Monday, October 01, 2007

Tory Conference

What Ho Proles

I’m up here in Blackpool at the Tory conference, though I have to confess that things are not going well. I thought I should grab this chance to write to you in case I don’t get another. As I speak, My Man is fighting a rearguard battle to keep the hoards of proles from breaking down my boarding room door. Excuse my typing. I’m writing what might be might despatch from the living side of the great divide.

I don’t honestly know how they spotted that I was an old-style Tory. The day had gone so swimmingly and I would never have expected these new Tories to turn so mean quite so quickly. But that’s the problem with proles when they take the blue rosette. They don’t know their own minds. One minute they’re necking the traditional alcohol and the next they’re taking offence at the merely suggestion that they don’t wash, are poorly educated, and have neither the breeding nor wits to be true Tories. Oh yes, I might have also hinted that they occasionally have sexual relations with members of their immediate family.

But don’t blame me. I say that Dilly Cameron has brought all this on himself. I’m all for modernisation, but it must be the right modernisation. Like the way I’ve allowed my estate managers to modernise the fences around my land by running a bit of electricity through them. That’s modernisation that’s both practical and traditional. Telling people that we’re all equal in the Tory party was a sure recipe for disaster. And who came up with this idea of the poor improving their lot? Who’s lot do you think they’re going to improve it with? My lot. That’s what.

There goes My Man again. His screams are frightening even when heard from the safety of a wardrobe.

In a minute, I’m going to see if I can climb down the drainpipe and get to the Bentley. We parked it a street away in case this sort of thing happened. I know I should never have come north, the moment I caught the scent of fish and chips outside the Watford Gap service station.

For the moment, I remain,

Sunday, September 16, 2007


What Ho Proles!

My, how you’ve aged! You’re all looking a lot older since I last saw you. A bit pale too. Been enjoying this fine English summer? It’s not stopped raining here at C–– N––. I’ve been cooped up here in Murgatroid Central, suffering a prolish insurrection, of all things. We crushed it, of course, with some heavily artillery and some light skirmishes involving the Murgatroid Light Huzzars. But the things with proles if that you can’t take your eye off them for a moment without their believing they’re free to do what they choose with whosoever they choose.

Beyond that, there’s very little to tell. Mary, the Hall’s house maid, recently found herself ‘with child’, as they say. Suspicion duly fell on the village’s red headed population, if you see what I’m saying, though a father has yet to step forth and receive his lashing.

You might be wondering about The Honourable J.P.M… Well, my memoirs are now complete and stand at a rather healthy 90,000 words. They will be in your local library at some point in time and I expect you all to demand extra copies, including versions for the blind, the deaf, and for the terminally liberal (they come with cloth covers and untearable pages).

I just wanted to pop in and give you the QT. And with that, I wish you good day.

Keep on with whatever you’ve been doing while I’ve been away. I’m sure you’re doing a somewhat adequate job.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


What Ho Proles!

Okay, let’s the cut the pretence, shall we? You can all see that I’m suffering from writer’s block. It’s why I’m so quiet. I sit here, day after day, week after week, staring at the screen. I have so much to say but no way of saying it. Writer’s block. Writer’s block. Bally writer’s bally block…


I’ve never believed in it before. It’s something that I was told the prole writers catch occasionally, but only when they’ve been too friendly with their goats. We men of refinement are not expected to suffer from such a common complaint. We are educated to higher degrees of insight than the common lot. We are eloquent, full of anecdote and whimsy. We are the masters of the word; words do as we say, come when we call, and deploy in lines of staggering intellect.

Or so I’m let to believe.

So, I’m still blocked. My holiday away in the Indies was supposed to have cured me. It did, for a while. Except when I try to write. I’m still stuck. I’m still blocked. I’m frightened of finishing my memoirs. I feel history pressing down on me, demanding a volume of such genius that it will do proper credit to the great Murgatroid name.

There, I’ve said it. I’ve made a staggering declaration of weakness. But is there any cure for writer’s block? I find I simply can’t conclude my memoirs. They are sitting here frozen on my machine. How to I proceed?


70,000 words and no way on.




Monday, April 09, 2007

Sanity Sweet Sanity

What Ho Proles!

Bank Holiday Monday and I look back on a few weeks of bliss since I had my nervous breakdown in January.

You might have been wondering what happened to me but I’ve spent two months away in the Caribbean, enjoying the cricket, and otherwise learning to live like a native. I tell you that I feel quite odd not having neither sand between my toes nor a mango within easy reach.

When I’m not feeling the stress of jet lag, I’ll tell you about my breakdown. There are some amusing elements to it, though the outcome was far from humorous. However, my mood is now much calmer and I think I’ve discovered a kinder side to the Murgatroid personality.

That’s why I think I managed to control my temper, nor fire My Man on the spot, when I came home yesterday morning and discovered that he’s been living the high life. He seemed quite put out by my return and it took a good ten minutes for him to relinquish my dressing gown. I think in the long term I might have to reconsider his employment. I won’t need him as much, you see, as I’ve discovered a new pleasure to be hand by being self-sufficient.

Dr. Gruber, my medical man, suggested that my nerves had been fraying for a while and a total collapse was only to be expected given my tendency to direct blame to my staff. Part of my cure has been to see the consequences of my own actions. And I feel a better man for it. From now on, this blog is going to change. I’m a new man, a new Murgatroid, and a new type of Tory.

Your humble and now officially sane servant,

Thursday, March 22, 2007

A Problem With Tories

What Ho Proles!

Spring will soon be upon us, so it’s already that time of year when the poor start arriving at the Hall, asking if they can help till the fields. It’s a most pernicious nuisance, seeing the woe begotten types come trudging up the driveway. I don’t know how they manage to get over the electrified fence and keep the guard dogs at bay, and My Man’s time is completely taken up with chasing them away. What I spend on shotgun shells during March and April has been known to fund small revolutions in certain Middle African states.

However, with Spring comes the renewed optimism that I might soon be called upon to stand for election in this great country of ours. It’s about time that we had a change in government. The current state of things reminds me of the great bard’s words in his Lear.

When usurers tell their gold i’ the field;
And bawds and whores do churches build:
Then shall the realm of Albion
Come to great confusion.

You might say that I’m an old fashioned Tory in that I’m not one to have bawds and whores building churches. In fact, if I had my way, not a penny of lottery month would go towards such schemes. Which is quite unlike the police of the current administration. If there’s anything that the lottery now funds which isn’t built by bawds and whores, then I really think we should be told. I’m pretty damn sure that neither bawds nor whores understand the first thing about civil engineering.

Which brings me neatly around to Tories.

I’ve been looking around at the types of people who have become Tories in recent years and I’m rather disappointed by the sort of chap we’ve been attracting. Oh, they’re Toryish in their principals of low taxation and pro-business, but where’s all the charisma of the old guard? Where are well rounded characters of Churchill and Wellington? Tories need not be men (or indeed women) whose definition of happiness begins and ends with a discussion on interest rates. They should be people who are living proof that being a Tory brings happiness because we are in touch with the life spirit.

What precipitated this outburst was a few minutes of Tory TV I happened to watch last night, and a bloody good sleep was had by all. One might make excuses because it was the night after the budget but can one really discuss the nature of a two pence cut in income tax for so long without losing the will to live? It is of my confirmed opinion that most of this new breed of Tories are a terribly dull lot and I’ll be trying my best to involve myself with them as little as possible.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Truth About The Sea Nymph

What Ho Proles!

This prolonged silence of mine is getting too much. There have even been rumours circulating in the press that I’ve taken up with a Polynesian sea nymph and was recently seen loitering around a bar in the West End known to be frequented by showgirls. They’re all lies, I tell you.

The reason I’ve not put up any more chapters of my Memoirs is that I’ve been made aware of certain legal requirements should I ever want my life story published. So, although I’m still writing and breeched 70,000 words in magnificent style the other day, I’m now wary of doing myself a great disservice. Did Harry Potter appear for free online before the world discovered the magic of a boy and his pet owl? And should the world be given advance warning about a Tory and his duck? Well, precisely… The question of rights is an important one and I wouldn’t like to dissuade a publisher from taking an interest in me because I’ve already put out my meat’s juice for the world to taste in draft form. I’m taking a leaf from Lord Jeffrey’s book. Even God didn’t get a sneak peak of his latest and he co-authored the damn thing.

Of course My Man has insisted that I persist in giving you the beef for free but you might know that I’d stand up to his socialist nonsense. He’d have me turn the Hall into a drop-in centre for local tramps or start picking up hitchhikers in the Bentley instead of driving into them at high speed. What is a man to do?

I think the way around this is to occasionally write one of these updates and see how things go from there. My Memoirs have come between us and I’d like to begin again. As I told the people who come looking for work at the Hall yesterday: mistakes have been made, shots have been fired, but I’m sure we can begin again and resolve these problems in a less bloody manner.

Now then. As you were.

Pip pip.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Much Tofu About Nothing

Damn these liberals. First they invent tofu and now they want to take away our nuclear deterrent. It’s ruddy double faced, if you ask me.

Don’t they know that our Trident missiles are a reason why people still listen to the British? It sometimes beggars belief that people listen to the liberal types who’d have us left unarmed against the hoards. Do you really think these other countries care a jot about what we think? They don’t love us for Celebrity Come Dancing or Jonathan Ross. They love us because they fear us. They appreciate us because they know we could destroy the world, not once, but many times over.

I was born in the middle of the Cold War – in fact some people might say I contributed towards it – so I understand the politics of it rather well. Nuclear missiles are terrible terrible things and that’s why we should have them. The same is true of tofu though, admittedly, I don’t fear the day when a hostile nation launches soya products our way. But we must face reality. Now tofu’s invented, there’s not much we can do to uninvent it. The best we can do is keep it in deeply fortified bunkers, hoping the day will never come when the roast potatoes and veg run out and we have to use it.

So, there you go. Keep the bomb and let’s keep tofu too.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Fun With Lib Dems

What Ho Proles!

Well, I knew that title had to catch your eye, simply because it's not something you see every day! Fun with Lib Dems is one of those oxymorons, like Compassionate Conservative, which even as a Tory, I can see makes no sense.

I’m just checking in to this blog to make sure that you’re all doing well and that nobody’s been stealing the china. Not that I’m accusing you of anything, you understand, but I’m pretty sure there are people out there who have visited this site who have prolish blood running through their veins. That’s another problem with improving literacy among the working classes: they always put it to some wrong use.

