I survived the death pathway: Patricia, 82, was given two days to live, but her family defied doctors and gave her water through a straw – now she’s planning a world cruise
Her devastated family had been told Patricia Greenwood was dying. Doctors at the hospital had removed all feeding tubes and drips and placed the 82-year-old grandmother on the Liverpool Care Pathway. Her children and grandchildren were told to say their last goodbyes.
But they said no. And after they defied hospital orders and gave Mrs Greenwood drops of water, her family helped her make a remarkable recovery.
Within hours, Mrs Greenwood was eating and drinking for herself and is now back at home and proud to call herself a Liverpool Care Pathway survivor. The former singer and pub landlady is planning to go on a world cruise, looking after her great-grandchildren at home and will attend her son-in-law’s 50th birthday party this weekend.
The hospital concerned has been paid more than £600,000 in the last two years to hit targets for the number of patients who die on the Pathway, according to documents uncovered by the Mail.
Last night Mrs Greenwood said she is angry that doctors gave up on her and has welcomed the announcement of a review into the ‘end of life’ treatment regime.
The Mail has highlighted growing fears of patients’ relatives and doctors that the Pathway is being applied to patients without their families’ knowledge and when they still have a chance of recovery.
The regime, which involves the withdrawal of food and fluids as well as medical treatment, is designed to be used on patients who are dying. Doctors try to ease their suffering in their final hours instead of trying to save them. Yet critics say it is impossible to predict accurately when a patient may die and that the Pathway instead becomes a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ that hastens their death.
The average survival of a patient on the Pathway is just 29 hours. But some patients taken off the Pathway at the insistence of their relatives have lived for several months.
Last night, Mrs Greenwood told how she survived being put on the Pathway. ‘I fought it,’ she said. ‘I wasn’t going to go, I was not ready. I’ve got my grandchildren and great-grandchildren and another great-grandchild on the way. I’ve been pottering around at home, we have some fun.
‘It frightens me because I could have missed all of this. It’s not right, if you’re not ready to die, you’re not ready to die – and I was not prepared to die.’
Mrs Greenwood was admitted to the Victoria Hospital in Blackpool in August after a problem with her heart valve led to fluid in her stomach. Her health deteriorated rapidly after she had a fall in hospital that fractured her hip and she was put on morphine to ease the pain.
Her two sons and daughter were called in to a meeting with a doctor who told them their mother had only two days to live and that they should say their last goodbyes.
Her son Terry Greenwood, 57, said: ‘The doctor said he had taken her off all feeding tubes because he did not expect her to live past the weekend. We were devastated.
‘But when we told her granddaughters the news they went mad and said that grandma was a fighter and we should not give up on her. We went to Mum’s bedside and started talking to her. We knew she could hear us. She kept smiling when anyone said something funny.
‘I asked Mum if she was thirsty and she nodded. I held a cup of water to her lips, but she was not strong enough to suck on the straw. So I put my thumb over the end of the straw and dipped it in the water so I could feed her a full straw of water. ‘I fed her for more than an hour with the straw and she opened her eyes and could talk to us, the water seemed to stimulate her.
‘The day after I did the same, but a nurse took my wife to one side and told her that I should not be feeding her this way because she might choke. ‘I was livid. The nurses could see what we were doing and every time we gave her water she came round and could talk to us.’
Doctors, who could not deny the positive response by Mrs Greenwood, agreed to the family’s request to put her back on a drip, and the next day she was sitting up in bed eating and drinking by herself.
Mrs Greenwood, who entertained troops during the war as a singer, has returned to the home she shares with her daughter and son-in-law. She walks with the help of a Zimmer frame and plans to attend his 50th birthday celebrations at a pub this weekend.
‘They thought I was not going to make it, I proved them wrong. Looking at the other old ladies in hospital, you would see them in bed and think “oh they’re be alright tomorrow” and they weren’t, they were in a coffin. Oh no, I’m sorry, not for me. I’m only 82, I’m only young yet.’
