Full refund within 30 days if you're not completely satisfied.
July 1 - 7, 2009
James LeFanu dispenses medical advice telegraph.co.uk/health T
Lifeclass with Lesley Garner
Dear Lesley I agree with the advice you gave in your column two weeks ago to Derek, the man who has a deep friendship with another woman, about which his wife doesn’t know. I discovered that my husband was having such a friendship, which turned into an affair. Looking back, I could see many clues, but Icouldn’t gainsay his denials.
Part of the problem was that, because of this friendship, he couldn’t help but withdraw some of himself, and his support, from me. I often felt that he was being selfish or cold, but couldn’t put my finger on why. This, in turn, made me grumpy and short-tempered, so it was a vicious circle. I think it must be a rare person who can truly put all his or her energy and commitment into their marriage if they are emotionally engaged in a clandestine relationship elsewhere.
The anger I felt when I found out meant that all the good times we had spent together crumbled to dust. I truly dread to think how your reader’s wife would feel if she ever discovers a liaison that has continued for so long. May she never discover it. If he continues, she will eventually find out, and then who knows what will happen to their lives?
Dear Pamela Thanks to you and the other readers who have written to tell me what it feels like to be the partner of someone who has formed an intense friendship – it doesn’t have to be a full-blown, sexual affair – with someone of the opposite sex.
Derek wrote to ask if it is possible to be married and have a deep friendship with another woman. It is obvious,from your responses that anyone who tries this is: a) fooling themselves; and b)risking their marriage and more. Deep emotional relationships are not rendered harmless by the fact that the couples never actually sleep together. What does the damage is the keeping of a secret and the emotional withdrawal from the marriage that the relationship brings about.
Catherine wanted to tell me “how it felt being the wife in such a situation”. She was driven to issue an ultimatum to her husband of 30 years over his close friendship with a female colleague. “My answer to Derek’s question – is it possible for a married man to have a deep friendship with another woman? – is that it is very selfish, dangerous and, yes, I think, wrong to have a deep and affectionate friendship with a woman other than your
wife because, as he admits, the sexual agenda is always there. He is only ever minutes away from being unfaithful and risking losing his wife. Desire is a great aphrodisiac and keeps you in a permanent state of excitement and anticipation, something that you simply cannot maintain in a long marriage.”
Catherine walked into a café where she wasn’t expected and saw her husband take his “friend’s” hand and gently hold it. “It was a very loving, natural and unconscious action, but not something, in my view, that you would ever do with ‘just a close friend’. It is an action that is at once tender and sensual and gives a clear sexual message.”
Catherine and her husband spent the next week being uncomfortably honest with each other. “Some surprising revelations and confessions were made by both of us, and we agreed that we had both been guilty of not communicating our feelings along the way, and of becoming complacent with, and inattentive of, each other. We were very drained by the experience of being so honest but, when asked, agreed that we still loved each other and did not want to separate. My husband will always be a flirt, that is his nature, but he also now accepts that it can be very hurtful and dangerous.”
Catherine gave the ultimatum that brought her marriage back from the brink, but you haven’t all been so lucky. Frances lost her husband to an office friendship that was allowed to turn into something more, and which eventually broke up her marriage. “This has devastated our family and friends and children. I really don’t think you can have a wife and a ‘good friend’ as well. If my husband could have put all the energy, time and effort into our marriage that he put into his ‘friendship’, we would, I am certain, still be together.
“Please, please, tell Derek to invest in his marriage. I cannot stress enough the terrible emotional toll it has taken on all of us, my husband included, as he has lost not only his wife, his sons and his home but also his friends and his integrity.”
There is a third point of view on this situation, one that I barely touched on in my original reply, and that is the situation of the woman who is the special “friend” of a married man. It seems to me that there is a lot of danger in this position, especially if the woman allows herself to think that something more might come of the relationship in the end.
