The big black door which has no keys

The big black door which has no keys

In recent weeks whenever I have switched on the TV news bulletins I seem to have been greeted by the sight of the imposing black door at No 10 Downing Street. It must be the most photographed door in history.

I remember as a child in the late 1950s walking along Downing Street with my mother past that door with a policeman standing stoically on the doorstep appearing to be the only security presence. No, they didn't let us in.

Times have changed of course and the general public have not been able to stroll down that street for many years for obvious security reasons.

The door at No 10 was traditionally made from oak and painted black. However in 1908 when Herbert Asquith became prime minister he had the door painted a dark green possibly at the request of his wife Margot. The green door was felt by some to be too frivolous and it quickly returned to black as soon as Asquith left office in 1916.

The next major change came in 1991 following an IRA mortar attack. The old oak door was replaced by a bullet-proof steel variety. It is definitely not a traditional door, doesn't have any keys and can only be opened by a security guard sitting inside. The guard scans people on a screen before they can enter. Not only people. He is also responsible for the important task of letting Larry the Cat in or out.

The brass inscription on the door reads "First Lord of the Treasury" a title all prime ministers have held since the days of Sir Robert Walpole back in 1735.

Finally from our Useless Information Department, the 0 in No 10 is actually a capital letter "O" and not a zero. Don't ask me why.

A lectern for Liz

It has been a busy time for Downing Street lecterns which have been wheeled out regularly of late. When Liz Truss announced her resignation outside No 10, she was speaking from a rather strange-looking lectern. Political observers likened it to a Jenga Tower, the block building game that ends when the tower collapses. It seemed quite appropriate considering the circumstances, although a curious choice by Ms Truss.

Apparently each PM chooses his or her own lectern. Unfortunately Rishi Sunak was appointed in such a rush he had to use an old one that had been gathering dust inside No 10. There must be a room somewhere in No 10 where they store ancient lecterns, or do they throw the old ones away? That would seem a trifle wasteful considering that the one used by Boris Johnson was rumoured to have cost £3,000 (132,000 baht).

One wonders if Larry the Cat in his position as Chief Mouser and longest-serving resident of the No 10 household, should have his personal lectern to purr on.

Red Dog

From a special cat to an even more special dog.

Much as I love dogs I am usually wary of Hollywood doggy movies which tend to be a bit on the saccharine side. However last week I came across an Australian comedy/drama on television that was a cut above the rest.

Based on a true story Red Dog (2011) tells of a Kelpie cattle dog that was adopted by a mining community in Dampier, in the north of Western Australia. He's not particularly cute but quite smart and although everybody loves him, nobody actually owns him. Eventually he finds a master to take care of him and the dog remains very loyal.

Suffice to say there are plenty of Aussie-style laughs plus a few tears.

I am pleased to report that Koko, the dog which plays the part of Red Dog in the film, deservedly won the Golden Collar Award in Los Angeles for Best Dog in a Foreign Film.

Bank on the barker

The dog on which the film is based made such an impact in the Pilbara locality that there is a statue of him in Dampier. The dog got its name from the red dirt that is a feature of the Pilbara region. It was also known as Red Kelpie.

The dog made such an impact on the lives of the mining community he became a member of the Dampier Salts Sports and Social Club and also the Transport Workers Union. Red Dog even had an account at the Bank of New South Wales which used him in a promotional campaign with "If Red banks at the Wales, then you can too".

Hachiko

Red Dog is reminiscent of another true canine story featuring the Japanese dog Hachiko and its extraordinary loyalty. The dog's owner was a professor at Tokyo University and every afternoon Hachiko would wait at Shibuya railway station for the professor on his way home.

One day in May 1925 the professor collapsed and died while teaching. Despite this the faithful dog continued to show up at the station every afternoon for more than nine years waiting for its master. The dog became such a familiar sight that there is a statue of Hachiko outside Shibuya station.

The story was made into a film Hachi: A Dog's Tale with the location moved from Japan to Rhode Island. Just like Red Dog it is a poignant tale and it is recommended to have a handkerchief on standby.

Roger Crutchley

Bangkok Post columnist

A long time popular Bangkok Post columnist. In 1994 he won the Ayumongkol Literary Award. For many years he was Sports Editor at the Bangkok Post.

Email : oldcrutch@gmail.com

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