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

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: On behalf of a successful academy i...

Investigo: Finance Business Partner

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Investigo: My client, a global leader in providing ...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - West London

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: WEST LONDON - An excellent new opportunity wit...

Recruitment Genius: Florist Shop Manager

£8 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A Florist Shop Manager is required to m...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A solar energy farm in France  

Nature Studies: For all the attractions of solar power, it shouldn’t blight the countryside

Michael McCarthy
Supporters of New Democracy wave Greek flags during Antonis Samaras pre-election speech.  

Greece elections: Where does power lie? This is the question that ties the UK to Athens

Steve Richards
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project