Friday, 23 April 2010


What is so special about the human race? Put a dog anywhere in the world and he can communicate fluently with his own species; and other species too I shouldn't be surprised. Move me 25 miles across the channel and they are all talking gobbledy gook.
No other species kills fifteen million of its kind in a Holocaust, a million in Rwanda, two million in splitting its habitat in two as in India at Partition. Other species respect territories. They don't destroy the nests of strangers out of evil intent as we did in Guernica and Dresden. I have never felt more ashamed of my kind than I did touring Germany immediately after World War 2.
No other species has set out deliberately to destroy its neighbours as we did the American Indian, the Maori and the Australian aborigine. For two hundred years we have been trekking the wilder shores of the world teaching simple natives fraud on a massive scale, greed and sophisticated means of killing; and forcing on them a new dubious religion peopled with fairytale characters.
How much better if the jungle tribes had invaded and converted us.
I long for an invasion by the Munduruku, an indigenous group of about 7,000 people in the Brazilian Amazon whose language has no tenses, no plurals and no words for numbers beyond five. A Parisian explorer/scientist Pivare Pica who visited them admitted:
"When I come back from Amazonia, I find I have lost all sense of time and sense of number, and perhaps sense of space." He had spent so long with people who can barely count that he had lost the ability to describe the world in terms of numbers.
No one knows for certain, but numbers are probably no more than about 10,000 years old. They probably emerged as a tool for making sure you were not ripped off.
Pica easily slipped into a numberless existence. He slept in a hammock. He went hunting and ate tapir, armadillo and wild boar. He told the time from the position of the sun. If it rained, he stayed in; if it was sunny, he went out. There was never any need to count.
The Munduruku did not count a first child, a second, third, fourth and fifth, and then scratch the head because they could go no further. Why would a Munduruku adult want to count his children? They are looked after by all the adults in the community. No one counts who belongs to whom.
Evelyn Waugh was in favour of the neutron bomb which destroyed people but left the artefacts of their civilisations. Alas, I have always thought of civilisation as an oxymoron.
In his breathtaking TV series on the stars around us, Tele Don Professor Brian Cox explained that below the ice that covers Europa, Jupiter's moon, is an ocean a hundred miles deep which teems with the microbes that are our ultimate ancestors. The thought that they may be packing for the long journey to becoming us is Gothic in its horror.
A number of respectable religions share the Taoist belief that all sentient beings are part of one mind, whose life is never ending. Hermes, the Attic philosopher, said that God was a circle the centre of which is everywhere and the circumference nowhere.
When the Moravian missionaries sought to convert the Indians to their Grimms' Fairy Tale, the Indians told them: “We Indians shall not forever die. Even the grains of corn we put under the earth grow up and become living things.”
The Missionary added: “They conceive that when the soul has been alive with God it can, if it chooses, return to earth and be born again.”
That explains child prodigies like Mozart, which is comforting. Less comforting is the evidence that we never learn, no matter how many times we come back and slip into something corporeal. We may remember how to write music and poetry and paint pictures. But somewhere in the luggage is hate and greed and treachery.

EVEN OUR PETS ARE FAMOUS.................

The bloodhound Druid, and the cats Marmaduke and Scarper, in my wife's books are all based on our pets. The recurring heroine in the books was Miss Kip, a lurcher.

When she came to us we called her Miss Kip because that is all she ever did. If we had waited a week we would have called her Miss Slash because she was forever soaking carpets. As happens with pets, the void she left when she died was wider and deeper than the space she took up in life.

She was never much success as a lurcher. She was probably the only greyhound in Wales who was afraid of rabbits. When she was young she killed one by accident and I will never forget the look of shame and remorse she gave me.

She was good at looking at you with huge, luminous, speaking eyes. When she was a pup she was trapped by the tricky tide in the Menai Strait. As the water round her rose at lightning speed she sat calmly on a sand island and looked at me confidently across the swirling waters, waiting for me to remove them. By the time I got her back the water was up to my neck but the biggest risk of drowning was from the wet licks she gave me.

When she was young she walked as though suspended by invisible wire. Her feet barely touched the ground. When she was old and stiff she walked like John Wayne.

There is a poem by Melanie Elliot which describes her perfectly:
"Gracefully coursing the level ground,
"She stretches her limbs to the final bound.
"Effortless movement, perfection in speed,
"And elegant power are the greyhound's creed.
"She is Ariel's hound, a gift from the Gods."
This morning, remembering her, I have been reminded that what the gods give, they also take away.


I think it no coincidence that we now have TV talent contests for the job of prime minister with Nick Clegg in the John Sargent role. For weeks commentators have been pointing out how more readily the lumpen proletariat vote in talent contests than general elections. The “Britain's Got Talkers” slavishly followed its sires. Pastel walls, desk of the performer judge. We even have electronic vote counters and weekly winners. The three contestants have back up teams of coaches whose advice they follow slavishly. I have no doubt the election will be affected with Nick Clegg as a winsome Susan Boyle.

Had he moved before the volcano dust settled Brown could have won the election at a hand canter. One word would have done it:

Didn't need armies of PR experts, complicated negotiations, dithering over weather conditions. But it wasn't until Sunday that cabinet members began to murmur about getting the navy involved. For me, this final proof that politicians do not care was the final straw.

I am tired of the sound of snake-oil salesmen yelping hysterically as they squabble over places in the trough. No more news bulletins, newsnights, and I will open my newspaper at page 7 to avoid the epilepsy of elections.
Fending off the door canvassers is not as easy. When I had Picton Hall there was a tradesmen's entrance and Mrs Higgs, the housekeeper, used to reroute canvassers. At Aberbraint the long drive and a couple of bloodhounds deterred. Now we have downsized we are open to assault. I think to pin to the front door Lady Raleigh's denunciation in a letter to Sir Robert Cecil who sought the head of her husband:
“Every month has its flower and every season his contentment, but you great counsellors are so full of new counsels as are steady in nothing.”

I am inbebted to Revel Barker for some saisfying therapy.
Cut, paste and click on the link below:

EARNEST, THE POLICEMEN (with apologies to Toytown)

Our policemen in the Fens are amiable on the whole and interfere as little as possible with the people around them, even those citizens who are crying out for interference. It is perhaps as well.

Armed policemen (a phrase which always chills me to the bone) surrounded a pensioner's bungalow here in March and ordered the occupants to come out with their hands up. The occupants came out with all the alacrity of which they were capable. They couldn't put their hands up. If they had taken them off their zimmer frames they would have fallen over.

A carer had reported that the very elderly man who lived in the bungalow with his wife had told the carer he had a gun. A response would have been to send a community policeman round to make a few enquiries. A pal of mine, Bob Talbot, disguised himself as a milkman and arrested the Moors Murderers on his own. But our brave boys in blue and body armour were not to be balked. In what sounds like a fit of pique, they have confiscated an air gun which the old man was legally entitled to own. Indeed with scrupulous fairness they admitted he could go out and buy another. But so far they have not given him his old gun back.