So it started when the family shared what we’d written today. We usually exchange the day’s highlights, a good way for a little boy to learn conversation at the dinner table. I made the great mistake of recounting one of my contributions to today’s Daily media digest in work, a bulletin that fills in 3000 staff on the day’s headlines. I’d written that Lord Lucan has been declared dead, after new legislation allowed the courts to “gamble with the odds that he had now died.” Given Lucky Lucan’s profession, the mildly witty pun is of interest only to historians of great tailoring and dark deeds, but I felt worth recounting to my loyal little nuclear family.
That was my first mistake.
“Dad, who’s Lord Lucan?”
Replying was the second mistake.
“He was a man who disappeared after he got in terrible trouble for probably doing something very bad.”
“Dad, why did he disappear? What did he do.”?
Now at this point I could have ducked out. But within reason we’ve decided always to tell the little one the truth, on the grounds that he hears and speaks of far worse in the playground. So, third mistake, I kept answering the interrogation.
“He was having a very big row with his wife, who was the mam of his kids. He wasn’t a very nice man, by all accounts. And one night, we think but nobody knows for sure, he killed a lady.”
“Killed her dead, Dad?”
“Yes. That’s a terrible thing to do.”
“How old was he? Did he have a moustache?”
Unsure why this matters, I explain that he was my age and he did indeed have a splendid moustache. Facial topiary and longevity established, we returned to the details of the alleged murder.
“Why did he kill her dead, Dad?”
“We don’t really know for sure, but the thinking goes that he thought this lady was his wife in the dark and he bashed her.”
“That’s very naughty, Dad. We’re not allowed to bash people. Especially a lady.”
“Yes, you’re right. If it were him who did it, the Police would have put him in prison for ever.”
“Dad, if he killed someone dead did he have a black, black heart?”
“Like the man who wanted to kill Jesus?”
“No Dad, King Helid.”
“You mean King Herod?”
“Yes, he had a black, black heart. I’ve got a pink heart, Dad. You’ve got a red one.”
“So it seems. But nobody really knows what happened because Lord Lucan disappeared.”
“By magic, Dad?”
“No, by a Ford Corsair and then a cross-channel ferry. We think.”
“Did he run really really fast.?”
“So to speak, yes.”
And so it continued.