Thinking of Derek’s situation – a close friendship with a female, which had not turned into a full-blown affair – I agree with those of you who wrote that this intense emotional focus must,
Need Lesley’s advice?
Please write to me with your dilemma at: Lesley Garner, Features, The Daily Telegraph, 111 Buckingham PalaceRoad, London SW1W 0DT or email: email@example.com Thank you for understanding that I cannot reply to each individual letter. If I do use your letters, I will change the names.
Have your say
Do you agree with Lesley? telegraph.co.uk/health
necessarily, dim the attention he was giving to his wife. But what was his friend getting out of it? Beyond the comfort and intensity of the friendship she, too, was either short-changing another relationship or, just as dangerous to her own happiness, hoping that her friend might turn into something more.
This is what Tessa wanted to explain. She sustained a deep friendship with a man she had met earlier in her life, even after both of them were married. “We didn’t live close to each other, but made secret phone calls and would meet up when it was possible. He made me feel special and would tell me how lovely I looked (my husband is not the best at that). Time with my friend was magical, and I looked forward to seeing him, and to his phone calls and text messages. I assumed that we would always be the very best of friends and would support each other in whatever life threw at us.”
When the man’s wife became ill and died, Tessa was his emotional support. “I allowed him to offload his distress and gave him comfort, both in person whenever I could, and on the phone if he needed me.” So Tessa was shocked and devastated when, within a few months of his wife’s death, her best friend announced that he was in a full sexual relationship with another woman, and wanted to cool their friendship.
“I identify with Derek. I never dreamed our relationship would go pear-shaped in the way it did. I think this is the crux of the matter. His relationship could go wrong in a way neither of them is expecting. He needs to look at where this friendship is going.”
I think it is the intensity of feeling that tells you that this is not a normal friendship. It is wonderful for all of us to feel that we have found an intimate friend, one that used, in Victorian times, to be called a “bosom friend”, someone in whom to confide, but someone who also makes us feel special.
Everyday friendship is not as intense as this. And the secrecy is a big clue. If this is a friendship you have to hide from others, something is not right.
Tessa’s “friend” would still like to be her friend, even though he
admits that he has treated her badly. After decades of
friendship, she feels that she
wants him out of her life.
Broken families and lost friends are an enormously high price to pay for a relationship that we instinctively know isn’t right in the first place.
By Horatio Clare
THEY LOOK like black sickles against the sky, but if you ever see one close up you will notice that it is beautifully suited in feathers of rich dark brown, with creamy touches around the beak. You may assume they are catching flies up there, when actually they prefer tiny, windborne spiders. There is nothing common about Apus apus, the common swift.
I used to sleep with my head only a few inches from a swift’s nest, divided from it by a thin plaster wall. All sorts of strange rustlings could be heard: not just the flutter of parents arriving or the sounds of the young being fed during the day, but strange, protracted movements at all
In danger: common swift populations have declined dramatically
hours of the night. It turns out that the young do a sort of press-up, over and over, as if straining for flight, strengthening their wings for a life in the air.
The moment a swiftlet leaves the nest is a departure without parallel in the natural world. Hauling itself
on its tiny feet, wings rowing it forward, the young bird pushes itself out into space and falls. Tumbling down, it gains speed, opens its wings, and flies – for the next four years. The wings are too long and the legs too short for a grounded bird to regain the air. There will be no perching, no landfall, nothing but the sky and permanent motion for thousands of miles. Only when the bird has reached maturity and found a mate will it come down and breed.
They are the only birds that do everything on the wing: they eat, drink, preen, mate, gather nesting materials and sleep in flight. They go as high as 10,000ft to rest, in a sort of reverie of motion, a semiconscious glide through the
darkness. A living dream, perhaps, a sustained dive across the night, between the stars above and our lights below, sailing perpendicular to gravity.
