Miles Kington Remembered: Da Vinci's secret life as a moth, and other reincarnations

11 september 1991
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The Independent Online

It strikes me that those who believe in reincarnation get a very bad deal from the media. Little or no news is ever printed about those who have changed into something else or have been reborn as some other animal. So today I am printing the first issue of what I hope will become a regular news-sheet.

Reincarnation News, Vol 1, No 1: "My first 150 years as a tortoise" – the ordeal of the Emperor Napoleon I... p.3; "Now that I'm a little fly; I'm not so crazy about disinfectant as I was" – a cautionary tale by Florence Nightingale... p.14; "The apple that fell on Newton's head wasn't just any old Cox's pippin" – how Shakespeare turned into a fruit and helped Newton discover gravity... p.17; "I ate Socrates!" – the amazing story of the man who became an anteater and unwittingly had a Greek philosopher for lunch... p.33. All this plus much much more on other pages! But first, the scoops of the week.

My brief life as a moth, by Leonardo Da Vinci. Being a moth wasn't too bad. There were a lot of late nights, but I was used to that. You could get around well, thanks to an ingenious system of fast-beating wings, which I would have been proud to invent. Maybe I had invented them. You forget things when you become a moth.

The one thing that bothered me was that moths could never make up their minds whether light or dark was preferable. We were night creatures, presumably because we liked the dark. Yet we flocked towards a bright light as soon as we saw one, often with fatal results.

"Fellow moths!" I shouted to them one day. "Let us once and for all take a vote on our policy towards bright lights! We don't have to listen to this old raggedy queen!" shouted two big moths, who had been soldiers in a previous life. Let's give her something she won't forget in a hurry!"

"Yes, that was the most unfair thing. In my new life as a moth I was still homosexual. When I was Renaissance Man, I thought of lots of things, but it never once occurred to me that I'd one day be beaten to death by a crowd of intolerant moths. Now I'm a cucumber plant, life is a lot safer. A lot duller, too. But I'll say this for cucumbers: they don't give a damn if you're gay or not. (Continued inside).

The pros and cons of turning into a tree, by Oscar Wilde. There is nothing to being a tree. One merely has to stand tall and not mind birds giving birth in one's branches. The only unacceptable thing about being a tree is having to grow in Whitechapel. Odd, is it not, that the East End is the holiest part of a church but the unholiest part of London?

The only consolation is that one is never recognised by one's old friends.

The most paradoxical aspect of being a tree is that one has all day to contemplate the seven deadly sins and no chance to commit any of them. A tree's opportunities for misbehaving are few and far between. One is occasionally tempted to fall on a passing clergyman, knowing that one cannot be arraigned for murder. On the other hand, a tree can hardly be commended for bravery in the face of the Church of England, either, so it seems a pointless gesture.

In due course, in any case, I shall be cut down and be reincarnated again. Doubly reincarnated, in fact; partly as some unsuspecting living creature, and partly as a no doubt hideous chest of drawers. Given the choice... (Continued inside).

How I finally got to see my fans in England – as a seagull! The Elvis Presley Story (part one). Believe me, I truly felt brought down about never getting to see my ever-faithful fans in England during my life as the greatest star of rock 'n' roll, so when, after a brief interval as a prawn in Louisiana, I found myself to be a seagull with powers of flight, I thought, Lordy! I'll pay a visit now to those folks in England who contributed so powerfully to making so many of my records gold, and I just took off and started flying across the ocean! (Next week: How Elvis finally reached Wembley Arena and scored a direct hit on Michael Jackson.) Also in this number...

"Please step on me, someone, and give me a new life!" says the cockroach that used to be Stalin. Plus, James Dean sighted in Mexico City Zoo penguin pool and an exclusive interview with the parrot that claims to have been Queen Victoria.