

Things that make you go hmmm

It was a view that coloured my view of the validity of lots of research. Working in commercial research for two decades made me realise that there are plenty of charlatans around and the very biggest ones are too stupid to even realise that they are. You can spot them easily though; they’re the ones with the presentations full of buzz-words, usually ones they don’t actually know what they mean going forward.  As Gregory Peck said in Twelve Angry Men, let’s run that up the flagpole and see who salutes it. Or we can throw it out on the stoop and see if the cat licks it up.

Either way, when I see things like this, earnest, useful, trying to be helpful, couched in this pseudo-scientific jargon that is supposed to primarily impress the researcher’s PhD board, it still irritates. I was reading as one does the Association Between Old Firm Fitba – sorry, Football Matches and Reported Domestic Violence. 

You can see a problem just from the title. The Old Firm is Rangers v Celtic, Prods v Papes. Quite how two different brands of imaginary friends make you punch your partner in the face (because God wanted it that way?) is a mystery to me but then the Lord moves in a mysterious way. Much like the fans after a bottle of Bucky.

The real issue, the real problem with this research is ‘reported’, because generally, it isn’t. Women make excuses for the people who attack them. They’re embarrassed about staying with them. They’re encouraged to believe it’s their fault. The more it happens the more it happens, because for the woman it becomes a cycle of feeling more and more useless and deserving of being attacked while for men it becomes a self-justifying loop of look-whit-ye-made-me-dae.

That was inappropriate. I am sometimes. It’s certainly not an issue confined to Strathclyde.

graphBut it’s also not an issue that benefits from ‘explanations’ like this. Whatever else I am, I am not stupid. And I have not the first clue what this “Association” (geddit??) graphic is telling me or even what it is supposed to tell me. A picture isn’t always worth a thousand words. But some researchers seem to believe a picture like this proves academic rigour, that the less intelligible a report is, the magically ‘better’ it must be until everyone sings the chorus to The King Is In The Altogether. The emperor is always naked, whatever people flatteringly say.

If you can’t see what it is from this picture, it isn’t saying anything worth saying. It is, as they might say in Strathclyde, a self-righteous havering pile of sh*te.

Here’s what it said:

It was found that the median number of reported domestic incidents was significantly greater in the Old Firm condition, compared with the Old Firm comparator and both Scotland International conditions.

That means more people punch their partner in the face when Celtic are playing Rangers, more than when any other match is on. So why not say it? Bit they havnae finished:

Moreover, there was no statistical difference between the Scotland International and Scotland International comparator conditions. Additional comparisons indicated a statistically significant difference between Old Firm and Scotland International comparator conditions, but none between Scotland International and Old Firm comparator conditions.

Moreover, that is simply repeating the first sentence, unless you want to know that when Celtic play Rangers there’s a difference in the amount of partner-face-punching compared to when Scotland International matches are on, but we’re not told which way, better (less) or worse (more). Sorry, that’s me introducing my disgusting, frivolous anecdotal subjectivity into science. Again.

We are told there is evidence of a link between sporting events and increased levels of domestic violence in wider society (Brimicombe & Café, 2012). Palmer (2011) discusses the role of the “holy trinity” (seeWenner, 1998) of sports, alcohol, and hegemonic masculinity in the context of domestic violence but this minces words.

barmy army
Other hegemonic masculinity. Of a sort.

How about this? Sport, specifically football, attracts morons who like a fight, especially when they’re drunk. There are no mass fights at rugby matches, or tennis or chess tournaments or even cricket matches, despite the temptation to lump the bathetic Barmy Army. When Celtic are playing Rangers, drunk morons who think their God likes this kind of behaviour like to smack their wives and girlfriends about, more than at other times.

This is not “engaging in hegemonic masculinity.” This is called being a violent, domineering, retarded inadequate. There are other, much shorter words that I know for a fact are often used in Strathclyde. But  of course, a proper social researcher could come up with a more academic nomenclature.

I didn’t do well in Sociology. Somehow I just couldn’t see the point of it at all.







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