The June edition of the journal Genealogists’ Magazine publishes an article I have written on Beauty Smith – the suspect in the Red Barn murder. This is the first fruit of my investigations into the Murder in the Red Barn which I have mentioned here previously.
I don’t know why I remembered this now, but back in the late ‘60s or early ‘70s when I was a student at Southampton University, I was a very modest extra in a TV drama. I think it was called ‘There is Always Tomorrow’, a quotation from Trotsky. I remember very little about the plot, but it revolved around some students at the ‘University of Slough’ and their involvement in a Maoist movement. There was to be a student riot during a lecture, and we were required to ‘riot’ in one of the lecture theatres in the Department of Physics. It is quite difficult to riot to order, and I remember that the chap I was pretending to fight with had a big grin on his face as did I.
I did watch the drama on the TV – it was a Play for Today or Wednesday Play or something similar. The riot scene was quite short and I never saw myself although I may well have been in view. I recall that one of the leading players was asked in a TV interview if she was a Slough Maoist. ‘No’, she said, ‘I’m a Mao Maoist!’ And that’s all I remember.
I have Googled the play but all record of it seems to have gone. It was quite relevant at the time of my involvement, because there was some fairly intense genuine left-wing activity at Southampton going on, as there was at Essex University, a place I was to go to a couple of years later. There was a sit-in at Essex when I was a graduate student there, and I had to negotiate a barrier of six-foot metal lockers in order to access my office.
I recall waiting nervously for one of the Essex University firebrands to come to our house as a dinner guest. Somehow I had got to know him vaguely and he had been invited to dinner, along with one or two others, by me and my new wife. He seemed to fill the hallway with his shaggy long hair, black beard and army greatcoat, not to mention his reputation... Every inch the revolutionary. In fact he turned out to be a decent chap. I Googled him recently, and found him, largely hairless, with a white shirt, jacket and tie, teaching sociology and writing textbooks on the subject.
Oh well done the hero who shot Chris the Rhea! How courageous! In the very act of being disembowelled, the gamekeeper managed to get a shot in and saved his life by a whisker; or should that be a feather?
It’s clear that a six foot bird with six inch claws is a potential health hazard; but so are the twelve-wheel lorries belting up and down our roads at breakneck speed. The secret is, don’t go near them…
What upsets me, is that if Chris was a real danger, he should have been dealt with weeks ago. If you can shoot to kill, you can shoot a tranquilizer dart. Why was the bird not captured in that way when he first escaped?
He was shot, apparently, because he was a hazard to traffic. Oh well, at the least the local residents can cruise the highways in their BMWs and Chelsea Tractors in the safe knowledge that they won’t be discommoded by a large flightless bird. Somehow though, I feel we are all diminished by Chris’s passing.
My boat is back in the water after spending the stormy winter safe on shore. I made a lot of improvements last year and I’m really champing at the bit to get out there and do some sailing. Idly I look at the weather forecast on the BBC. Wetter forecast would be a better description… Rain at least for the next five days and strong winds for three… Reality continues to outperform the cliché; the weather in this country in the spring and summer months is just rubbish.
Germaine Greer has bought 60 hectares of rainforest in Queensland to ‘save’. She had a recent radio interview, and wrote a newspaper article to publicise her book, White Beech, which describes the project. She says: ‘…there is another ten years of rehabilitation to be done before the forest will be once more intact…’ Hmm. One problem, apparently, is that birds will eat coffee beans and then ‘void’ the kernels everywhere, said kernels then growing into new plants ‘all over the rainforest’. I thought that Natural Selection ensured that just such a circumstance was bound to happen…
I suspect that returning an area of rainforest back to its ‘true endemics’ is an exercise in futility. What, after all, are ‘true endemics’? All parts of the planet are in slow and constant flux. Wasn’t Antarctica covered with rainforest at one time?
Still, I wish Dr Greer success, although as a struggling publisher I am envious of her ability to get publicity on the BBC and in the national press for what seems to me to be an overpriced book (£25). But it would be nice if she would direct her formidable intellect to solving some people problems rather than trying to turn back nature.
I recall a piece she wrote in The Guardian around four years ago, when Pope Benedict visited Britain. It was a tirade against kitsch in contemporary Catholic art, and the extent to which the Catholic Church, nevertheless, remains ‘dear’ to her.
The first third of the article was spent detailing her (non-Catholic) father’s loathing of the Church and all its works and accoutrements. Needless to say all the old criticisms were there, and some of what she said he said was offensive to the extent that I could not possibly repeat it. But the one criticism that wasn’t present was the Catholic Church’s position on contraception.
Does this demonstrate how deeply effective was Dr Greer’s own brainwashing by the nuns at the convent school she attended? The author of The Female Eunuch, surely one of the most iconoclastic works of the twentieth century, a ‘giant leap’ in the cause of female emancipation, can offer only criticisms of the Church dressed up as having come from her father. She chooses to ignore the Tyrannosaurus Rex in the room, the continuing absolute opposition of the Catholic Church towards contraception, and the condemnation of millions of people in the Catholic Third World to relentless poverty.
Last August, I commented on population growth being the ‘Elephant in the Room’ in the context of climate change and ‘saving the planet’. Why does the Catholic Church continue to hold to its dogma on contraception? Catholics in the West may accept it, but they certainly don’t practice it.
It saddens me that a highly intelligent academic like Germaine Greer, someone who has earned the right to speak and be listened to, seems unable (or unwilling) to take on one of the most important questions facing the world, an issue that she is uniquely placed to address. Instead she retreats into 60 hectares of rainforest and worries about birds and coffee plants.
Welcome to the Mirli Books blog written by Peter Maggs