Town mouse visits the British Museum

As Conservative MP for Britain’s most sparsely populated and therefore biggest constituency (Penrith and The Border), Rory Stewart must be this country’s most rural MP. Nevertheless, he was in Kensington last Wednesday delivering a talk to help raise funds for the Royal Humane Society, the venerable organisation that hands out awards to recognise bravery.

One of this year’s recipients, Lucy Gale, received acclamation from the 750-strong audience for her extraordinary act of courage when she rescued two car drivers from certain death by dragging them away from a level crossing as an unstoppable goods train approached. She will receive a medal from Princess Alexandra in May.

During his talk ‘Afghanistan: Rhetoric and Reality’, Mr Stewart implored us to go and see the exhibition about that country showing at the British Museum. Being a good little rodent, I did just that. There, I found an inscription from a funerary column that is as applicable today as to the traders, warriors and nomads it addressed two millennia ago: As a child, learn good manners/as a young man, learn to control your passions/in middle age, be just/in old age, give good advice/then die, without regret.