Considerable alarm and despondency arose in the people of London, or at least in a few of them, over sightings in the River Thames of the Loch Ness Monster, no less. She (“Nessie” is traditionally feminine for some long-forgotten reason) is clearly visible in smartphone video shot from the Emirates airline, which is close to London City Airport but is not an airline. It is a cable-car arrangement strung across the river in east London, affording you the opportunity to sway precariously in the wind as you travel expensively from roughly nowhere to, erm, roughly nowhere. This headline-grabber, initially stifled, has become a viral news story again several days after the sighting.
It was really only a matter of time before Nessie put in an appearance in the current capital of the current United Kingdom. Spare her a thought, give her a break. She is known to be quite highly introverted. It must be tedious, each summer, to have to dodge several hundred hi-resolution camera lenses, each at least a metre long, on a forest of tripods parked along the lochside near such gloriously-monikered sites as Drumnadrochit and Castle Urquhart.
Nessie’s more recent appearances have all been late at night, which means rarely in high summer as those days are long in the Highlands, and always within an hour of the pubs closing. Perhaps she thought that she’d be able to avoid being spotted in that stretch of London’s river, having researched and discovered that next to nobody ever uses this cable-car. She may well, like the rest of us, have wondered about why it was ever built and thus neglected to take into account that anyone travelling on it would probably want to take pictures from up there; after all, there is no other obvious reason for using the thing. Everyone in London spends a lot of each day taking and uploading pictures of themselves, or each other, usually against some London background, if not their dinner. It’s not known that Nessie has a smartphone, but it’s hard to keep up with such when you’re probably over 1,000 years old.
Any cynic who might suggest that this appearance was a timely distraction for the Tory Prime Minister from probing questions into his family financial arrangements, in the light of the Panama Papers revelations, ought to be ashamed of themselves—or, perhaps, taken a bit further along the same river and thrown into the Tower. After all, the P.M. had clearly denounced as morally dubious certain tax-avoidance schemes and has already declared that his late father’s use of similar arrangements (that were not designed for tax evasion, which would be legally wrong) were a “private matter.”
So that’s O.K., then. Not for Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn who promised to publish his own tax details and called on the prime minister to do the same.
Meantime, the ripple expanded from Panama, as among those named included the prime minister of Iceland, a Spanish film-director, sports-people including the world’s best footballer Lionel Messi and the newly-elected president of F.I.F.A., the beleaguered governing body of international football, who had hoped that all such scandal was behind F.I.F.A. until, once again, Swiss police called on the offices of the European body, U.E.F.A. Nobody stands accused of any crime; the concern is over possibly morally dubious tax-avoidance scheming, not illegal tax evasion.
Nessie might have come south for other reasons, though, such as to raise awareness of a renewed push for Scottish Independence after the Edinburgh Parliament in just a few weeks’ time. The monster is known to be a supporter of full independence. It is widely expected that the pro-independence Scottish National Party will sweep all before them in May.
The photo-opportunity this afforded the election campaign, and a possible second independence referendum, would be worth its weight in gold, all relevant taxes having been paid, of course. Some myths are peddled to the gullible about Nessie, but the Highland economy has done well out of them. There were allegations that this story, that broke first on April 1, might not be trustworthy. The monster, too, has spent her entire and long life offshore, in a manner of speaking. Yet there are some who are agnostic about the creature’s very existence, not just about this, her latest appearance. After all, if it turned out that the Loch Ness Monster didn’t really exist, despite the logical and ontological inconsistencies that such a statement would involve and the difficulties any first-year philosophy undergraduate could recite about proving a negative, isn’t it just as likely that Mr. Cameron’s offshore investments don’t exist either?
David Stewart, S.J., is America’s London correspondent.