Not that swifts in flight are reminiscent of anything so stately as sailing. Researchers have claimed that the birds can do 130miles an hour. I wonder how long a human could stand a swift’s point of view without becoming dizzy. The hurtling rush of the ground, trees, buildings; the crazy tilting of horizons; the bulleting glimpses of other swifts.
They are a companionable species, and an excitable one: a flight of birds together, hurtling around a house on a summer evening, screaming as if for joy, is a spectacle to lift any heart,
existence in the raw.
Swifts live in, or rather above, one vast territory, swiftland. We call one end Congo and the other Britain, but to the swift it is all just the ground below. They travel the length of it twice a year.
If the swift should stop coming back to us, because we have sprayed our fields, filled in our eaves, and tidied up, as though Britain were one big real-estate opportunity, we will have excluded ourselves from the great country of the swift: less of a fall than our expulsion from Eden, perhaps, but a failure none the less.
Þ Horatio Clare is the author of A Single Swallow: Following an Epic Migration from South Africa to South Wales (Chatto and Windus). telegraph.co.uk/expat
Be a tennis ace Tips from our Lifecoach experts telegraph.co.uk/health T
July 1 - 7, 2009
Is farming the root of all evil?
Last week, Sir Paul McCartney urged us, amid a blaze of publicity, to curb our carnivorous lifestyles and go meat-free on Mondays, in order to reduce the damage that modern agriculture does to the planet (Features, p24). But for all the recent talk about the pros and cons of farming, and how the methods we use are affecting the environment, a more basic point has been missed – that growing crops might be damaging not just to the environment but to the development of our own species. Could it be that rather than being a boon to mankind, the invention of agriculture was, in the words of one academic, “the worst mistake in human history”?
To understand why this extraordinary suggestion could make sense, you need to visit the Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies in Cambridge, a shrine to modern anthropology. Its gates resemble a Cubist take on the DNA double-helix and its clouded glass windows are etched with phrases from Darwin’s TheOrigin of Species.
Beneath the centre’s modern exterior lies its greatest treasure, a basement containing 20,000 ancient skeletons. There are rows of skulls, kept in boxes with plastic windows at the front. As you walk along, you can peer into the great dark eye sockets of a skull from Sarawak, or the eggshell-thin cranium of a child from New Guinea. Some are so old they seem to have been stained with nicotine.
“Bones are like a book, recording the history of each person,” explains Dr Jay Stock, an evolutionary anthropologist, as he slides out the boxes that contain the remains of ancient human beings. It was this collection that first proved to the world that humanity shares a common African ancestor. And it is this collection that has demonstrated that agriculture could be bad for us.
The idea first came to prominence through Professor Jared Diamond, based at the University of California, in Los Angeles. In his 1997 book Guns, Germs and Steel, he wrote that although we believe that agriculture has enabled us to lead lives of wealth, health and great longevity, it has, in fact, been detrimental to the human species.
According to Prof Diamond, agriculture evolved about 12,000 years ago, and, since then, humans have been malnourished and disease-ridden compared with their hunter-gatherer ancestors. Worse, because agriculture allows food to be stockpiled and enables some people to do things other than look for food, it led to the invention of more and better weapons, soldiers, warfare, class divisions between those who had access to food and those who did not, and inequality between the sexes. This idea has been picked up again in a recent book, An Edible History of Humanity, by Tom
Cereal killer: far from improving our nutrition, farming could have furthered malnutrition
Standage, which argues that agriculture is a “profoundly unnatural activity”.
Dr Stock agrees that farming has played a powerful role in distorting human development. “The disparities we see today between those who are exploited and those who exploit are all based on those early origins of agriculture,” he explains. Hunter-gatherers, for example, ate a wide variety of foods, around 6070kinds a year. But, once humans switched to agriculture, we became dependent on a small number of crops.
The problem is that most of these staple foods do not have the nutrients essential for a healthy life and are vulnerable to disease and drought. Moreover, having a population based in one place led to poor hygiene, just as living in proximity with domesticated animals inevitably resulted in diseases being transferred between species, as today’s outbreak of swine flu reminds us.
