The Weasel

My hapless infant is being given her first stab at the Humanities. Not History and French and Latin - she's being skilfully groomed for dinner party conversations in Richmond
Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online
Something terrible has happened. The female Weaslet has returned from her first day back at school, carrying a cornet.

It is not the kind which has two scoops of raspberry ripple emerging from it. This kind has notes emerging from it - horrible, warbly, farty things which make the very wallpaper of Weasel Villas wrinkle with pain. "You're lucky," she told my groaning form, as I crouched under the nearest duvet, "Phoebe's got a tenor sax."

If I had wanted my beloved eight-year-old to become adept at playing a glorified bugle, I would have made her join the cavalry. Frankly, I would mind less if the child had not come home at the start of previous terms, bearing, successively, a recorder, a violin, a guitar and a book of piano sheet music with the chill-your-blood title, Easy Pieces for Little Fingers. What are they playing at? Has her school some plan to litter my home with brass and woodwind, ivory and catgut, until it resembles the recording studio where they made The Intro and the Outro ("Adolf Hitler on vibes...")?

But this taste offensive is not the end of it. Every few weeks, it seems, I'm greeted with a fresh summons from the school, advising me of the happy availability (for the Weaslet) of tickets to Oliver! or opportunities for horse-riding or post-school discussions such as "Whither the Sonnet?".

My hapless infant, in other words, is being given her first stab at the Humanities. Not History and French and Latin - she's being skilfully groomed for dinner party conversations in Richmond.

I'm not ungrateful. It is a marvellous thing that one's child has learned to play "Melancholy Baby" on the souzaphone while not yet in her first training bra, and can negotiate the trickier stanzas of Gerard Manley Hopkins while not yet parted from her teddy. But I suspect something is being left out of her life. Science, for one thing. Money, for another. Politics, for a third. In short, the most important, nay crucial, motors of a society, and, by coincidence, the things least likely to be discussed at a Surrey soiree.

I don't suppose the day will really come when every riverbank carnivore is as familiar with Boyle's Law as with Swann's Way. I can't really envisage a time when they (or any dinner party-goers) will be as likely to discuss breakthroughs in cosmology as The Usual Suspects. But I can dream.

I much enjoyed the Daily Telegraph's story of how a "leading Mafia turncoat, whom the mob had sworn to kill" was plucked from the Mediterranean cruise liner Monterey in front of startled passengers. They were right to be startled. As the same story explained, quoting the president of the Italian parliament's anti-mafia commission, "Apart from his own life, those of innocent passengers were needlessly placed at risk."

What the story failed to mention was that the boat is a favourite with Britons. Indeed, the week before the authorities took the ex-criminal back into protective custody, it had played host to a party of Daily Telegraph readers, many of whom returned home full of stories of the curiously taciturn and bulging-jacketed Italians who were so much a part of the boat's unique atmosphere.

"Prostitutes? In Godalming? I can't believe it." Stirring words from Sir Ronald Millar, the playwright who used to pen Mrs Thatcher's speeches. He was responding to the news that the headmaster of Charterhouse School had spent an hour with a shiny-faced "escort girl" called Sally in her Guildford bedsit and had had to resign, presumably for failing to teach her anything. But the fate of the Head, or the Escort Girl (as opposed to the Hugh Grant version, the Ford Escort Girl) is neither here nor there, compared with the shocking slur on Godalming, one of the most cool and happening- dude places in the whole of, um, Surrey. "Charterhouse and Godalming", continues Sir lah-di-dah Ronald, "was the land of John Major's dreams, where matrons cycle to church, where there is warm beer, village greens and early morning mists. I don't think the school has ever had a scandal like it."

Of all the bloody cheek. OK, so the place is a bit old. OK, so stockbrokers live there, and bank managers live there, and ex-service chaps with a lively interest in angostura-flavoured cocktails. OK, it's got an arboretum and a Lutyens war memorial. But that doesn't make it dull and old-fashioned. What about the by-pass? What about the Meath Home for Epileptics, former dwelling of General Oglethorpe, the founder of Georgia? Shall I mention the town hall, which hardly dates back beyond 1841? Old-fashioned? Phooey.

You might gather (and you'd be right) that I've been using a crib to bolster my case, and I'm struggling a bit. The only guidebook I can find which mentions groovy Godalming is the Little Guide to Surrey (1951) edited by J Charles Cox. I've pored over it, fingered it and held it up to the light but I still can't find much about hookers, wild behaviour and life on the edge. But what's this? "In the 17th century it was occasionally frequented by King Charles II and his court as a hunting-station."

Hah! Need I say more? King Charles II, the most ferocious exploiter of escort girls in history, used to hang out in Godalming for R&R sessions between strenuous bouts of hunting. I rest my case: Godalming was a hotbed of sizzling and raunchy smut long before Charterhouse was built or Sir Ronald Millar thought up that stuff about ladies turning.

Strange how quiet the story of "America's Most Wanted Man" has gone since he changed from being Mysterious Terrorist to would-be author.

The chap is always known as "Unabomber (FC)", not because he runs his own football club but because he prefers to think of himself as a small but influential anarchist group rather than a solitary nut with a supply of Semtex. "Unabomber", by the way, is the FBI's code-name for him, since he likes blowing up "una"versity science departments.

So far he's killed three people and injured 23 in a 17-year campaign of violence, and Americans are terrified of him. From this side of the Atlantic, however, a lot of his exploits seem what you'd expect if you took a lot of Californians out of the hot tub and lent them a copy of The Secret Agent and a book on bomb-making. It's like listening to the paramilitary wing of Relate.

He has now written a manifesto (of "between 29,000 and 37,000 words," he says), which was supposed to be published in the New York Times, Time or Newsweek, or otherwise to appear as a small book, "but the book must be well publicised and made available at moderate price in bookstores nationwide and in at least some places abroad", which rules out most British publishers.

In the end, he got an offer from Bob Guccione, publisher of Penthouse, who also promised him a monthly column (presumably without a picture by-line). The bomber's response was that he might take the offer, but it would mean him killing another person to compensate for his chagrin at having to appear in such surroundings...

What a chutzpah. The FBI has declared FC to be one man, possibly a renegade scientist or turncoat lab-technician. I have my own theory. He's obsessed with getting into print, he doesn't like being cut, he's finicky about the publication details, he's most at home banging an old typewriter and the person he is most proud of killing was a PR man. They should be looking for a journalist

Comments