Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Christmas / New Year Interregnum

What Ho Proles!

I’ve been remiss over the last few days by failing to give you a proper update of the state of affairs here at Murgatroid Hall. What is J.P. Mugrgatroid up to? What adventures might he have had whilst under the influence of those complex organic compounds we hear so much about? How much wine has the man really drunk and can a liver stand such shabby treatment? Well these are all worthy questions and it is only the answers that will let you down.

The simple truth of the matter is that very little has happened.

I slept through Christmas Day, leaving the staff time to enjoy themselves, if ‘enjoy’ is the right word once My Man starts to sing his Christmas carols. Boxing Day I spent watching sport on the TV and then sleeping off another bottle of wine I knocked back at lunch. Very little reading has got done. Camus doesn’t seem to have a laugh in him. I’ve been sorely disappointed.

Beyond that, I’ve been counting off all the celebrities who’ve been dropping like pine needles from that great tree called Life: Charlie Drake, Marmaduke Hussey, Gerald Ford, James Brown. Does anybody really believe it’s still the season to be merry?

Anyway, I will resume the usual service here next week. In the meantime, let me wish you all a jolly prosperous New Year.

As you were...

Friday, December 22, 2006

Notes From A Drunk Man Meemed

What Ho Proles!

Well feel free to knock me down with a chicken drumstick. No seriously, come at me, why don’t you!? And I little care what animal you make your weapon of choice. I’m an easy target in my current much-weakened state brought about by the honest grape. You see, I’ve quaffed my fair share of liquid organic compounds these last few days and I’ve completely lost my land legs. Mrs. Priggs claims the count is up to two-dozen bottles of the red but I say that it’s a damn lie and if it’s more than a dozen, I’ll give up booze for the New Year.

However, you might be wondering why I’m breaking my sabbatical. Well, there is a perfectly rational explanation. I’ve been meemed. Is that the right word? Damn odd thing, if you ask me. Mr. Appleyard, a fine upstanding Englishman of great wit and learning, has given me what amounts to a virus of the intellect which I’m now meant to help promulgate. I must say: I feel not unlike a lower league poultry exporter sending out cheap batches of Chinese turkeys for the festive season. Nevertheless, let’s get on with it.

‘The Seven Best Things You’ve Done This Year’.

Well, I’m sure it could be phrased in a way more pleasing to the ear: ‘The Seven Things Most Worthy of an English Gentleman’ or ‘The Seven Most Memorable Accomplishments of One’s Year’. Anyway, I’ve given it some thought and this is what I’ve come up with.

1. Voted Tory. Not so much ‘the best thing’ as ‘the done thing’.

2. Remained true to my Englishness. What’s become of this nation when you can’t randomly walk up to a person on the street and immediately discourse of the merits of Shakespeare’s deployment of the caesura over the length of the metrical line? We must act and act quickly, lest we forget our Shelley or our Byron.

3. Started this blog. Met some fine people. Some less than fine people. And met some Lib Dems too. Still, that can’t be helped. It takes all sorts… Also started to write my Memoir. It’s still in draft form, you understand, but there are 50,000 words up there so far. If they’re not a best seller for next Christmas, I’ll be taking the matter up with my legal team.

4. Blackballed my share of upstarts from my club. The problem with new money is it believes it can purchase everything that comes with breeding or (more rarely) learning. These people have neither.

5. Read some good literature. Much as I’ve enjoyed discovering Mr. Marquez, I have taken the usual pleasure from Mssrs. Maugham, Scott, and Nabokov. In verse, I’ve shunned the modern versifiers in favour of my perennial favourites: the English Romantics sans Coleridge. The Colonial poets or those with Colonial leanings have amused me the most: Mr. Gunn, Mr. Eliot, Mr. Stephens, and Ms. Dickinson.

6. Promoted the Bentley as the only reliable means of transport. I can’t advise you enough. Go and out and get yourself one.

7. Reminded my old friend, David 'Dilly' Cameron, that we old style Tories are still alive and well in the land. He can’t ignore us forever and there are still more of us than the damn foxes.

I understand I have to meem seven others. Bless my soul, I don’t believe I know seven other bloggers. So, let me make this a matter domestic and foreign. On these shores, I name: Mr. John Wilkes, The Devil’s Kitchen, Dave Hill, and two I'm damn sure won't respond: David Davies and David Willets. Across the seas, I name thee: Momentary Academic and Mild Colonial Boy.

Okay, I can hear bottles being uncorked.

Until anon,

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Merry Christmas

What Ho Proles!

Ah, the Christmas holidays! What? You mean you haven’t started them. Well, bless your poor unfortunate souls. I forget that some people do not share the same amount of leisure time as we men of the country. I’m in the zone, as they say, nothing much happening and delighting in the very fact. I decided to start my holiday a couple of days ago and it’s taken me half a dozen bottles of plonk to realise that I’d not updated you as to this fact. Well, consider yourself informed and Yours Truely in a state of low readiness. I’ve given My Man the week off to go visit family and I’m locked away with the drinks, food, and a few good books. I advise you to do the same.

I hope to keep this blog bubbling away over the festive period and rest assured that if anything happens that needs more expansive reporting, I’ll sober myself up enough to give you the full details. If I go quiet for a day or so, please assume I’m to be found in a prone condition, howling at the moon, and Mrs. Priggs tutting throughout the whole business.

In the meantime, let me be the first English Tory gentleman to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a New Year full of promise.

Now, you have my permission to treat carol singers as you wish and damn all European rulings by sticking as many shillings as you wish into a turkey (dead or alive, I really don’t care).

I’m off to get festively inebriated.

Best wishes,

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Back from Newcastle

What Ho Proles!

Sorry for the lack of an update yesterday. I forgot to mention on Friday that I was going up to the North East where I would be attending Arnold ‘Malky’ William’s bachelor party. Now I'm back, I admit that I wish I hadn't gone. He was always an odd sort but Malky has got even odder since he left Eton. He has pretensions to be an artist and is living in a converted loft studio in the middle of Newcastle where he paints people’s portraits. It sounds high and noble until I mention that he only paints them from the back. Has an odd concept of art, has old Malky. Never has a man devoted so many years to the crowns of people’s heads. It’s also quite disturbing, walking about his place and looking at so many paintings which resemble hairy faces.

Anyway, after a somewhat drunken party, I stayed the night on account of a slight mix-up with the local constabulary. Things were sorted out quite amicably this morning once my lawyer got to the station and I'm pleased to say that there’s nothing going on my record as I was the innocent party in all of this. The goat wasn’t my idea.

I travelled back down this morning and, after an uncomfortable number of hours in police cells, I intend to sleep for the rest of the day. I bring with me a rather odd canvas that Malky did of me from the back. I might get My Man to photograph it and post to the blog in the coming days. Then again, I might not. There’s not much to be learned from a picture of the back of one’s noggin, though I can’t deny that there’s a certain aristocratic charm to be seen there.

Until anon.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Thank Murgatroid It's Friday

What Ho Proles!

Well, as you can no doubt see, I’ve posted two chapters in as many days… And you tell me that my tuba lessons are interfering with my work? I laugh at such presumption and advise you all to get down to your local music shop and buy yourself this most inspiring of instruments.

That’s not to say I’m not a little tired today. I was up in the night watching the cricket in the belief that we could have the beating of the Australians. And it took a fine display of typically resolute batting for England to dig themselves into trouble. For a few moments in the early hours, I thought we’d thrash the Aussies but, by the time I went to bed, I went to sleep assured that the traditions of British sporting achievement are being matched down under.

This afternoon I’m working on another chapter after what has been a difficult week. Can’t promise much but I am finding that the work helps take my mind of the criminal insanities that are taking place in this country. It's a minor miracle that nation doesn’t slide off the slippery rock it sits on and fall into the ocean, what with the P.M. interviewed by the police, our government succumbing to Saudi blackmail and closing down police inquiries, and with the news dominated by serial killings.

Now my blood is raised and I need to calm down. That means another half an hour on the tuba before I get around to the next thousand words.

The work never ends.

Toodle pip.

30. Harry Lamb

What Ho Proles!

The car cut a corner at Piccadilly and a group of Chinese tourists somersaulted out of the way.
‘Steady on there,’ I cried to My Man who had taken my instructions to get me to London as quickly possible too much to heart. He had not unduly stressed a few cyclists since we’d entered the Congestion Zone but it was the sudden souring of the Anglo-Sino relationship that I really didn’t want adding to my bill. Mind you, I couldn’t fault the Chinese for their quick reactions. No wonder they’re so damn good around a ping pong table.

It was a judgement that could not, alas, be made for much of the resident population of London that Friday afternoon. The city is a place run by second class employees after one o’clock when streams of upper management types make their way from their offices to the cafes and bars where they take full advantage of the week’s end to indulge their liking for libation.

I had similar ambitions but with a higher purpose. I was in the city to hatch plans with an old friend who had been labouring for thirty seven years in the BBC news department.

The meeting had come about because I had suffered what is know as ‘a change of heart’, though I’ve always thought that expression sounds as messy as it does ruddy dangerous. Let’s just say that after I’d knocked Melvin Jenkins out of his chair with my slipper earlier that morning, I’d reconsidered my position. On reflection, his suggestion that I re-engage with the media seemed as sound as his not insubstantial gut, into which half of the Hall’s food supply had disappeared as I went about apologising to him and explaining the reasons why I have steel toecaps in my slippers.

The only place where I had any hesitation with Melvin’s idea was with his assumption that I’d accept any old BBC soak coming along to shadow me for a few days. You don’t go giving the BBC the right to roam where they like around your house. The next thing you know, they’d be filming Gardener’s World in your shrubbery and Monty Don’s treading mud on your best Persian.

I decided there and then that the only thing to do would be to get on the front foot with these television types. I rang up Melvin’s editor friend in the BBC and told his straight that I would agree to their proposal but with some conditions of my own.

Harry Lamb was condition number one.

Harry is a name you’ll fail to recognise unless you were watching the BBC news during the early 1980s. That’s when Harry managed to scoop the World’s press by landing on the Falkland Islands forty eight hours ahead of the British invasion force. His subsequent disappearance from our screens and his demotion within the Beeb can only be attributed to the rather juvenile overreaction of his bosses who couldn’t forgive him for confusing the Malvinas with the Maldives. When the six o’clock news went over to Harry that night, I suppose that they expected to see him through night vision goggles, standing on a cold beech on South Georgia, and not stood with a straw hat and Bermuda shorts, sucking on a cocktail straw as he was sunning himself on a beach overlooking the Indian Ocean.

