How to kill friends and annihilate people

Most people know that Sarah Palin likes shooting oiks with a laser-guided, jaw-powered cannon of meretricious hypocrisy, and that Dick Cheney kills old men while they innocently shit in the woods. Some people even knew that Idi Amin was a light-heavyweight boxing champion in the 1950s, when men were men and Bakelite was distilled from fudge leftovers.

We knew that Putin likes to put on his pyjamas and wrestle with another be-pyjamaed chap, until he bites his head off, and that Arnie was a body builder. I’d say something funny about that if Clive James hadn’t already said the best thing possible, when called him a ‘brown condom full of walnuts.’

You might have known, but I didn’t, that Fidel Castro was a minor baseball player and 70 years ago had a trial with the Washington Senators. They could have saved their country a lot of bother if they’d signed him up, and kept him busy hurling a compressed cork and leather ball at a man wearing half a padded dustbin for the past seven decades.

I bet you didn’t know that Henry VIII was into jousting, at which he was so poor that he gave his wife a miscarriage. Later he cut off her head, but they had to hush it up and say she’d been executed to save his blushes. It doesn’t do for kings to be bad a gym.

But back to subjunctive history. I like the one about Fidel and how he could have dwindled out to his twilight years as a player of then a charming, bumbling, occasionally ranting, bearded pundit on one of the most exploitative and capitalist sports on the planet (says this book).

My favourite bit of subjunctive history comes from John Lanchester, who decided once that Britain’s involvement in the Iraq war could have been avoided if only John Prescott could land a squarer punch. Prescott was an old boxer too. Remember when he clouted that voter in 2001? He used his left hand, didn’t he? Well, says Lanchester:

If 16-stone Prescott had hit the egg-thrower with his right, he would have knocked him out, and quite likely have broken his jaw. If either of those things had happened – if the man had ended up in hospital – Prescott would have had to resign. Whoever Blair appointed as his new deputy prime minister would have had much less pull with the party, because no one had as much pull with the party as Prescott. So when the crucial vote on the Iraq war came, Blair wouldn’t have had a deputy able to bring the party onside in the way that Prescott did. Instead of 139 Labour MPs voting against the war, a majority of them would have voted against, Blair would (as he said in private) have had to resign, and we wouldn’t have gone to war. And all because, for once, a New Labour figure didn’t lean to the right.

Who says over-eating and violence never solved anything.

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~ by David Thorley on November 24, 2010.

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