Fairy Story Part One
Granny has been to the Notting Hill Farmer's market on cloudless blue gold day. A very different market from her island one, and a good deal cooler, despite the sun. Nor on her island does she have to fight her way through to it via a large - very large - gang of well tanked-up New Zealanders waving beer cans and with sweat shirts labelled. 'Waitangi Day. Circle Line Pub crawl.' She can't quite see what the Circle Line has to do with Waitangi Day. But never mind that. This is London. Did she ever mention what a cosmopolitan city London is?
Let's move on; discreetly. She promised you a fairy tale of sorts some time back. And here at last it is. Sorry for the delay. She had her reasons.
This is, really, a fairy story; it is also, if you choose to believe it, a true story. Fairy stories are always true stories, in a way, and this one is no different. Are you sitting comfortably?....
Once upon a time there was an island, a long way away from a big one; somewhere far to the east you might say. But you can place it anywhere you like.
This was a very well-behaved, very clean and shiny island. The buildings were tall, many of them, the trains, boats and buses all ran on time. And the people were very well-behaved too. They had to be; if they were not out of bed sharp at seven every morning, if they did not shower four times a week, if they so much as failed to flush the lavatory after they'd used it, their king saw, their king punished them. People did behave badly of course sometimes. But they did so at their own peril. The king's eyes were everywhere. The king's courts did just what the king told them and worked very hard. If someone had done something really serious - what the king called really serious - they were even sometimes hung by the neck until they were dead. That was a very good way of making people behave properly.
The king had ruled on this island a long time. He was old. His son was the prime minister, now. Few dared try to be prime minister in his place. If anyone did dare try to put himself up for election, he would be found to have done something really bad - like only taking two showers a week or not flushing the lavatory - or worse still saying rude things about the King or his son or his wife or his daughter or his daughter-in-law; he'd be charged all his money for such serious misdeeds. Sometimes he'd be put in prison. So not too too many people put themselves up. Most people kept themselves to themselves and kept their mouths shut. When people in other countries, observing this, said to the King, accusingly, 'Your island is not a democracy,' he answered, 'no it is not a democracy. If I ruled a democracy my people wouldn't behave so well and they would not be so happy. My son is a very good Prime Minister. My family's way suits my people very well. Look at how well-behaved and tidy they all are. Why should they want a democracy?'
Now the King had three children altogether. His second child was another clever prince; he ran the telephone services on the island. His third child was a girl, a princess. In proper fairy tales term the princess should have been beautiful. Maybe she is, how should I know; I've never seen her. What I do know for is that she is clever; clever enough to be a doctor and pass medical exams; and, along with being clever, ambitious besides. She did very well in her profession; not something that should surprise us. And one day she went to the King her father and said; Daddy I want a medical institute for Christmas. I want lots of money to be spent on it. I want it to be the foremost medical institution of its kind in the world.
"Of course, my darling,' said the King. (The princess was his favourite child). 'Of course.' So then a lot of the island's money was spent on building and equipping an Institute for the King's daughter. When it was nearly ready to open, the princess went to her father the King again.
'Daddy, I want lots of research to be done at my institute. I want doctors to come from all over the world to run research projects. And I want a world-famous doctor to run my institute, and so encourage the clever researchers to come there.'
'Of course, my clever darling,' said the King. And he sent people here there everywhere, east south north and west to find one of the best-known doctors, specialising in the right kind of diseases for the Princess's Institute. And at last, on another but much bigger island, a long way west they found just the man they wanted. Professor Good Doctor was his name. 'I will come to your island for a few years,' Professor Good Doctor said, 'I will set your Institute running, I will devise research projects that will be respected all over the world. I'm sure we will work together very well,' he added very politely to the happy and clever Dr Princess. She was appointed as the Deputy Director of the Institute. That made her even happier.
At first all went well. Pictures were put in all the local papers. There was the sparkling new institute. There was the Good Doctor, its director, looking important and smiling broadly. There was the Princess, the deputy director, also looking important and also smiling broadly.
'What a good doctor,' said the people of the island. 'What a clever Princess. What a well-equipped Institute. What wonderful research projects. We will all be the better for it.' Pictures were taken of the people smiling too. Everyone was happy on the island, about the new institute, and its director, Professor Good doctor, and its deputy director Dr Clever Princess.
So things went on well enough for a while. Professor Good Doctor really was a good doctor and a clever scientist besides. He knew how to run a medical institute. He knew how research projects should be designed and carried-out. Unfortunately Dr Clever, maybe beautiful - but that's not known - Princess also thought she knew how to run an institute and set up research projects. Some of her ideas weren't the same as the Good Doctor's at all. Some of her ideas - he said - weren't very good ones. Or even if they were good ones, they might need adjusting a bit here and there.
Dr Clever Princess didn't like this one little bit. She was the King's daughter, his favourite daughter. She was used to having everything her own way. She complained to her best friend in the institute. Together they told everyone that Professor Good Doctor didn't like people from their island, that he thought people from his island knew better.
Dr Princess went back to see her father the King of the Island. 'You remember those toys you gave me?' she said. 'The medical institute and Professor Good Doctor? Well they don't understand they are my toys. The won't do what I tell them.'
'Oh dear oh dear, my darling,' said the King. 'That won't do at all. But remember that Professor Good Doctor is very famous. You can only punish him for not doing what's he told if you find he really has done something wrong. You will have to be patient.'
Dr Princess was patient; she was clever too. She took to spying on the Professor Good Doctor. She read his mail; she read his emails. She listened to his telephone conversations. Above all she studied his research projects. Medical research is a complicated business; it is easy to make mistakes, to get quite small matters a little wrong.
Professor Good Doctor was a very good and thorough researcher. Carefully as Doctor Princess looked, she couldn't find any mistakes for a long time. But then one day she discovered that a junior researcher had made a mistake in one project.He had changed some of the patients' doses of medicine very slightly - not an unusual practice. But this particular study had not been designed that way.
Doctor Princess rubbed her hands with glee when she discovered the mistake. "Now we can punish Professor Good Doctor for not doing what I tell him. Now we've got him,' she said.'
To be cont:
Oh and this; the other fairy story - of sorts. Episodes of Lifting the World will from now on go out every Wednesday morning. Be there. If you want.
Oh: and one more thing. For technical reasons, Granny is choosing to disable comments on this post and its sequel. All will be as normal after that.