Miles Kington Remembered: Philosophy and revenge: ingredients for a children's story

28 January 1988

Related Topics

I am told that there is an enormous demand for children's stories with intellectual rigour, as well as an exciting story, so I have devised a series based on famous thinkers of the past, which I am convinced will make my fortune. The first one is called: Bertrand Russell and the Big Red Dustbin.

It was a cold, snowy day in 1888, and all Bertrand wanted to do was stay indoors and think. But his mother had other ideas.

"Bertie!" she cried. "Bertie? Oh, where can he have got to? He seems to have vanished." "How many times must I tell you, mother," said Bertie, appearing behind her, "that there is no such thing as vanishing? A person cannot dematerialise. Matter is indestructible. So is Mater, come to that," added Bertie, making one of his rare jokes.

"What about your Uncle George?" said Bertie's mother, who like nothing better than a rousing philosophical debate. "He vanished five years ago. So did half the family silver."

"You are using the word 'vanished' in a very loose sense, mother," said young Bertie, loftily. "Uncle George merely took a passage to Australia, presumably accompanied by the silver."

"How did you know that?" said his mother, genuinely surprised. "Even the police could not trace him." "I took the precaution of checking the passenger lists on boats bound for Australia. He was listed as Albert Prince. It was an old joke of his."

"Why didn't you tell us that?" "Nobody listens to a five-year-old child on police matters," said Bertie. "And now I've got some thinking to do."

"Oh, no you don't," said Bertie's mother. "I've got a job for you. I want you to take the big red dustbin to the end of the drive ready for collection by the dustmen." "Why...?" "Just do it and don't answer back," said his mother, giving him a clip round the ear.

Young Bertie reddened and tears came to his eyes. This was for two reasons, he quickly analysed. One, because it was shameful to have a mother who was so quick to forget modern educational theory as to substitute physical coercion for sweet reason. Two, because it bloody well hurt. Well, he would get his own back, that he would.

No, no, he thought, petty revenge is NOT the answer. That was as illogical a reaction as his mother's box on the ears had been. If he could not rise above the behaviour of his mother and act logically at all times, what chance of progress was there?

"Bertie!" said his mother crossly, coming back into the room. Take that dustbin out before the dustmen come, for God's sake!" "I hardly think that an appeal to a non-existent deity will have much effect," said Bertie, with dignity. "I believe in the existence of dustmen, yes. But God, no." Another box descended on his ear. Right, thought Bertie grimly. Petty revenge it is, then.

He put on scarf and gloves and went outside into the cold. There stood the big red dustbin. Take it down to the road, his mother had said. Right, he would take the dustbin to the road. But he would leave the rubbish at the house. That would serve his mother right for not issuing a logical order.

As he was emptying the bin on the ground, he realised a tramp was standing a few yards away, watching him.

"Having a good time, son?"

Bertie explained briefly the reasoning behind his actions. The tramp nodded approvingly.

"Matter of fact, I need an empty bin myself," he said, "so this will come in handy. I also need all that stuff that's on the dining-room dresser. Nip in and get it, there's a good boy." Bertie went to fetch the rest of the family silver and put it in the big red dustbin.

"How was Australia, Uncle George," he said.

The tramp smiled.

"Still, the clever one, eh, Bertie? Well, Australia's very expensive, hence my reappearance. But I did remember to bring you a present." He gave Bertie a boomerang stamped Australia Centennial – 100 Years Old, winked and went off down the drive with the bin on his back.

"Did you take the big red dustbin down to the road?" said his mother later. "Mother, I promised the bin would be taken down the drive, and it was," said Bertie, phrasing his sentence to avoid lying. Logic, he had already realised, was the most important thing in the world. After getting your own back, of course.

Coming Soon: "Wittgenstein Goes to the Supermarket" and "Naughty Little Nietzsche".

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Semi Senior Accountant - Music

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A successful, Central London bas...

English teachers required in Lowestoft

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Qualified English tea...

Business Development Director - Interior Design

£80000 - £100000 per annum + competitive + bonus + benefits: Sauce Recruitment...

Sales Director, Media Sponsorship

£60000 - £65000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A globally successful media and ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Strikes were carried out by manned air force and navy aircraft (File photo)  

The air strikes in Syria have given Assad the enemy he always wanted — Islamist terrorism

Kim Sengupta

i Editor's Letter: Take a moment to imagine you're Ed Miliband...

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits