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Christopher Somerville: If I ruled the world

BY Becca Inglis

16th Aug 2023 Life

Christopher Somerville: If I ruled the world

Christopher Somerville is a prolific travel writer and walking correspondent for The Times. He shares the rules he would lay down if he gained world domination

Beer would be non-fattening

I love the taste, the feel and the mythology of beer. I grew up in the Great Beer Drought of the 1960s and 1970s, when all beer was fizzy and tasted of chemicals. Nowadays, it’s easy to find good beer—and get fat on it.

When I rule, a team of scientists will produce a mystery enzyme which, when added to beer, will render it entirely non-fattening.

Geologists would be forced to explain themselves to everyone

Folded limestone geologyThe high drama of the Earth's history would be rendered in simple terms for the everyman geology enthusiast

Geology is a dramatic subject. It’s all about Earth being ripped apart, magma coming up, tectonic plates crashing into each other, and mountain ranges rising and falling.

But if you try and research it, and you’re not a geologist, so much of it is locked away behind this screen of technicalities.

"Geology is a dramatic subject. It’s all about Earth being ripped apart"

I came across this rock with a green hue to it, but when I googled it, I disturbed a hornet’s nest of this sort of thing: “there is not a continuous series between calcic clinoamphiboles, such as hornblende, and low-calcium amphiboles, such as orthoamphiboles or the cummingtonite-grunerite series.”

Let us mere mortals in! Geologists will be forced to explain themselves.

Everyone must do Morris dancing

The widespread tendency to sneer at Morris dancers must cease. These splendid men and women uphold a noble old tradition with their lumpy-bumpy music, smack-and-kick dancing and jingling leg bells.

Morris dancing will replace football as the national sport, every stadium will be turned over to a Morris dancing stadium, and all without exception will be required to participate and keep a straight face.

"Morris dancing will replace football as the national sport"

Anyone who cracks a smile will be decked out in bells, ribbons and a preposterous hat, and forced to run through the streets while being belaboured with pig’s bladders by the populace.

We’d have a 300-feet gold statue of “Gentleman” Lee Brilleaux

Lee Brilleaux from band Dr FeelgoodCredit: Bruno louault, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons. Cult frontman Lee Brilleaux would be given his proper dues

This isn’t really a rule, but it’s something I shall insist upon as soon as I get my hands on Britain’s gold reserves.

Lee Brilleaux, who died in 1994, was the gravel-voiced singer with Canvey Island’s R&B heroes Dr Feelgood, “the greatest local band in the world”. They made the most wonderful, energetic blues music.

Ever since artist Scott King proposed, perhaps slightly tongue-in-cheek, the erection of a 300-feet gold statue of Brilleaux on Southend seafront, I have been waiting for it to materialise.

Now it’s going to happen. Not just Lee, though—alongside him will stand in solid 24-carat glory his three bandmates. That’ll show ’em.

Ox/nut roast for everyone who trims their local footpaths

Public footpath through farm fieldsOur public footpaths are our nation's greatest treasure, but they are under constant threat

We’ve got an almost unbelievable 140,000 miles of public rights-of-way. If you look at any OS map, it is covered in dotted green lines. It’s unique but in great decline.

Farmers grow crops across them, people buy houses where the paths go and then close them, waymarks fall apart—what I consider to be our greatest national treasure is fading away.

"What I consider to be our greatest national treasure is fading away"

So I will decree that there will be a roasted ox (or nut roast) with unlimited beer (or cranberry juice) and Morris dancing (or R&B) for all who turn up on National Footpath Day (April 31), secateurs in hand, for a day’s good hard snipping.

There’s a good boy, then!

The world’s finest minds would seek the solution to this conundrum: why do we persist in telling dogs they are good boys or girls, when we can’t possibly know if it’s true? They might be bad. We don’t know.

The first boffin who comes up with a plausible answer will be declared my successor as World Ruler, and I shall happily step aside to contemplate my glittering achievements in a long and happy retirement.

Walking the Bones of Britain by Christopher Somerville is published by Transworld (August 24, £25)

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