Mr Greenwood said: ‘If you asked people what they would give to just spend ten more minutes with their mother or father, people would give their right arm, and we’ve had so much more than that.’
Mrs Greenwood’s daughter Tina Hopkins, 52, added: ‘I know that my mum would not have wanted to have died the way that she was – bruised and battered and broken.
‘To get her back home now, to see how she is now, yes, anything could happen in the next month or the next year, but we will still have had that time with our mum.’
Last night Mr Greenwood was appalled at the revelation the hospital was receiving money for meeting targets for putting patients on the pathway.
‘I am absolutely disgusted,’ he said. ‘This puts this whole thing in a totally different light. They’re making money out of killing people.’
Junior doctors and midwives blamed for £3bn payout to mothers and babies damaged by NHS care
Blunders by junior doctors and novice midwives have been blamed for a ‘staggering’ £3 billion in legal claims paid out to mothers and babies damaged by NHS maternity care.
A new report says a lack of consultants to help when things go wrong is partly responsible for more than 5,000 claims against the NHS settled over the last 10 years.
Almost half the cost of litigation went in settling 542 cases of cerebral palsy, including the lifelong cost of future treatment and care.
Mistakes in the management of labour, carrying out Caesarean sections, interpreting scans and monitoring the baby’s heartbeat were the most common problem areas, said the report from the NHS Litigation Authority.
The report found around 1 in 1,000 births ended in litigation between 2000 and 2010, costing a total of £3.1bn including £1.3 bn on cerebral palsy, with poorly trained staff often involved.
Most failures to detect abnormalities on ultrasound scans during pregnancy were down to ‘human error’, with staff failing to follow national guidelines.
Many parents claimed for compensation for bringing up a disabled child after ‘wrongful birth’, saying they would have chosen a termination had they known in advance of the birth defect.
lll-trained staff often failed to recognise anomalies in the baby’s heart rate, or act on it, especially close to birth.
Almost two-thirds of errors occurred outside ‘normal’ working hours and at weekends, says the report.
More than half of claims for a ruptured womb came from a ‘natural’ birth after a previous Caesarean section, with delays in diagnosis found in many cases.
The report said many women suffered from misdiagnosis of severe tears to the vagina and rectum during birth, often badly repaired by junior staff.
David Richmond, vice president (clinical quality) of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) said the NHS must ensure consultants are available ‘day and night’ to support trainee doctors and women in labour.
He said ‘The report is staggering in its stark facts and the reality of the enormous costs of maternity litigation. Hidden behind the financial burden are countless stories of tragedy to individuals and families, which are not included in this report.
‘This is a serious wake-up call to all with responsibilities in providing maternity care, whether as providers, commissioners or regulators.
He said: ‘As a true 24/7 emergency discipline, surely it is time to recognise that fully trained doctors must be available on site throughout the day and night.
‘This supports earlier recommendations from RCOG reports of the need for greater consultant presence on the labour ward. Parallel increases in midwifery numbers at the appropriate grade are also needed.
‘The cost of fully staffing the units in England and Wales would be around half the cost of litigation per year and would contribute to reducing the claims considerably.’
The report found the average time for settling a claim was four years – which doubled for claims costing more than £1 million.
Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said ‘The biggest issue behind these claims is that most of the lessons to be learned from them are not new.
‘It is tragic that the same problems reoccur in our maternity services year on year. The big question we all have to ask ourselves is why is it so difficult for well meaning professionals to put learning into practice?
Britain’s Gestapo in WWII
There is nothing to prevent it from happening again. It was supported by both political parties and continued even after the war was over. So wartime pressures may have initially been an excuse but are no excuse for its continuation
Is this a Nazi? No. It is British torturer Colonel Robin Stephens
Britain has a reputation as a nation that prides itself on its love of fair play and respect for the rule of law. We claim the moral high ground when it comes to human rights. We were among the first to sign the 1929 Geneva Convention on the humane treatment of prisoners of war.