Since then, he’s been backroom staff only.

‘J.P. This is an unexpected surprise,’ he said as he rose to greet me at the small restaurant off Oxford Street.

‘Is it, Harry, old friend,’ I said, clasping his hand and looking into his face left haggard by years inside the BBC. It was sad sight to see the decline of the man who had been such a player within the BBC’s news room that I’d once met Anna Ford at one of Harry’s parties. That was when I’d been straight out of Oxford and working in the City. Things had changed a lot since then. His frostbitten hair looked to have thinned on top, and his once keen eyes no longer darted around his narrow face with the same desperate need to find the next big story.

‘How’s life treating you?’ he asked, vaguely gesturing me to a seat. ‘I was ready to pack up for the weekend when the chief comes down to me and tells me he has a job for me.’

‘I bet you were a bit delighted.’

His face fell a bit and he started to nibble on his bottom lip. ‘To tell you the truth, J.P.,’ he sighed, ‘I don’t know how I felt. It’s been a while since they’ve given me any real stories to cover. Do you know about my slight cock up with the Falkland Islands fiasco?’

‘I know all about it,’ I nodded, ‘and rest assured, Harry, that nobody will hear that dreadful tale from my lips. I’ll carry that secret to my grave.’

My assurances seemed to cheer him up.

‘And you really want me to follow you around?’ he asked.

‘I think it’s a top idea of mine,’ I replied honestly. ‘The thing is, Harry, I’ve had a bit of bad press in the last week.’

‘I’ve had a bad press for the last twenty years,’ he answered and the thought of the footage of Mr. Mullin’s last flight remaining with me for that long gave me a cold shiver.

‘Then this is to our mutual benefit,’ I said to reassure the both of us. ‘I need you to give me a promotional spark to get the bad news out of people’s minds.’

‘Why? What did you do?’

I confess: I sat there with my mouth agape.

‘You must have seen it on the news,’ I said.

‘Can’t say I have,’ replied Harry, demonstrating how out of touch with the news cycle he had become.

‘But I murdered a duck,’ I whispered. ‘I threw it into the spinning turbine blades of a jet engine. I’m the talk of the internet. There are people making t-shirts with my face emblazoned with the word “duckicide”.’

‘Sounds terrible,’ said Harry. ‘People can be so cruel about the smallest mistakes you make.’
Harry’s situation sounded more desperate than I ever imagined it.

‘So, can I rely on you to give me some good coverage?’ I asked, worried that this fragile shell of a reporter might not be up to it.

‘I won’t need to leave the country?’ he asked, looking suddenly worried.

‘Rest assured, there’s no chance of that. This will all be as English as a prawn curry.’

He shrugged non-committally and set to ordering our food.

We ate exchanging small talk as friends often do when not seeing each other in a time. Finally, with the plates emptied and the coffees served, Harry sat back and wiped the corners of his mouth with his thumb and forefinger.

‘So, Mr. Harry Lamb,’ I said, feeling like I was beginning again to instil a bit of confidence into the man who had once given one of the finest war reports from a peaceful tropical beech. ‘Can we say you’ll do this for me?’

He picked up his coffee and blew a hole through the froth before he gave it a sip.

‘The thing is,’ he said with hushed voice and shifty eyes, ‘I don’t know if I can do it any more. I’m more used to working in the office. Life has passed me by. It’s a younger person’s game now. They don’t really want to give another chance to an old run down alcoholic. Answering the phones. That’s all I’m good for now.’

‘A man of you talents is wasted in backroom, Harry,’ I cried and as if to prove my point, I waved the waitress to my table.

‘My dear,’ I said, showing Harry how a gentleman wipes his mouth with a napkin. ‘Would you look at my friend here and would you care to guess his employment.’

She looked to examine Harry and I wondered if I’d chosen the right person to form such an important judgement. I’m firmly of the belief that eyebrows were not built to hold metal bolts.

‘Don’t make me larf! You mean e’s got a job?’ she asked, her brash Cockney riding roughshod over the English language and Harry’s ego.

‘See?’ said Harry, withering so much he nearly disappeared beneath the lip of the table.

‘She’s only teasing you, Harry, old sport,’ I said and aimed a warning look to the waitress. It was a look full of meaning regarding the potential of withheld tips from the Murgatroid pocket.

‘Oh, of course he has a job,’ she said. ‘I was only kidding with you. Didn’t know it was important, no I didn’t. I’d say your friend is some sort of management type. Perhaps a chairman of one of those big city corporation?’

‘Steady on there,’ I said.

‘Well, an accountant? A lawyer? A vet?’

‘What if I said he’s in TV?’

‘Oh, like repairs?’

‘I should have stayed in the office,’ whined Harry.

‘He is actually a reporter with the BBC.’

‘Oh,’ said the waitress, looking a bit disappointed. Her eyes suddenly lit up. ‘You don’t know that Ragi Omar, do you? My girlfriend don’t half have a crush on him.’

I waved her away. My point was made.

‘You see, Harry?’

‘See what? That was disastrous.’

‘Nonsense. It made my point perfectly. A woman looks at you and no longer sees the keen journalist on the hunt for a morsel for the nine o’clock news.’ I pulled at his collar and yanked at his tie. ‘Look at you, man! You’re the stuff that real undercover reporters are made of. You don’t have any of the snappy BBC pezazz. Your face holds more grim tales of woe than the whole of Jeffrey Archer’s prison diaries.’

He looked down at his off white shirt and trousers with a few too many alcohol stains.

‘Maybe you’re right,’ he muttered.

‘Of course I’m right and we’re going to see about getting you the work your shabby appearance so obviously deserves. We’re going to give the BBC news one of the greatest political documentaries ever made.’

‘Are we?’

‘Of course we are,’ I said. ‘Now drink up and do up your fly.’

Thursday, December 14, 2006

29. Three Days Later

What Ho Proles!

I emerged from my bedroom three days later, a Neanderthal in all but dressing gown, aching in every joint, and with a headache pounding like some primitive tribal types doing overtime on their trampolines. Treading carefully so as to prevent my head from attempting any more back flips with double twists, I made my way to the bathroom where I hoped to improve what small compass of the world remained within my ability to change. I was not prepared for such a bleak outlook.

The face that greeted me in the bathroom mirror looked ten years old than the one I’d seen there only days earlier. Tragedy had robbed the face of all its optimism and I looked not unlike Captain Ahab without his Dramamine. I looked like a shrunken head in a museum display telling the tale of failed Tory ambition. I looked like the ghost of elections past. I looked, in short, like a man suffering the very worst example of a hangover.

Three days of beard surrounded a mouth that tasted fresh only if by fresh we mean resembling a bag of mints taken straight from a pig farmer’s pocket after a day spent manhandling manure around his lower field. My eyes were dead to the world and the hollow sensation in the put of my stomach reminded me of my loss.

Better men than I may be able to sum up what it means to lose an animal in so traumatic a manner. Let me direct you to your Thomas Gray where I believe you’ll find some words written about a cat that went head first into a bowl of goldfish. It is a grisly tale matching anything put out by Stephen King and has the added advantage of rhyme and brevity to get you through it. Indeed, as I shaved my face, I pondered whether I should not myself pen a verse or two, in the manner of Gray, to mark the passing of a great Tory duck. I could get no further than the first verse.

'Twas on a windy runway’s side,
Where Britain’s prolish army spied
Flights of vintage aircraft wing,
Demurest of the quacking kind,
The pensive Mullins, inspired,
To fly into the big round sucking thing.

It may lack Gray’s turn of phrase but I believe in this modern age of free verse, its measured meter has a gravitas you don’t find in your Ted Hughes, Carol Anne Duffy, nor even Pam Ayres. It expresses a deep understanding of the harsh winds of fate that can run up a man’s back and even Gray could not have suffered the scorn that bit Yours Truly once Mr. Mullins got sniffed into that aircraft’s engine. His death had become a national joke and his last flight captured on a thousand video cameras, posted to the internet, seen on all the news channels.

The previous afternoon I’d taken a somewhat sharp rebuke from one of Michael Howard’s men inside Central Office, the thrust of whose argument seemed to be that the sight of a Tory throwing a duck into the intake of a jet engine was rather a poor show for both the party and the country. Little good did it do me when I mentioned that it was British engine that vapourised Mr. Mullins, and that it was a testament to British engineering that barely a scratch was to be found on the fateful turbines.

‘We don’t care if you found the beak whistling Rule Britannia,’ came the rather terse reply. ‘Michael doesn’t want to see any more business about C---- N----. We can win this election while losing that seat and, to be honest with you Murgatroid, we’re wondering if it wouldn’t better for us in the long run if we stopped supporting your campaign.’

They had a point, I suppose. Say what you want about Gray’s cat: it wasn’t put on Youtube or written about in The Sun with barely a word said about the dangers of yon ‘lofty vase’s side’.

A wash, a shave, and a scrubbing of the enamel brought me back round to something approaching aristocracy and I felt more like my old self, rid of the lingering effects of the alcohol that had served me so well. Drink had kept me numb to the news headlines but now I needed feeding with something. Michael Howard’s faith in Murgatroid had been dented and I began to wonder what kind of victory could hammer out the ding in his bodywork.

Carrying this thought as a way of adding a little boost to my spirits, I plonked myself down on the sofa in the drawing room and wrapped my dressing gown tighter around my body. A flick of the remote brought up the news channel and I looked with some sense of satisfaction that my face had disappeared from the political backdrop of the election coverage.

‘You’ve still not decided to get dressed then?’

I didn’t need to turn around. Melvin Jenkins’ rasping wheeze is as much a giveaway as his voice.

‘I still need a few words of encouragement to prevent me from climbing back under the duvet,’ I told him, chirpier than I’d been but still in little mood for his sarcasm.

He lumbered around the room and took the armchair by the window. For a moment or two, I was struck by the man’s size. In three days he seemed to have added even more pounds to his not inconsiderable number of stone.

‘Had lunch yet?’ I asked.

He held up his hand. It held a small plastic tub with a leg of chicken trapped inside. I could only be thankful he wasn’t eating duck.

‘You don’t mind?’ he asked, as he undid his airtight container.

‘Why should I mind?’

He shrugged. ‘Missed my breakfast,’ he explained, though I knew it for a lie. On the slender side of sobriety I might have been but I still recognise the lies of gluttons when I hear them.

