Saturday column – January 14

Vera. Strong woman in a traditionally male-dominated workplace? Or bullying boss?

She splits our household. With Vera I veer towards the latter point of view, with her shouting, gruff temper, and casual belittling of her minions. Yes, she can be oh-so-empathetic as a faux show of her "gentle side," but don't be fooled. Just ask yourself if you would want her as your employer.

The trouble is that as soon as you start looking at things in these ways, rather than the way you're supposed to look at them, it becomes a habit.

With me, I think it began with Enid Blyton and one of her Malory Towers books. Now I admit that memory fades, so I shall tell it as I remember it. This is my truth, as people like to say these days.

A new girl arrives at a boarding school. It is of course a public school, as nobody wrote about comprehensives in those days, not that they existed then anyway.

Anyway, the new girl is naturally a bit of an outsider, and her classmates have a chummy arrangement in which they pool their pocket money, or whatever, for the good of all. But the aloof newcomer doesn't join in. She is the "I" in team, you see?

Gradually though she sees the error of her ways and finally she too becomes part of this arrangement, and they live happily ever after, or something.

A little Blyton parable of pooling resources for the good of all. Or was it a sinister tale of the crushing of individualism to coerce a free enterprise champion into the clutches of a communist cabal?

Having opened the eyes of lovers of Enid Blyton, they will surely now detect other subversive anti-capitalist propaganda in her extensive body of work.

Then there's Star Trek, which should be subtitled Trespassers In Space, where James T and his merry band go about poking their collective noses into everybody else's business, opposed by the heroic anti-imperialist Klingon fleet.

There's that episode where they come across a planet of hippies, where everybody is stoned, being under the influence of narcotic spores from the flowers, and they live a simple life of peace, love, perfect health, and happiness.

What more can anyone want, I ask?

Anyway, carried away by collective euphoria and a taste of paradise, the Enterprise crew mutiny. It sounds a bit like what happened on the Bounty, when the crew landed at Tahiti and got carried away by the free-loving nature of the inhabitants.

Captain Kirk. Captain Bligh. Just sayin'.

Well, busybody Captain Kirk finds it hard to relax, and decides to put a stop to things right away. Paradise is not an option.

"Man stagnates if he has no ambition, no desire to be more than he is," he declares.

He discovers that invoking strong emotions can break the spores' soporific spell.

So in an act which surely is in contravention of the Prime Directive, he provokes fights among the colonists. As a result they wake up, allegedly grateful, and appalled at how little they have achieved while on the planet.

Enterprise departs to mess up some other planet and reflecting on the experience – during which he fell in love – Spock says: "I have little to say about it, captain. Except that for the first time in my life, I was happy."

Twelve Angry Men? Doubting Thomas zealot bamboozles jury into clearing a murderer.

Wuthering Heights? A long time since I read it for O-Level, which tells you how long a time ago that is. However, I believe it is about a young woman subjected to psychological abuse by a domineering partner.

Of course, Jaws is about the hunting down and extermination of aquatic wildlife in its natural environment. More or less any early Bond film is about an amoral sexist killer operating outside the bounds of democratic accountability.

This is a game you too can play. All suggestions for reframing the narrative of some of the classics gratefully received.

And before I go, a brief tribute to David Duckham, who has died almost 50 years to the day after that sidestep. All Blacks v the Barbarians, Cardiff Arms Park, January 1973. I checked the video on YouTube, and the legend is true – it was a sidestep so outrageous that momentarily he really did disappear off the side of the screen.

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