I WAS SAILING with my friend, Affable Andy, last weekend when he asked me if I thought him boring. Evidently Affable's daughter has been complaining that she's the only child in her class with parents still on their first marriage. "I mean have you read that think-tank report?" Andy continued. I had. In The Times. Evidently, in future we will all have a rapid sequence of monogamous relationships and select different co-parents each time we want a child.
"I mean, it's building your family like a hi-fi deck," said Andy. "Tuner from Yamaha and a tape deck from WH Smith."
We live in perplexing times. Marriage seems increasingly difficult to sustain. Suddenly non acrimonious divorces - with adequate provision for the children - seem preferable to the feuding households I remember from my youth where, as a visitor, I noticed children playing the go-between in frosty "Ask-your-father-if-he's - had-enough-supper" marriages.
"I mean half the people in our staffroom are divorced," Andy grumbled on. "And the rest are all living with each other. Maybe I am dull and borig."
I think his problem lies not in dullness but simple confusion. Teachers are not supposed to notice the way society is going. According to Section 28 their job is to convey the Government's view that our common expectation is stable lifelong relationships. Even when sociologists are telling us that such things ain't gonna happen no more.
There must be times Andy and his colleagues feel like crew members on the Titanic.
Despite rumours to the contrary, they must pump out the official line: there are no sociological icebergs.
Captain Tony insists that the HMS Marriage is unsinkable. The fact that its hull is sticking vertically out of the water is an irresponsible rumour. If marriage is on the rocks it will only be at the last minute that the skipper will issue the Abandon Ship white paper. What a relief that will be for the teachers in Affable's staffroom.
Mind you, jumping this particular ship is no fun. The waters are chilly with broken family life, recrimination and financial hardship. That euphoria of honesty may well prove brief.