Anyway, in this age of government accountability, I suppose I should give an account of my activities for the last week or so. Well, I’ve been roped into local Tory party activities which have kept me away from my blog for too long. There have been local mutterings about voting Lib Dem so the local Tory group thought we should organise a leafleting campaign with random hectoring of locals. Old Campbell seems to be winning people around but I think it’s people responding out of pity. That or they like the smell of mint humbugs and heat rub.

I was off in Chidminster, yesterday, where I hectored a local about green taxes for nearly an hour. By the time I was finished, I think he’d have preferred to gnaw off his own leg rather than vote for anything but the blue rosette. I’m pretty sure old Dilly Cameron would be rather proud to see another browbeat soul into joining the winning camp. Can’t say I’m a huge fan of these green taxes, though anything to stop proles from migrating across the country should be welcomed. Tax has few good uses but their ability to prevent the poor from aspiring above their means has to be one of the best reasons for increasing the tax burden, year on year.

Okay, I have to dash. My Man has just brought the Bentley around to the front. We’re off this afternoon to raid a meeting of Lib Dems. They’re a harmless enough bunch but we can always be sure to turn one or two of them to the Tory cause by playing Land of Hope and Glory at them very loudly.

Toodle pip.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Lady Anne Small-Burrows

What Ho Proles!

I know you didn’t expect to hear from me today but in addition to being wealthy, debonair, charming, and possessing great wit and intelligence, I’m also a man who likes to spring many surprises. I like to disappear for a while but only so I can make a dramatic entrance at a later point. In a way, I’m a bit like bird flu. You just don’t know when I’m going to crop up next. I’ve often been described as one of the world’s last believers in the Romantic spirit but laced with a strong mix of Puritanism and it’s a judgement I tend to agree with.

Yet though there are few us puritanical romantics around these days, one did arrive at the Hall last night and stayed for the night. She’s the reason I’m posting this today. You must simply be introduced to Lady Anne Small-Burrows, or Lady Anne, as she’s known in this household.

Lady Anne is my cousin and one of the few people in the country to suffer the extraordinary condition in which she is completely immune to the influence of alcohol. Medically it’s a miracle but socially it’s a nuisance. It accounts for her rather dry stolid appearance and character, but also the moments when unleashes her repressed energy in ungovernable frenzies of what I can only describe as elan.

I remember one morning when she was half-way through completing The Times crossword when she suddenly took it upon herself to visit the Cathedral at Reims. Within ten minutes of her tackling the clue at 10 Across (‘Rigorously ecumenical interrogators missed something’) she was out the door and on her way to catch the first train for Dover. From what I hear, she caused all kind of chaos when she got there and turned a few of the younger chaps of the Roman Catholic clergy into devote atheists.

That’s all some years ago now and she’s settled down just a bit. My Man announced her arrival at the Hall by coming into the drawing room, coughing, and indicated towards the large rosy cheeked girl that had climbed up his back and was draped over his shoulders. She screamed her delight and jumped down before rushing over to peck me on my cheek.

‘You’ve put weight on, Jacob,’ she said, poking me in my ribs. ‘Not getting enough exercise or is it glandular?’

I looked down at myself. ‘I’m exactly the same weight as when I last saw you,’ I replied.

She spluttered a wet slimy laugh. ‘Then you should have your scales looked at! You’re looking positively plump. We’ll have to start calling you old fatty Murgatroid of the glandular condition.’

It’s better to ignore her provocations when she’s in this kind of mood.

‘And what suddenly whim has brought you here?’ I asked. ‘I didn’t think we were due another full moon for another week.’

‘Whim? I don’t do whims,’ she sniffed. ‘I’m here on my way to Cornwall.’


‘I’m going to buy myself a cottage there and write a novel.’

‘Ah,’ I said, patting the pile of papers I’d been working through. It was the draft of the Memoirs you keep hearing so much about. The manuscript was looking quite plump, certainly bigger than the last time you all saw it, having expanded to a length to exceed that of War of the Worlds or even Lord of the Flies. ‘So I take it that you’re suddenly taken with the literary bug?’

She threw herself down in a chair. ‘Oh, just about everybody is getting a book published so I thought why not have a go myself? I’ve got oodles of tales to tell.’

‘Well so long as you don’t ask for my help,’ I said. ‘I’m working on a volume of my own.’

‘You are, Jacob?’ she screamed with pleasure. ‘Then you really must allow me to look at it. I might be able to pick up a few tips before I get cracking.’

‘Get cracking?’ I tutted. ‘That’s hardly the right spirit.’

‘Pish,’ she replied. ‘Can’t be that difficult.’

I hesitated before I replied. ‘Well, perhaps a look at my manuscript will teach you to think differently. There’s nothing better than a good example to lower a person’s expectations. Only you must realise that it’s still an early draft. I intend to go through and spruce it all up with a few indiscreet anecdotes about Oliver Letwin and his gerbil fixation.’

She picked up my manuscript and retired to a corner of the room where she remained until I retired for the night.

I came down to breakfast and found my manuscript waiting for me with a small note attached.

‘Read your novel. It’s not exactly the next Jeffrey Archer is it? Love, ASB’.

What can I say but this cheered me up enormously. It was just the sort of response a man likes to hear when he’s looking to become published.

I rushed off a copy of this review and had My Man take it to London with him as he continues to search out an agent. I even told him that he could leave the chloroform at home. If Lady Anna Small-Burrows’ words can’t land me an agent, I don’t know what can.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Man With The Prosthetic Buttock

What Ho Proles!

Alas, you can see that I’m one of those men that makes resolutions he has no intention of keeping. But that’s the thing with we men of the aristorcacy. We’re not bound by the same rules of you people of the pork pie and Daily Mirror. We’re not bound by the same moods, either. It’s the weather, you see? These dark winter days bring with them a life that is dull and devoid of all excitement. No amount of good news can shake me out of my lethargy. I picked up a nice profit in that market dip the other day and I heard that my bank account is positively bulging because of a few other investments I’ve made. Yet nothing cheers me up.

I’m not the sort of man you’d want to be around when I’m suffering my winter blues. I bagged myself a local the other day, just for the spite of it. Cost me nearly five pounds to hush it up and then the misery of having pay out cash put me in an even deeper mood so I bagged the blighter again. That cost me an additional twenty pounds and may cost me even more when it comes time to have his bandages removed. I didn’t take all that much flesh out of him, though there is talk of my having to pay for the blighter to have a prosthetic buttock installed. Still, there was no real harm done and it will teach the locals to keep off the high street during the daylight hours.

My main cause of misery is the Memoir. It now stands at 63,000 words and counting and I’ve still not had a sniff of interest from a publisher. Today I despatched My Man to London with the instructions to hang around places where literary types gather. I understand this tends to be close to natural sources of alcohol, which I can tell you, seemed to please him enormously. I’ve yet to hear back from him but I’ve equipped him with a fine bottle of chloroform to subdue an agent should he find one. This Memoir has to be on the shelves in time for the next election. It contains so much valuable information for prospective Tory candidates that it would be a crime should we not get it into their hands.

And with that, my update is complete. I’ll be in touch tomorrow. I have another long excerpt of adventure to relate to you.

In the meantime, keep faith with Murgatroid. Remember: form is temporary but class is forever.

Pip pip,

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

37. The Lines Are Drawn

‘Do any of you chaps know how to drive a bulldozer?’ I asked the gang verging on a rabble that had formed around the base of the wicker man.

I’ll be quite honest and admit that even as I’d asked this, I hadn’t held out much hope of an answer even bordering on the affirmative, let alone actually one that had full run of affirmative’s lands. Amassed around the giant wooden toes, the men looked quite unlike a highly motivated ground staff with additional bulldozing skills and more like a fungal foot infection that had got slightly out of control. The impression wasn’t helped by the fact that there dying sunlight added a touch of yellow to their pallor. It made them look like a line of particularly stubborn toenails.
You might scoff at my use of the term ‘highly motivated’ when I described my staff back there but it’s amazing how low pay and high bonuses works out to our mutual advantage of all.

My advice to all of you should you ever need to employ the common man is to deliberately pay him each week exactly what you spend each month having your boots shined. These common folk can’t be trusted to spend their basic pay wisely. Even hygiene comes second or third to ale and cigarettes, which are, quite honestly, the limits of their ambitions. I’ve said it before and no doubt I’ll be forced to say it again but to put a damp cloth behind the ear of the common prole is to send it to a place that has long gone unmarked on every one of their maps.

The only way to keep them happy, however, is to pay each man a cash bonus for additional jobs they perform. Your common prole treats it as ‘found money’ and they are much less likely to squander it. If I had it my way, I’d fund all the blighters out of lottery wins. They’d spend their more money more wisely is they thought they’d won it because they got four numbers right every fortnight.

Alas, I have no time to run through the every nuance of the Murgatroid financial strategy and my radical solution to the welfare state. If I remember correctly, I was describing how I’d approached my staff to see if one had experience driving a bulldozer. It would be a chance for one of them to ‘earn a few bob’, as the popular vernacular would have it. Only it didn’t take me long before I began to see the ridiculous nature of my quest. Bulldozer drivers are not two to a penny. They are not even two to a bob.

Instead, my men looked back at me in silence and made me feel not to dissimilar to those farming chaps that occasionally admit that they’ve consummated their undying love for cattle.
In fact, I was about to turn on my heels when I caught a glance of something that reminded that we live to be surprised. And proles are often the most surprising creatures out there bar the Belgians.

No sooner had I given up expecting a response to my question than a hand was slowly raised at the back of the crowd. Its owner was a surly hammer of a man sucking a last drag of life out of the final centimetre of a cigarette which glowed between his lips. He mumbled something as unintelligible as it was undoubtedly unintelligent. It seemed to imply that ‘seagulls doze where aardvarks make their nests’ but it might have been something completely different. I haven’t ear for their lingo.

‘You’re sure you know how to drive a dozer?’ I asked again as a way of covering my confusion. It’s not good to show these proles a sign of weakness, which is how they’d interpret the fact that we often can’t understand a word they say.

The man nodded his lump of a head and wiped his flat nose against this coat’s high collar.

‘Heed my mongoose which gurgles like a sterile duck’ he said, or didn’t say, if you take my meaning.

‘Well then,’ I hesitated, ‘that’s most excellent... I suppose we can get started.’ I threw him the keys which disappeared into large hands like two sheets of steel pressed into the shape of bin lids. ‘And there’s a hundred pounds in it for you if you’ll follow me and do exactly as I say.’

