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Shall We Stuff the President?

Posted: Updated:
LIDERES EMBALSAMADOS
AP

The BA 747 sat idling at the Gate at Heathrow airport. Our departure time of 9.00pm for Nairobi came and went. Two hours elapsed.

Suddenly two men in black bearing equally black cases entered the plane and we took off. Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya's first independent president, had died earlier in the evening and I had rushed to their airport with just my passport.

During the flight I managed to corner one of the black suit men and discovered he was an embalmer. He and his friend were en route to stuff and preserve the so recently departed president.

Kenyatta was the father of today's candidate for president, Uhuru Kenyatta. But it is not of him or his father that I want to blog. It is of the matter of embalming itself.

The most famous still surviving embalmed politician has to be Lenin - still on display beneath the walls of the Kremlin in Moscow. He's alone these days. His political death-bed-mate Stalin had to be removed in 1961 due to the need to generally de-Stalinise Russia.

Of course, in the UK the 19th Century philosopher Jeremy Bentham remains in a glass case at London University near the top of Gower Street. Although many question whether it IS him. He's complete, but looks extraordinarily unwell.

Lenin has suffered considerably down the years. An ear fell off some time ago and had to be re-attached. Nasty black splodges appear on his skin from time to time and have to be removed with hydrogen peroxide.

Kenyatta had to be embalmed and, how shall I put it - 'stuffed' during the night hours so that the crowds could file past during the day. I went in every day, and each day his shape had changed. His tummy was down, the bungs in his nose suggested 'work'.

At any event, despite the efforts of the black clad men on the BA 747, the old boy had to be removed from public view within a year. He had been laid beneath glass at pavement level and in some way had got too hot. He sort of fell to pieces.

As the Venezuelans commit to embalming Hugo Chavez, they should perhaps take note of what has happened to these once great men. Stuffing a president doesn't do him any good in the long run. A glass case in a military building on public display may not prove the kindest ending for Hugo.

This blog also appears on Channel 4 News' Snowblog

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