To illustrate the malign impact of agriculture, Dr Stock and a student, Anne Starling, examined a set of 9,000 skeletons from the Nile Valley in Egypt, which spans an extraordinary historical
range, from Neolithic hunter-gatherers through to 1500BC.
The researchers were looking for signs of malnutrition, which are reflected in a person’s teeth. Just as tree-rings can indicate the health and age of a tree, so a defect in the layers of enamel called linear enamel hypoplasia (LEH) can indicate whether a person has been ill, or deprived of food for several months.
What Dr Stock and Ms Starling discovered was that 40per cent of huntergatherers who lived 13,000 years ago had LEH. Fast-forward 1,000 years to when the Egyptians had become farmers, and the figure rose dramatically to 70 per cent. Originally, the hunter-gatherers were about 5ft8in, with robust skeletons. Yet, once farming began, the average height decreased by four inches. Dr Stock showed me the bones of a man who lived 7,000 years ago, which are so thin and delicate they look as if they might snap.
What caused this reduction in height? One possibility is disease. A paper that Dr Stock is publishing with his Cambridge colleague Dr Andrea Migliano, in a forthcoming issue of
Current Anthropology, demonstrates the link: the pair looked at pygmy skeletons from the Andaman Islands, whose body size shrank even more dramatically when they encountered Western colonialists, who brought with them diseases such as influenza and syphilis. Hostile tribes who kept their distance from the newcomers actually grew taller during this period.
But, while the Leverhulme collection demonstrates the drawbacks of agriculture, both in terms of our physical condition and our social development, it also shows the ways in which the benefits came to outweigh the costs. The Egyptian skeletons reveal that around 4,000 years ago, farmers started to grow bigger and become more healthy, perhaps through the more efficient use of resources.
These results suggest that our ancestors struggled with poor health for 8,000 years before agriculture started to work in the favour of humanity, as opposed to benefiting the elites who controlled the food supply. “It’s a case of whether the glass is half full or half empty,” says DrStock. “Without the surplus of food you get through farming, we couldn’t have the technological innovation we see today. For instance, I can spend a lifetime in school, years doing a PhD, and then teach my students everything I know in a few months. They can then go on to become more expert than I am, pushing the boundaries of knowledge. Without agriculture, we wouldn’t be able to stack innovation upon innovation.”
While many scientists now agree with Prof Diamond that agriculture did lead to an increase in malnutrition, inequality and warfare, some, like Dr Stock, are challenging such a cut-and-dried assertion. Life as a hunter-gatherer, for example, may not have been quite as idyllic as anthropologists initially portrayed. “Anthropologists in the Sixties and early Seventies described humans as ‘Man the Hunter’, bringing back meat for the women and children, and there was an academic backlash against this,” explains Dr Stock. “Hunter-gatherers became the original flower children. There was a romanticised view of indigenous cultures who were egalitarian and in touch withnature.”
In fact, for many, life was probably “nasty, brutish and short”, no matter how interesting the range of fruit and vegetables on offer. Dr Migliano has shown that the average life expectancy for a pygmy in the Philippines was 19. This meant that by the age of 14, most girls had already had at least one child. Other research has shown that, in hunter-gatherer societies, 15 per cent of young men are murdered: Prof Richard Wrangham, of Harvard University, has calculated that, in spite of two world wars, fewer people die violently today than before the advent of agriculture.
In any case, says Dr Stock, we are at the point of no return. Agriculture has led to a surplus of food and this in turn allowed women to have more children (albeit initially unhealthy ones), leading to a global population of almost seven billion. “A lot of the problems we are facing today stem from the advent of agriculture,” he says. “But we are ingenious enough to come up with technological solutions.
“We are facing grave environmental and social issues. How we deal with them today will determine how impressed or dismayed the archaeologists and anthropologists of the future will be when they view our remains.”