The cigarette burned a little brighter and I thought for a moment he was going to inhale the whole of it like some tribes inhale flames to give them life. Instead he squeezed a thin pipe of smoke through his lips and mumbled something inarticulate I believe to involve hamsters or Hampshire. I really couldn’t tell which.

I was distracted with this puzzle when Samantha Spoon appeared at my elbow again like some infernal tennis injury.

‘What exactly do you plan on doing?’ she asked.

Though I’ve always appreciated the women’s help, I was beginning to see that she lacked the faith in everything that goes by that pleasant sobriquet of ‘the Honourable Jacob P. Murgatroid’. It was a kind of moral doubt which was slowly becoming intolerable, but no more so than when I was trying to understand a man whose mongoose apparently gurgles like a sterile duck.

‘There comes a time in every assistant’s life when they must simply believe in the ability of their employer,’ I told her as I began to walk towards the bulldozer with Surly in tow. ‘And this, Miss Spoon, this is one such time. You’d do well to stand back and watch how a man takes control of a situation.’ I looked to the blonde locks flowing away from a face looking even more troubled by the lowering sun than it had at the height of the day. ‘You look worried, Miss Spoon. I can understand that. In your shoes, I’d look worried too. But you’re not in the full possession of the facts. You’ve not seen what I’ve seen. You’ve never fought fights that I have fought and won. Plus, if you don’t mind my saying this, you’re lacking one vital quality.’

‘And what would that be?’ she asked.

‘Vision,’ I said and waited a moment as the words scooped another half an inch of furrow between her eyebrows. ‘We have a bulldozer,’ I explained. ‘This good man here knows how to drive a bulldozer. And what else can we be expected to do with a bulldozer but bulldoze?’

She looked at me warily and then she looked at Surley who I believe responded with a word or two about violins and pelicans.

‘That might be true,’ she replied to him and turned to me. ‘But bulldoze what?’

Surly jumped up into the cab and squeezed himself into the driver’s seat.

I pointed to the field. ‘That’s what we’ll bulldoze, my dear. And what’s more, we’ll bulldoze it like it’s never been bulldozed before!’

Surly started the engine first time and I thought it formed a rather delightful punctuation mark to my speech. It was not unlike those cannons that are give such a successful blast to the 1812 by that Russian chap with the name I can never spell.

It took much less time than a couple of four beat bars to give Surly his instructions and less time than the full symphony before the job was done.

Within the hour I was standing on the top of a run of earthworks that even my pagan ancestors couldn’t have faulted. Channel 4’s Time Team have never found larger defensive walls and I could almost imagine Tony Robinson running up the steep slope in that excited way of his, proclaiming it a minor miracle of the ancient world before getting down and dirty in some trench with Phil Harding.

For those of you who like a bit of general detail, I should explain that the embankment stood a good five feet and on its steepest side fell roughly away into a ditch as deep as the ramparts were high. This barrier stretched across the whole of the field and formed a wall against anybody who might wish to harm the wicker man, which stood behind it with a defiant swagger about its large wooden hips.

Once we’d finished piling up earth, I’d left Surly to smooth out the ground on the rear side of the embankment for those of us on the defensive side.

It was all going extremely well and I was lecturing the men on my plans for patrolling the barricade when Finch appeared from the direction of the stables.

You must remember that I’d left him in the care of young Falk and that had been two hours earlier. Whatever she’d done to detain him, she’d done it extremely well. He appeared with a large bandage around his head and holding a bag of what I strongly suspected to be ice.

‘Cooled down a bit?’ I shouted, delighting in the chance of setting my lungs to a good pun.
Finch’s face turned purple, or at least, the colour of a good blood pudding.

‘That’s a totally illegal use of council equipment,’ he protested, his voice not much more than a whisper. ‘Misappropriation of resources. That’s tantamount to theft!’

‘Then I believe I’ll have you off my land, Mr. Finch,’ I shouted back. ‘I believe you’re trespassing.’

‘Not according to the law I’m not,’ he replied, keeping his voice low. ‘You’ve gone too far this time, Murgatroid. I’ll have you for hindering council business. I’ll have you for theft. I’ll have you for… for… for…’

I wanted to help him make up his mind quickly so I picked up a lump of mud and hurled it his way. Not a little of it found its way into his mouth.

‘Assault!’ he spat heavily. ‘And now I’ll have you for common assault!’

Showing how little I cared about his threats, I jumped up into the bulldozer’s cab and threw another handful of earth.

‘There’s nothing common about it, Finch,’ I shouted. ‘Only, the next time you come back, bring more men. From now on, you’ll have to fight for every inch you take of this land.’

‘You can’t defy the rule of law,’ he returned, his teeth catching a pale yellow in the low afternoon sunlight and setting off the mud that had stuck to his chin. ‘You’ve gone too far this time, Murgatroid. And when I return, you’ll see that for yourself. When I return, I’ll bring the police with me!’

I pushed my foot on the bulldozer’s throttle and turned the big engine over until it poured black smoke that drifted over the barrier and down the other side to where it engulfed Finch. When the smoke cleared, he was not to be seen.

The moment felt thick with magic and destiny, though admittedly, it could just have been the smell of diesel. Whatever the reason, I felt moved to make one of those speeches that we men of destiny make when history’s lines cross and fates are decided.

I signalled my followers to gather around me.

‘Look here,’ I said, standing on the side of the bulldozer parked on the inner slope of the huge bank. ‘That man will return with reinforcements, so I want to establish a base of operations. Mr. Hawking? Send some of your chaps into town. We’ll need a large tent and some supplies. Miss Spoon. Get back to the Hall and ask My Man to get down here as quickly as possible. Tell him to bring all the guns and plenty of ammunition. Harry? You get in contact with your BBC friends and organise a camera crew.’

‘That’s already done,’ smiled Harry.

I remembered what Samantha Spoon had told me about his requesting the film crew trained for Angola but decided it was not the time to tackle Harry.

‘So long as they can do a good job,’ I told him. ‘This needs to go national as soon as possible.’

I looked out across the remaining faces.

‘The rest of you men need to arm yourself for the struggle ahead. This may seem like a petty dispute, but Britain was built on petty disputes. We’re now fighting for the right to live our lives according to the freedoms that have come down to us through the ages. This may have began as a fight about a simple harvest festival but it is now a fight for the right to live as free men in this country of ours. Jerimiah Finch would have us abandon the right to act freely in our own homes. He would try to alter the customs that have been passed on down generations. But he’s misjudged us all as he’s misjudged me. So long as I’m the prospective candidate for the fine constituency of C---– N----, I won’t allow these Mussolini’s in tweeds to come and take away our chickens and rescue our goats. Remember what Churchill said about those Germans? Well, imagine that I’ve said it just as well. And imagine I’ve said it louder. Much much louder!’

It brings a tear to my eye, even typing now, to remember how those men responded to my call. With a great round of applause they set themselves to their tasks. Meanwhile, Surly climbed up onto the bulldozer.

Proud tears hung on his eyes and clasping my hand to his, he said: ‘Take my bassoon and cleave it lengthways with a weasel and half a keg of cherry brandy!’

I ask you now: what man wouldn’t be moved by such loyal words?

Monday, February 19, 2007

36. Inside Information

Thinking that I might be a furlong or two short of wisdom’s finishing post should I decide to hang around the stables until Finch awoke, I left him to recover in the company of the young Falk who had continued to prove that she is of the highest order of good sorts by promising to delay that council cad for as long as possible.

It did occur to me that her method of delaying the man might involve another crack across the brow with her dung spade but I was in no mood to plead leniency for the dung spade. Finch’s head seemed highly suited to dung spades in general, so who was I to stand in the way of such a happy reunion? Instead, I made my way back to the field where a much relieved Samantha Spoon greeted me with a kick to my shins.

‘What was that for?’ I screamed painfully before I jumped out of the way of a second kick that would have made Rosa Kleb proud.

‘You oaf!’ she fumed, following her under-the-radar attack with a sharp jab into my ribs that made my spine buckle. ‘Some kind of hero! What were you thinking, running off like that and leaving me here all alone?’

I admit that I was touched by this display of concern.

‘My dear Miss Spoon,’ I replied surprisingly kindly given her attacks. ‘You really shouldn’t worry so much. I’ve been trained by the boy scouts to live off the land. I could have survived out here for a week on rabbit meat alone. And you wouldn’t believe the feast I could make of toads, berries, and bison.’

‘Worry? It’s not worry,’ she replied. ‘You don’t pay us enough to make us worry about you. This is just about professionalism. I’ll be damned if we lose this election because you deserted us in our vital moment. What was I meant to do if things turned ugly?’

‘Miss Spoon,’ I smiled. ‘You’re an asset to the campaign. I’m sure you would have coped admirably. Has a candidate ever had such a competent press officer? You’re the Rapunzel of political spin.’

‘It would end up a real fairy tale if I tried to spin the fact that you’d run off with the keys to a bulldozer chased by the council’s chief environment officer who wanted to demolish your fifty foot wicker man which will soon be used to sacrifice chickens and goats as part of a local festival for druids.’

She looked across to where Harry Lamb was sitting with Mr. Starling and his team. A few of the councillor’s assistants had joined them and a large thermos flask stood in the centre of the circle like some ritual totem steaming ominously with the power of the underworld run by the gods of Tetley.

‘They wondered about coming after you but they decided it was better to drink some tea,’ she explained.

‘A wise choice,’ I replied. ‘It’s better like this. I wouldn’t want Harry to get too excited. You can never be sure about men trained by the BBC. They always want to be first with the news but they don’t tend to think of what they’re doing until they’ve done it.’

‘That’s what made me worry,’ she replied, her face easing out of its scowl as her voice lowered to a whisper. ‘You gave Central Office enough rope to hang you when you murdered poor Mr. Mullins. Now you’re starting a fight with the council. The leadership won’t like it if they catch wind of it.’

‘Oh, don’t you worry about Central Office,’ I told her. ‘Michael Howard knows me only too well to know I wouldn’t deliberately murder a duck. And don’t you go worrying about Harry. Harry will report exactly what we want him to report. He’s old school BBC. He knows which side to butter his toast.’

‘What’s has this got to do with toast?’ she spat. ‘I heard him talking to his newsroom. He described this as guerilla warfare breaking out in the heart of C---– N----. He’s asked for the camera crew they usually send to Angola.’

