Radio Valerie Grove
After cruising through cradles of ancient civilisation from Ephesus to Athens, it was a jolt to arrive back in north London by tube on the day of the Arsenal vs West Ham match: welcome to the cradle of barbarianism. Actually, as soon as I heard Bob Flowerdew’s advice about planting hyssop and mulching the roses, I knew all was the same as ever at home: gardening is a keynote of our civilisation. So is the way a nation deals with dissident voices.
The Reunion retold the story of the Bulgarian Georgi Markov, whose assassination – ‘the umbrella poisoning’ in London 40 years ago – would never be forgotten. More recent events – Litvinenko, the Skripals – add a contemporary relevance to the subject of elimination of dissidents by poison.
Markov, one of the émigrés from communist regimes employed by BBC external services, was on Waterloo Bridge on a September Friday in 1978 when he felt a sharp jab in his thigh (‘like being prodded by the tip of an umbrella’). The culprit scurried away in a cab.