Surely, you would think, the British avoid torture? But you would be wrong, as my research into what has gone on behind closed doors for decades shows.
It was in 2005 during my work as an investigative reporter that I came across a veiled mention of a World War II detention centre known as the London Cage. It took a number of Freedom Of Information requests to the Foreign Office before government files were reluctantly handed over.
From these, a sinister world unfolded — of a torture centre that the British military operated throughout the Forties, in complete secrecy, in the heart of one of the most exclusive neighbourhoods in the capital.
Thousands of Germans passed through the unit that became known as the London Cage, where they were beaten, deprived of sleep and forced to assume stress positions for days at a time.
Some were told they were to be murdered and their bodies quietly buried. Others were threatened with unnecessary surgery carried out by people with no medical qualifications. Guards boasted that they were ‘the English Gestapo’.
The London Cage was part of a network of nine ‘cages’ around Britain run by the Prisoner of War Interrogation Section (PWIS), which came under the jurisdiction of the Directorate of Military Intelligence.
Three, at Doncaster, Kempton Park and Lingfield, were at hastily converted racecourses. Another was at the ground of Preston North End Football Club. Most were benignly run.
But prisoners thought to possess valuable information were whisked off to a top-secret unit in a row of grandiose Victorian villas in Kensington Palace Gardens, then (as now) one of the smartest locations in London.
Today, the tree-lined street a stone’s throw from Kensington Palace is home to ambassadors and billionaires, sultans and princes. Houses change hands for £50 million and more.
Yet it was here, seven decades ago, in five interrogation rooms, in cells and in the guardroom in numbers six, seven and eight Kensington Palace Gardens, that nine officers, assisted by a dozen NCOs, used whatever methods they thought necessary to squeeze information from suspects.
So, how can we be sure about the methods used at the London Cage? Because the man who ran it admitted as much — and was hushed up for half-a-century by an establishment fearful of the shame his story would bring on a Britain that had been fighting for honesty, decency and the rule of law.
That man was Colonel Alexander Scotland, an accepted master in techniques of interrogation. After the war, he wrote a candid account of his activities in his memoirs, in which he recalled how he would muse, on arriving at the Cage each morning: ‘Abandon all hope ye who enter here.’
Because, he said, before going into detail: ‘If any German had any information we wanted, it was invariably extracted from him in the long run.’
As was customary, before publication Scotland submitted his manuscript to the War Office for clearance in 1954. Pandemonium erupted. All four copies were seized. All those who knew of its contents were silenced with threats of prosecution under the Official Secrets Act.
What caused the greatest consternation was his admission that the horrors had continued after the war, when interrogators switched from extracting military intelligence to securing convictions for war crimes.
Of 3,573 prisoners who passed through Kensington Palace Gardens, more than 1,000 were persuaded to sign a confession or give a witness statement for use in war crimes prosecutions.
Fritz Knöchlein, a former lieutenant colonel in the Waffen SS, was one such case. He was suspected of ordering the machine-gunning of 124 British soldiers who surrendered at Le Paradis in northern France during the Dunkirk evacuation in 1940. His defence was that he was not even there.
At his trial, he claimed he had been tortured in the London Cage after the war. He was deprived of sleep for four days and nights after arriving in October 1946 and forced to walk in a tight circle for four hours while being kicked by a guard at each turn.
He was made to clean stairs and lavatories with a tiny rag, for days at a time, while buckets of water were poured over him. If he dared to rest, he was cudgelled. He was also forced to run in circles in the grounds of the house while carrying heavy logs and barrels. When he complained, the treatment simply got worse.
Nor was he the only one. He said men were repeatedly beaten about the face and had hair ripped from their heads. A fellow inmate begged to be killed because he couldn’t take any more brutality.
All Knöchlein’s accusations were ignored, however. He was found guilty and hanged.
Suspects in another high-profile war crime — the shooting of 50 RAF officers who broke out from a prison camp, Stalag Luft III, in what became known as the Great Escape — also passed through the Cage.
