Tale of the love that dare not board its plane

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The Independent Online
I EXPERIENCED a lowering sense of deja vu when Mark Watson, an immigration officer, was jailed last week for trying to keep his Brazilian lover in the country. Watson had falsified his lover's passport and created a bogus Home Office file, but as his defence lawyer pointed out, if the lover had been a woman, none of this would have been necessary: he could have hoped for sympathetic consideration of an application for a permanent stay. My friend Jack also fell in love with a Brazilian man, in Brazil. They wrote for six months, and were pretty sure they wanted to be together, but decided that Francisco should first come to Britain for a 40-day holiday (as he was entitled to, in theory) and attend a language school while they decided whether their relationship was as solid as it seemed. Only then would either or both of them throw up everything and move.

Francisco, a freelance photographer in a country whose currency doesn't convert well, arrived at Heathrow with dollars 100. Whisked in for questioning - the assumption was he was here to work - he explained that Jack, who earns pounds 60,000 as a director of a public relations company (and is, incidentally, just about the most law-abiding citizen you could hope to meet) would support him for the duration. Jack was also brought in for an eight-hour interrogation - which he describes as 'the most humiliating experience I've ever been subjected to' - at the end of which, Francisco was sent home. The authorities decided he was here to work, despite the fact that his language school fees were already paid.

Jack visited Francisco in Brazil, and they wrote for another year before trying again. This time, Jack borrowed dollars 8,000 over the weekend, and met Francisco in Lisbon to give him the money. They flew back to Heathrow together, where, by mistake, Jack picked up the bag that was tagged on Francisco's ticket. Inevitably, Francisco was questioned, and the discrepancy was discovered. They had another eight hours of interrogation, in separate, bare rooms, sitting on metal chairs chained to tables. This time the customs officers said the relationship made it unlikely Francisco would leave at the end of his course, although he had a ticket home, and owned a flat in Rio. After nine hours, Jack was told Francisco would be leaving in 10 minutes, and, for the first time in his life, fainted. They were not allowed to say goodbye.

Jack followed Francisco to Lisbon, where he was finally allowed to see him, weeping, on his plane, and retrieve his dollars 8,000. He still can't believe that when he only ever intended to abide by immigration laws - he would have left Britain himself, if necessary - he was subjected to such bruising questioning, such assumptions he was up to no good. The least militant of gays, he feels in this case he was subjected to insititutionalised homophobia. As for Francisco, he had a nervous breakdown.

THE burning question of the week has been whether a school teacher, now dead, beat boys during the 1960s. More than a quarter of the Times's letters page was devoted to this urgent subject on Thursday, and nearly as much again on Friday. Long articles investigating the matter also appeared in the London Evening Standard and the Telegraph. But this is perhaps explained by the fact that the teacher was headmaster of Eton. I'm not sure why people are so fascinated with this particular school - especially since, if the Times's correspondents are anything to go by, many of the expensive educations procured there appear to be so bad. Half the former pupils of Eton, as indeed, of Bradfield and Shrewsbury, where Anthony Chevenix-Trench also taught, apparently suffer from defective powers of observation and/or memory. Some former pupils recall that he could beat an entire divinity class of 20 in an afternoon, and only admitted boys to Bradfield if they let him beat them first. Others insist this is nonsense, and say peevishly that they're surprised Eton's vice-

provost, Tim Card, should have provoked such an unseemly fuss by suggesting anything of the sort. Most alarming, however, are those, the majority, who say that yes, Chevenix-Trench did beat people but it didn't matter because he did it courteously.

WINDOW latches are officially men's work. Jean Ginder took her husband to court to prove that his failure to fix a window latch was responsible for a fall from a roof which seriously injured her back, and the law found in her favour. I am very glad that the Ginders will get damages, since Mrs Ginder is now in a wheelchair. But otherwise I think this is an appalling decision. It implies that latches are beyond girls, and makes me think (guiltily) of my new microwave. Last year, when I was a single parent, I would have thought nothing of putting a plug on a microwave myself. Now I'm no longer the only adult around, I assume it's men's work. I am not proud of this. And I'd hate any court to come along and tell me that plugs are men's work, because that would almost certainly leave me with all the washing up. That said, I feel there are some things that men still do with more panache. My own have- a-go-hero, as I now like to think of him, chased two burglars and a dog last week, and retrieved the handbag and briefcase - my handbag and briefcase - they'd just stolen. I feel the ability to do this is a very attractive quality in a man.

JOHN MAJOR chickened out, not giving Helmut Kohl some of our splendid British beef for dinner. The Germans have somehow got it into their heads that since BSE has a possible incubation period of 30 years, it's too soon to be able to say whether it's transmissible to humans. They've also acquired some new theory that because infected cattle are still being born long after the supposedly responsible food was banned, BSE could be something to do with pesticides. Funny foreigners. Next they'll be trying to ban our lovely 'humpy backs' (the cod caught in large numbers around our shores, which are riddled with cancerous growths and ulcerations). As British scientists point out, these fish pose absolutely no risk to human health.