Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Saturday, 23 July 2016
Behind green doors
Last night's vivid dream entailed me answering a knock on the door of the big old house I was brought up in, and opening it to find several hundred people standing outside, and their spokesman - a famous, suited, T.V. personality - insisting they had the right to enter and take it over.
I was dressed in pyjamas, and I physically pushed him back and slammed the door on him before going back inside and wondering what to do next.
This house was - and still is - situated in a very leafy and wealthy area of Surrey, and the kitchen side-windows are set at a high level to prevent the servants from being distracted from their work by looking out of them. Most kitchen windows of houses with servants had them set this high, as did a lot of schools. The recently disgraced 'Sports Direct' company here has overcome the problem of workers becoming distracted in their warehouses by having no windows at all, I would guess.
In the days of my childhood, all - or most - of the employed gardeners in that area were Italian, and I guess that many stayed behind after the war when they were deemed non-dangerous and given work in the various communites where they were P.O.W.s. This is why there are so many Italians in Wales.
We could never afford a gardener on our two and a half acres, but the neighbours both sides could. One Sunday, we had all settled down to a roast dinner in the kitchen, when we heard some groans and garbled Italian pleas for help, and we looked up to see a half-severed hand, dripping with blood, being waved above the window cill. Next-door's gardener had somehow got it caught in the mower when clearing grass from the blades, but had obviously not bothered to turn the machine off beforehand. I didn't eat much lunch, and neither did my sisters.
The original owner of our house had shot and killed his Italian gardener, reputedly for having an affair with his wife.
During the inquest as to what happened that day in our garden, the owner said that he saw some bushes moving and thought it was a rabbit, so shot through the bush. The court accepted his explanation. Maybe the rule about always having to have a clear shot at your target did not apply to Italians at the time. Attitudes change.
Today, in Australia, you are seven times more likely to be murdered than the rest of the population if you are an indigenous Aborigine. I believe it was only a few decades ago that it became illegal for white people to go hunting Aborigines as if they were fair game animals. If they killed each other, nobody cared.
Attitudes usually change by example and peer-pressure, and this is why I love Dr Samuel Johnson so much. Not only was he an extremely clever bastard, but he was an extremely humane one too. A rare combination, especially 260 years ago.