Of the 21 accused, 14 were hanged after a war-crimes trial in Hamburg. Many confessed only after being interrogated by Scotland and his men. In court, they protested that they had been starved, whipped and systematically beaten. Some said they had been menaced with red-hot pokers and ‘threatened with electrical devices’.
Scotland, of course, denied allegations of torture, going into the witness box at one trial after another to say his accusers were lying.
It was all the more surprising, then, that a few years later he was willing to come clean about the techniques he employed at the London Cage.
In his memoirs, he disclosed that a number of men were forced to incriminate themselves. A general was sentenced to death in 1946 after signing a confession at the Cage while, in Scotland’s words, ‘acutely depressed after the various examinations’.
A naval officer was convicted on the basis of a confession that Scotland said he had signed only after being ‘subject to certain degrading duties’.
Scotland also acknowledged that one of the men accused of the ‘Great Escape’ murders went to the gallows even though he had confessed after he had — in Scotland’s own words — been ‘worked on psychologically’. At his trial, the man insisted he had been ‘worked on’ physically as well.
Others did not share Scotland’s eagerness to boast about what had gone on in Kensington Park Gardens. An MI5 legal adviser who read his manuscript concluded that Scotland and fellow interrogators had been guilty of a ‘clear breach’ of the Geneva Convention.
They could have faced war-crimes charges themselves for forcing prisoners to stand to attention for more than 24 hours at a time; forcing them to kneel while they were beaten about the head; threatening to have them shot; threatening one prisoner with an unnecessary appendix operation to be performed on him by another inmate with no medical qualifications.
Appalled by the embarrassment his manuscript would cause if it ever came out, the War Office and the Foreign Office both declared that it would never see the light of day.
Two years later, however, they were forced to strike a deal with him after he threatened to publish his book abroad. He was told he would never be allowed to recover his original manuscript, but agreement was given to a rewritten version in which every line of incriminating material had been expunged.
A heavily censored version of The London Cage duly appeared in the bookshops in 1957. But officials at the War Office, and their successors at the Ministry of Defence, remained troubled.
Years later, in September 1979, Scotland’s publishers wrote to the Ministry of Defence out of the blue asking for a copy of the original manuscript by the now dead colonel for their archives.
The request triggered fresh panic as civil servants sought reasons to deny the request. But in the end they quietly deposited a copy in what is now the National Archives at Kew, where it went unnoticed — until I found it a quarter of a century later.
Is there more to tell about the London Cage? Almost certainly. Even now, some of the MoD’s files on it remain beyond reach.
The Cage was not, however, Britain’s only secret interrogation centre during and after World War II. MI5 also operated an interrogation centre, code-named Camp 020, at Latchmere House, a Victorian mansion near Ham Common in South-West London, whose 30 rooms were turned into cells with hidden microphones.
The first of the German spies who arrived in Britain in September 1940 were taken there. Vital information about a coming German invasion was extracted at great speed. This indicates the use of extreme methods, but these were desperate days demanding desperate measures. In charge was Colonel Robin Stephens, known as ‘Tin Eye’, because of the monocle fixed to his right eye.
It was not a term of affection. The object of interrogation, Stephens told his officers, was simple: ‘Truth in the shortest possible time.’ A top secret memo spoke of ‘special methods’, but did not elaborate.
He arranged for an additional 92-cell block to be added to Latchmere House, plus a punishment room — known chillingly as Cell 13 — which was completely bare, with smooth walls and a linoleum floor.
Close to 500 people passed through the gates of Camp 020. Principal among them were German spies, many of whom were ‘turned’ and persuaded — or maybe forced — to work for MI5.
Its first inmates were members of the British Union of Fascists. Some were held in cells brightly lit 24 hours a day, others in cells kept in total darkness.
Several prisoners were subjected to mock executions and were knocked about by the guards. Some were apparently left naked for months at a time.
