Secret vices

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Virtue - as Mrs Anne Turville of Wells in Somerset has found out this week - must often be its own reward. This week, an unhappy Mrs Turville, who uncovered the sordid secret of her boss (the town clerk) and told the town council, resigned from her job as clerk's assistant.

It is a simple and sadly typical tale. One fine morning, with the clerk engaged elsewhere, Mrs Turville - a respectable married woman of one and forty - was searching for an invoice concerning the town crier's laundry. The top drawer of the clerk's desk suggested itself as a likely place for the invoice to have secreted itself, so she opened it.

Inside was a pornographic magazine entitled Escort - a publication regrettably to be found on newsagents' shelves the length and breadth of Britain. You do not have to imagine Mrs Turville's shock, for she has given her own vivid description of it. "I was disgusted by what I found. I don't expect to find that kind of material when I go through his drawers, looking for invoices." Worse was clearly to follow. Somehow Mrs Turville became apprised not only of the nature of the magazine, but also of its contents. It was "filthy, and had disgusting pictures of readers' wives", she said. Although the circumstances are a bit murky, presumably Mrs Turville's determination to carry out her duties - and to discover the missing invoice - required an examination of the revolting item, page by page. Her mounting distress as she did so can only be guessed at.

Mrs Turville (who, from her photographs is not a showy woman, eschewing fashionable diets and expensive make-up) put two and two together. "I knew he was up to something," she said, "because every time I stopped typing or walked towards his room I heard his drawer slam shut." She couldn't cope: "Knowing that magazine was in there was a mental pressure on me."

It is, I suppose, to the council's credit that they took her complaint seriously. A special meeting was called and a vote was taken. The clerk survived by nine votes to seven, and it was suggested he seek counselling about his sex life. Mrs Turville herself, disillusioned, departed.

She should take heart. Her action will have served as a salutary lesson to the five million or so men who read dirty magazines. And, whereas the consequences of allowing her boss's solitary activities to go unchecked cannot be computed, now she has ensured that he has been quite properly shamed in front of the community, his wife and his two small children.

Fortunately a woman of Mrs Turville's character should have little trouble finding a new job. There are still institutions in Britain that require the highest moral standards - Eton College, for example. There the headmaster (a tougher cookie than the liberals of Wells) is clamping down upon drug- taking.Pupils may be subject to compulsory drug tests and room searches, to be administered by school matrons.

The problem confronting the school is that it is sometimes impossible to tell whether a pupil has been using drugs or not. Schoolwork, participation in games, social behaviour - all these may be entirely unaffected. Only a blood-test can reliably detect the scourge of drug-taking.

Strangely, the Eton decision was criticised in yesterday's Daily Telegraph, which complained that such tests might trap youngsters who only use drugs at home during the holidays, "which is not a matter for the school (but) ... for the parents". Yet it is surely an odd morality that would allow one child to be expelled from school for term-time Ecstasy-dropping, while another is permitted a pharmacy-full in the long vac.

A proper compromise would be for parents to administer tests themselves (samples can be collected by fitting false bottoms to lavatories, surreptitiously collecting nail-clippings or, in extremis, drawing blood).

This is essential because as with pornography, drug-taking is far too serious a matter to be overlooked simply because it is done in private and no one else is harmed.