George was so pleased with his new hatchet he used it to cut down father's favourite cherry tree. Dad came across the fallen tree and he was not best pleased. He asked George who was responsible and he felt, as any child would that to lie was the best idea. Only George was a well brought up child and his answer is well documented. "I cannot tell a lie. I did cut it with my hatchet." Well done George, George Washington that is.
I too was, I reckon, a well brought up child. Influenced as a member of the Moravian Church, the one thing impressed on me was the difference between right and wrong. My religious convictions were never set in stone, so to speak, but I have never willingly lied, whatever the consequences. I find it difficult to comprehend how some lie so easily and so often. I was always taught as a child that Moravians are God fearing to the extent that they are exempt from having to swear on a Bible in a British court, though I have never seen this premise actually tested in a court of law. I do many bad things but lying is not one of them.
I passed down a road in the Peak District this weekend, at a place called Owler Bar. A road I vaguely recognised; then my connection to the place slowly dawned on me. Around forty years ago I travelled down this road in a minivan with three other people. A Sprite sports car passed us somewhat erratically, enough to ensure comment, not all favourable. Five minutes later and the sight that met our eyes was desperately unwelcome. The Sprite lay upside down on the road, wheels forlornly spinning, the soft top shredded, steam everywhere, the smell of petrol sinisterly threatening, the driver half in and half out of his pride and joy. Tragedy on a summer's afternoon.
We lifted the car to an upright position, for my companions, though young were fit and strong.
The driver, a young man in his twenties, though conscious, was seriously injured; obviously terminally so even to my inexperienced eyes. I could do little to help as we awaited professional help and Owler Bar is a lonely spot. I held his hand, feeling inadequate in the extreme. His words I had forgotten until this weekend. "I'm dying," he said, looking to me for reassurance.
I've never forgotten that young man or the experience of that afternoon, all those years ago.
Three weeks later I was subpoenaed to attend his inquest. I also bought another vehicle, a Mini Cooper, not my first choice, a sports car with a soft top. And I've never forgotten that young man's simple question. Would your answer have been my answer, I wonder.