The last sixteen months have seen three enormous deaths for me, the passing of the three most important men in my life. And there was a fourth.
The fourth was my aunt Lucy’s husband Richard Hobhouse. He passed away many years ago but as a boy he was a massive figure in my life. We used to play war games like Diplomacy. He would never let me win. Not even once. He would give me books to read on history, usually military history. It is because of him that even before studying the 1600s, 1700s and 1800s at school I had a good knowledge and fascination with that part of English history. I have noted before how kids today are not taught about the events of The Glorious Revolution or the Civil War and that gap in their knowledge allows others to rewrite our history.
I was, today, thinking back to Uncle Richard taking myself and my cousin C, who has just become a granny, on a rainy day, to a canal museum in Cheshire which included a lift taking all of us in the boat from one canal to another. That was industrial history and uncle Richard made it fascinating.
Winding forward, uncle Christopher Booker, my father and the academic Bill Long have all gone to a better place in such a short time. All had strong views and as they discuss matters in a better place it will be a bit like the Supreme Court. Chris is on the right, Bill on the, far, left and my father is a maverick in the middle. Normally he would side with Bill but just occasionally the swing vote would go the other way.
On some matters there would be unity: free speech, civil liberties, Israel. They were all wrong about Israel. The three men would all have been at one on the need for academic integrity and in despair at the decline of intellectual rigour and of free speech in academia.
I spoke to Dad every day. With Uncle Chris it was, until his illness, once a week but those conversations were long and wide ranging. Bill I spoke to less but even a few weeks before his death he was putting me straight on an obscure point of 1930s American history with reference to how it was being “mis-taught” in British schools.
After such an eventful few months, my writing tailed off for a while but, in recent weeks, I seem to have found a new wind. And there are so many articles and podcasts that I wish I could discuss with all three men notably my recent work on Orwell and Carole Cadwalladr. Dad wrote a book on 1984 so he would have been the first port of call on that one. But also, what I consider, to be one of my better podcasts on the attempts to inject a BLM agenda into history GCSE’s.
Bill was a stalwart campaigner against the evils of racial injustice. My father and Chris both embraced and welcomed the BAME women who married their eldest sons. But the sheer intellectual dishonesty of what is proposed would have, I am sure, have horrified all three. Perhaps it is better than none of them were around to witness it. But it is agonising not being able to chat to them about this and so many other matters.