‘Do you mind if I watch the news?’ I asked, turning up the volume to cover the sound of his chewing the white meat.

‘Be my guest,’ he replied, directing me with the leg. ‘I’ve been meaning to tell you to get back up to speed with the news.’

‘Have you now?’

‘Wanted to come and tell you myself, only Larry wouldn’t let me come to see you. I told him that they wanted to interview you.’

‘Who wants to interview me?’

‘The BBC. They want to follow you for a day on the campaign.’

My heart sank. It could mean only one thing.

‘I suppose they mentioned ducks,’ I sighed.

‘No. That’s just it,’ he said. ‘They want to give you a chance to set the record straight. I told them it would be a great opportunity for you to deflate the myths that surround you.’

I looked at my media consultant and wondered if my myths were the only thing that needed deflating.

‘And what did Larry say?’

I had to wait for the reply as Melvin made his way around a fleshy joint.

‘The thing is,’ he said, slurping on a finger, ‘after your duck got sucked into that engine, we need to put a positive spin on it.’

‘Do we indeed?’

‘Oh, without a doubt,’ he said, his eyes consuming the remains the chicken before his mouth had even got a chance. ‘A dead duck is serving nobody, so we need to make it pay.’

It was all a bit much for YT, and my blood was on the boil.

‘Make it pay?’ I asked, though clenched teeth.

‘There’s nothing wrong with publicity. That’s what I always told Rosa.’

‘Did you, now?’

‘All the time. Which is why I think it’s about time you got yourself out meeting people. You shake take the BBC’s offer and have a camera crew follow you around. Show them what a normal chap you really are, and not this cruel duck killer.’

‘Duck killer!’

‘There words, not mine,’ said the man chewing into the leg of a poor innocent chicken.

‘You want be to be shadowed by a camera crew so they can capture the next disaster to befall my life?’

He looked at me, seemingly a bit dazed by my lack of enthusiasm.

‘Jacob,’ he said, ‘you have to win this election. Moping over Mr. Mullins is not going to turn liquefied duck back into the chop we all knew and loved.’



‘You said chop.’

‘Did I? I’m sure I said chap.’

‘You most certainly did say chop.’

‘Slip of the tongue.’

It was about all I could take.

‘A slip indeed,’ I cried. ‘Only because you always wanted to see Mr. Mullins served with a nice mint sauce.’

‘I beg your pardon?’ he replied. You note, I hope, that he did not deny it.

‘Get out!’ I cried, pulling a slipper from my foot and aiming it at him. ‘Get out and take all your food with you. I’m not for moving, I tell you! I quit.’ And with that, I hurled the slipper with the full force of a well honed cricketing arm. It caught Melvin on the bridge of his nose and he fell back on the chair, which proceeded to topped over and knock over a rather nice mid-Victorian grandfather clock standing behind it.

The crash shook the house and soon the room was packed with inquisitive souls wondering why I was murmuring to myself, wrapped in a bathrobe but with only one slipper on my foot, and why Melvin Jenkins was on his back, unable to get up yet still trying to finish off half a drumstick.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Drinking Whisky With Both Barrels Loaded

What Ho Proles!

Well, the nation is hiding under its collective bedclothes tonight and I'm back on the warm stuff. What with a serial killer on the prowl and enough polonium going around to power a small sun, I can’t see the point in doing very much but hunkering down until the panic is over. I’ve instructed Mrs. My Man to release the hounds early tonight and to permit no visitors through the gates. We’ve also loaded up all the shotguns in the house and I have one close to hand should any eventuality arise. A message to the young: reading, writing, shotgun safety, Latin, in that order. It’s the only proper education fit for an English gentleman.

You might wonder why I take all this gristly news to heart as I’ve spent the day writing and avoiding as much television as possible.But damn them if these journalist types don’t give us the willies, if you’re pardon an expression I’m sure we took from the French. They (the journalists, not the French) glamorise crime in a way that makes one feel that the whole human race is in pretty tight pickle. Is it any wonder I feel like I’m the only sane man stranded on this island of ours? The innocent amongst us should all decamp to the Isle of White and whoever is left are sure to be the criminal types we can send straight to clink. [Memo to self: David Davies might be interested in this idea].

Switch my hide with bamboo if there’s not more noise coming from below my window!

I suppose it will be the dogs but heavens knows how I fancy losing off a couple of shells. At least I would feel like I’m doing something, as opposed to sitting here like a damn coward.

Come on, show a bit of backbone, people! Remember Napoleon's famous words before Waterloo: if we stand together then nobody can defeat us!


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

On Mrs. Priggs and The Tuba

What Ho Proles!

What a morning! I had to calm Mrs Priggs down after I found her weeping over her muesli. I’d voyaged ‘beneath stairs’ to find out what on earth was happening with my morning papers. They’d still not been brought to me to me by ten o’clock and the fireplace in the main room had yet to be made. Clearly something was amiss.

It would appear that poor Mrs. Priggs had been the victim of My Man’s rather dark sense of humour. He’d managed to persuade her that this morning’s report that experimental testing will soon begin on monkeys applied to the popular beat combo of the 1960s. Mrs. Priggs happens to be a rather keen admirer of the band and had taken the news to heart. Once I’d managed to explain that no probes will be inserted into Mssrs. Jones Dolenz Nesmith and Tork and that the story only applies to real monkeys, she settled down and set about her usual chores. Of course, I don’t know if it’s true or not. I don’t understand many of these modern musical types and probes might well be inside Mr. Dolenz even as we speak. However, I’ll have to have words with My Man about this foolishness. It gets in the way of much more important business.

Speaking of music and important business, today marked the second visit by Mr. Fink, my music teacher. He came by at two and we spent a couple of merry hours in the music room. Can I just say that I’ve taken to this tuba business like a duck to the wet stuff? Mr. Fink insists that I have a natural aptitude for the instrument on account of my inheriting the Murgatroid lungs. Though I’m something of a skinny fellow, my lungs are apparently limitless in the amount of air they can expel at any one moment. My first attempt at the instrument knocked a plant pot from off the windowsill, nearly twelve feet away.

Anyway, I’ve told My Man to look into ways of posting audio on this blog of my attempts at the tuba. I think you’ll be extremely impressed if we can get it going.

As you were.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Tuba Lesson Number 1

What Ho Proles!

My first tuba lesson with Dr. Fink, our local music teacher, went along without any fuss and much enjoyment was had by all. It does the lungs good to expel so much of the hot stuff and I think it’s reinvigorated my eagerness to get the Memoirs finished. As you can see, chapter 28 is now behind us and I’m going forward on a new sheet of paper. Chapter 29 lies ahead; an undiscovered country, a bit like Uzbekistan and parts of Wales.

Suffice it to say, I’ve struggled with this 3000 word chuck of memory. It's also too damn long but I can't be held responsible if too much was said. Lots happen, insults made, chat was chatted, and events occurred that changed the 2005 election.

I should imagine that in a century or so, some new Macaulay might find this manuscript and realise that the fate of the nation was decided at the moments described below. I hope you enjoy it. I’ve passed kidney stones that have caused me much less anguish than getting a first draft of this chapter.


28. A Frank Exchange of Opinions

What Ho Proles!


Don’t let the fact that they sound like a criminal organisation mislead you into thinking that this gang of council pedants and lollipop ladies were anything but the SPECTRE of the British political landscape. Hiding a truth behind a falsehood is not the way of a truly shrewd mind. Hide the truth behind a truth and a falsehood behind a falsehood. This is the only way to keep the public on its toes and Millicent Granger really is Ernst Stavro Blofeld without a white cat but infinitely superior teeth.

‘Is your campaign going well, Mr. Murgatroid?’ asked this criminal mastermind who wears more face powder than ruddy-nosed fellows called Coco.

‘Bouncing along like a sponge pudding,’ I replied though a mouthful of plonk I was hoping would douse the raging fires that lay in the pit of my stomach where I usually hide my nerves. ‘You might as well face up to it, Ms. Granger, but the Murgatroid bandwagon is now rolling with an unstoppable force.’

‘Oh,’ she said though another of those damning smiles, ‘that’s usually the way when things start to go downhill so rapidly.’

I could see I would have to treat this quick-witted opponent with kid gloves, or if not kid gloves, then gloves made from some other sort of infant.

‘That’s a fine reply and no mistake,’ I returned, ‘but it is hardly the truth. Barely a day goes by without a good bit of news coming into camp. I’ve struck a chord with the public.’

‘Probably an E7th diminished,’ she replied.

‘Well, since you bring up the subject of music,’ I carried on, ‘only last night I was speaking with Sir Cliff Richard. Chap can’t do enough for me. We play tennis at the same club, don’t you know? He wants to come out with me the next time I hit the high streets. I had to let the poor fellow down. We already have Mr. Mullins, you see...’

Her face revealed no emotion but I thought I could detect a flicker of activity behind her eyes.

‘How is that a problem?’

I expect she couldn’t stop herself from asking the question. Inquisitiveness is like that. It can lead you down many a muddy lane.

I laughed in a forthright manner denoting a man dismayed by another person’s naivety.

‘It is a problem, my dear Ms. Granger, because Cliff is allergic to feathers.’

‘Is he?’

‘He most certainly is. He is a man much menaced by the common house sparrow.’

‘I never knew...’

‘Well, when was the last time you saw him pose with a bird? An ostrich, an eagle, or even one of those little finches, they can all reduce him to coughing fits.’

‘Well I never...’

‘And did you know the man can’t stand within twenty feet of a chicken?’

‘I didn’t.’

‘Well, there you go. It’s a terrible condition and a burden to all his friends.’

‘I should imagine it is,’ she agreed.

‘I remember one Christmas, I had to save him from a shuttlecock that somebody had left on our tennis court. Made from real goose feathers... It was close run thing. The history of Christmas number ones would have been very different.’

‘He must have been grateful.’

‘Oh, exceedingly so!’ I replied. ‘The man’s a living angel, you know? But for the feather issue, I’d say he’d have his wings by now...’

Granger smiled another self-important smile rinsed in undiluted bleach. I felt my eyes water.
‘But wouldn’t he have been much more impressive to have the voters meet Cliff Richard than...’ She let the words trail off as she looked towards Mr. Mullins.

