You don't want to know about the little operation I'm going to have later this year, I don't want to know whether your head of department keeps a bottle of vodka at the back of his drawer and neither of us want to know about the US president's sex life. As long as people do their job properly we shouldn't pry. That is my belief and it has been further strengthened recently by nightmarish images of Bill Clinton getting carried away late at night and hitting the wrong button.
For the world to work we need the myth of professional infallibility. I became aware of this last weekend when Wild Rosemary rang up and suggested that instead of her coming round to dinner as usual we all went out to a restaurant 19 miles away. Rose is an old college friend. She swears, drinks and sometimes even looks like a trooper. Rose is great company and she's always ready with the latest hilarious anecdote about her disastrous love life. My problem is that - as of last week - Rose is also head of Romanian studies at my daughter's new school. For years this didn't matter. We positively looked forward to the latest lewd tales of Rosie's incompetent, boozy boss but unfortunately this woman is now Sarah Jane's headteacher.
Ever since term began I have been wondering how to avoid Sarah coming downstairs at midnight to find the Romanian teacher face down in our lavatory -or keeping the taxi driver waiting 20 minutes while she makes an anguished and incoherent call on our hall phone to the latest in a long line of unsuitable men. Fortunately, however, Rose seems to have developed a desire for discretion too. She even brought along a seemingly respectable surgeon as her escort for the evening. Chris turned out to be very good company but not entirely reassuring when I let slip about my rather delicate operation.
"Don't worry you'll be in and out before the afternoon play is finished. "
"You mean you listen to Radio 4 in the operating theatre?" I asked, swallowing.
"Well most anaesthetists prefer Radio 2 on but I always insist they switch over."
To be honest I no more wish to know that than I wish to be told that my daughter's new headmistress gets squiffy every Friday afternoon. Whatever has happened to professional mystique?