Camp 020 had a resident medical officer, Harold Dearden, a psychiatrist who dreamed up regimes of starvation and of sleep and sensory deprivation intended to break the will of its inmates. He experimented in techniques of torment that left few marks — methods that could be denied by the torturers and that civil servants and government ministers could disown.
These techniques surfaced again after the war in a British interrogation facility at Bad Nenndorf, a German spa town, in one of the internment camps for those considered a threat to the Allied occupation.
In the four years after the war, 95,000 people were interned in the British zone of Allied-occupied Germany. Some were interrogated by what was now termed the Intelligence Division.
In charge of Bad Nenndorf was ‘Tin Eye’ Stephens, on attachment from MI5, and drawing on his Camp 020 experiences. An inmate recalled him yelling questions at prisoners and then punching them.
Over the next two years, 372 men and 44 women would pass through his hands. One German inmate recalled being told by a British intelligence officer: ‘We are not bound by any rules or regulations. We do not care a damn whether you leave this place on a stretcher or in a hearse.’
He was made to sleep on a wet floor in a temperature of minus 20 degrees for three days. Four of his toes had to be amputated due to frostbite.
A doctor in a nearby hospital complained about the number of detainees brought to him filthy, confused and suffering from multiple injuries and frostbite. Many were painfully emaciated after months of starvation. A number died.
The regime was intended to weaken, humiliate and intimidate prisoners.
With complaints soaring, a British court of inquiry was convened to investigate what had been going at Bad Nenndorf. It concluded that former inmates’ allegations of physical assault were substantially correct. Stephens and four other officers were arrested while Bad Nenndorf was abruptly closed.
But there was a quandary for the Labour government. The political fallout could be deeply damaging. There were other similar interrogation centres in Germany. From the very top, there were urgent moves to hush things up.
Stephens’ court martial for ill-treatment of prisoners was heard behind closed doors. He did not deny any of the horrors. His defence was that he had no idea the prisoners for whom he was responsible were being beaten, whipped, frozen, deprived of sleep and starved to death.
This was the very defence that had been offered — unsuccessfully — by Nazi concentration camp commandants at war-crimes trials. But he was acquitted. The suspicion remains that he got off because, if cruelties did occur at Bad Nenndorf, they had been authorised by government ministers.
A Dinosaur who did well
Stanley Johnson’s ideas make him a dinosaur by modern politically correct standards but the quality of his children speaks for itself
The man responsible for launching Boris Johnson and his look-alike siblings on the world is holding forth on the modern obsession with parenting. ‘I was brought up on a farm,’ he says. ‘Sheep have lambs, cows have calves, humans have babies. You don’t spend a lot of time thinking about how to bring them up.’
He sounds positively affronted at the very idea of parents agonising about the best way to raise a family. ‘I didn’t give it any thought at all, absolutely not.’ This seemingly laissez-faire approach to parenting has proved remarkably fruitful.
Stanley Johnson has raised six staggeringly bright children, all of whom got into Oxbridge: Boris the London mayor; Rachel the journalist; Leo the eco-entrepreneur turned film-maker; Jo the Conservative MP; Julia the singer and Latin teacher; and Max, who has just joined Goldman Sachs. With little parental interference they have all grown up to be bright, funny and fiercely ambitious.
Rachel, editor-in-chief of The Lady magazine, has written a chapter in her new book, How Rude: Modern Manners Defined, that advises the world to ‘unparent’ — to stop being so hands-on and fussy with our children and to follow the example of her own parents.
She attributes the success of the Johnson children to benign parental neglect. ‘My father was more proud that he had never been to a parents’ evening than the fact that all six of his children got into Oxbridge,’ she says.
The Johnson childhood she describes was one of minimal TV, grim, chilly holidays spent collecting firewood on windy Exmoor and bouts of corporal punishment. Despite such privations, she advocates her parents’ hands-off approach as typical of a lost ideal of restraint and good sense.
Her father recognises much of what Rachel describes in her book, but fiercely objects to her claims of corporal punishment. ‘I can imagine a smack if they ran into the road, but that was that,’ he says.
