Back in 1991, the great Arthur C Clarke, answering a question regarding the power of knowledge, defined the hierarchy from base up as, information, knowledge, and wisdom. Without the final element, the whole phony exercise of power was meaningless and dangerous. And the way to begin, he said, was to pry the information out of the noise.
He was born in north Somerset of course, Minehead to be exact. I’ve seen the house and the blue plaque. And although sci-fi is not my thing, I will happily argue that Arthur Clarke during his lifetime, was probably the wisest man in the universe. I’ve no doubt he would have hated – and written brilliantly about – the sloppy thinking, the slogans, the acceptance of the easy solution, and the gross self-aggrandisement of the mean-spirited and the mediocre.
These days, the situation isn’t exactly the blind leading the blind. It is the ‘I don’t give a toss’ leading the ‘I don’t know what to think’. The tossers are marginally ahead in the argument.
Speaking of which… recently I encountered Jimmy Gascoigne. A malodourous C-list north Somerset hard man with absolutely no redeeming features and a desperate need to climb the ‘bent bastards’ ladder. Bodyguarding is not my thing, but Linda talked me into helping a friend of hers in Wells stand up to Gascoigne’s threats. I caught up with him walking in the grounds of the Bishop’s Palace.
“Why the fuck can’t we eat swan?” he asked, looking at the latest pair to arrive in the city, paddling gently in the palace moat.
I presumed that was a rhetorical question, although on reflection, probably not. I got down to business, invoked the quality presence of a friend of mine, DCI George Hood of the Avon and Somerset Constabulary’s Special Crimes Unit, and told Gascoigne what we all thought of him. He sneered a bit and took a swing at me. I ducked, butted him in the chest and he fell back into the moat. The swans sailed serenely by, as Gascoigne coughed, spat out murky water, and swore to make me pay for the offence. I told him to bring it on, as long as he left Linda’s friend alone. He muttered something about her being not worth his time and effort anyway. I left him trying to clamber out of the water.
He slid back into my life again a couple of days later, when he was found dead in his back garden.
I was summoned to account for my whereabouts to the office of the constabulary’s Murder Investigation Team. DI Liz Mailer and her boss Superintendent Harvey Butler looked at me with all the self-indulgence they could muster.
“Somewhat inglorious company for a man of your intelligence and stature,”
“The location was nice,” I said.
“You pushed him into the moat.”
“He was annoying the swans.”
Harvey sat back in his chair, in no way eager to set off down a well-trodden path – me on the carpet and himself wading through the shag pile to get at me. He put one more sentence together.
“You just stumbled across him while strolling in the palace gardens?”
Harvey grunted and looked in the direction of his DI. She took up the cudgel.
“By way of leisure, or because you were working?”
Liz Mailer is on a fast track through the ranks. One of a recent group of additions to the clever detectives Harvey has hand-picked and promoted. Black hair, black skin and dark eyes, tell you all you need to know about her. She’s sharp, bright and funny. The triple threat to the tossers and those who flout law and order on her patch.
Neither detective believed I had anything to do with the murder of Jimmy Gascoigne. But, as Lenin said, everything is connected. So, I paused for thought.
Harvey grunted again.
“This is what we’ll do Jack. I’ll start drilling and you can tell me when it starts to hurt.”