‘Angola?’ I admit that it didn’t sound like Harry had quite grasped what I wanted of him.

‘Leave Harry to me,’ I said and dangled the bulldozer’s keys before her eyes by way of distracting her with the troublesome silverware. ‘We have finer fish to fry. I managed to get the keys to the bulldozer!’

Her lips narrowed. ‘And where’s Finch?’

‘Oh, he’s slowly coming around to our way of seeing things,’ I said and left it at that lest she took some kind of stance against the wilful battery of council officers with a dung spade. I walked across to Lamb who was in deep conversation with a member of the demolition team.

‘Ah, J.P.!’ exclaimed Harry, rising and in the same motion emptying his cup, hot and steaming, to the grass. ‘I’ve just been discussing your problem of this bonfire of yours. Do you know they’ve got a court order to have it knocked down?’ He lay a hand on the man he’d been talking to. ‘My young friend here is a fount of all knowledge regarding Mr. Finch’s plans. He’s agreed to dish the dirt in exchange for a small favour.’

‘Has he now?’ I asked, not a little delighted to find that Harry’s training was paying off with a bit of privileged information from the opposite camp. It was exactly the sort of thing I expected of a man who had once worked as John Simpson’s understudy.

The young man stood up and turned to face me.

‘My names Christopher Conroy Whelps,’ he said, brushing a lank chuck of hair from his face planted with enough acne to feed a small nation. He looked no older than twenty years and had the thin malnourished look of a large ginger whippet. ‘My friends call me C.C.’

‘Well, Mr. Whelps. What can I do for you?’

He looked quickly at Harry who just nodded.

‘Mr. Lamb said that you’ve got plenty of contacts in London,’ he said as simply as that.

‘Did he indeed?’

‘He’s a law student,’ explained Lamb and nodded at the boy. ‘He’s very eager to learn.’

The lad wiped his hand across his nose and sniffed loudly as he briefly inspected the back of his hand. Most definitely a law student.

‘The thing is, Mr. Murgatroid, sir. No law firm will give me a chance. That’s why I’m working for the council. And I hate it...’

His eyes flared on the word ‘hate’ and I could see the deal that Harry had made in my name.

‘So, what would you give in exchange for my assistance?’ I asked.

Master Whelps smiled slyly. ‘I can tell you what old Finchy has got planned.’ He grabbed my arm and walked me towards the bulldozer, well away from the hearing of the others. ‘He’s got it in for you, Mr. Murgatroid. You’ve made a real enemy there. Says you assaulted him. I wouldn’t blame you if you did. His sister’s standing against you in the election and they want to cause you so much embarrassment that you’ll stand no chance of winning.’

‘I’m aware of all this, my boy,’ I said. ‘It’s hardly worth an introduction in the Inns of Court.’

He flushed at my mention of London’s legal paradise.

‘Okay, well what if I told you that he’s planning a raid?’

‘A raid?’

He nodded towards the bulldozer. ‘This was just meant to annoy you. You know, get you riled up before he launched his real attack. He never honestly thought we’d be able to get past you with just a bulldozer. And to be honest, old Finchy didn’t want that. Not yet, at least. This was meant to annoy you ahead of the real assault, which is when he’s bringing the TV cameras with him.’
I rocked on my heels and looked up at the sky. What the lad was telling me made so much sense. The whole day had the air of drama about it but it had never felt like we’d got past the fourth act.

‘So tell me about the main assault,’ I said.

‘Tonight,’ he said in almost a whisper. ‘They’re bringing all the council’s bailiffs in. You’ll have no chance. They’ve got the police to back them up and a TV crew from one of the satellite news channels is coming as well to film the whole thing. Finch wants to show you up in front of the whole country.’

‘That,’ I said, and gave the lad’s arm a solid punch. ‘That is more than worth an introduction to my lawyer friends in London,’ I promised him.

‘But what are you going to do about Finchy? He’ll ruin you, Mr. Murgatroid. You’d be better off knocking it down yourself and avoiding the confrontation.’

I looked up at the wicker man, his big face cut from branches forming a strangly enigmatic smile that appeared to be defying the ages.

‘There are more than a few of us who can take pleasure in something so monstrously irrational,’ I said to the young lad. ‘When the countryside discovers that it’s traditions are being attacked, there will be civil war in this field.’ I shook my head as the thought of my plan came together.

‘This will be the fight that defines this election!’

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Has Anybody Seen My Man?

What Ho Proles!

It’s the night after Valentines Day and I’m still stuck in London. To make matters worse, I have lost contact with My Man, which makes life rather difficult since only he knows where he’s parked the Bentley. Between you and me, I think he’s gone off with some of those ladies of easy virtues that are making such a name for themselves in the world of blogging. You know the sorts. They loiter around lamp posts… Have habitual winks and always have to ask the time yet never consider buying themselves a watch. If you happen to run across some account of a man driving a quality automobile in one of ‘those’ blogs, could you give me a nod or leave a comment to tell him get his hide back here to the Dorchester. I really need the car tomorrow.

As I sit here late in the hotel while the man I pay a good five shillings a week is out there with women who I am led to believe wear cheek blusher on all FOUR cheeks, it makes me wonder what I’m doing trying to keep a blog. I should be more like Belle de Jour and give your some salacious gossip about my nether regions.

Only I’m a gentleman and an English gentleman at that. I don’t have nether regions, and if I did, they’d vote Tory. Not only would they vote Tory, but they’d have a Tory county council and we’d immediately ban the use of the term ‘nether regions’ and would probably choose to name the area ‘Gentialshire’ or ‘Greater Crotchshire Under Tweed’ or something even more pleasing.

I’m rambling.

It’s late at night and My Man is probably out there in Soho up to heaven knows what. I don’t know what you can get up to in London on five shillings but it will not be last he hears of this. Mark my words.


Monday, February 12, 2007

Snow and Cheap Wine

What Ho Proles!

I’m writing this from my hotel room in London where I’ve been stuck for the last week dealing with matters of family high finance. I know I made vows to keep posting but last week’s blizzard prevented me from returning home and my laptop was on the other side of the world. I could, of course, have found myself a ‘internet cafe’ but have you seen the sort of people who congregate there? I’d have rather nipped down the back of the Dorchester’s alley and paid a couple of tramps to hand deliver notes to each one of you.

I had My Man nip back for the laptop today and I hope to keep you informed of when this whole business with the accountants is settled and the family fortune is safe for a few more years. No need to put My Man out on the street, though he has been complaining about the conditions of the YMCA, which is where I had him lodged him since last week. The man smells of cheap wine and windscreen wiper fluid and I wouldn’t put it past him to have drinking both.

We shall be in contact,

I remain, you friend and patron,

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Theft

What Ho Proles!

After my stunning return to literary form yesterday, I thought it would worth a few minutes to tell you what I’ve really been up to during the lull in my posting. I’m encourage to make this confession by the brown parcel which arrived at the Hall this morning It signalling the moment when the pact was broken. Secrets can now be revealed. We can now speak about dark designs and my encounter with the criminal underworld.

The parcel arrived in the company of a man whose nose and ears suggested a life of pugilism. I don’t speak boastfully, but there was also a look of fear in his eyes. As well there might. The parcel contained what is known in certain circles as the ‘Murgatroid Diamond’, though that is a bit of a misleading title since it’s not actually a single diamond but rather a cluster of some of the finest examples of carbon atoms you’re likely to find outside the royal collection.

The cluster is actually a broach which my great great grandfather had made to celebrate his return from his diamond prospecting mission in what is now known as South Africa. It’s priceless and usually lives in a London bank safe. However, a recent change in the family’s financial arrangements meant I had to withdraw it and keep it at the Hall for twenty-four hours before I could deposit it elsewhere. Excuse my reticence to explain more but one simply does not know who is listening. Their exact location is best kept a secret. Let’s just stick to the fact: I changed the family’s banker and had to transfer valuables from one safety deposit box to another.

All this happened approximately two weeks ago. As did the theft.

I’ve kept the details from you because I knew you’d only worry. We were all quite safe and nobody came to any harm. Well, nobody of any significance… My Man did get fairly slugged around the temple when he crossed paths with the intruder in the room where I keep my safe. Again, let’s accept my vague terms. What’s important is that My Man, the damn coward, didn’t do a thing to stop the robbery. He claims unconsciousness robbed him of his chance to repay his many debts to me but I like to think he’s of a criminal bent and there’s an unspoken rule among thieves. I suspect the large bloody wound on his head is self inflicted. It wouldn’t be the first time.

Two days later, we received the ransom demand. One hundred thousand pounds in used notes. Naturally, I could have paid up. It would have been an end to the new Aston Martin I’ve had my eye on for some time and one is advised to give in to these people when you have such rare valuables.

However, if you’re a Murgatroid, you know there are always other methods.

I arranged to pay the scoundrels by meeting their courier in a shady Little Chef bistro on the A448 outside Kidderminster. The man was a shambolic sort of creature full of confidence that his part in this despicable little crime should soon be over. His confidence was his downfall. My Man soon had the bag over his head and we had stuffed him in the boot of the Bentley before you could say pretty much anything witty and alliterative.

What followed was a week of negotiations with the underworld. The man we’d bundled away was the brother of a well known criminal type and after a bit of chat, it turns out we have a lot in common. He even belongs to some of the same clubs as me.

Funny world.

Anyway, the broach was returned this morning and my hostage was released without harm. It’s been a terrible week but these things are sent to test us men of wealth. It’s the small inconveniences that are often the hardest to bear, which is something the prolish masses will never understand.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

35. In The Muck

The stables of my neighbours the Falks were silent but for the noises that horses tend to make when left to enjoy their own company. They are faintly human sounds: snorts without our haughtiness or ill manners, whines which denote neither complaint nor pain, and the occasional stamp of a hoof that so resembles a certain Scottish housekeeper when you’ve insisted on adding a drop of whisky to her famous chicken broth.

I may not be much of an admirer of the sport of kings but I found their noises to be lift soft pillows placed beneath my nerves. Naturally, I also happen to think that the sound of septic tank filling would have sounded equally pleasing to the ear of a man who had just run half a mile pursued by a crazed officer of the local county council.

These were the thoughts that were clopping around happily in the narrow stable of my brain.

Catherine Falk had disappeared as soon as she’d realised what she’d done and perhaps it was an omen that I was occupying a crime scene that made me drag Finch’s unconscious body across to the building that served the stable staff.

