Episode 1 of The Quiet Revolutionary: the heroic role played in a Plot to Assassinate the King by someone you’ve all heard of, Series 4 of our ‘The Truth Lies in Bedtimes Stories from See Through News’ podcast
In Episode 1, Series 4 of our podcast The Truth Lies in Bedtime Stories, The Quiet Revolutionary – Dad, Me and Jimmy P, we discover a tale of two layers of hero worship.
Written, Produced & Narrated by SternWriter
Audio Production by Samuel Wain
Next: Episode 2, The Cauldron.
Like all stories, it’s best to start at the beginning:
Or if you’d like to hear all 10 episodes in one go, here’s the omnibus edition.
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The Quiet Revolutionary is a podcast by The Truth Lies in Bedtime Stories, from See Through News.
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If you enjoyed this series, please share it with others, and try our other stories.
- Series 1: The Story of Ganbaatar: the only deep sea navigator in Mongolia
- Series 2: Betrayed: a tale of Christmas spiritual pollution
- Series 3: Life on the Edge: Taiwan, China, America and the Moment I Realised Mrs. Wang Was Mostly Guessing What Her Husband Said
- Series 5: A Classical Chinese Dirty Joke, Told Thrice
- Series 6: Teetering – how a Hawaiian beach bum held my career in the balance
Episode 1 – Dad, Me and Jimmy P.
Prepare yourself for a story that embraces the 19th century internet, the guillotine, dodgy watchmakers, a blowgun and Pitt the Younger.
But first, it’s only fair to warn you this story contains a double-layer of hero-worship.
First, there’s the hero-worship my father had for the hero of this story, a man you’ve all heard of, probably, the man who one way or another dominated my father’s working career, spare time, and retirement.
Then there’s my own hero-worship for my Dad, one of whose favourite lines was that he hoped to ‘die at the age of one hundred, stabbed in the back by a jealous lover’.
In 2018, Dad fell a bit short, dying just before his 88th birthday, and in the end it was a stroke, not a jealous lover. But if nothing else Dad taught me to squeeze the pips out of a good gag…
I think of my father every day, which makes it strange to think of him as dead.
For someone you love, there’s no such thing as a good death, but now time has drawn the sting a little, I’m wondering if Dad’s life, wasn’t about as good as it gets.
For sure, Dad’s life certainly shared many similarities with that of his hero, and the hero of our story.
Dad was born 106 years after his hero had died, but both rose from humble origins to command the respect of their peers.
Both lead great adventures of lives.
Both had a lifelong love of learning, foraging across a broad range of interests.
Both lead remarkably independent careers in a business usually under the thumb of Big Institutions or Big Money.
Not bad lives, then, not bad at all.
When I eventually girded myself to trawl through the contents of Dad’s study following his funeral, I found a trove of books, documents, slides, reproductions, photocopies and facsimiles.
This trove forms the basis of the story you’re about to hear.
Dad had no training as a historian, yet over the course of his life, he managed to assemble pretty much all the available evidence, references, histories and accounts relating to his hero.
For you, I suppose, it could look like an obsession.
For us growing up, of course, it was normal.
In our family, the object of Dad’s hero-worship was an extra family member.
Jimmy P, we called him, though that’s not the name you’ll all know him by.
Now I say it, it does sound a bit strange, sharing a dinner table with someone who’s been dead for more than 250 years.
But as you’re about to discover, there are many amazing and frankly unbelievable aspects to the life of my Dad’s hero.
Strangest of all might be that despite his many achievements, in an astonishing range of fields, the only reason we all know this Londoner’s name today is thanks to a Frenchman, who stumbled across his work decades after Dad’s hero was buried.
The work across which that Frenchman stumbled, was a 65-page essay published in 1817.
This pamphlet barely caused a ripple at the time, nor for the best part of a century thereafter.
Yet you all know the author’s name – or rather, what was named after him.
As I trawled through Dad’s trove, I came to understand why my father felt such an affinity for this long-dead fellow-Londoner.
Jimmy P shared the same timeless qualities I admire in my father, principally Empathy, Compassion, Observation and Listening.
The story I’m about to tell, though fictionalised, is based on all those historical documents about his hero that I found in Dad’s study.
I’m just a storyteller, cribbing off his notes – any authority I can claim is obscure and marginal.
But Gerald Stern, and his hero Jimmy P, both loved the obscure and the marginal.
Both were scientists, and I want to respect their respect for facts. You may be fine with just hearing a good yarn, but as I’ll explain at the end, I’m quite picky about sifting fact from fiction.
As the story unfolds, I’ll try to be as clear as I can about which parts are gospel, and which imagined.
Now, your understanding of the imprimatur bestowed by the claim of ‘gospel’ status, of course, rather depends on your own degree of Biblical fundamentalism.
Religion was about the only biggie I can think of on which Dad and his hero might have diplomatically agreed to disagree. Given more than a century separated their time on this earth, that’s not much of a schism …
But that’s enough hero-worship and nit-picking.
We have a tale to tell.
As advertised, you’re about to hear the true story of the heroic role played by someone whose name you all know, in a literally incredible plot – to Assassinate the King!
All strapped in? Dim the lights, close the door, blow out the candles – and get ready for the story of The Quiet Revolutionary.
In Episode 2 – The Cauldron, we reveal the identity of Jimmy P, the man whose name you all know.