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Writings of Albert Morris
Article 21 - He was adept at bowling a maiden over

THOSE familiar - and who are not? - with Shakespeare’s Richard III will recall the Duke of Buckingham’s spin-doctoring address to the mayor, aldermen and citizens of London in his bid to get Richard, Duke of Gloucester, onto England’s throne. "This prince is not an Edward. He is not lolling on a lewd-day bed, but on his knees at meditation. Not dallying with a brace of courtesans but meditating with two deep divines. Not sleeping to engross his idle body but praying to enrich his watchful soul."

That was nearly how I and millions of others saw nice John Major, skipping, of course, the "deep divines" bit and substituting "Tory grandees" as the nearest spiritual equivalents. He was, for us, the epitome of decent Englishness, a lover of warm beer, the sight of elderly arthritics cycling to Evensong, the traditional, tried and trusted British Rail bun, main courses of meat and two veg, probably smothered in HP Sauce, a purchaser of Marks & Spencer’s gents’ underpants which he wore, as a man of the people, outside his shirt and a passionate follower of cricket at which, it was said, he was adept at bowling a maiden over.

In the global warming and tectonic plate upheavals, undoubtedly caused partially by seismic and volcanic sexual activity among eco-reckless Homo sapiens, John Major stood out like a grey, craggy outcrop of uncrumbling morality against which, we supposed, waves of half-crazed women would lash themselves in vain. Not for him the louche libertarianism of the Norrises, Mellors and Clintons of this prurient planet but a life, as clean in thought, word and deed as a Boy Scout with his woggle.

There were times when the strain of resolute rectitude appeared to show on his finely-chiselled features which then resembled those of a suffering saint, like Sebastian on receipt of the seventh arrow, and once, in an unguarded moment, he pronounced pejoratively on the parental legitimacy of some of his Cabinet colleagues, but here was one who maintained impeccable moral standards in a country fast falling to illicit sexual pieces.

His uprightness downfall, as dramatically revealed by the drawing-aside of the Currie curtain, will undoubtedly make many of us not only question old ethical certainties and wonder who in this reeling realm we can trust but also cast a new eye on the moral foundation of literary landmarks that made many of us the law-abiding, down-to-earth, upstanding citizens we are now.

Take the Biggles’ stories by Captain WE Johns, once favourites for normal, healthy British boys with patriotic leanings and a natural, and well-founded, suspicion of foreigners. Here were three men living together - Biggles, Algy and Ginger - and no sign of a woman’s touch anywhere, except at housekeeper level.

Certainly, they were gainfully employed in foiling sly and silken or bullet-headed and sabre-scarred enemies of the empire, or preventing devilishly-ingenious Orientals from conquering the world with electronic scorpions but, nowadays, such a curious domestic arrangement would probably cause upraised eyebrows, low whistles and adverse comment among narrow-minded citizens and even the better class of crook.

Then there was, for literary puritans, the now questionable relationship between Sherlock Holmes and Watson. All fair and above board, I expect, and none of our business, but, nowadays, in this climate of suspicion, we can’t help wondering.

I hardly like to mention it but, as far as the Swallows and Amazons’ stories by Arthur Ransome are concerned, I have often speculated about the extra-nautical activities of Commander Ted Walker, RN, father of the children crewing the sailing boat, Swallow, who was seldom around when his offspring were adventuring in some rural idyll and who, on the China station, was, I suspect, adventuring himself with ardent spirits at Fat Chan’s Saloon Bar, Swatow.

Fairy stories? A farrago of ageism, sexism, sado-maso-chism and cannibalism; I wouldn’t leave Rumpelstiltskin with the under-16s. What really went on in midnight dormitories of Angela Brazil’s school stories? What is the subplot of Dimpsie Pulls It Off? Certainly, the story of romps in the seven dwarfs’ cottage with Snow White when Sexy, the missing dwarf, arrived has yet to be told.

Nothing, it seems, is as it seems. Who and what can we trust? I put my faith in nice Mr Blair to keep Britain safe and prosperous. That’s how desperate I am.

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