‘A duck?’ I shook my head. ‘You’re not deceiving me, Ms. Granger. I’m quite sure your private polling is telling a very different tale. We both know that Mr. Mullins here is a winner. He’s more than a winner. He’s one stick of political dynamite. The same can hardly be said about Cliff, can it now?’

It was all a series of lies of course but the woman was wriggling on the end of a hook of her own devising.

What private polling we’d done confirmed that I was trailing in third place. But one of the tactics we shrewd political types employ is to dress your weaknesses up as strengths. Or more specifically, hide lies behind lies and truths behind… well, I’m sure you’ve got the eight by ten. More to the point is that Millicent Granger appeared to believe every single word.

‘Well,’ she sighed with a hint of resignation, ‘I guess we’ll have to see how it turns out on election night.’

‘We will indeed,’ I said, already congratulating myself on putting a spanner in the emotional works of my opponent.

Only, that’s when she did something I just didn’t expect. She linked her arm though my own as though we were lifelong companions. I couldn’t help but pull my arm away and take a step backwards.

‘Oh, Mr. Murgatroid! You don’t need to be on your guard,’ she soothed. ‘I really won’t bite.’

‘With those teeth, I would hope not,’ I nearly said but chose the more dignified ‘Oh, I’m sure you mean to.’

She merely laughed and took my arm again.

‘You know, I think that we’re probably very much alike,’ she said, untying Mullin’s lead as she began to walk me away from the crowd. ‘Two public spirited individuals who believe we have the right plans for the constituency and believe the democratic process should be allowed to run its course.’

I smiled with that undoubted charm that has won many a lady’s heart but I otherwise remained perfectly quiet.

She tugged Mr. Mullins away from a plant pot that had taken his interest and dragged him around the corner of the foyer to where some chairs lay in a secluded bay.

‘Such a nice animal,’ she said as she handed me his lead. ‘And quite a fortunate stroke of luck that you have him to distract the voters from your policies. You should know, Jacob... May I call you Jacob? You must call me Milly. You do know, Jacob, that you will lose and that Cliff Richard is certainly not allergic to feathers.’

‘You doubt my word?’

‘I most certainly do. I’ve been a fan of Cliff Richard since I was a girl. I’ve contributed to the official club newsletter for the last fifteen years, seen him in concert thirty two times, and I own the original bus driver’s hat he wore in Summer Holiday.’

‘Do you now?’

‘I’ve also met Sir Cliff on seven different occasions and he certainly never mentioned your name.’

‘What can I say? Cliff’s a man of discretion.’

‘Let’s spare each other these games, shall we? You are going to lose this election.’

‘And you will win, I suppose?’

‘Me? Heavens no!’ she laughed. ‘I’m merely in it to see that you lose.’

I pulled away from her.

‘What kind of deluded game are you playing, you devil? Have you no shame? Linking a man’s arm while you admit to stabbing him in the back.’

‘It’s nothing personal, Jacob.’

‘Isn’t it? You insult a man, parade his duck, and deny him the right to call Cliff Richard a friend. How much more personal can it get?’

‘It’s no more personal than many things that happen to us in life,’ she said. ‘No more personal, for example, than that time you knocked me over.’

‘Knocked you over?’ I cried. ‘Nonsense!’

For a moment, I thought she was about to disrobe and display wounds of various hues but she merely pressed down her dress.

‘Oh, I can’t believe you don’t remember. A woman tends to remember the time she was hit by a Bentley.’

‘I deny the charge and even if I admitted to it, I could never have meant anything by it.’

‘You pipped your horn.’

‘If I did, it was as a warning.’

‘That was after you’d hit me. I had to spend nine months undergoing spinal readjustment therapy.’

Personal or not, I was caught off guard. Had I really hit her with the Bentley? I think I might have remembered. In any event, it sounded like it had been a bit of a red letter day.

‘So, your saying that you’re only running against me because of some trumped up charge that I once knocked you over?’

‘Except for the “trumped up” bit, I’d say that’s a fair assessment.’

I couldn’t help but feeling a bit of relief. There’s nothing worse than somebody having a vendetta against you without proper reason. I would imagine it’s rather like being born a Welshman.

‘So,’ I said, breathing a sigh of relief. ‘You’re saying I created the straw the nearly broke the lollipop lady’s back?’

‘It is not a laughing matter, Jacob.’

‘I was about to enjoy more of an ironic smirk,’ I replied and meant it.

‘The people of this constituency are tired of your drunken ways. We hear all sorts of tales about the goings on up at the Hall and hiding behind a Tory manifesto is not going to save your skin when it comes to people remembering the things you’ve done to them for the last twenty years.’

I could handle most things but such an assault on the Tory manifesto was too much. Loyalty to Michael Howard meant that I couldn’t let it pass without response.

‘Listen here,’ I said, raising myself to my full height, ‘I’ll not have you dismiss my policies when you are nothing but a one issue candidate hoping to reap all the protest votes.’

‘Oh, I don’t deny I’m hoping to appeal to the basest instincts of the voters but I have plenty of other polices.’

‘Such as ruining a perfectly good harvest festival?’

He eyes narrowed. ‘I don’t know what you mean?’

It was high time to go on the offensive and I could not stop myself poking a finger into her shoulder.

‘I’m onto your little games, my lady. Don’t come claiming ignorance and trying to deceive the Honourable Jacob P. Mugatroid. I wasn’t born yesterday, nor the day before. Are you going to tell me that you aren’t part of your brother’s plans to disrupt a religious ritual that has gone on for centuries? You pry into my affairs and claim to be speaking for the public good? These are dark days when a serious political campaign can be reduced to personal attacks.’

She raised herself up a few inches of her own.

‘And it’s a darker day when a man hides behind a duck. People are not fools, Murgatroid!’

‘No they are not,’ I responded. ‘And people will see through your little game when they find out about how little you care for their local customs.’

‘Ha!’ she spat. ‘Local customs? I should think we would be better rid of all local customs if it means we get rid of the local tyrants as well... You only want to go into politics to keep your indolent ways. Do you ever consider how you spend your days?’

‘At least I don’t menace road users,’ I said much too loudly for my intention. Faces began to appear at the entrance to the alcove.

‘I’m no menace,’ she replied. ‘Unlike you and that heap of a car.’

‘That car is a Bentley, I’ll let you know.’

‘Bentley? More likely it’s just plain bent. I’ve never seen anything so gauche.’


‘Oh, it is both gauche and ugly.’

‘Well, you should look in the mirror sometime,’ I replied before I could stop myself.

Her face seemed to fall a whole foot. Prettier landslides I’m sure there have been.

‘I beg you pardon?’

‘Well, those teeth of yours aren’t exactly demur. Wasn’t it Shakespeare who went on about teeth as white as whale's bone? I should imagine it took the Norwegian fleet to fill your mouth.’

She pressed herself up against me and I feel her hot breath on my chin. ‘You see, Murgatroid,’ she whispered. ‘You see why people won’t vote for you? You see what a cruel and unmitigated devil that you are? You see why you trail in the polls?’ More than a hint of red blushed through her makeup. ‘You see how you are the symptom of great malaise that has this constituency in its thrall? Men like you have people in their pockets and you take them all for granted. The Murgatroids have created a little fiefdom for themselves over the centuries but we are now living in the age of the internet. This will be the age of real equality.’

‘Well, good luck to you,’ I said, seeing Jimmy appear in the foyer. I tugged at Mr. Mullins’ lead. ‘I now have a superjumbo to launch, a speech to give, and media to satisfy.’

Jimmy came limping up to me as soon as I entered the foyer. He was already wearing a hard hat and a set of ear protectors hung around his neck. He handed me a bright luminous jacket and a hard hat of my own.

‘We’re all set,’ he said. ‘I’ll just say a few words to the crowd. Are you leaving him here?’

We looked to Mr. Mullins who with his usual casual air seemed oblivious to the drama. Very reassuring things: ducks. My hand tightened around his leash.

‘My public would be disappointed.’

Five minutes later, a runway official finished explaining how I should gesture with my one bright luminous paddle before I walked with Jimmy out to the edge of the runway where a small podium had appeared to have been fashioned from a series of crates covered in cloth.

‘Take it easy, Jack,’ he said, helping me up. ‘We can’t have the guest of honour breaking his neck of a crate of South African Satsuma.’ He stepped up to the microphone and that piercing accent was soon shrieking out to the crowd.

‘Ladies and gentlemen! Welcome to the nineteenth Smallchurch Festival of the Skies!’

The crowd responded like British prole crowds often do: they pretended they are American. Californian whoops and exclamations filled the English countryside.

Jimmy waved down the euphoria.

‘We’ve got a whole range of aircraft to excite you today, from some beautiful veterans of the sky, to the very newest fighter aircraft and, as you can see behind us, the finest of passenger aircraft. I really do believe that this will be the best display we’ve ever put on here at Smallchurch. And to get the show going, I’d like you to welcome today’s special guest of honour to wave off our Airbus 320. You might know him as your local Conservative candidate but I’m sure many more will know him for his famous friend.’

A smattering of applause.

‘Yes, that’s right. With Mr. Mullins the duck, it’s Mr. Jacob Peas Murgatroid.’

The smattering turned torrential and on cue, Mullins flapped his wings.

‘Thank you, Sir James,’ I said. ‘And thank you all for that warm welcome.’


‘I hope we can rely on your votes at the coming election.’

More silence and, if anything, a bit thicker.

I picked up Mullins and held him up to the microphone. I tugged and a feather came loose.

‘Quack,’ he said.

What can I say that doesn’t portray me as being able to work a crowd like a political titan? The applause was louder than it had been Jimmy and it carried on for the next few minutes, even obscuring my small speech on local tax initiatives for businesses involving candles.

‘Thanks you for that,’ I said as the applause finally died down. ‘And Mr. Mullins thanks you too.’

Jimmy stepped forward.

‘Okay then. Well, while we’re getting Mr. Murgatroid ready, can I remind you of our ample bathroom facilities and tell you about our many council sanctioned hot food and beverage vendors. And in a couple of minutes, the festival of the skies will begin!’

‘Right,’ said Jimmy, turning to me and slapping his hands together. ‘Let’s go and light the blue touch paper and stand right back.’

‘No problem,’ I said, shifting Mr. Mullins in my arms.

I walked with Jimmy out into the middle of the runway and held the paddle high in my hands and, just as I had been shown, I waved the paddle in the air.

I could see a few indifferent faces in the cockpit of the jet and one of them seemed to wave back before the engines began to whine.

