Well now, I'm not much of a one for banning things. Most bans seeks to protect people, but only people who don't need protecting obey them. And those who do, don't. So bans backfire.

Nevertheless some things are so outstandingly dangerous, so malign in their influence, that everyone agrees a ban is needed. Our better selves try to protect us from our less-than-better selves - the selves that bubble with greed and the lust to destroy, that would rather be king of a heap of rubble than a citizen of an orderly world. So we ban such things as the trade in plutonium or smallpox germs. And we urgently need a similar ban on Monopoly.

A game of Monopoly was Mike's idea and I leapt at it. I hadn't played for half a century. The moment he suggested it I had an image of my bedroom as a 10-year-old and a winter's afternoon and maybe five of us on the floor round the Monopoly board of whom I remember most vividly my best mate, Dave Collier, and Bambi-eyed Mike Morris over whom every mother melted and who was capable of quite spectacular violence. I was afraid of Mike Morris but I loved Monopoly.

It turned out that the board hadn't changed in 50 years and neither had the little metal pieces. 'I'll be the dog,' I said, because I'd always been the dog. I liked dogs then. I like them now. But I had forgotten the problem with the little metal dog. It falls too readily on its side as if shot.

There were four of us playing: Mike, a young English actress (and if anyone objects to that word they will kindly explain to me how otherwise I might convey with such precision and concision the information that the person makes her living in the theatre and is at the same time female), Mike's daughter who is also my goddaughter and whom I have known since the week of her birth 14 years ago and who is for me the symbol of all innocence and hope, and me.


You start Monopoly as equals - everyone has a sufficiency of money. And you start it as friends - a dog, a hat, a boot and a smoothing iron all setting out on an adventure together. What could be nicer?

Enter chance, in the form of dice. Their random favours in the first few throws change everything. They dictate wealth and poverty, who'll live long and who'll die young. There's no skill involved, no merit rewarded. Only chance.

The tactics are obvious: buy real estate. Buy everything you land on (except the utilities - the waterworks and the electricity company. These are common goods. So they don't accommodate the purely selfish, the developer of property, the screw-you landlord.) Property is all.

If chance favours you early you'll get rich. If it doesn't, nothing will make any difference. For having established the haves and have-nots the game just widens the gulf between them till the have-nots fall in and die. It's all so very true to life.

Mike was unlucky. He landed repeatedly on Chance and Community Chest and on property that had already been bought, so after three rounds he owned only a couple of stations. Meanwhile the actress was building houses on Mayfair. Mike landed on Mayfair. His goose was so well cooked you could hear the skin crackle.

As Mike shrivelled and died his daughter swung her gun turrets on her godfather. She whom I'd cradled nervously in my arms when she was a mere bawling pinkness, she who had crawled over my old black dog, she whose first day at school I could remember, she who is a rare spot of innocence in a weary world, she now had a light in her eyes I hadn't seen there before. She was squeezing the life from me and loving it. I went down like a burst tyre. My little dog fell on its side and lay still. And then it was just the two of them, actress and goddaughter, circling the board like duelling dinosaurs, flat-eyed, wary, seeking advantage, probing for weakness, knowing only the one could live. It was ugly.

Maybe that stuff is all there anyway. Maybe the baboon of destruction, the rampant self, is indelible. Maybe there's Trump in you and there's Trump in me. Maybe William Golding was right. Maybe that's the reason why it's no go. But if there's any chance that it isn't we should seize it. And we could start by banning Monopoly.