Whenever and wherever I encounter
the idiom about the elephant
in the room I think of Clive of India –
the victor of the Battle of Plassey,
main accessory of the first Bengal
Famine, multi-millionaire, whose crimes,
Samuel Johnson claimed, ‘impelled him
to cut his own throat’, and whose controversial
statue stands in Shrewsbury’s town square –
and of Lancelot Spode, a stringer
for The Shropshire Gleaner, who, one foggy
November day in the ’50s, disappeared.
Spode’s new silver grey Triumph Mayflower
was found, locked, on the road from Market Blandings
to Much Middleford, not a league from
Moreton Say, Clive’s birthplace. The stringer,
it is said, continually searched
the whole of Salop for what he thought
would be the century’s scoop: the graves
of the three elephants it was rumoured
Clive had brought back alive from India.
A distant and long dead relative of mine,
a man who could have passed as Trotsky’s dad,
would claim, after a drink or three, to have found
in the wild grounds of a derelict mansion
between Moreton Say and Market Snodsbury –
long ago rebuilt as an hotel and spa –
three deep pits, overgrown, and empty.
Not far from them, still intact, was the rusted
spiral of a reporter’s notebook.
Clive of IndiaP.G. WodehouseSamuel JohnsonTrotsky