Even from a few hundred metres away, the sound soon leaked through the ear protectors and I began to jog back to the side of the runway. I could feel my suit being tugged by the air being sucked into the jets engines.

It was an exhilarating moment. The jet engines roared and the crowd roared as I waved to them; streamers flying in the wind, a luxurious rippling line of red, white, and blue against the clear skies of southern England. This was exactly how Larry Harris had said to would be. It was a moment to savour. The media would love it!

‘It’s a good day to be a Tory,’ I shouted to Mr. Mullins who appeared to understand what I meant as he gave one of the loudest quacks I’d ever known from the little fellow.

It was all I could do to finally give my arm another wave knowing that somewhere out there, Millicent Granger would be watching me with a growing bewilderment as her anti-Murgatroid strategy was failing in the face of so much public support.

Now, with hindsight, I blame Granger for everything that happened next, though I am also aware that I should have been paying more attention.

I was running from the tarmac when I felt Mr. Mullins slip from my arms.

Quick as anything, I leapt for him.

And I missed him by a good few feet.

I fell roughly, giving a slight whimper as I heard cloth rip and I could see a pair of two hundred pound trousers become new dusters for Mrs. Priggs. When I looked up, I was looking straight at Mr. Mullins who was busy flapping his wings and running frantically around the tarmac.

I thought he was trying to waddle back to me before I realised that he was catching the breeze under his wings. A point of equilibrium was maintained as he seemed to hover between the ground and the air. One moment I was looking into his face, those black little eyes looking desperately towards me for help, and the next he was flying, clipped wings or no clipped wings, catching an updraft through his feathers.

He flew like I would have doubted he would have been able to fly: a noble sight indeed. This rather plump white cross set against the blue, his head lifted high to the wind. He soared higher and higher, all the time appearing to find purchase on the air and begin to control his banking movements.

In a fraction of second, I knew that all the talk of him being a mascot had robbed him of that great honour afforded to all ducks. He was a bird again and he was flying free. Free to fly straight into the roaring engine of the world’s largest superjumbo.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

A Sound Morning

What Ho Proles!

Blast those bugles and let slip the dogs of whatnot! I can hear again!

I can’t say what a relief it is to be fully operational in the hearing department after my days of silence, but as I set to cracking my eggs this morning I couldn’t help but put a little more elbow behind my spoon, just to hear the delightful whack of silver on shell.

To be honest, I’ve had a bad few days and I was beginning to suffer mild paranoia, believing that people weren’t so much as talking about me behind my back but right there in front of me. These last few days have also taught me a thing or two about drains and I’ve already agreed to have all the old pipes dug up and replaced with something more suitable for the aftermath of Mrs. Prigg’s sponge puddings.

On the literary front, I press on with the Memoirs. The 50,000 word mark is within reach and I will be posting the next thrilling instalment either today or tomorrow. My Man has been feverishly typing it up, wiping away the odd tear since he claims it’s the most moving thing he’s read in years. I don’t like to boast, but I feel that I’m getting to the heart of matters in the latest instalment. If you wish to see why the Murgatroid 2005 election campaign faltered, then stay tuned. I’ve already agreed to send a copy to my old Eton friend, David ‘Dilly’ Cameron, lest he makes the same mistakes.

This morning, I tootled off to the village to see about the repairs they’ve been making to the houses wrecked in the storms. I must say, I think these serfish types are quite resilient. Most of the debris has been cleaned up and even in their much-feebled state, they managed to rouse themselves and give me a round of applause as I helped shift a couple of bricks. It’s a matter of being seen to do the right thing, you understand; though if I’m honest, I was really enjoying myself. After days of silence, hearing bricks strike bricks is a thing of pure beauty.

This afternoon I’m going to see about learning to play a musical instrument. I never realised how much I would miss sound and how much I value its presence in my life. I missed music most of all. Also, I’ve always harboured a secret wish to learn to play the tuba. The local music teacher is due at four and I know for certain that he is considered a master of that most delightful of instruments.

Toodle pip pip.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Love in the Time Without Eyebrows

What Ho Proles!

Sorry for disappearing off the radar like that yesterday. The explosion of two days ago has left me deaf and with a throbbing headache. Yesterday, I spent in bed, as far away from the real world as possible. I did, however, read a short little novella, called ‘No One Writes to the Colonel’ by this Gabriel Garcia Marquez fellow, recommended to me by the Momentary Academic. It was a witty little tale about a chap who receives little in the way of post but is preoccupied by the chicken he keeps tied to the leg of his bed. I’m sure it had some deeper meaning behind it, but for a man in my weakened state, I enjoyed the bleak outlook on life. Without spoiling it for you, I have a very great sympathy for the Colonel’s final words in the book. So much so, I would like to make it my first Murgatroid book recommendation.

Today, I will spend with the sport. I think I can manage it, but to be frank, although I thought I’d got away with barely a scratch compared with My Man, it would seem that in the long term, this concussion of mine is much more debilitating than any injury he suffered. It would appear that he go about his business without an eyebrow to his name and it doesn’t bother him. Makes him look rather odd, however. But let this be a warning to all of you: never underestimate the power of digestive gasses.

Until the headache lifts...

Friday, December 08, 2006

How My Man Lost His Eyebrows

What Ho Proles!


I’m afraid I can’t hear you. I’m having a little trouble with my hearing on account of… Well, I suppose I should tell you the whole story. It’s not every day that a chap goes completely deaf in the space of two posts.

This afternoon, just after I’d given you the low-down on my situation vis-à-vis the next chapter of memoir, the storms, and the situation with the drains, we had a slight accident here at the Hall. Nobody’s injured, but I’ve lost my hearing and My Man has lost his eyebrows.

What happened is this: just as I was going through the next 2000 word chunk of narrative, there was this God almighty explosion. It literally rocked the house. Glass came raining in, books fell from shelves, and I was knocked ten feet across my room and came to rest in the fireplace. Damn lucky for me, it wasn’t lit at the time. Still a crack on brow and a head covered in soot was the least of my troubles. I came out from under the mantelpiece to find dust hanging in the air, light fittings still shaking, and Yours Truly unable to hear a ruddy thing. I’ve gone completely deaf. The doctor says (or, that is, he wrote this on a sheet of paper for me) that my hearing should return in a day or two. In meantime, all I can hear is a whistle. I said a WHISTLE.

As to the explosion... It would seem that is was gas. By all accounts, the fireball was seen for miles and certain villagers believing we were at war again went into blackout conditions. It was nothing so momentous I’m afraid. In fact, it was quite the opposite. The chap who inspected our drains this afternoon had not replaced the grid properly and it would appear that an abnormally large build up of methane from the blocked sewer ignited when My Man started to burn leaves. Centuries of digestive gases went up in a flash. You might say, that is was the by-product of a meal eaten by my ancestor Lawrence Murgatroid that took off My Man’s eyebrows. Odd thing when you think of it like that.

Anyway, this is the latest excuse for my not posting a chapter. I know they get more extreme with every day, but I can hardly be blamed – except in a vaguely biological way – for what happened, can I?

I expect to hear more tomorrow, in more ways than one. I only hope the insurance will pay for all the damage. It will be very hard to describe the cause and I fear that the insurance company will think something stinks about the whole ruddy mess.

We’ll speak soon.


Jolly good. As you were.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

An Mini Update About the Drains

What Ho Proles!

Terrible news about tornadoes hitting London. The English weather seems to be more cock-eyed than Old Barney, the village drunk.

Down here, we’ve just had a bit of wind and rain, and the most stomach clenching smell coming up from the drains. Had a man here looking at them all morning and it would appear that Mrs. Prigg’s famous prune and bran sponge cake has finally taken its toll on the old pipes. New drains for the New Year is the new motto around here. So, should any of you be in the plumbing trade, I need a estimate for pipes that can handle high levels of sewage with a high fibre content.

Despite these interruptions, I have managed to get some work done and another chapter of memoirs will appear shortly. This will give the wittiest among you chance to say that more than one type of effluent is streaming from the Hall today…

Finally, in this mini-update, I’d like to say that this Christmas lark is very different when you experience it sober. I woke up this morning and got to three o’clock before I even thought of having a drink. I drank a glass of orange juice instead and feel healthier for it. The Christmas tree looks very festive and I enjoy the lights. Of course, My Man has still to bag the squirrel that Christine, the scullery maid, claims she saw living in it's higher branches, but squirrels or not, it’s still a fine addition to the Hall.

Toodle p.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A Tory in Winter

What Ho Proles!

I’ve wrestled greased pigs that have given me less fight than the latest two chapters of my memoirs, the first of which I have posted below. Don’t take much notice of them, my dear resilient friends. The spirit flags in these dark months and I find it hard to function when sunlight breaks miserably on the horizon and comes to me as insipid rays devoid of heat or luminance.

No alcohol has touched my system since the weekend and I swear I will remain sober until the work is complete. But still, a man can’t live by fragments of light alone and a little spirit would help warm the blood. I need healthier climes for my writing.

The Hall, surrounded acres of sparse woodland, has a miserable feel to it. I blame the rooks that caw through the day, emphasising how lonely it can be for a Tory in winter. The only thing to get the blood pumping is the sound of the shotguns as My Man sees off the local poachers who never cease attempting to steal meat from my land.

Nevertheless, while words continue to come, I shall continue to write; though it will all need infusing with a little zest once the warmer days return and I find myself in that sunny place where all rewrites reside.

Vade in pace.

27. Setting A Blistering Pace

What Ho Proles!

As every blister eventually toughens your hand, I like to believe that the difficult things in life are eventually balanced by the good.

For instance, an acre and a half of top quality manure has been spread about the Middle East arms race. Tyrants with ‘A’ bombs, huge armies with trigger fingers: all the things we should really be thinking about before nodding off to sleep at night. But, in its favour, I’d like to say that whatever piece of Iraq’s anti-aircraft defence system lay lodged in Jimmy’s leg, it vastly improved the quality of the walk we made back to the terminal building. Here, I believe, you have in microcosm, an example of the way the universe rights itself quite nicely, thank you very much.

‘Sorry about this, Jack, old boy,’ hissed Jimmy as he treated his gammy thigh to a full Thai massage. ‘Damn leg feels like it’s got an army of red ants living inside it. I shouldn’t try to do so much. Damn embarrassing holding you up like this. You should be inside, you being our guest of honour and all that.’

‘Think nothing of it,’ I said, enjoying the change of pace. ‘After all, what’s a bit of shrapnel among friends?’