Stanley Johnson, 72, traveller, environmentalist, novelist and political animal, became a father at just 24. It was the Sixties and when it came to being a parent, he recalls, ‘things were much easier then’.
‘When Alexander [Boris is his second name] was born, I was on an academic scholarship in America,’ he says. ‘For four months we travelled around the U.S. in an air-conditioned Chevrolet Bel Air.
‘Boris had just been born and a week or two later we set off. Then you could just put the baby on the back seat — it was much easier before health & safety.
‘You could have a lunch in a restaurant, leave the baby on the back seat in the car park, come back and he was still there. It was all perfectly straightforward!’
Stanley is not trying to claim all — or any — credit for his progeny. ‘Let’s be fair, I’ve had two wonderful wives who have done all the things that wives do, so I have been fantastically lucky,’ he says.
His first wife, Charlotte, with whom he is still friends, lives in Notting Hill, West London, and is a talented painter and mother to the eldest four Johnson siblings. His second wife, Jenny, is mother to Julia and Max.
Education was paramount when it came to the children. Stanley says he was always around for the big decisions, such as whether to send one of them to boarding school. ‘There are some aspects of education that are too important to be left to mothers,’ he says half-jokingly.
But he is dismissive of the idea that having six children go to Oxbridge is in any way noteworthy. ‘It never struck me that was particularly remarkable,’ he says. ‘What do you expect if you send your kids to Eton and St Paul’s? I assumed that’s where they would go.’
The odd thing about the Johnson parenting technique is that it was part laid-back and hands-off, and part pure ‘Tiger Father’. Extremely high expectations were a given.
His youngest daughter Julia once said that if they ever came second in Latin, their father would say: ‘Who came first?’ It became a standard catchphrase in the household, and a vigorous deterrent against being anything except top.
The six children were fiercely competitive, and when Jo got a first at Oxford, which Boris had failed to do, Rachel famously rang him to break the ‘terrible news’. Boris set a formidable academic standard, and his siblings vied to match or beat his achievements.
Stanley describes his eldest son as ‘the great prodigious tree in the rainforest, in the shade of which the smaller trees must either perish or struggle to find their own place in the sun’.
He is unrepentant about creating a competitive atmosphere. ‘Why shouldn’t they come top — if they can’t, who can?’
Stanley went to Exeter College, Oxford — on a scholarship to read Greats (classics) — but today he laments the state of schools and education. He worries that there are fewer and fewer opportunities for bright children whose parents can’t afford the fees of schools such as Eton and St Paul’s.
‘The political point is that the schools where you can send your kids are fewer than they were 50 years ago because you hadn’t had the closure of the grammar schools then,’ he says. ‘Now everyone is scrabbling around for places.’
He believes, as Boris does, that the demise of grammar schools ‘was a big mistake. The Tories should reverse their policy and support and expand them’. He is also evangelical about the role good schools can play in children’s upbringings.
‘I would argue that parenting is far too important to be left to parents,’ he says. ‘What on Earth do they know? Whereas, in fact, there are some perfectly good people out there who are doing perfectly good things at schools. Let them get on with it.’
When the Johnsons weren’t in school, they were engaged in ‘cut-throat mealtime quizzes’, as Julia describes them, or engrossed in books.
Stanley recalls taking them on safari once in Africa and pointing to a leopard with its kill in a tree — a very rare sight. When he turned around, Boris, then ten, Rachel, eight, and Leo, six, were engrossed in their books and barely looked up.
As for TV, it was limited and hardly worth the trouble. ‘On Exmoor, where we sometimes spent the holidays, it was quite a complicated thing getting the generator going,’ says Stanley.
‘You had to go out to the barn, squirt something called Easy Start into a cylinder box and start turning a handle. If you did get it going then it was a black-and-white TV that flickered like mad. I vaguely remember Dixon Of Dock Green.’