Propped against the wall, he now looked like he was merely taking a quiet five minute siesta and you would never have thought he was sleeping off a crack across the cranium with a dung shovel.

Having escaped from the man’s persecution, I had adapted to a role usually taken by those grey haired matriarchs in war movies who feed the troops once they’ve liberated Normandy. I was the model of caring. I had loosened the man’s collar, checked his pulse, rifled through his pockets, tied his shoe laces together, planted the stem of his pipe in nearby mound of manure, and finally been considerate enough to take the cartridge from my fountain pen and ink a large blue moustache on his upper lip. I don’t think I could have done much more for him even had I fed him wine and cheese and not spared him a chorus or two of La Marseilles.

A moment or two later, Catherine Falk appeared from around the corner of the building. In her hand, she carried a wooden bucket filled to the brim with water. I had a fraction of a second to act once I realised that she intended on throwing it over the unconscious Finch.

I jumped out of the way and then I breathed a sigh of relief. The water ran from Finch’s face but the ink moustache stayed in place.

‘Funny,’ she said, as the unconscious man failed to respond, ‘that usually works on the TV.’

‘Then you have an odd way of handing electronic devices, Miss Falk,’ I said, brushing down the knees to my trousers. ‘However, speaking as a man who has clobbered many a chap over the head with a coal shovel, I find smelling salts or the passage of time are better remedies for this type of unconsciousness. Mr. Finch will wake up with a headache but I we hope noting more. I take it that your father is insured?’

She squinted in the low sunlight and appeared indifferent to the thought of litigation.

‘Did he have that blue moustache before?’

‘He did,’ I nodded. ‘But I wouldn’t go mentioning it to him. He doesn’t like people to talk about it.’

‘Funny chap, is he Mr. Murgatroid? A blue moustache and trying to strangle you. Do you owe him any money?’

I wondered about the kind of world in which neighbours jump to such quick assumptions about the liquidity of a chap’s assets. Then I looked at Finch. He looked quite harmless but I could see how he did have the look of a bailiff. I’ve always maintained that they’re a different breed of men. They are usually men with very long arms and a way of frowning that reminds one of the great apes.

‘This,’ I said, deciding that Miss Falk deserved an explanation, ‘this is a sad man with delusions of influence.’ I proceeded to explain about the whole affair of a bonfire, the wicker man, druidic rituals, the fertility of the fields, and about a duck called Mullins.

‘I say! The man’s an absolute rotter!’ said the young Catherine. ‘ You did the right think stealing his keys. I bet that took some quick thinking. So where did you hide them?’

‘In your horse’s feed bag.’

‘Oh, superb!’ she gasped and skipped across to the hanging sack of grain.

‘I’ve always been blessed with a quick mind,’ I explained as I followed her. ‘It’s vital in a crisis to make decisions quickly and leaving no room for hesitation.’

She was rooting around in the bag so I don’t think she heard me.

‘Are you sure you put them in this one? I can’t feel them…’

‘Of course they’re there,’ I said, moving her out of the way and examining the bag for myself.
But she was right. Nothing but a handful of oats.

‘I don’t understand,’ I began and looked towards the horse just in time to see a glint of something silver flash between its teeth.

Catherine must have seen it too. She was immediately pulling the animal’s maw open.

‘Get those keys!’ she screamed. ‘It could kill him. Papa says Finchley is worth millions!’

‘Finchley?’ I asked.

‘Get those keys!’ she screamed.

I looked into the wet tunnel of flesh. ‘Me?’

‘Do you have insurance?’ she replied.

The girl had a point. These council officials are a pound to the dozen but champion horses…

I pushed my hands between teeth the size of dice.

‘Deeper,’ she said.

And deeper I went. It wasn’t the most unpleasant sensation I’ve ever experienced. I once drank a glass of Blue Nun.

I was cogitating on this memory when my fingers touched something hard and familiar at the back of the horse’s mouth. My fingers slipped around it and I removed my hand. The keys were attached to their ring which is what I believe had halted their progress down the horse’s throat.

‘The oddest things you find yourself doing for the sake of the Tory Party,’ I said as I added thick animal mucus to the list of reasons why my herringbone trousers would soon be donated to the poor.

My success was short lived. Finch groaned.

Catherine looked at the devil who moaned again only louder.

‘I think he’s waking up,’ she said.

‘Such a shame,’ I said.

‘Not half,’ she replied. ‘I was about to go and get a camera and a stable boy... Wouldn’t it have been the most wonderful thing to blackmail him?’

I shuddered. What does the immortal bard of Avon say about women’s powers of intrigue? Well, here was a perfect example. Young, pretty, and clearly with a good heart, but as crafty as a pickpocket’s thumb.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Room For A Penitent Sinner?

What Ho Proles!

Oh, don’t even think to question me! I’ve had quite enough of that from My Man. I know I’ve been silent for too long but we men of intellect are prone to ‘adventures’ of the spirit as much as we are prone to those of the body. My spirit has travelled far this last week, searching for the solution to an seemingly impossible problem. How do I finish my memoirs?

The whole thing has become a matter of telling myself ‘I can, I must, and I will’ but every time I sit down to scribe a few more pages, my mind reels from the task, screaming ‘I can’t, I shan’t, and I ruddy well won’t!’

My problem, of course, was created right at the beginning by putting these adventures straight to market in the form of this blog. There’s no chance to revise one’s actions and as the possibilities narrow, the mind labours through some desperate straights. Has there ever been a man of letters so foolish to show the world his first draft? Well there is Jeffrey Archer but let’s not speak of that oddity in the world of publishing…

In my absence, I’m delighted to have received some warm words of encouragement from you, Momentary and Eliza. And I’m deeply touched that Mr. Nottlesby has visited; a man of infinitely more skill in the business of transcribing his reality. I’d warmly recommend you go and loiter on his estate for a while. He’s a friendlier sort than I but I’d say do remember to come back since there’s a vow I want you all to hear me make.

The vow runs:

I shall write daily.
I will post as regularly.
I will get through to the end.
Murgatroids win through.

My Man is loitering in the corner of the room. Oh, I can see the way he’s chewing on the curtains to stop himself from laughing. He knows this is an idle promise. What he’s failed to take into account is that this vow is made by one of a noble line who never make promises they don’t intend to keep.

I’m now returning to the manuscript which has gone untouched for too long.

Until tomorrow…

Your servant,

Friday, January 26, 2007

On My Exile

What Ho Proles

My self-imposed exile from the world of blogging has been working wonders for my productivity. I’m churning out veritable tombs of moderately coherent ramblings which I’m trusting My Man to bash into chapter shape. He’s good enough as a butler, chauffeur, lackey, and trained assassin, but never better than when he’s given the chance to run with some material worthy of his pedantic mind. He might have no ability as a writer of original prose, but I think he does damn well when it comes to editing. He’s a credit to the comprehensive school system and acts as a constant reminder than no country in the world can have claim to have so many people bally well suited to the menial work necessary to support those of us in the ruling elite.

Now that I am having a momentary break from the memoirs, I might as well tell you of one notable event of the last couple of days.

As you can no doubt guess, Yours Truly spent the whole of yesterday in his study. It was mid afternoon and I was again bringing my mind to bear upon the terrible events of the last election. Just as I was cogitating over a suitable adverbial clause to describe The Hon. John Prescott, there was a terrifying scream from outside the house. Quill in hand and slippers on feet, I went dashing from my study only to hear more screams coming from the back of the Hall where the servant quarters are located.

The screams continued as I ran downstairs and they led me through to the kitchen and out through the back door. And that’s where I greeted a terrified Mrs. Priggs being carried rodeo-syle around the yard on the back of a large foul-tempered goat who clearly had an eye for rampage.

Without any hesitation I returned to the kitchen and rang for my man before returning to the yard where I watched for a couple of minutes as Mrs. Priggs flew past my teary eyes. When My Man finally arrived I told the slacker to help the poor woman and waste no time about it. I’m a man who doesn’t like to see a chap loiter when there’s a woman in peril.

Well, eventually, he did as he was told, bringing the goat to a rest, though not before making a rather unfortunate scene about a lump of flesh the goat’s horns had taken out of his thigh.

Mrs. Prigg’s looked quite flushed and once she’d finally stopped shaking, she told me that she’d been warned by estate manager that a goat had escaped from our small farm. She’d come outside to make sure all the doors and gates were closed when she came across the goat dining on her newest cotton bed sheets which she’d hung out to dry.

I’d like to say that he bravery didn’t go unrewarded but to my eye eyes it seemed that the sheets were ruined. Not by the goat, you understand, but by my totally inconsiderate editor who had managed to bleed all over those lovely white cotton.

Still, it was a rather curious incident which I enjoyed enormously. It provided a nice bit of light relief in a day full of heavy political memoir writing.

And so the journey continues.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Proverbial Second Bus

What Ho Proles!

Don't they always say that buses arrive in pairs. Well, here's the second double decker to pass you way today. I'm back with a bounce, as they say, or if not a bounce, then as near to a perfect yorker as possible. Hot jiggedy damn, those gales were strong last week! We’ve had nothing but intermittent power to the Hall ever since, hence my short absence from the high realms of bloggerdom.

I’m glad to say that my time hasn’t been poorly spent. I had a proper chapter of Memoir to post and post it I did, thus being able to bring a rare moment to pass. This is every single word written so far of my memoirs. That’s every one of the 55,000 or so words I’ve written since this I began the task of writing my political memoirs in October. That means I’m now venturing into fresh territory. Oh, I know this means nothing to you but there’s a definite frisson of excitement in the Hall. To mark the occasion, Mrs. Priggs is now making one of her special rice puddings, so I dare say it will be a rare day in one other ways too: the new drains will finally get their first proper workout tonight.

I’ve not mentioned My Man for a few days, leading some to speculate that he’d left my employment. This obviously wishful thinking on some people’s behalf. I’ve not mentioned the oaf since he doesn’t warrant a mention. He’s been a little put out since my Memoirs are currently detailing a time when he contributed little to my campaign. When he gets his next moment of glory, I’m sure he’ll buck up but for the moment, he gives off an air of indifference when he hands me the freshly typed pages.

I should really see about having a word with him. I don’t like to see a man become indifferent. I think I’ll have to give him something to worry about.

Back soon,

34. Murgatroid: Bullfighter

What Ho Proles!

There was a brief fleeting moment as I watched the bulldozer advance, when I felt the Murgatroid genes bristle under the brush of historical precedent. Murgatroids through the ages have taken part in some of the great military charges. We have been at the receiving end of them too. In the days before holidays to Kenya came with every box of Cornflakes, ours was a family big in the world of elephant hunts. Many a Murgatroid muzzle has been pointed towards the charging tusk of a bull elephant. A few of us even survived long enough to have the ivory shipped over and turned into decorative umbrella stands.

Alas, we now live in less demonstrative times and we rarely consider the pros of keep damp brollies in sensible places against the cons of the odd dead tusk. Instead these are crazy insufferable days when good Englishmen are charged down by bright yellow bulldozers.

‘You will not get away with this,’ I warned Finch, turning to look into the man’s eyes. ‘Tony Blair might be up for re-election but I swear I will make this about you!’

He grinned his own line of yellowing tusks. ‘I look forward to putting the council’s case,’ he said, his lips set wide and wet with excitement. ‘You have prevented us from doing out legally mandated job of removing a possible environment threat. We have every right… Every right by European law which states that…’

And that was enough! Mere mention of the E word had me reverting to stereotype.
‘European laws state nothing!’ I shouted and brushed the man aside with the butt end of my shotgun.

Striding out into the middle of the field, I put myself where I could be sure to be on an intercept course with the dozer. Either it or I had to back down and we Murgatroids don’t know the meaning of the word retreat.

‘For God’s sake, Jacob!’ shouted Miss Spoon. ‘It’s not worth it!’

Poor thing. She was not to know that there are only so many things a man can take in his life, so many times he has to step down from the brink. Moments of petty disagreement usually involving parking in disabled zones. But this was a matter of family honour, of English conviction, of British pride in the kind of people we are.

I raised the shotgun to my shoulder and pointed it at the bulldozer.

The beast squeaked and rumbled towards me like an asthmatic bull set on stun.

‘Jacob!’ screamed Samantha.

The bull rumbled on.

My finger rested on the trigger. I had the beast in my sights. I let go with one barrel.

The noise brought that sweet deafness where the world came to a rest but for the sudden departure of crows from a nearby copse. Then my ears cleared and I could see the machine still lumbering forward.

That’s when I first began to think that it wasn’t for stopping. I would be crushed beneath its tracks and Mathew’s Field would become Jacob’s Field and suddenly, immortality in a patch of mud didn’t seem such a good idea.

I was about to leap out of the way when the dozer came to a juddering halt.

Above the bucket, a bright orange hard hat appeared followed by a face.

‘Hand over the keys!’ I shouted at the man and showed him my gun.

Finch leapt forward. ‘You’ll do no such thing, Mr. Wells!’ he ordered. ‘Mr. Murgatroid won’t dare shoot you. It would be cold blooded murder.’

Well, I don’t know where he got cold blooded from. My gander was certainly in the pan and on the boil.

The man looked between Finch, myself, and Bessie. I could have told them that she rarely loses any argument. The engine died and he threw the keys at my feet.

I retrieved them before Finch who made a half-decent job of trying to stamp his foot on them. He only caught my knuckles.

‘Give them to me this instant!’ screamed Finch, looming over me.

‘When you get off my land,’ I replied, staggering back.

But it was all polite dressing to the fact we were now in what’s known in police reports are a ‘public order offence’. The damn coward stamped on my foot and tried to knee him. Both of us missed and in the confusion, I dropped the gun which discharged its other shell harmlessly into Finch’s associates who began to scream and cry just because a little rock salt had got under their skin.

Not that I gave it that much notice. Not with Finch’s fingers around my throat.

This was the stuff of the adventure tales you read as a boy. A flurry of blows well timed, this was not. I struggled with the man, using his slight disadvantages of speed and dexterity against him, while he used his weight against me. One moment, he pressed me back but then I would twist and the balance was tipped.

A minute passed with this kind of slow deliberate ballet before I managed to get a hand free. My knuckles shot out and connected with something long, cold, and involving nostril.

My blow sent him tumbling over like a mighty oak in a protected forest while in my hand I had the keys to the bulldozer. I wouldn’t be happy until they were a place that Finch couldn’t get them.

It was why I began to run. Odd, I know. Confessions come out at the oddest of times. But, indeed, I ran. Not quite sure how to do it at first, I simply lifted one leg up a little more quickly than normal and it seemed to work a treat. I ran, if this was indeed running, like no Murgatroid has run before. Then I heard a gasping sound and when I looked over my shoulder, Finch was coming after me. The damn blighter knew how to run two! It was most unexpected.

I urged my knees into more rapid motion and I soon found myself at the bottom of the field where a shallow brook cuts across the land, dividing the last of the Murgatroid estate from that of my neighbouring landowner.

Here, in order to give myself a breather, I have to explain about the neighbouring estate. Before 1990 and the big dot com boom, the estate had fallen into ruin after the last of the Marley-Wood family died, leaving no will and no issue. Whatever distant part of the family inherited it, they clearly had finer things to do than come live in C--- N--- (hard to believe, I know) so they sold the estate off to some developers who did nothing with until they sold it on to Mr. Falk.

Falk made his millions speculating on good things on the internet and had the good sense to move his money into gold before people realised that what these things weren’t as good as everybody had up to that point thought. Good things made a mint.

Since that time, the estate has been spruced up and the stables had been given a new lease of life. Falk lives there with his wife and one daughter and more staff looking after his stables than most British motor companies employ these days.

And it was to these stables that I intended to head. I have been on good terms with Falk and I was sure he wouldn’t mind my cutting across his land.

I went lolloping across the field, literally gazelle-like as I bounced through the long grass. I might say I might have found it quite invigorating had Finch not carried on his pursuit into this green savannah. Looking a little less nimble than I, he was a shade of purple less than fuchsia but certainly more than anything you could describe as ‘a healthy glow’.

I arrived at the stables, barely able to breath, but with Finch only a minute or so behind me. It was obvious now that the damn blighter would catch me.

I gazed around the empty yard and at a single stall occupied by a single horse disinterested in the bag of oats had been hung next to its door. Fearing that Finch would appear at any moment, it was into this bag that I thrust the keys to the bulldozer.

‘Give them back to me this instant!’ cried the voice followed by Finch who lumbered around the corner just as I’d moved away from the stable door.

‘Never,’ I said, waving my fist. ‘You’ve had your moment, Finch, but now it is my turn. That bulldozer will stand on that land, a testament to your imbecility!’

‘How dare you!’

‘Your insufferable intolerance!’

‘You can’t ignore the law, Murgatroid! It’s the law!’

‘Your buffoonery, your chicanery, your corruption, and your ultimate failure, Finch! You will now be a hunted man for I’ll let the country know that it is men like you who destroy everything that’s right and honest about this country.’

‘I’m not listening to this,’ said Finch, pushing me back. ‘Those keys are council property.’

‘You have no right to be on my land!’

‘Haven’t I?’ he said, raising himself to his full height. ‘And if I don’t do it, who will save all the goats and chickens you intend to sacrifice to your pagan gods?’

I confess, when he put it like that, I was brought up quite short. I’ve never thought of myself as a pagan. I’m firmly C of E and only agree to the damn harvest festival because it seems to keep the locals content.

Such was my shock that I didn’t notice that having caught his second or third wind, Finch launched into me. I caught him in the chest and fell back, the sound of tearing herringbone getting through all the pain to bring a tear to my eye.

A punch came ratting in and bounced off my chin but I responded in kind and neatly began to tenderise his right eye. More punches caught air before I managed to lift one through his defences. The uppercut connected squarely with his jaw and I heard teeth rattle.

And then a sound I didn’t recognise.

It was rather like a swish of air followed by a crack, followed by a sound that I could only describe as ‘urgh’ and the sudden piling of weight on my chest.

I looked up into Finch’s closed eyes but as I pushed him from me, I found myself staring up and stared into the face of Catherine Falk, daughter of the landowner and commonly agreed to be one of the most terrifying examples of young womanhood in the district. In her hand she was holding a large shovel with which I could only assume she had biffed Finch across the cranium.

‘Hello Mr. Murgatroid,’ she said. ‘Thought you needed a spot of help.’ She poked Finch with the shovel and turned to me, her face positively riddled with excitement. ‘I do hope he’s dead.’

Now do you see what I meant about terrifying?

Friday, January 19, 2007

33. Into the Breach, Dear Friends

What Ho Proles!

The modern conservative is a big beast in a world of gadflies and other insignificant political insects. Trapped between the safety of the old night and the threat of a new morning, we move carefully forward through the vast political jungle but only at the risk of squashing our core Tory supporters under our rather large cumbersome feet. We Tories are meant for a sedentary lifestyle, rarely moving from the shade of common sense. Not for us the small minutiae of government record or that ticket clipping tedium of policy making. We are animals of broad features, outline, contrast, big ideas, and noble concept. We live for Liberty and her sister Freedom, we live for drives through the countryside in a Ford Anglia before dropping into some quaint village inn where real ale is quaffed by the yard and rosy, cheeked, buxom, and wench are the words of the day. We are, in short, an animal native to the blessed shores we call Albion.
To switch metaphors with my characteristic fleetness of foot, I tell you to yarn me no tales about social equality and the welfare state. They are mere decorative flanges on the great political crust we all share.

Yet when we Conservatives fail to move with the times, we are prone to mistakes.

Take as you example, this humble man, pen in hand and with only good intentions towards you, my dear reader. I marched off that day April 2005, armed only with two polished metal pipes rigged together with a wooden stock in walnut and a well greased trigger. If I was to call myself a truly modern Tory, I should have realised the ineffectiveness of a shotgun against the armoured tank which is the modern bulldozer. I should have packed a shoulder launched antitank weapon or at the very least armed myself with some mines to disable it in its tracks. As it was, I was armed with the every faithful Bessie of the double barrels, one anxious estate manager, a failed journalist from the BBC, and Samantha Spoon who was proving to be a bothersome bee in my ear.

‘I do not pay you to make policy decisions,’ I informed the woman who seemed to have decided that if she was going to chaperone Harry Lamb to the bottom field, she would also take this opportunity to remind me of the implications of defending my home against intruders.

‘But this is political suicide,’ she whispered as we turned the corner of the field and approached the style leading to the festival site. ‘What will Central Office say?’

‘You can’t tell me that David Davies has never been in a similar situation,’ I told her. ‘The man’s built for moments like this. And don’t worry about what people will think. Harry here can write it up as a glorious defence of the homestead.’

‘I could do that,’ Harry agreed licking the end of his pencil as though raring to get scribbling.

‘You’re playing with fire,’ she warned me again as I set myself to climbing up the style.
I was in no mood for debate.

‘You worry too much Miss Spoon,’ I assured her and threw my leg over the fence.
Something tickled me from below and I felt the crotch end of my trousers snag on a nail protruding from the gate.

‘Now here is a situation that does call for worry!’ I said I carefully set about unhooking myself and jumping clear. ‘Let that be a lesson to you, Miss Spoon!’ I said, fingering a small hole in my herringbone tweed. ‘Politics may be about detail but therein are the dangers. Be it a nail or a bulldozer, each is as likely to derail a political career unless they’re dealt with as soon as you feel their nefarious tug.’ And with that, I looked out across the field to where I was sure another nefarious tug awaited me.

Those of you who have hitched your caravan and trundled into C--- N--- may know that the Murgatroid lands stretch for miles in nearly every direction around the Hall. You are also likely to know that we intensely dislike caravaners and there is a local ordinance which gives us the right to put you in the village stocks should you dare erect a chemical toilet in the shire.

However, so long as you have a rudimentary idea of the geography, you’ll recognise the name of Mathew’s Field, as it is known, the site of the annual festival.

It is the smallest of all the Murgatroid boundaries, backing as it does onto the Marley-Wood estate. Mathews’ field, itself, takes its name from an old servant of a great uncle of mine, accidentally added to the day’s tally during a pheasant shoot in 1747. The event might not have gone into the popular mythology of the region had my great uncle’s shot not caught the man in the thigh. He might have lived too, if only the doctor had got too him before my great uncle, who had served in many military campaigns, decided to put the poor man out of his misery there and then. When you consider the field still bears the servant’s name, I’m sure you’d agree that it was a small price to pay for his immortality.

I rounded the path, leading to the field I took my first glimpse of the giant bonfire.

The wicker man towered more than fifty feet above the field; the product of three weeks work by Mr. Hawking and the C---- N---- Festival Committee, a loose affiliation of farmers, shopkeepers, local organisations, and sundry druids who ensure that the traditional elements of the festival are adhered to. The role of Chairman of the committee had been handed down through generations of Murgatroids and I’d carry it on by attending the annual general meeting, preferring to leave the day to day running to those who enjoyed such matters. At moments like this, I confess, I felt 100% chairman and so damn proud of that mighty pile.

‘You’ve done a wonderful job,’ I said to Hawking, my breath fairy taken by the magnificent sight.

‘An handsome sod, isn’t he sir?’ said Hawking.

I might have replied but just then a bitter wind swept up the valley and I heard the coughing splutter of a diesel engine.

Hawking turned to look towards the bottom edge of the field where a set of gates block the road. A group of cars were parked beyond, followed by the yellow shape of industrial plant-hire cloaked in the distinctive thick black smoke of trouble.

‘I just hate to see so much work go to waste,’ he said.

‘They won’t take this from us,’ I answered.

Hawking’s face darkened, his brows rumbling down the sharp incline of his brow to come to rest blocking access to his eyes.

‘Don’t they know that this has been a tradition in these parts for millennia? Not centuries, you hear, but thousands of years?’

I shrugged my shoulders and shifted the weight of the gun under my arm. I was certain it would have a say or two in matters before the day was out.

Our small group wandered down to the end of the field where a gate opens out onto a lane that stretches towards the village at one end and the estate of another local landowner in the other.
Jeremiah Finch was not alone but had brought a team of officials with him. Three of them men appeared to be identical clones of a fourth, though as to which one of them was the original I could not venture to say. They each stood a hand and fist above six feet and to walk around them would take a journey to make Michael Palin go cold.

‘Mr. Murgatroid,’ said Finch as he approached. He didn’t extend his hand but gave me the non-committal nod of quangodom. ‘We have the proper paperwork to enter this property and dismantle that monstrosity,’ he began, thrusting sheets of tightly types writing into my hands. I cast them to the breeze and looked at the man in his eye. It’s the only legal language men of honour need.

‘You should have read those papers, Mr. Murgatroid. You’d have seen we have the law on our side.’

‘My passport is the only document I need,’ I replied.

‘Can I quote you on that, J.P?’ Harry shouted from some way back.

‘So you intend to block us?’ asked Finch, barely giving Harry a glance.

‘Damn right he does,’ said Mr. Hawking.

Finch looked at me and a strange smile perched on his lips. He waved his arm and the bulldozer roared into life. I thought it all a show given that Hawking had organised quite a roadblock to cover the gates but my heart missed a beat as the large monster turned on the spot and came crashing through the hedgerow.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

33. Prequel To A Bulldozer Fight

What Ho Proles!

‘Hello, hello!’ burbled Harry. ‘Did somebody mention a bulldozer?’

Now, confess it: you’re impressed by the merry zip with which this member of the BBC’s crack team of journalists gave eyeball to the breaking news in the room. Rarely has the license fee been put to better use, or surely a better use than sending David Attenborough out to befriend pandas or the whatnot...

I also thought it a reassuring sign of the down payment Harry had put his new lease on life that he had reacted more quickly than other less astute bods in the room.

I, for instance: I had remained perfectly motionless, shoe leather content to remain intimate with rug as I contemplated the deep swelling sensation that had risen from the pit of my stomach and was now choking me with my own anger.

‘A bulldozer, indeed!’ I growled and felt my face turn tomato.

A frightened Mrs. Priggs took a few steps back from the door, clearly aware that even a man known for his able leg break and a fiendish googly has need of a good run-up on occasion.

‘Those… those… those damnable caddish swine!’ I cried and barged my way out of the room.

Harry followed at my heels, suddenly acting like a reporter on the scent of a scoop full of something deeply unpleasant.

‘This all sounds rather exciting,’ he observed if not actually pestered in that way of all dedicated newshounds. ‘I sense there’s trouble afoot.’

I was glad Samantha Spoon had followed us out. She has a proven record when it comes to handling a crisis.

‘It’s the C--- N---- harvest festival bonfire,’ she explained calmly as I stormed into my office and pulled my favourite piece of ironmongery from the rack.

‘A bonfire would look good on camera,’ agreed Harry as I emerged out onto the landing. ‘Traditional setting in the countryside… Festivities of the common folk… The caring landowner sharing a pint of golden cider with his loyal… What’s the shotgun for, J.P.?’

I broke Twin Barrel Bessie open and checked the fine old girl’s chambers.

‘I believe it is still an English landowner’s right to shoot trespassers who venture onto his land,’ I said, thinking that by stating it so simply I wouldn’t be asked any more damn foolish questions.

‘Now that is the sort of thing we’d be interested in filming!’ declared this voice of the liberal BBC. ‘Sounds just about perfect! A Tory on a shotgun rampage is much better than Oliver Letwin in a toga!’ He paused a moment to reconsider his last point. ‘Though I do suppose it depends on how short the toga.’

I pocketed the handful of cartridges I had picked up with old T. B. Bessie and it wasn’t until we reached the top of the flight of stairs leading to the hall that I spoke again.

‘I often wonder if we weren’t actually taken over by the Soviets during the seventies,’ I said. ‘I swear that this council of ours is run by communists of the reddest hue. They simply hate tradition like I have a hating of Russian literature. Give me a good old fashioned thumping yarn with proper British full every half dozen words.’

‘So the council have been giving you grief, have they?’

‘I’ve already had two meetings with this man Finch, the so-called official in charge of bonfires. He also happens to be the brother of my main political rival, this Granger woman. The whole thing has turned decidedly personal and heavily menaced with political undercurrent.’

‘What happened?’ asked Harry, scribbling all this down as we walked. ‘You’ve not already had a shoot out, have you, J.P?’

‘Jacob stole the poor fellow’s pipe,’ said Samantha.

‘So what if I did?’ I snapped. ‘And in future, when in my presence, please don’t refer to that man as a poor fellow. Damnable cad is closer to the mark.’

‘Well it was a bloody foolish thing to do!’ she replied. ‘Stealing a pipe! You were only going to rouse the poor… the poor damnable cad. If anybody made this personal, it was you, Jacob.’

‘Me?’ I protested, treading another step before digging in my heels and pausing half way down the flight of stairs. ‘I didn’t arrive in another fellow’s home and light up a pipe before quoting EU regulations on smoke pollution.’

‘Sounds most uncivilised,’ agreed Harry, though if I thought I was about to find the might of the BBC on my side, I was mistaken about the appeal in the flash of a pair of blonde eyes. ‘I mean, Jacob, wasn’t the man a guest? And don’t such things fall under the umbrella of hospitality?’

‘Being a guest doesn’t allow people to take liberties,’ I assured him and carried on down the second flight of stairs in the hope that Harry in his wisdom would consider my words as a warning as to his own behaviour.

It seemed to do the trick.

‘And now you’re going to fighting him on the fields and beaches?’ he cried, his voice snapping smartly to attention. ‘How splendid!’ He scribbled something down in his standard BBC issue notebook then a moment later as his pencil came to a halt. ‘So, what’s wrong with having a bonfire?’ he asked. ‘It sounds like a very rural thing to do.’

I heard Samantha whisper the words ‘animal sacrifices’ and Harry gurgled something of his unease. I wondered again if he hadn’t caught a bit of that animal rights zeal his wife had so pitifully expended on the plight of dolphins.

I doubted him even more as we reached ground level.

‘If you don’t mind my asking, J.P.,’ he began, slowly. ‘But don’t you think that in the course of this election you’ve killed more animals than is probably good for a chap? Even if you are a Tory.’

For once, I let that Tory crack go.

‘It’s a local tradition,’ I answered. ‘We can’t start changing local traditions because of the bad publicity. Can we Mr. Hawking?’

‘No we can’t, sir, Mr. Murgatroid, sir,’ replied Mr. Hawking who was stood waiting by the doors to the hall. Hawking had worked on the estate for the last ten years, his main claim to fame each year being his overseeing the construction of the wicker man.

‘Wouldn’t mind, squire,’ he said, twisting his hat in his hands, suggestive of his inner strife, ‘but he’s the best work we’ve ever done. We’ve got him standing a good five feet higher than last year and that’s nearly fifteen feet higher than the year before. It would be a marvellous site, sir, to see him go up in flames.’