‘Friendly fire,’ he replied and a dark look passed fleetingly across his face.

‘Then be thankful it’s only Iraqi shrapnel in there, Jimmy,’ I said. ‘Think of the damage American shrapnel might have done. And while you’re about it: thank the good Lord that you still have your kneecaps below and your lobes of manhood above. What lies between is mere thigh.’

‘Actually,’ he carried on, ‘it’s not technically shrapnel that’s in there. The bit the medics didn’t dare dig out was actually part of the missile’s guidance system. Odd thing is, whenever I go near a warm engine, I swear that I’m drawn to its heat signature.’

‘I had an uncle who felt the same way towards goats,’ I assured him as though both were quite normal.

He winced as he flexed his leg a few times and stood upright. ‘Let’s be going shall we?’

‘Take your time, Jimmy, there’s no rush,’ I said though admittedly, we had been walking slower than my wetlands friend who had managed to stretch out a good lead on his leash.

Mr. Mullins had clearly been delighted by the casual stroll while I had discovered the solace to be had by being outpaced by a duck. He walked between the two of us with what I perceived to be a happy sway to his waddle. And I was happy because Mr. Mullins was happy. In an odd sort of way, I had come to love that little aquatic friend of mine and the sense of calm he gave me by just having him around. The old Squadron Leader was also happy because like any old Squadron Leader, he was as keen as American mustard to get some aircraft into the sky. Even as he limped along, he kept licking the unhygienic end of a finger and pointing it to the heavens.

‘Gates open at ten,’ he explained as he checked the large luminous face of his aviator’s watch for the fifth time in that many minutes. ‘That’s T minus two minutes and three two one seconds,’ he added, and for all I know, he may well have scanned that figure from one of the instrument’s many dials.

‘Neither Mr. Mullins nor myself can hardly wait,’ I said him as I watched my small friend give beak to a weed coming up through the runway.

‘I’ll take you up to the hospitality HQ for a quick sit down,’ Jimmy carried on. ‘Catch your breath. Cup of tea. Snifter if you like. Meet a few of the VIPs. Then we’ll have you out, ready to give the old girl the wave off at ten thirty.’

It really was a bravura performance and he topped it off by curling a finger under his moustache and starting to whistle the theme tune to ‘The 633 Squadron’.

‘You’ve certainly got the weather for it,’ I said, not being such a fan of a man whistling as much as I am a great admirer of an amiable amble.

‘Just like 1940,’ agreed Jimmy and looked again at the puffy thingums against the azure whatnot. He stopped for a moment and I believe got a little teary eyed as he gazed at the contrails from the immensely high jets overhead. I didn’t know if he expected me to say a few words and I spent an awkward few moments desperately trying to recall the usual speech I give on Remembrance Day.

I remembered it was something about not forgetting...

I needn’t have bothered. The moment passed as Jimmy licked his finger again and tested the wind.

‘You ever wanted to be one of the Few, J.P.?’ he asked. ‘I know I do. I spend hours wondering what it would have been like to take charge of a Spitfire during the Battle of Britain. Hands on with the old Tommy guns and none of this fire and forget nonsense.’

‘Never given it much thought,’ I admitted as we set off again. ‘To be honest, Jimmy, I’m not good in the air. I’m a feet on concrete sort of chap. I once spent the whole of a flight from Manchester to London with my head stuck between my knees.’

‘Ah,’ he said with a knowing purse of the lips. ‘Economy class on Easyjet?’

‘Actually, it was air sickness,’ I replied to correct this terrible slur on a very great company.

‘Oh, air sickness, was it?’ Jimmy pondered. ‘Well, you were probably much better with a spot of air sickness than if you had flown economy class on Easyjet. I have a friend who went to work for them. Odd chap. In his Tornado days he would pick up bits of hedgerow in his undercarriage because he liked to fly so low. I hear he’s doing the same thing with 747s.’ He lips pursed again before his head was back looking up at the clouds before he was off again, limping after Mr. Mullins who had a lead on us the full length of his leash.

All three of us arrived at the terminal building just as the gates opened and the crowds began to stream towards three large tiered grandstands that had been built beyond the perimeter fence.

The aerodrome soon took on the atmosphere of a prison barbeque with heavily tattooed men and women, loaded down with jewellery and radios, moving through the crowd. They resembled a rolling flea market of counterfeit clothes and medallions sure to leave your skin green. There must have been about half an ounce of real gold spread between fifteen hundred bodies.

This really is a new breed of Briton I’ve not yet managed to understand. They live odd, peculiar lives that I know nothing about except they rarely dress for dinner, never eat from anything you need to wash, and appear to be quite well off by doing very little. Looking at them, I realised the fallacy of compulsory voting. I’ve said it before and no doubt I’ll have to say it again: democracy is not all it’s cracked up to be. You should at least be expected to wear a tie before you take part.

In stark contrast, the terminal was filled with VIPs who represented a very different culture of this very great nation of ours. There were the usual faces that are always found at civic functions. These are the free grub groupies, many of whom I’ve grown to dislike, a few I’ve learned to tolerate, and a rather smaller number I would actually throw caution to the wind and describe as somewhat likable. I wanted nothing to do with any of them until I could wet my lips with a bit of tonic water.

As Jimmy started to greet his guests, I tied Mr. Mullins to a statue of a Vulcan bomber and made a dash into the crowd to recover a glass of grape juice from a waiter. When I’d got back, Jimmy was chatting to a small dumpling of a woman, stout but for weak ankles and wrists which made her look physically incapable of bending over and petting Mr. Mullins, a task she was actually achieving with no small measure of success.

‘I just have to introduce you two,’ said Jimmy as I approached. He looked down at the woman giving Mullins a back rub. ‘This is Jack,’ he told her. ‘I was telling you about his problem with air sickness? You should tell him about your cure.’ He looked to me. ‘Sounds like just the ticket. Involves sticking peanuts behind your lips.’

The woman stood up and turned to me.

‘Not much use if you have peanut allergy,’ she said in a high piercing voice. Then she smiled. I would say it was like pure sunshine but only if viewed from the surface of Venus. Her skin was a lightly powdered frame to teeth whose whiteness said much for the quality of dental ceramics. I felt compelled to ask her if she put them in bleach at night but held myself in check.

‘There’s really no need to be so formal, Sir James,’ she said. ‘I know Mr. Murgatroid very well.’

‘Do you?’ I asked, remembering neither the face nor the teeth.

‘Of course,’ she said and smiled again, though I really wished she wouldn’t. ‘Of course, Mr. Murgatroid, I never know you suffered from air sickness.’

‘It’s my fatal weakness,’ I said with a jovial rise that quickly ran into jest. ‘Along with alcohol, shotguns, money, and occasional flings with married women. Apart from that, I’m untouchable like you’re your average Greek god.’

‘Well peanuts will cure you,’ she said and hid her mouth behind a glass of red wine.

‘Oh, well,’ said Jimmy backing away, ‘if you’re old friends, I’ll leave you two to talk. Have to make sure things are getting under way. Don’t go far J.P. We’ll need you soon.’ He glanced at the watch. ‘T minus twenty mins,’ he shouted before he promptly limped backwards into glass table, the corner of which caught him on his bad thigh.

The party died for a moment until his scream came to an end.

‘You wouldn’t think that the male voice could get so high,’ I was about to comment to the woman but I found her examining my features quite closely.

I smiled, for once uncertain about myself.

‘Have I got something on my nose?’ I asked when it became apparent that she wasn’t for saying anything.

Instead, she extended her hand.

‘I’m Millicent Granger,’ she said.

I might have topped Jimmy’s note when I realised I had already shake the fiend’s hand. I still don’t know why I did it. Politeness has some an overbearing presence in one’s life that one struggles to keep it subdued at times.

‘Thump!’ I said, stuck for the suitable lingo. I looked to Mr. Mullins but even he seemed lost for quacks.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Remorse of a Sot

What Ho Proles!

I’ll speak softly, if you don’t mind. A hangover is a noble thing when suffered for a good cause. A pity, then, that my head owes its being to the drunken revels of financiers celebrating the weakened dollar. Still, I have my humility to act as a salve to my painfully troubled head. On this day, let it be said that Murgatroid was humbled...

I believe I might have mentioned that I’d had a little too much to drink last night but I don’t believe I expressed enough remorse. Well, here is that remorse in the form of one easy to swallow pill. I made a fool of myself. I’m sorry. A man drunk to the gills is not a pretty sight. A blogger drunk to the gills is downright ugly. How I found the keyboard is still a minor miracle.

I’m going to take it easy today. For some reason, my right hand if heavily bruised and I can’t remember why. I think I must have hit something. I don’t know. I suppose I should look to see what embarrassing words I wrote last night, though I’m bitterly disappointed with My Man who should have rubbed that entry from the slate. Those words should not have been made public. It’s all been deeply regrettable.

Fizz, fizz.

Biff and Nibbles

What Ho Proles!


Or I think it is. Can't really tell. Bit tipsy this evening.

What Ho Proles!

Oh, done that bit already.

Damn good bash tonight. Smashing grub. Plenty of plonk. Lovely ladies. Couldn’t give a damn about the chaps, though. Punched one over the cheese nibbles. Ruddy fellow wouldn’t leave them alone. Taught him a thing or two. Never put your fingers in another man’s nibbles. Bang out of order. How’s this you scoundrel, I said. Biff. Nibbles saved. Murgatroid rules the day. That's the Tory way. Biff and nibbles. Biff and nibbles.

Here’s a funny thing. I’m actually wearing my trousers on my head. What do you think about that! Jolly good fun it is too. Knees damn cold though. I have hairs growing out of my knees. Oddest thing. Never noticed it before.

Did I mention I’m slightly sloshed? Probably necked a few too many bottles this eveenning. Damn trouser legs keep getting in the way of my typing. That's better. Knotted them together. Damn good jape it is though. I now look a bit like a corkscrew.

Anyway, promised earlier I’d update you all but got slightly sloshed. Still, won’t stand in my way. Even when I’ve not got the old noodle working straight. (Have to whisper. My Man's loitering and looking moody. Guess he’ll delete this when I’ve gone to get some shut eye. [My Man: No, I won't. Just see what I have to put up with.] Can’t trust him, you know, but keep that under you sombrero.)

Hmm… Ever wonder why plonk gets you tipsy? I often wonder. Ruddy good thing it does though. Often think wine's wasted on the French while I get wasted on the wine.