Given that his offspring’s childhood involved bucolic holidays in one of the most beautiful parts of the West Country, he doesn’t buy Rachel’s thesis that they had a tough upbringing. ‘They never had to spend a day shearing, for example,’ he says. ‘The operations of a sheep farmer’s calendar — lambing, docking, shearing — all those things require sheer physical toil. I very much doubt that any of the kids ever had to do anything like that.’
And what about the allegations of unaccompanied childhood travel? Rachel recalls that she and Boris, then ten and 11, crossed Europe alone — leaving Brussels, where Stanley was an MEP, and making their way with their trunks by trains and ferry back to school, dodging sweet-proffering paedophiles along the way.
‘I can’t see anything wrong in that,’ says Stanley.
‘OK, let’s talk about the paedophiles. Don’t you think people exaggerate this whole thing?
‘Why is everything jammed up around Primrose Hill in London at 4pm? Because it’s all these mothers driving. What on Earth is wrong with kids walking to school? When we lived in Regent’s Park, Max walked to school at the age of nine.’
There was certainly no pandering to childhood whims. Rachel remembers a total lack of choice in all matters, apart from what to read. Certainly, there was no picking and choosing at mealtimes.
‘Quite right, too,’ says Stanley. ‘When I grew up on the farm, you had eggs for breakfast and eggs for tea — you might have something else in the middle of the day.’
He looks at me in disbelief when I admit I sometimes give my children a choice. ‘Are you saying that kids now say I won’t have this or that?’ he asks. ‘Good God, I wouldn’t put up with any of that!’
His family ate out only once, at a Happy Eater on the A303 where the children were allowed to choose spag bol from the children’s menu.
‘The whole concept of restaurants!’ Stanley muses. ‘It’s taken me a very long time to get used to the idea. ‘I go back to my childhood on Exmoor. In the Fifties and Sixties there were no restaurants there. And if there had been, you wouldn’t have been seen dead in them.
‘If a farmer wanted a drink, he went to the pub, but he certainly didn’t go to the pub to eat. It is a bizarre development that you can’t have a drink in a pub because everybody is having a meal.
‘The reality is that if you are bringing up four, or six, children, you are not going to go to restaurants.’
When the family went on ferries, Stanley booked the cheapest crossing in the middle of the night, with no cabin. ‘We slept in the car and Rachel is probably right in her recollection that even in the front seat I used to put my pyjamas on.
‘I’ve just been sleeping in the desert in Turkmenistan, where I was following the footsteps of Tamburlaine the Great, and I don’t like waking up in the previous day’s clothes. So I dare say I did that in the car, which she rightly remembers as being an Opel Kadett.’
And is it true he never went to a parents’ evening? ‘I went to one, though I only lasted 15 minutes. I wouldn’t have made a habit of it,’ he says.
‘Though I did once address the girls of St Paul’s on the subject of birth control when Rachel was there.’ (The first four of his books were about how to control the world’s population.)
Stanley couldn’t resist a joke: ‘I said to the girls: “The crucial thing in life is to control your fertility, even if it means putting a book between your legs!”’
When Rachel was older, she threatened to stay on a kibbutz with a handsome Israeli shepherd rather than go to Oxford. She was put off by her father’s response down the phone from his office in Brussels: ‘Great scheme!’ The effect, as she tells it, was to take the fun and glamour out of the idea immediately.
She must have inherited her nomadic instincts from her father. After failing to win Teignbridge for the Tories in 2005, Stanley spent a few years globe-trotting in search of endangered animals and vanishing tribes. His entertaining new book, Where The Wild Things Were, chronicles his travels.
Remaining in one place has never appealed to Stanley. His first wife complained that they relocated 32 times during their marriage. ‘What’s wrong with that?’ he says.
And when it comes to the modern business of ‘self-conscious parenting’ — agonising about every mealtime and trip to the playground — Johnson is also pragmatic.
‘Basically, we’re all just trying to get through the day, aren’t we, without a disaster? It’s true with our children and it’s true of marriage. ‘People think that the object of the exercise is to be happy. What total garbage that is. Why on Earth should it be?
