Day 18 – Witch Hunts, Fit as a Flea and Modern Termites


In Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” his plot recreated incidents that occurred in the 1700’s in Salem, Massachusetts. In short, there was a witch hunt that only ended after all those who looked odd and had rumours circulating about them had been executed.

Now to today’s Westminster. There is to be an “investigation” into allegations of a paedophilia ring and cover up at Westminster in the early eighties. These allegations have been fuelled by rumours that over a hundred files, prepared by the late Geoffrey Dickens M.P., relating to illegal activities and handed to the then Home Secretary Leon Brittan, have been wilfully destroyed.

I knew Geoffrey well and he stayed in my house once to celebrate my birthday. He was great fun and he made me laugh. He told me that when he was starting out in business in Manchester he bought thousands of pairs of ladies tights at an astonishingly attractive price. Only after he sold them off a barrow did he discover the reason for the cheapness of the tights: one leg of each of the tights was six inches shorter than the other.

“There were hundreds of women all lurching along angrily looking for me and we had to move house!”

He was that sort of a man. He was a man of great mischief and he was always seeking emotionally charged issues to make his name. He loved conspiracies and he was known by the media for being “rent a quote.”. But he was not a serious politician and I I would place no reliance on his so called files whatsoever. I suspect he is laughing in paradise over all the fuss he has caused.

We should let the emotion cool. There were rumours of sexual derring do and don’t in my day but ’twas ever thus. If all M.P.’s were to be condemnned because they looked odd then there would be very few people at Westminster left! And forget rumours! If everyone knew what everyone said about everyone, no one would be talking to anyone.

Also that there was no conspiracy to destroy files. The administrative authorities are always trying to clear out ancient files of no great value and it is probable that the “Dickens files” went as part of a routine cull as matter of no significance.

I have proved my theory which is that anyone of “ age” who is in reasonable physical condition can build up to strenuous exercise, lose weight and get fit.

When I started the walk I was feeling generally out of sorts. I had a few sore muscles. I was generally not in great physical trim. In the last three weeks I have lost a quarter of a stone and I feel better than I have for months. I have found that sore muscles ease and restore themselves if you just ignore the problem and walk through the discomfort.

Its a pity our health authorities can’t stop patronisding us with drivel about staying out of the sun and the ice and, instead, offer an incentive of, say £1000 to all the obese to walk from Ambleside to Oxford. The money saved by the NHS would be massive.

But I know they won’t do it. No one in authority would have the courage to tell fat people that they must lose weight or die an early death.

Modern Times

The Saatchi family drama has made us all think. What was it all about? Well in part, I’m sure that Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson didn’t want to be stuffy and high-handed, and went to the opposite extreme and treated their assistants (the Grillos) as friends rather than servants. So the friends – who were really the assistants – went of with the credit cards they had been given and spent nearly half a million pounds of their “friends’” money before Saatchi noticed something was awry. Not surprisingly outraged, he turned into an aggrieved employer and took the Grillos to court to get his boodle back.

So there was a court action in which everyone lost (apart from the lawyers and the public who apparently enjoyed it all enormously).

No one is likely to employ the Grillos again, and both Charles and Nigella look totally bonkers to me. Part of the reason they ended up in court with a ghastly action round their necks was that this “modern” couple allowed the divisions between their employees and themselves to morph into confusion.

Yes, Prime Minister
We have never employed staff on the scale of the Saatchis, but some years ago when we were into riding and breeding horses – in a modest sort of way – we employed a groom and his wife, as well as a nanny for the children, for we were both working. Pete and Lynn Teale were from the old school, and from the outset they chose to address us as “Sir” and “Madam”, because that’s the way they were. We never asked them to do this, and in no way did that formality diminish our affection for one another. Everyone knew where they stood in the relationship, and for years it worked as sweet as a nut from all our points of view.

The nanny, however, was a thoroughly modern Milly, and she called us Tom and Jane. Over time, despite the fact that we were responsible employers and we made her duties crystal clear, she determined to confuse her role with that of our daughters, and she began to borrow their clothes and makeup without asking. This led to a series of modest difficulties and no one was sorry to see her go.

In an earlier blog, I railed against the gross informality that is the norm in our society. Whose idea is it that people who you have never met before should call you by your Christian name, and who benefits? Why do so many people sign off with “love” at the end of their letters when they don’t even begin to mean the sentiment? What do you say to those you really love?

David Cameron came to our house to discuss Jane’s brilliant food bank (we are his constituents). Although he is young enough to be my son, I called him “Prime Minister”, because I am an old fashioned sort of guy and think that (a) he is not a friend of mine, (b) the office of Prime Minister should be respected, and (c) I know my place.

I am convinced that no one benefits if employer/staff relationships are allowed to turn into messy, personal relationships where the boundaries are unclear. And if they didn’t before, I have a feeling that Nigella and Charles would agree with me.

Termite World
We stopped for a coffee when we were in the centre of Coventry. The place was swarming with busy people. Everyone looks anxious, and nobody smiles or says “hello”.

I had a look inside a termites’ nest once. All these insects were scurrying around – carrying eggs, feeding the queen, removing faeces and collecting food. Each was frantically busy and not one of them seemed to be standing still. They had no idea I was watching them because they are blind. I often wonder, are we rather like them?

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