Saw a frightfully funny thing today. Can’t remember what it was. Damn funny thing, whatever it was. Still makes me smile.

Oh yes, was meaning to say a thing or two about these beggars in London. Saw one today. Bold as ruddy brass, come up to me in the street. Asks for money! What for, says I, thinking there might be a bit of quid-pro-quoing going on. For nothing, says he. For nothing? For nothing? I gave him nothing. I give him nothing but the toe end of some brown leather. Cheeky blighter had the cheek to call a policeman.

My Man's still hanging around. Miserable fellow won't put his trousers on his head.

I better get to bed before the stupor sets in. Last time I didn’t make it, woke up standing behind the grandfather clock. Been there all night.

I must say these trousers look damn good on me. Glad to have updated you though. Damn good bash.

Nighty night.

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Storm

What Ho Proles!

Worry no more, patient readers: the storms are at an end and all at Murgatroid Hall are safe and well. I know how restless you’ve all been, sleeping uneasily after you lost regular contact with those of us at the business end of this anti-cyclone but I can assure you that it was no picnic for us, either, so you can save me your back luck tales. Oh, there were a few moments when I thought we’d lost a tile or two, and for a fraction of second during the night I did believe the West Wing had collapsed. However, put away your aid packages and cancel the telethons in our honour. A walk around the estate this morning has reassured me that all is well.

Seeing that the old place had not even suffered a scratch, I gave a mightily relieved sigh, even as I gazed down on the village where the fires are still burning and people are still being dug from the rubble. One only expects it, of course, with poor quality housing. No doubt I’ll be forced to raise rents again to help pay for the repairs. However, what I’m sure you’re really concerned about is that the Big House, as the locals call it, remains perfectly intact and that all is well. I’m happy to say: it does and it certainly is.

Having my mind already taken up with the matter of architecture and rebuilding, my eye was caught by this David Davies’ video that’s doing the rounds. You must have seen it. It’s where he expounds his ideas of designing out crime from high crime estates.

As I told My Man, it seems a tolerably good idea. I’ve always thought that there must be a reason why my own estate is so crime free and I imagine if one of these run down sinkhole towns were built in the style of a late Tudor stately home, with extensive early-Georgian renovation, there might be one or two fewer car-jackings in the world. David is on to a winner and I told him as much when I rang him after lunch. Sad to say, though, despite all his pragmatism, the old bruiser didn’t seem so struck with my larger plans to make tweed the new Burberry. As I told him: it seems patiently ridiculous to think of crimes being committed in herringbone.

Alas, these military types are very narrow-minded. They lose their imagination the first time they have their noses broken and, to be frank, if a suit doesn’t come in dark green with a mosquito net attachment they’re simply not interested.

I’m down in London tonight for a dinner party in aid of something or other. Might sneak in an update late P.M. but that depends on blood alcohol content.

Toodle pip.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

26. Travels With A Duck

What Ho Proles!

With only two weeks and a couple of days left before the 2005 general election, the Bentley got caught up in traffic outside Smallchurch.

There was a moment when I thought My Man had taken it rather well.

And then the vein behind his left ear began to pulse...

And then there was that strange gurgling sound coming from the back of his throat...

And then he began to curse...

I won’t deny that it was a dicey moment.

Knowing how to deal with a man taken to the edge like that requires years of experience, possibly working with those left severely traumatised by warfare, disaster relief, or commuting on the M25.

No doubt you think I exaggerate and, this far into a political memoir, you think you’ve got a pretty good handle on your subject and (I trust) friend, the Hon. Jacob P. Murgatroid. But you weren’t there and, due to certain contractual obligations and the laws of copyright, I can’t report My Man’s exact words.

All I can say is that their etymology lay in the idiomatic Anglo Saxon of North Gloucestershire and if you attempted any of the actions his words so colourfully described, the lower vertebrae would be made to bend in directions the great architect never intended when he drew up his blueprints for the human form.

I decided to keep quite and meditate in the back of the car until My Man came back from that far-off place he goes when so riled. He has this way of staring into the distance that makes the air turn quite cold.

And so, treating the traffic jam with the indifference that can only come from being a passenger in a Bentley, I poured myself a glass of muscle relaxant, looked to my Daily Telegraph, and tried to utter a few soothing words to keep Mr. Mullins calm. My Man roused is one thing but should it have angered the duck: the potential for bloodletting would match that found in certain East African countries.

Eventually, My Man’s eyes twitched, the vein in his neck contracted, and he seemed human again. The gurgling sound stopped and there followed a restful fifteen minutes as he patiently eased his foot on and off the brake as the Bentley crawled towards the aerodrome.

Not a word had been said until, with a gentle shudder to match my own, the car came to a complete halt as we arrived at a final bottleneck of traffic half a mile from the aerodrome’s gates.

‘Well, that’s it!’ I exclaimed with not a little relief as I grabbed the duck. ‘From hereon in, I dare say we must sacrifice much shoe leather and not a little dignity.’

Whatever calm you understand I possessed by making this pronouncement, consider it gone by the time I had climbed out of the car and realised the task in front of me.

I looked to the distance and the silver roof of the aerodrome’s tower, mocking me with its large radar disk wagging to and fro. It felt I was at the sticky end of a schoolchild’s prank and I cursed with some choice phrases of my own; many of which, you will be delighted to learn, were derived from the Latin and also anatomically correct.

‘You wait here and bring the car when you can,’ I finally instructed My Man as I set to securing the four pounds of political drake under my arm. ‘And if you can’t find us in the crowds, fire the shotgun into the air every five minutes. And if you can’t find us in half an hour, you have my permission to start thinning the masses in whatever ways you see fit.’

It would be neither a hop, nor a skip, nor even a jump to the aerodrome, but I clearly had no choice but to carry Mr. Mullins all the way to the gates. British ducks are notoriously slow walkers and I wished I had one of those Icelandic ducks you hear so much about these days. Apparently, they can cross Icelandic tundra at speeds faster than any predator but for Bjork and some types of Arctic fox.

I only tell you this only because the next half an hour was not pleasant.

Once I had elbowed, cursed, kicked, and shunted my way through half a mile of the great unwashed, I had lapsed in all my honourable intentions of imagining them as an electorate. It takes only a knee to a gentleman’s groin to turn a crowd of his fellow citizens back to ‘a great unwashed prole army’, which in this case, ready to take an inordinate amount of interest in Mr. Mullins.

Making the journey even more loathsome than your usual half a mile hike through the general public, they reminded me of the poor relations to people you’d really want to vote for you. My march soon turned into a litany of excuses and explanations married to downright exhaustion.

‘No madam,’ I cried for the seventeenth time, ‘he cannot quack on cue.’

‘Sir, a duck cannot eat a Mars Bar and certainly not sideways!’

‘That damn cowardly knave of a dog attacked him! I cannot be held responsible for his defending himself.’

‘You should have thought of that before you waved it in his face.’

‘He could not possibly have eaten your child!’

And much much worse...

Let’s just say that these were not people you’d entrust with putting a cross by your name. Airplane spotters may be a breed rarer than those which get excited by cans of boiling water going along metal tracks, but they’re a whole lot odder. By the time I reached the gates, I wondered if the government shouldn’t keep lists of all men who buy shortwave radios to listen to air traffic control. If you ask me, there’s something decidedly not right about them.

With a final desperation, I struggled up to the gates.

‘I’m here as the invited guest of Sir James Vembre,’ I said to the dark blue security guard stationed in a booth beyond the railings.

A thin man with diluted cheeks, he resembled a gothic portrayal of Famine, which perhaps explained why he seemed more interested in the plump bird under my arm.

‘Name?’ he asked, poking his finger through the fence. Mr. Mullins took a nip at it and the man chuckle seemed to indicate some dark unfed intentions. ‘Lively little blighter you have there,’ he said as he unclipped a pen from the top of his clipboard.

‘The name is Murgatroid,’ I replied. ‘The Honourable Jacob P. Murgatroid of Murgatroid Hall, C--- N----.’

‘Bit much for a duck, isn’t it?’ he said.

‘If you must know, the duck is called Mr. Mullins.’

He poked his fingers again through the railing. ‘Hello there Mullins,’ he cooed.

‘If you value your fingers, in the future I’d remember to call him Mr. Mullins. He may only be a duck but he is a Tory duck and believes in a man keeping to his station; which, I might add, does not include your poking him with your fingers.’ I sniffed back my distain. ‘And, if were you, I wouldn’t try that again. I swear he’s been bred from rottweiler stock and has a taste for uniform.’

My words made the guard step back and take notice of me for the first time.

‘Why are you carrying him?’ he asked, a suspicious tone coming over his voice.

‘I’m carrying this duck because I’m late,’ I explained, feeling quite ready to take a nip of his fingers should he have tried poking them in my direction. ‘And I would be grateful if you could find my name on that list and then we might get these gates open. Then we might be able to cease this pointless conversation that I’m sure we both regret entering into.’

‘Mullins?’ he said, running his finger down his clipboard. ‘No Mullins here.’

‘Well try Murgatroid,’ I said, quickly losing all patience with the man.

‘Ah, we have a Murgatroid,’ he said. ‘J. P. Murgatroid. He was supposed to be here fifteen minutes ago,’ he said, nodding to the duck. ‘Sir Vembre’s waiting for him. Only, the thing is, I don’t know if I can allow a duck in.’ He shook his head. ‘Tricky one, really. Airfield safety, you see? Can’t allow any animal except for guide dogs.’

‘And what harm is there in a duck?’

‘Well for all I know, you’ve cut that ducks legs off and replaced them with explosives and that’s why you’re carrying him.’

‘But this is not simply a duck,’ I assured him. ‘This is a political mascot and if you forbid this creature from entering, then you are repressing the very essence of British democracy. You might as well stand in the way of Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, or Dominic Grieve.’

He examined me for as long as it takes patriotic juices to start flowing flow through a man.

‘If you put it like that,’ he said, ‘I don’t see how I can stop you.’

And with that, he unlocked a small gate set into the railings.

‘So,’ he said as he swung the gate open. ‘Are you some sort of novelty act?’

‘I’m the prospective parliamentary candidate for C--- N---,’ I told him, stepping through the fence before setting Mr. Mullins down and reattaching his lead.

‘So,’ mulled the guard, ‘what kind of business are you in?’

I looked at him, no longer bound by necessity to indulge his stupidity any longer.