‘I would have thought the object is for people to stretch themselves in every possible way in accordance with their abilities. ‘Now we seem to be transfixed with the idea that we need to produce a happy child.’
So, happiness may be optional — but coming top is a must. Bear that in mind the next time Boris denies he wants David Cameron’s job.
Pupils aged ten should learn about porn as part of the national curriculum, British teaching union claims
Schoolchildren as young as ten should learn about pornography as part of the national curriculum, a teaching union said yesterday
The National Association of Headteachers said primary school teachers needed to respond to the fact that children were now getting a large amount of their information about sex from the internet.
They said sex education guidelines are hopelessly out of date and cannot cope with the ‘overtly sexualised world’ in which children are now growing up.
But many family campaigners will argue that teaching children about pornography could actually make the situation worse, because children could be introduced to the concept for the first time.
Campaigners say the easy access of porn online is harming children, and the NSPCC says they have seen an upsurge in calls from teenagers upset by what they have seen.
However, another teaching union – the National Union of Teachers – said it was too early to start teaching children about porn at primary school.
The Daily Mail is campaigning for an automatic block on web porn, with adults having to opt in if they want to access it.
In an interview with BBC Radio 1’s Newsbeat programme, NAHT policy adviser Sion Humphreys said teachers should hold lessons on the ‘impact of pornography’.
‘Children are growing up in an overtly sexualised world,’ he said. ‘That includes easy access to porn and they need the skills to deal with it.
‘We would support children being taught in an age-appropriate way about the impact of pornography as part of a statutory Personal Social Health Education programme.’
Mr Humphreys said that lessons could start from primary school but that the material would depend on age.
‘Evidence suggests ten isn’t too young to start lessons on pornography, but it wouldn’t be a full-on lesson but the grounding would be laid down,’ he said.
At the moment, PSHE, which includes sex and relationships education, is not compulsory in England, unlike other parts of the UK.
Biological facts are part of all lessons in secondary school science lessons. Beyond that parents have the right to withdraw their children from any sex education.
The National Union of Teachers however disagreed with their union colleagues. They told the BBC that referring to issues of porn in lessons is a step too far, and that schools should only talk about it if asked by students.
But Leonie Hodge, from the charity Family Lives, said it was vital children learned about porn. She said that at a time when 90 per cent of children own a smartphone, it is no longer relevant to talk about ‘making a baby’.
She said: ‘Teenagers are bombarded with pornography from a young age; you can’t escape it. It’s patronising to say they can’t cope with the lesson because they can.’
Siobhan Freegard, founder of website Netmums, said mothers frequently panic when they come across porn on a computer at home and would welcome support from schools.
She said: ‘It can be a minefield. Many don’t know what to do or say. For example a single mother may struggle with teenage boys, a single father may not know how to approach the subject with his daughter.
‘In very traditional households, they might not even talk about sex at all. The ideal solution is for schools and parents to work together.’
The Department of Education would not comment on the NAHT’s suggestion, but told Newsbeat that it is up to individual schools on how they teach sex education.
Global cooling hits Britain!
Don’t like the logic of the heading above? It’s more logical than saying that drought in parts of America proves global warming — though that’s not saying much
Northern counties yesterday saw the first snow of winter and tonight temperatures in southern England are expected to fall to a chilly -3C. Hundreds of gritters were on standby to treat roads around the country last night as forecasters warned some areas were as cold as Moscow.
As temperatures plummet towards freezing, the first snow fell in Northumberland today. Milder temperatures will move in tomorrow, but widespread persistent rain and high winds means it will still be a day best spent in front of the fire.
There was snow on the ground in Scotland and Northumberland yesterday, leaving a dusting on fields and pavements as temperatures dipped below zero.
A Met Office spokesman said the snow was falling much earlier than last year, when snowflakes were not reported until December.
Charlie Powell, a spokesman for the Met Office said: ‘Some parts of the country are as cold as Moscow today. Those in Northumberland are experiencing temperatures between 3 and 4C.