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  • David Mathews

Sir Arthur writes to Putin: please die


There was a time when I hoped to have a short story published in Russian. Why? In admiration of Chekhov. One of my scone stories would have been just right.

I liked the idea too and few people say this of visiting north west Russia. I wanted to see the salvaged Liberty Ship Daniel Morgan. Part of convoy PQ-17, it was reported sunk in 1942 on its way to Archangel. In recent times, the photographer Simon Roberts spotted it at Murmansk, and I was rather taken with the image in Roberts’s Motherland.

Then there's the train I fancied, from Helsinki's gorgeous station to St Petersburg ...

All off my list now, fancies made bitter by a man who never holds one grudge when he can hold several. He would smirk.

Why, I asked Arthur, does such slight stuff niggle me in the face of the horrors Putin orders daily?

I have mentioned Arthur before, Sir Arthur Whatnot, retired psychiatrist. Always a man for perspective, he did not quite pat me on the head, but poured me a glass of something to toast the New Year, and we parked my disappointments.

He and I mulled what it is like to be Mr Putin. Does he confess any sins to the old spook, Patriarch Kirill? Does he pull wings off flies when there are no humans to humiliate? Does he masturbate to videos of Ukrainians dead in the street, trussed and shot?

Arthur showed me his letter. It won’t reach Putin, of course, but he hopes it will weigh on ambassador Andrei Kelin. Arthur has sent Kelin a copy, in the spirit of my chum Sidney’s initiative (see my previous post).

Arthur is brief. He advises Vladimir Vladimirovich that his behaviour is similar to that of several patients with whom he, Arthur, was unsuccessful, and whose outcomes were poor. My friend concludes:

Mr Putin, I do not wish anyone ill. My profession is committed to understanding others – how life has brought them to the problems with which they present. I must, however, make an exception in your case. Even though you are the younger man, my hope is that you die before me. I do not fantasise that you will die horribly; suddenly but peacefully would be good enough. Please, just be gone.

Arthur had included reference to a prayer that Christians deploy for evil-doers, that God will turn their hearts. But turning Putin’s seized heart is asking too much, I suggested, even if the Almighty came equipped with WD40.

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