‘Domination!’ I spat and marched towards the small terminal building.

In what passed for a departure lounge, I was met by a tall man with a dignified air about him: very old school RAF, walking with a limp, and in half a dozen ways, resembling a bounder on the skids waiting for a trust fund to open. His appearance reminded me that in a much better world, I would have been met by Terry Thomas.

‘You’re pretty damn late, Murgatroid,’ said Jimmy, coming forward to grab my arm. ‘But I’m glad to see you’ve brought your duck. Been telling everybody about it. Saw you on Newsnight last week. Smashing stuff. Reconnect the voters with the politicians and all that. Brilliant idea. Used to help feed a duck back in the RAF. Our regimental mascot. Smelly bird. Hated music except for anything by Tom Jones. Not seen you at the club lately. Wondered what you’ve been doing with yourself. Know I know. A duck. Really marvellous!’

‘To be honest, Jimmy, until Larry Harris mentioned it, I had never realised you were with the RAF,’ I admitted, deciding to ignore the overwhelming mass of detail that usually follows Jimmy around. ‘For some odd reason, I thought you were something to do with the British Airways catering school.’

‘I wish that I was,’ he said and as he limped ahead of me into the cool of the terminal building he slapped his gammy leg with his fist. ‘Couldn’t get into commercial flights these days. Carrying half a SAM missile in my thigh. Don’t get to see many surface to air missiles when you work in British Airways catering. Caught it flying over Iraq. Dark night. Don’t remember much. Lucky to be picked up by some friendly Kurds. Damn concussion, though. Thought I was in Leeds.’

‘No,’ I agreed. ‘The dangers are much more pronounced. They say that the chemicals in false tans are a leading contributor to learning difficulties in the nation’s cabin crews?’

‘Well, you live and learn,’ Jimmy purred. ‘Funny thing is, I always fancied going into commercial flying after I left the RAF. Either that or become a mercenary.’

‘I was probably confused,’ I explained, ‘because I was so sure I once saw you give a lesson on how to mix a vodka martini.’

‘One of my side trades,’ Jimmy replied with a proud look in his eye. ‘Discovered the secret off an old stewardess friend who used to do the run to Dubai. She was commended twice for the way she could serve a cocktail at thirty thousand feet. Come on through and I’ll show you around.’

He led me back out onto the airfield.

‘Got a few planes coming in from local airports,’ he said as a small jet came trundling down the runway. He began to stride out across the huge spread of smooth tarmac. ‘I want to show you the new Airbus. Lovely thing. Nice thing to fly I imagine. Pride of the show. I envy you, Murgatroid. It’s the plane you’ll be waving off.’

On the other side of the building, a large white sausage sat at the edge of a runway.

‘The Airbus A350,’ he said, squinting into the low sun. ‘Twin-engine, mid-sized, long-range aircraft. Beautiful lines, don’t you think, Murgatroid?’

I didn’t know what to say. It looked like a large white sausage sitting at the edge of a runway. Luckily Mr. Mullins seemed to know his mid-sized, long-range aircraft.

He said ‘quack’.

‘Absolutely,’ said Jimmy, in something of a daze. ‘Cracking. Absolutely cracking.’

Friday, December 01, 2006

Apologies Full of Christmas Cheer

What Ho Proles!

Close friends have advised me to issue an apology for my manners of last night. I regret the whole alcohol-fuelled incident and I can only assure you that my liver suffered irreparable damage yesterday on account of the high quality Scottish whisky I expected that most ungrateful of organs to handle. Little did I expect it to scramble my logic after midnight and turn my tone strident; a bit like the cat that got caught under the back wheels of the Bentley last New Years Eve.

But I’ll be damned if I’m going to take it all back! You now see the power of the blog when left in hands unable to cope with the responsibility? This is why we need order, rule, responsibility…

But there I go again.

The guts ache like the furnaces of hell and my ire has already been roused once today, only instead of the state British blogging, it had more to do with yuletide logging.
An appointment at my offices in London kept me away from the Hall for much of the morning but when I returned, every juice of my puritan ancestry flooded my brain at the sight of decorations decking the Hall. I had forgotten that it was the first day of the month when housekeepers lose all sense of reality.

‘Don’t you like it?’ asked Mrs. Priggs, carrying one end of a pine tree that must have once been the pride of a Norwegian fiord. I waited as sixteen feet of trunk, branch, and needle went by before the other end arrived also carried, inexplicably, by Mrs. Priggs.

‘Didn’t I tell you I’d rather deck the Halls with of barrels of explosives?’ I cried to her before I lunged for the nearest piece of tinsel and ran screaming from the house.

I locked myself in the gardener’s shed where I reattached myself to sanity with a quick sip from my hip flask. It gave me time to consider why, in this unchristian age, we still find Christmas so appealing.

On the face of it, red nosed fellows with obesity issues are a matter for television self-help shows and shouldn’t be encouraged to clamber up on rooftops unless it’s for comic effect. In this heightened age of liability, Santa’s more likely to come a cropper, if not by way of the forty foot fall, than in the courts where they’ll strip him of every asset, reindeers included, list him a sex fiend with a fetish for kissing mothers under gaudy plastic trees, and consign him to some program involving care in the community.

Christmas is the most unhappy time of year, when all the usual routines are thrown to the wind in favour of the new world order. Marriages dissolve, addictions form, friendships end, and the world is invaded by poor taste novelty goods and socks you’d be ashamed to wear in public.
It is any wonder that fat old Santa is the Coca Cola Company’s finest creation when children across the globe are being taught that this is the season to demand, demand, demand. Instilled with expectations that the parents cannot hope to match, these little terrorists rule the month.

As I’m sure Perry Como sings somewhere or other: it’s the gut gnawing time of the year.

At the very least, it’s enough to make a man throw a bottle of spirits over the tree and hope the lot catch light. I tired of the charade last year and spent the New Year damning the EU for demanding that all Christmas decorations have to be fire proof. I now insist that Mrs. Priggs buys only the cheapest Chinese tinsel and baubles, which I can be sure will burn quickly and completely without the chance of their setting anything else on alight. Unless you’ve ever lit a streamer made from flash paper, you’ve not celebrated a Mugatroid Christmas.

I finally emerged from the shed when the darkness was beginning to fall. I don’t know how many hours I’d been in there, but a thin layer of snow lay on the ground and the Hall looked temptingly warm. I went inside and discovered that all the preparations were finished. The hall looked festive and the parlour, with the nineteen foot tree, looked every part of a child’s Christmas dream.

Mrs Priggs was hanging the last of the two thousand baubles on the lower branches.

‘Tomorrow morning,’ I told her, ‘I want you to buy thirty one miniatures and hang every one of them from that tree. If I’m going to get through this devilish month in one piece, I’ll have to be professional about this and take my newly found appreciation for alcohol to a new festive level.’

She looked at me with one enormous smile full of evil menace and even viler intentions.

‘Then I’ll be sure to be the first to wish you a Merry Christmas,’ she said. ‘Merry Christmas, Mr. Murgatroid.’

Why British Bloggers Need Regulation

What Ho Proles!

The metal clacks and grinds of the old manual typewriter have not ceased cutting through my thoughts today. My Man and I are hard at work on the next few chapters of the ever expanding Murgatroid memoirs, though, even as I tell you this, a grim and deeply disturbing part of my conscious mind screams the word ‘LIE’.

The ugly truth is that we’ve not been progressing that well. The marker for forty thousand words lies over the next ridge, but we can’t get there because we keep getting interrupted by monstrous trivialities.

This afternoon, barely had I poured myself a glass of a fine Dalmore 12 year old whisky before the phone began to ring.

‘Tell him I’ve taken a gunshot wound to the gut,’ I shouted, hoping that My Man would field the call. But the damn fool had a finger trapped between the Q and the W and the phone continued to wail like a banshee on the unmarried mother’s winter fuel allowance.

I picked up the Bakelite in no fair mood.

‘I hope you have medical insurance,’ I growled into the mouthpiece.

Turns out they did. It was a journalist from the local rag who wanted to break up all their endless advertisements for patio doors, second hand prams, and part-exchanged Fiats with an opinion piece about blogs and blogging. And given I was the most famous denizen of the web to be found in C---- N----, they no doubt thought they’d pester me about this story that’s already being hacked to pieces around the blogosphere about Tim Toulmin of the Press Complaints Commission who has been bending everybody’s ear about regulating the British blogosphere.

What, asked the local hack, is my opinion?

Well, I took a sip of the whisky, not able to restrain myself another moment given I get the shakes whenever I forego wine with lunch, and I told him quite unequivocally that I was all for imposing a bit of martial law on these blogging types. These underfed half-human cyborgs need some regulation before they transform completely into a single unholy organism of memes and foul mouthed rants.

It appears to me that the whole thing has become overrun by overly sentimental types. North, South, East, and West: bloggers come streaming like barbarian hoards hot with opinion pieces in four hundred words or less. Well, no more, I say. The internet was created by an Englishman and a double-barrelled Englishman at that. I don’t know the chap but I’d guess that if you asked him, Tim Berners-Lee would say that he created the internet in order to further the great English qualities of respect, balance, good manners, and dare one add, a proper regard for the law.

The problem with these blogs, as they stand, is that too many people are born missing the vital fleshy organ that goes between the brain and the fingers. It’s that magical piece of wise meat that tells you whether you’re making any damn sense. 'A Tory is born not made', runs the old axiom and it is true because it is precisely this Tory flap of skin that’s missing from your average Lib Dem and is found in excess in many UKIP candidates.

What we need is an etiquette for the British part of the web that keeps these unsound sorts in their place and makes sure that the rest of us collectively keep in step and present a united front to the world that so wants to crush our spirits. I keep saying I’ll do a blog roundup one of these days, and when I do, you’ll see the sort of hard nosed, spit on your shoes journalism I want to champion. The rest of them can climb into the handcart to hell and I’ll be more than happy to help push it down the slippery slope.

‘Are you sure you want to go into print with this stuff?’ asked the journo when I’d finished my speech. I looked to my hand and realised the glass was empty. The damn cad must have been at the malt even as I was doing his job for him.

‘You bacchanal devil!’ I cried, throwing down the phone and ripping the cabling from the wall.

I turned to My Man who had finally managed to unwedge his finger without having to saw through the bone.

‘Onward,’ I cried, picking up the riding crop. ’We hit 40,000 words today and we won’t even be stopping for the devil himself!’