Miles Kington Remembered: The tale of Bertrand Russell and the Big Red Dustbin

28 January 1988

Share
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, which I may bring you today, 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 about things. 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 liked nothing better than a rousing philosophical debate. "He vanished five years ago. So did half the family silver."

"You are using the word 'vanish' 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, if you don't mind, 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 down to the end of the drive ready for collection by the dustmen."

"Why should I...?"

"Just do it and don't answer back," said his mother, giving him a clip round the ear-hole.

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 hastily, petty revenge is NOT the answer. That was as illogical a primitive 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 the dustmen, yes. The big dustbin, 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 in the yard, full of rubbish. 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 behind at the house. That would set his mother right for not issuing a logical order.

As he was emptying the bin on to 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 the 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

Recruitment Genius: Sales Manager - Cyber Security

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Manager for Cyber Secur...

Ashdown Group: Service Desk Analyst - Application Support - Central London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Service Desk Analyst (App...

Ampersand Consulting LLP: 3rd Line Support Engineer (Windows Server, Exchange Server)

£35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: 3rd Line Support Engine...

Investigo: Finance Analyst

£240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ice skating in George Square, Glasgow  

How many Christmas cards have you sent this year?

Simon Kelner
 

Al-Sweady Inquiry: An exercise in greed that blights the lives of brave soldiers

Richard Kemp
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum