Ra­dio Va­lerie Grove

The Oldie - - CONTENTS -

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.

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