What right to a child has a single career woman, whose biological clock is ticking rather loudly? Does she, indeed, have any 'right' at all? This was the dilemma presented by Angela, who, after a series of disastrous relationships with cads and rascals, decided that she had so much love to give to a child that she wanted to get pregnant. Anyone would do, but she did have a boyfriend who, though not at all keen on the idea of a child, was lax about contraception . . .

One lone person said 'go for it': Margaret Deshmane of Portland, a single parent, explained, 'if the child never knows the father, there is no loss', as barmy a piece of logic as I have heard. True, the child couldn't miss an individual, but unless she were brought up in a fatherless society, she could certainly miss the idea of a dad.

Most readers tut-tutted the idea - but not all for the same reasons. Many felt that it would all be pretty terrible for Angela herself. Did she really know what she would be letting herself in for?

Jo Grigg of Hove warned that gaining a child would mean other losses - of sleep, money, sanity, status, friends, confidence, independence, solitude, career progression, libido . . . And then there would be the loss of companionship for herself.

Amanda Walker of Dunstable suggested she borrow a two-year-old for a weekend and look after it. After describing a hair-raisingly hectic day, she gave a poignant description of the lonely evening ahead. 'When the child is tucked up asleep, freshly bathed and looking angelic, there will be no one with whom to chat over the day's events, good and bad.'

There were a few voices arguing that Angela's plan would be unfair to the man in question. Nick Burton from Waterloo admitted that he'd once been asked by a girl to be a stud, on condition he had no involvement with the child once it was born. 'I was shocked and hurt, but fearing that my notions of family and fatherhood might be sexist and outmoded, I attempted to provide the service she required, to no effect.' (Frightening, but horribly understandable, to think how peer pressure could push anyone into behaving so irresponsibly.) Older and wiser now, he wrote: 'While men are notorious for fearing commitment and evading responsibility, women can be deeply insecure and unscrupulous when it comes to getting pregnant.' He argued that although there was an outside possibility of the father loving the baby on sight, 'to sanction deceit, to treat any man, let alone a current boyfriend or even husband, as an unthinking, unfeeling donor of semen, with no parental aspirations and no legitimate desires or fears, is surely unacceptable'.

Finally, the child itself got a look-in. I have to declare an emotional interest here because I disapprove so much of having a child in this selfish way. I couldn't give a pin whether Angela will be exhausted or not. Nuts to her career prospects. And as for the bloke, if he doesn't want children, he should take responsibility for contraception himself. Condoms are available free at all family planning clinics.

The key issue is the child. Having a child without an identifiable father, or by a man who will most likely exude parallel lines and plumes of smoke from his heels the minute Angela misses her first period, deprives a child of a whole half of its life as well. There will be no second set of grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles. And in daily life, no important male influence and no House of Lords, as it were, to appeal to when the mother makes some crackpot ruling. As Jude Nicholls of Lichfield, wisely pointed out, there will be 'no one to step into Angela's shoes should she die'.

Jane M Dennister of Leven, Fife, summed it up. 'Is it not an act of total selfishness to plan to bring a child into the world in the absence of a stable relationship? For whose sake is this pregnancy planned? Certainly not the child's. Angela would be better advised to spend her time, money and energy on exploring why she finds it so impossible to form stable adult relationships than to invest in the dubious enterprise of having a child to fulfil her emotional needs.'

Patricia Baker of Kew wrote as the voice of the child Angela feels that she is being 'denied'. From the ether, she squeaked: 'But I do not want to be denied the chance of having a proper dad whose interest in my welfare will be because he, too, made a conscious choice to have me and commit himself to my upbringing.'

'Imagine,' wrote a horrified Reverend R Askew of Shepton Mallet, 'what it would be like to be the daughter of a selfish woman who had a succession of unreliable boyfriends. A son might survive better only if he could escape being knocked about in infancy by an irritable lover.

'Angela should fulfil her maternal leanings,' he continued, 'by working in a children's ward or play-school and discover how truly deep is her reservoir of love for a child.' On Sunday she should go to church, 'where, more likely than in the pub or at the race-track, shy, virgin bachelors of 36 years think about eternal love.'

In other words, Angela should follow the example of Mrs S Little, who was once in exactly the same position. Instead of getting pregnant, however, she gave up her boyfriend and 'made a concerted effort to find someone new, joining singles' clubs and so on. A few months later I was asked out by a man who didn't really seem my 'type'. However, we hit it off, married within a year and were thrilled when our first child came along. Angela should try again to find someone who genuinely shares her dreams of a family.'

A reader wants to help a friend who is bullied at work.

Dear Virginia . . .

MY friend Alex is a skilled worker in a large firm. He's quiet, gentle, unassuming and hard-working, but he suffers a constant barrage of mostly psychological bullying from colleagues in his department. His car is frequently daubed with slogans such as 'Loser]' 'Wanker]' and so on. He dares not leave personal possessions in his desk. At the last Christmas dinner his food was ruined with pepper, and ashtrays were emptied over his suit. No strategy he's tried has worked - laughter, indifference, attempted friendship, retaliation. It's obvious his workmates want a victim and they have found one in him. He's single, 30, and outside work he has a full social life with many friends such as myself, who keep him sane. A colleague who suffered similarly, and complained to the manager, eventually lost his job. Have any of your readers been bullied at work? Any ideas on how I can help him?

Yours sincerely, Tom

Please send your comments and suggestions to me at the Features Department, the Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB; fax 071-956-1739, by Tuesday morning. And if you have any dilemmas of your own that you would like to share with readers, let me know. I will report back next Thursday.