Fair comment


No Photography is allowed. I took this picture while my husband was sitting in a courtroom in London. 🙂

by cheri block

I’ve been married to the same man for a very long time. He might say, in his charming and sincere manner that “…it seems like yesterday we were walking down the aisle. Life with you, Cheri, has been a real treat, from start to this very moment. “

I might observe “ It does not seem like yesterday. It seems like about 45 years. However, marriage to you has been a real treat for about ¾ of the time.”

What would he say to this little indiscreet observation?

He would say, quite judicially, “ Fair comment.”

These two words annoy me to the max.

The words “fair comment” never played a part in my growing up. There was no such thing as “fair comment” in the Block household. I just commented without censor, without thinking about how my many words might affect others. Keeping a thought to myself was unheard of—Silent Speculation, the Art of Tact, Walking in Others’ Moccasins–none of these finer skills of the Life Experience ever occurred to me.

We four children were little smart-mouths, full of creativity and confidence, who commented at will, especially at the dinner hour around our maple dining table, the one with the ugly maple hutch behind it, the hutch that stood against that corny wallpaper my mother had chosen, the wallpaper with baskets, no cornucopia of autumn vegetables. That wallpaper.

My father encouraged our comments. He laughed, most of time, when we talked about ripping a hole in the honeysuckle vines growing on our back fence so that we could see our neighbors’—actually our pediatrician’s odd five children—swimming in their lovely pool. “So and So never said a word while swimming and the other So and So just stared at her toes while sunning herself in a chartreuse swimsuit.

We, on the other hand, were busy in our pedestrian backyard tearing it up–arranging  vast battlefields, digging small trenches, and setting up miniature theme parks in the bases of all our trees. We trapped small moths and put them in underground dungeons secured by toothpicks. My brother might have spit at me on occasion. We called each other weirdos, fat butts, and scuzzy faces. I told my siblings I hated my teacher, knowing full well that “ hate is a very strong word, Cheri.”

We imagined what the dog run would be like if we weren’t forced to clean up after our two German Shepherds. When my mother, June Cleaver, came outside to tell us dinner would be ready in 30 minutes (Dad needed his bourbon and seven before dinner), we told her we didn’t like her fried okra and monkey-meat cutlets. She told us we were rude.

I only wish that at that tender time in my free-for-all life, I could have retorted,

“Fair comment.”

Such verbal sophistication would have prepared me for a life more under control, more measured, more…

About Cheri

Writer, artist, cable television host, grandmother to four!
This entry was posted in Life, My childhood and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Fair comment

  1. Jan Cole says:

    As always Cheri, I love your perspective!!
    I will never understand HOW we could have been raised by siblings. Your dad & my mom could NOT have been more different in their approach to child rearing if they tried. My childhood recollection regarding my own expression of opinions is “Children Should Be Seen & Not Heard”. I must have learned the lesson well because I’m still reluctant to speak up.
    Some of my BEST childhood memories are staying at your house.

  2. Richard says:

    It’s odd this.

    Assuming we are asked to approve the free-for-all in the Block household, we need not concern ourselves, since “fair comment” does it for us. The rest of us are not, after all, obliged to utter insults, or respond to them or misbehave generally.

    You do not, however, describe a true free-for-all because your childhood was underpinned by love.

    In the wicked world at large we speak not of a free-for-all but of licence, the enemy of freedom, for we protect the weak from damage by the strong. Freedom involves an acceptance of limitations to conduct: that is the mark of civilisation.

    Over-sensitivity to insult and demand for revenge or sanction is an unwelcome emerging feature of modern life, particularly in a religious context, but international or other delicate relations are better invested with tact.

    Your photograph is apposite. In court it might prejudice the fair conduct of a trial, perhaps a libel action against a newspaper, where fair comment in a matter of public interest is a defence.

    The overbearing restriction mentioned above by Jan Cole is the other extreme.

    On the other hand …….. your place does sound good. Can I come?

    • Richard says:

      I am out of date.

      In England, Defamation Act 2013 abolishes the Common Law principle of “fair comment” and applies “honest opinion” instead.

      This old duffer must stop spouting his legal opinions.

      • Cheri says:

        You are not an old duffer and you are not out of date. Period. Richard, please read Richard Harris’s Imperium, the story of Marcus Cicero. I devoured that book, finished its sequel, Conspirata, and am now on Dictator. Historical fiction at its best. They make Hillary and The Donald look like sissies.

        • Richard says:

          The trilogy is now on my Kindle …

          I have just finished Boris Johnson’s The Dream of Rome, which will provide a backdrop.

          Thank you.

          • Cheri says:

            Should I read The Dream of Rome?
            You will absolutely LOVE this trilogy.

            • Richard says:

              It is factual, short, entertainingly readable and, as far as I can judge, scholarly.

              It informed me, anyway, and I’m glad I read it. I now understand much more about Rome, its enduring influence and the central role played by Augustus.

        • Richard says:

          I have finished reading the trilogy and thoroughly enjoyed it.

          • Cheri says:

            Dear Richard,
            I am so glad you enjoyed Harris’s trilogy. I cannot remember WHEN I have enjoyed reading more. I was sad when I finished Dictator, even though it ended so horribly. You, by the way, are a fast reader!

            • Richard says:

              I seem fast because I sometimes read long into the small hours, missing out on sleep, if I am engrossed!

              My experience was the same as yours.

              Have you read CJ Sansom’s ‘Shardlake’ novels? They move along like Harris’s prose but concern a fictional character who meets with major figures of the Tudor period, including Thomas Cromwell.

              The settings are marvellous.

              Shardlake is a serjeant – a senior lawyer – who receives commissions to investigate.

              There are five or six in the series. I started with ‘Dissolution’.

              CJ Sansom is a historian and a solicitor.

  3. Brig says:

    I will comment as soon as I quit laughing.

    Since I know what a handsome couple you are, and can see the sparks, sparkling, I’m not too worried that your perfect come back will present it’s self in due time.

  4. Richard says:

    Brig is right, of course.

    I’d like to eavesdrop on that 25%. Sounds like ours. I bet you’re right 100% of the time.

  5. wkkortas says:

    Please tell me Queen Joan wore pearls while doing the vacuuming.

  6. The Rasmussen children, no strangers themselves to whooping it up at dinnertime, managed to contain their enthusiasm when dining with the Block children, while under the evil eye of their mother. It’s a “fair comment” to say that they all turned out fairly well.

  7. Cheri says:

    We did our best to corrupt your two delightful girls but they shielded themselves. The German Shepherds, hamsters, rats, parakeets, chameleons, snakes and other creatures helped.

  8. shoreacres says:

    Your childhood sounds marvelous — the sort of experience denied to those of us who made it through the years without siblings. Even squabbling has its value, of course, and I suspect that, with more than one child around, it’s easier to loosen the lips: perhaps even to develop a bit of a smart mouth. The worst part of being an only child is all that undivided attention, and the sense (not understood or articulated until decades later) that being consider a six-year-old oracle is not fun at all.

    “Fair comment’ recalls “fair enough” — an expression I first heard from a British friend, and which I took to mean, “You’re an utter blockhead, your information is skewed, and your opinion laughable at best, but I’m not about to rock the boat over it.” Lovely.

    • Paul Costopoulos says:

      Reminds me of a comment made about a farfetched proposal that I had made in a committee. There was silence for a moment then the Chair said: Well itis not unintelligent.

    • Cheri says:

      My mother was an only child and vowed to populate her house with children, which she did ( to her utter consternation, at times). Funny interpretation of “fair comment,” and applicable as my maiden name is Block. I was called a blockhead more times than I can count!😆

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