Wednesday, 12 October 2016

The most right-wing man in Britain

Beaver sightings! At Woodlands Castle. Wanted dead or alive. £1,000 reward! For crimes against trees. Beavers have been cutting down our trees!
So reads a sign erected by landowner Sir Benjamin Slade on his land around Woodlands Castle, Somerset. A beaver expert, who examined the damaged trees, begged to differ, telling the BBC that "Beavers produce distinctive scalloped chips when they gnaw trees and there weren't any ... It looks as if it has been done by humans with an axe."

The needle of my Great British Eccentric detector was flickering by this point, so I googled the beaver-bashing baronet and, boy, was I not disappointed. Sir Benjamin was, I discovered, either:
  1. The living embodiment of that comic monstrosity Sir Henry, eponymous antihero of the surreal monologue / film Sir Henry at Rawlinson End, or
  2. an upper-class performance artist who has turned his whole life into a Vivian Stanshall tribute act
Here's Sir Henry Benjamin sitting at the bar in his main property, a stately home, near Taunton, holding forth to interviewer Robert Chalmers on the general beastliness of foreigners. Chalmers doesn't record whether the baronet was wearing hairy tweed and waving an overflowing balloon of brandy for emphasis, but that's how the interview looks in my head:
"Russians?" Sir Benjamin Slade pauses, seeking the adjective best suited to the compatriots of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. "Dishonest."

"Chinese?" I venture. "They're impossible."

"Brazilians?" "Sex, football and dancing. That's all they do."


"Boring. The Romans described them as boastful. They're at your feet or at your throat."

Sir Benjamin embarked on this guide to global culture after recalling how he once defaced an atlas before presenting it to his godson. "It was this wonderful children's book, showing all the countries of the world and saying lovely things about each. I took this atlas and wrote on every country, all about the people. It is quite horrific, this stuff I wrote, and which the godson read. One of my friends said: 'Do not let anyone see it. Or you will go to prison.'"
Just drop whatever you're doing and read the rest of Chalmers' interview. It's hilarious.

Surprisingly, Sir Benjamin has a blog. Unsurprisingly, he was an enthusiastic supporter of Vote Leave Beaver.
"Yes, I can see it's been defaced by Bolsheviks, but what the Devil d'you think you're wearing, man? This isn't a ruddy carnival, you know. Quick, pass me my pistol, see if I can't wing the blighter. Bloody country's going to the dogs..."