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Writings of Albert Morris
Article 69 - Renaissance Man of the honours rejectees hands in his bus pass


THAT was it; the last straw, the spanner in the works, the fly in the ointment and the worm in the root. Britainís nuts and bolts, I believed, were coming apart: hospitals were failing, waiting-lists increasing, pension values plummeting and lunar-surface pot-holes were appearing on more roads.

Our moral fabric was also unravelling, with Britain labelled as the most violent country in western Europe. Soon, there may be a shortage of Britainís brains to drain since, according to a United Nationsí survey, almost half of Britainís teenagers are unable to do the most basic sums and, by the time they reach early adulthood, millions are likely to have the attitude outlined in a recent finding by Mintel, market research analysts, which reveals that todayís young men and women have so many financial worries they have no time for politics and show a pervasive lack of interest in current affairs. Added to that sombre scene, is my exclusion - again - from the Honours List.

This was the time for meaningful gestures and personal sacrifice, so, once more, I went to the place where you complain about such things and to the man behind the counter, I handed a small envelope.

"Whatís this then?" he asked, opening it. "My bus pass," I said simply. "Iím handing it back in protest against the ingratitude of a government that persistently refuses to recognise the merits of a downright, upstanding, middle-brow, fair-to-average man at the top of a middle-of-the-road Edinburgh omnibus.

"There are millions like me who should get a medal merely for living in this overtaxed, inefficient, burgeoning Bedlam of Britain." The good fellow, writing furiously, seemed to nod in unofficial agreement.

"Let me say that, as an ex-Wolf Cub, Boy Scout patrol leader (retd) and former Army Cadet Corpsí temporary private, I was one of those who stood alone in 1940 when Britain was menaced, armed only with the ability to tie a running bowline, take stones out of horsesí hooves, tell what side of a tree moss grows on and port arms for inspection. I wonder how many of the honours cronies, showbiz so-called celebrities and over-rated sports personalities could do the same in times of national emergency."

"Too true, sir," said the man flicking a page.

"Furthermore, a lot of these awards go, all too predictably, to people of questionable educational attainments. What, I wonder, do they know of the repeal of the Corn Laws, quadratic equations, the sum of the square on the hypotenuse of a right-angled triangle, or any one of Lavoisierís gaseous, not to say nauseous, experiments?

"I am one who has personally determined the specific gravity of a given substance, has devoted unpaid decades to the study of the subjunctive and the rectifying of fused participles as well as explaining the correct use of oxymoron, the latter sometimes under active-service conditions, to rude and rough soldiery while operating a manual, air-cooled typewriter in the Royal Army Mobile Stationery Corps.

"If Britainís back is to the wall, who will it turn to - some pop singer with the voice of a sea lion with emphysema, some stick-insect-thin dancer moving like a mad butterfly, heavyweights only adept at kicking and clutching a rugby ball or someone who is familiar with English-usage terms ranging from anacoluthon to zeugma and, who knows, an example of litotes when he sees one?"

"No need to ask," responded the man feelingly.

"I am disappointed that, with so many people having rejected honours, there are not a few spare ones lying around to give to deserving cases. I donít ask for much reward for a lifetime of dedication to the purity of the simple and compound sentence - perhaps only a CMG, known in Whitehall as "Call Me God", a KCMG - "Kindly Call Me God", or a GCMG - "God Calls Me God".

"I regard myself as the Renaissance Man of the honours rejectees, ready to place my grammatical knowledge at the nationís disposal should the call come.

As the man regarded me with what seemed admiration, I said, "It may appear a strange request, but could I have my pass back? I need it to get home but I will hand it in every time I come here to protest."

"Promise?" he asked.

"On my honour," I said and, with no gong in sight, beat it.


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