Map of Gretna Green

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Children may also be used as a means of communicating with an ex-partner who seems to be slipping beyond reach. Separated parents frequently use children as spies, go-betweens and message-carriers, but in desperation some lone parents may be driven to gaining their ex-partner’s attention by the only method now available, making them feel anxious about their children. Let us consider the same imaginary but familiar incident from both sides. She is alone at the weekend; her teenage son and daughter are out with friends. What are they doing? What kind of trouble might they get into? While she is worrying about them, the younger son is brought back, long after the time he was expected, by a neighbour who has given him a lift from the bus terminus. This gives her the excuse she has been waiting for. She telephones her ex-husband and pours out an exaggerated account of their son’s misdeeds … Her ex-husband has just settled down to watch the late-night film on TV with his girlfriend when the telephone rings. He has become used to such calls and listens to her outpourings with half an eye on the film. As his girlfriend’s sympathetic gestures and signs become increasingly impatient, he becomes angry and uncomfortable. It is hard to make much sense of what his wife is saying and when she suggests that their son has just come home smelling of cannabis he decides to go over straight away. As he leaves his flat, his girlfriend is clattering the washing-up angrily in the kitchen …

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