The modern world brings many blessings and the fax is one of them. But to its greatest gifts of spontaneity and immediacy must be added its greatest disadvantage: once sent, it cannot be withdrawn. You cannot have second thoughts by fax. Like speech, what is said cannot be unsaid. This means that you must be especially careful before committing your words to the fax modem. At best, they will fade, but not before years have passed, by which time the memory of your behaviour and your good looks may have faded, too.
A man told me long ago that there is only one decent way to end an affair. Stage one: send roses, and a card with an invitation to dinner at a posher restaurant than usual. It matters not which, as long as it is a large and public place. Insist upon meeting there; do not on any account collect her from home or her place of work.
Stage two: give her a wonderful dinner - good food, fine wines, the works. Tell her how tenderly you recall those early days. Encourage her to reminisce about your first meetings, the early palpitations, the letters, the phone calls.
Now comes the killer: stage three. Order a brandy for each of you. (Don't worry about the amount you drink. You will be taking separate taxis home. You know this because you have told the head waiter in advance to order them when you call for the bill.) Over its delectable fumes, tell her, sadly but firmly, that those days are gone forever. Remembering them has been sweet, but they are like stirring the embers of a dead fire. This is to be your last, your very last meeting. "Let's not spoil it now - it's been such a perfect evening." Order the bill. Ten minutes later the taxis will arrive. Hand her into hers and wave as it bears her away.
That, Mr Day-Lewis, is the only civilised way to end a relationship. I commend it to you. But sending a fax, and to the woman who - whatever her faults - is seven months pregnant with your child, is appalling. Have you considered the consequences? Have you wondered what she will say about you to the child? Yes, yes - you too had a difficult relationship with your father, the poet. That is no excuse. On the contrary, it means you have more reason than most prospective parents to resolve to make a better job of parenthood yourself.
I cannot end by saying "Take back that fax", since the whole point of faxes is that you can't. Just don't make the same mistake next time.Reuse content