Rest in peace Dr Spock - unlike the rest of us!

The Agreeable World of Wallace Arnold
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The Independent Online
I WOULD never speak ill of the dead. A period of reflection perhaps even, if merited, celebration - is the order of the day when a fellow human being passes away: a time to grieve and a time to heal, if you will. Mindful of this, the fact remains that Dr Benjamin Spock was the greatest rogue and charlatan who ever walked this earth, a ruthless and self-serving quack who turned a generation of babes-in-arms into a cacophony of spoilt brats, drowning out all human intercourse with their loud music, brash clothes, full-scale nudity and modish opinions. May he rest in peace.

I remember as though it were yesterday the afternoon his Baby and Child Care was first published. I was passing the time very agreeably in The Beefsteak Club, sharing an ounce of shag with my old friend and quaffing partner Mr James Lees-Milne. We were discussing, as I recall, the advent of the electric kettle, and found ourselves in complete agreement as to its potential for destroying, with its ceaseless boiling and steaming, steaming and boiling, the very bedrock of British society. Suddenly, and as if from nowhere, a single baby elbowed its way into the room, bawling its head off, demanding this that and the other. Seconds later another baby appeared, and then another, and then another. Within a matter of hours they were everywhere, nappies askew, dribble flowing from their mouths, all the while screaming their outrageous demands and outlandish complaints.

An ashen-faced Club Chairman - the estimable Raymond Baxter, later of Tomorrow's World - stumbled into the room, visibly stunned. "It's Spock!" he blurted, "His book's out today. Life will never be the same again. The wretched man has given babies a licence to do what they like, when they like - and damn the consequences to the rest of us!"

By this time, the Club was in a truly terrible state. The main staircase was littered with dummies and plastic bottles of every shape and size. There was Chicken-and-Pea Paste smeared over the library walls, all the way from A to M, up to and including Nancy Mitford. The Members' Lavatories, for over a century an oasis of hush and immobility in an otherwise restless world, had been transformed into a veritable speakeasy, pullulating with used tissues, rattles, bibs and baby wipes. One baby had even requisitioned a cigar case from the dining-table, and was busily employing its contents as unguided missiles with which to assail a snoozing Quintin Hogg. Mayhem ruled. For so long strapped safely into the boot, the babies were now firmly in the driving seat. We were in for a bumpy ride.

Twenty years later, we really began to feel the effects. A spot of healthy combat in Vietnam? Oh, no: the Spock babies were far too precious for that. A hair-cut, a shave and a neck-tie? Not on your proverbial nelly! Yet they were only too happy to sashay around the place wearing little more than a couple of petunias and a silly smile, injecting themselves with drugs galore, holding their hands up in horror should anyone be so impertinent as to suggest anything so upsetting as a hard day's work.

The Beefsteak has never fully recovered. Those who were once Spock babies are now Spock members. Brought up on demand feeding they cry out for a lamb chop, a chipolata or a chicken pie morning, noon and night, thumping their fists on the table should it fail to materialise.

Perhaps Spock's most enduring and damaging legacy to the Beefsteak is his repeated insistence on hugs and cuddles. Where once one could be assured of sitting quietly, unmolested by human hand, now one is constantly assailed by the huggers and coddlers. "Wallace!" shouted that archetypal Spock baby, Mr Simon Heffer, as he entered the Club only last Thursday, "Come on - give us a hug!" He then sat down next to me at table, and when his Steak and Kidney Pud arrived he simply opened his mouth and held out his tongue. lt was only after he had been sitting there, mouth wide open, for over 10 minutes that I began to realise that he expected to be spoon- fed.

For all their protestations of belief in "traditional values", I find the vast majority of today's Young Conservatives irreparably damaged by their Spock upbringings. I have it on good authority, for instance, that Mr William Hague chooses to walk only in public: once the door to the Shadow Cabinet office is closed behind him, he will go down on all fours and crawl to his seat, followed, as often as not, by Mr Redwood and Mr Maude, and the three of them will refuse to stand up again until they have been extravagantly congratulated by the older father-figures present, such as the good Dr Mawhinney, often with the aid of a boiled sweety. Is this the world you really wanted, Spock? Well - IS IT?

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