Sometime later I went for a coffee and walked into a conversation that was beginning to simmer.
“But he walks around as if nothing had happened. I see him as a child molester. Not very edifying is it?”
“I beg your pardon, Georgina. She was sixteen, she knew what she was doing and she was fully mature. Humans mate in private you know. The rest of us have no idea what went on there. So what right have you to pass judgement?”
Maureen was tense, speaking very fast.
Georgie blew a breath out of the side of her mouth looked sideways with an expression that said “no point in continuing this conversation”.
But in a moment she turned back to Maureen and said: “But I’d be so crazy if something like this happens to my girls when they reach that age.”
I think it was meant to be placatory.
“Well, let me disabuse you,” Maureen went on. “They’ll get the just same hormone rush. If they want to do it, they will do it — and there’s nothing to stop them. If I were you I would make sure they know all about birth-control.”
“But isn’t that a problem, Maureen? Lavinia will be loved and cared for and probably educated in a private school like you said because Norman has money. But in the cities teenage girls make feral children who roam the streets and riot — and they get paid to do it, the state supports them.”
“Would you go back to the past, punish them, shame them, confiscate their children, drive them away from their communities, like in Tess of the D’Urbervilles?”
I wanted to hear Georgina’s answer but she just raised her eyebrows again and looked away.
At that moment Maureen’s mobile phone rang. She answered, hurriedly, “Yes, of course, I quite understand…not to worry,” clearly very determined to get on and finish her point.
“Listen, Georgina. She was sixteen and it was consensual. No law was broken. I am sure our politicians should be more up-front about the consequences of teenage pregnancies. But I don’t think young people’s lives should be ruined because they make mistakes.”
Georgina made to go and gave Maureen a rather routine hug, but I could tell Maureen was still very tense.
As soon as Georgie left, Maureen told me our lunch guests couldn’t make it.
Then she realised she had left the scallops in their shells in the oven too long and the breadcrumb topping was burned and black.
“I’m binning them,” she said. “The scallops will be horrible and chewy.”
Then she laughed, as she does, and kissed me on the cheek and said: “It’ just you and me — and I’m not sorry.”
Over lunch Maureen said: “The trouble is she’s right. I believe Lavinia will have a loving, if unorthodox, family and will get a very good education. But what can those teenage single mums in sink estates give their children except love — and love doesn’t pay the bills or keep the kids off the streets? We’ve set a poor example to them. ”
It turns that Georgie had actually come to talk to Maureen about a new anti-obesity preparation. Obesity is her big thing. She wants to get up a national petition to get more preparations like the one she was showing Maureen available on the National Health Service.