I had to smile. I’ve always had a soft spot for Mr. Hawking. His features remind me of a hawk or a weasel. Stoat-like was another phrase that often came to mind but the point was his thin face ran out towards the tip of his long nose and a small mouth lay hidden in the shadow cast by two large thin nostrils sporting decades of unclipped growth. I always think an ungroomed nostril is what sets many of these rural types apart from the modern world where too much character has been trimmed away by the invention of nostril clippers.

‘This bulldozer,’ I asked, ‘where is it and how might we defeat it?’

‘I’ve got a couple of lads blocking the road,’ said Hawking, putting his hat on his head. ‘But that’s a big machine and they said they have the right to come on the field and do what they like.’

‘We’ll see about that,’ I said, pulling on my old deerstalker and stepping out into the fresh morning air.

The day had failed to warm up and remained crisp like freshly laid linen. The eggshell azure of the sky matched the fierce determination I could see in the faces around me. Even Harry Lamb’s eyes shone with an intense blue as he walked and scribbled notes.

I turned to find Samantha brushed her hair from her eyes as she tried to keep up.

‘Look, Jacob,’ she said. ‘You have to promise me that you won’t go doing anything silly.’

‘Silly?’ I played with the world like it was a mouth ulcer. ‘When have you ever seen me do anything silly?’

He eyes fell to the shotgun under my arm.

‘Oh, this?’ I laughed. ‘This is only meant as a deterrent. And it isn’t even loaded. Or of it is loaded, I wouldn’t shoot it towards another human begin.’

‘What about a council official?’ she asked.

‘Then you have me stuck a metaphysical crossroads, Miss Spoon,’ I said. ‘And we’ll just have to see what comes lumbering around the corner.’

In Which Murgatroid Falls Asleep at the Keyboard

What Ho Proles!

My Man has hounded me this evening about posting something about something. I’ve told him I’m out on my feet, what with work intruding on my pleasures this week. However, to pacify the chap - he is prone to some terrible sulks - I’m going to say something about rum coves who demand that a chap scribble a few wise words when gone to the world. They are exactly the sort of fellows who take not account of the fact that I’ve written another 1000 words of Memoir, which, impressive though they be, are not fit for publication. Still, it has been work and I'm exhausted to the shiny tips of my overworked fingers.

So, in the immortal words of my Uncle Arthur, resident poet to Cheltenham Garden Association:

When you press a petal
You do not get perfume,
So why press a person
And hope to find a saint?

Or, adds the Honourable Jacob P. Murgatroid, should you hope to find wisdom!

Until wiser times when I am awake.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


What Ho Proles!

Two days! Two days! Two damnably devilish and downright despicable days!

Forgive my outburst, dear readers, but I would just like you to guess how long it has taken me to sort out the latest disaster to befall the fair village of C--- N---. It is the reason for my regrettable silence of the last couple of days and why, on this Sunday morning so thick with strawberry jam, I have yet to discard my pyjamas and I dictate this from the folds of my four-poster.

As you know, we Murgatroids are built for action; ours is a manly sinew primed for trouble. Yet when the danger comes lurking by the name of Stanley and happens to be in the shape of a prize Duroc-Jersey pig, then I believe you’ll begin to understand why this disaster I speak of was not one of those light breezy affairs solved in a blink of an animal’s eye.

Stanley, you see, is magnificent specimen of his breed; heavy on the hoof or indeed trotter, and with a top speed to match anything or anyone. He escaped from Mr. Jarvis’ yard late on Thursday night and as the news spread around the village on Friday morning, the Hall soon became overwhelmed by refugee families fleeing in fear of marauding pork. Being a good-hearted sort of chap, I gave them permission to camp out on the lawn and I asked Mrs. Priggs to provide them with hot tea and coffee at a damned reasonable price. I then set about organising search parties armed to the dentures with axes, picks, shovels, knives, crossbows… In fact, anything that might have the stopping of a pig in full flight.

No doubt you think it all a bit over the top but you should know that Mr. Jarvis prides himself on breeding the biggest, vilest, and most villainous porkers in the country. He claims their ferocity makes their meat all the more tender on account of a pig that riles the quickest has higher levels of juice upon the bone. Whether this is true or not, I am not one to judge, but I do know that the last time one of Jarvis’ porkers went sniffing free, the local A&E had to set up a triage to deal with the wounded.

Anyway, being a man who enjoys rampaging through the countryside on the hunt for villainous grub, I decided that I too would lead one of the search parties. It would be comprised of one part Murgatroid, one part his man, and the final part made up of Mr. Sedgewick who, being the local butcher, had a large stake in the recovery of the pig and is handy with the large cleaver he carries with him on all occasions.

We left the Hall that Friday afternoon and headed towards the river on the advice of Butcher Sedgewick who informed us that all pigs are attracted to water. Soon we were strolling along the stream and did so for much of the afternoon with no success as far as pigs go but with plenty of success in terms of pleasant rambling. As evening fell, we found ourselves in an idle little corner of the county where gossamers sail with motes lit by the low winter sunlight. The sound of the burbling brook was really quite delightful and I suggested to my fellows that we push on for an hour or two more, knowing that these pigs are sly creatures that love nothing more than nosing around at night.

It was down where the river meets Alder Brook that we found the poor creature. The porker appeared to have slipped down the embankment and couldn’t climb his way back up. It was a situation that had only worked to rouse his considerable ire to the point that he was squealing quite terribly.

I was not for taking any chances. We worked our way down the darkened bank and being the shooter in the party, I took the lead. Nor was I in any mood for making it a fair fight. I stopped a few feet above Stanley and levelled my gun, aiming for the fair point between his eyes. Squeezing the trigger, I knew I had only one chance. I would let him have both barrels and I would have given him more if we’d had any spare.

The explosion knocked me off my feet.

It took me a moment or two before I realised what happened. The gun had exploded in my hands! I could feel my face stinging with gunpowder burns and I quickly counted off ten fingers on two hands and found to my delight that slight scorching was the only damage. I was less delighted when I looked up and discovered that I had rolled down the embankments. I counted the two red glaring eyes at me from one large boar’s face.

I knew I was done for. I began to thank my maker for making my end such a dignified one and I closed my eyes waiting for the monstrous pig to hit me.

When it came, it was not as I expected. I felt something pull at my shoulders and in a moment I was lifted to my feet. I open my eyes to discover that My Man and Butcher Sedgewick had come to my rescue. As My Man diverted the attention of Stanley by dancing along the river bank, Sedgewick bustled my dazed self onto the old flat bottomed canal boat that had been left down there by the riverbank these last ten summers.

My Man soon joined us and I congratulated him for his quick thinking before we set about discussing what to do about our predicament. Stanley was now patrolling the bank around the barge and did not appear to be for moving along. Things had reached a point of impasse until My Man noted that Stanley was nibbling at the barge’s mooring. Alas, it was too late. Before we had chance to respond, the creature had cut us loose and were soon adrift, sailing into the darkness of the gently flowing river.

This is pretty much how things remained until mid-afternoon on Saturday when a small pleasure craft discovered the three of us waving desperately from the barge which had run aground somewhere near Puddleswich, twenty three miles from C--- N---. Affairs were quickly set in order, a rescue made, and arrangements made to get us back to the Hall. We discovered that another search party had discovered Stanley the following morning.

That is, alas, the end of the story and I must now close this rather poor apology of a narrative. My breakfast is made and I hear My Man approach.

I’m to have two nicely fried eggs and three rather delicious rashers of Stanley.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

In Which The Hon. Murgatroid Gets Naked

What Ho Proles!

Mrs. Prendergast stands six feet and a single inch in her stockinged feet. I know this as a fact because the first thing she did when she came into the house was to kick off her shoes and throw them into the far corner of the room. She still stood an inch or two taller than My Man who, if I’m honest about it, appeared not a little afraid of the woman I'd ask him to bring up to Murgatroid Hall.

‘Come on, deary! Clothes off!’ she demanded in that fine Dorset accent of hers.

‘Shouldn’t we make small talk first?’ I asked, unhappy to be disrobing in front of staff.

My Man shrugged and disappeared out through the door to the snooker and billiards room where Mrs. Predergast had set up her equipment.

‘No need to be shy, Mr. Murgatroid,’ she said now we were alone and from her bag she proceeded to remove a series of bottles all of which contained oils of varying hues and viscosities. I knew I had no option and quickly disrobed before I clambered up on the bench that Mrs. Predergast had so thoughtfully brought with her.

I should explain, before I go any further, that Ms. Predergast is the closest thing we have to a masseuse in C--- N--- and by masseuse I don’t mean one of those ladies of irregular income and even less regular moralities. No, Mrs. Predergast claims to be a professional in the field of bone and sinew manipulation. I don’t doubt that she’s a professional; I just doubt the nature of her expertise.

After yesterdays’ unexpected jog, I woke up this morning unable to move. Muscles had turned to hardened lumps of gristle in the night. The first thing I thought of was the Momentary Academic’s suggestion that I should hire a masseuse. Without a moment’s delay, I despatched My Man off to town with a fifty pound note and the promise of another if a masseuse could get to me before ten o’clock.

‘Oh, I can feel it, deary,’ she said as soon as she put her huge hands on my back. ‘All that tension. Tsk... Have you been exercising?’

‘Only a little light sprinting for my life,’ I assured her. ‘I was being chased by a pack of hounds.’

‘You should have let them catch you,’ she answered as she began to pile punches into my lower lumbar region. ‘Easier to sort out a few dog bites than some of these lesions around your spine. We’re talking months of sessions here, deary. Won’t be cheap to sort you out.’ She again clicked her teeth, which I couldn’t be sure were real, and I had the distinct impression she was taking a look around the place. ‘Not that you clearly can’t afford it,’ she added, ‘only you shouldn’t let yourself get into this state in the first place. It’ll take me an hour just to get the tension out of your shoulders. You are a tense man, aren’t you Mr. Murgatroid?’

‘In the right circumstances,’ I replied as she ran her knuckles up and down my spine. A handful of billiard balls from the rack behind her couldn’t have been any harder.

‘Well, I better get to work,’ she said, as though what she’d already been doing was a mere limbering up. She then applied a hand to my upper right shoulder and quickly removed my arm from its socket. ‘Don’t worry,’ she tutted as I let out a scream. ‘I’ll put it back when I’m finished.’

I lay there, slowly being reduced to muscle groups and anatomical details, all fastidiously described to me as they were butchered under hands trained by Shaolin monks to break open boulders.

That was two hours ago. The sensation has finally returned to my fingertips and I find myself able to type and to report that I feel a little better. Limber isn’t quite the right word as it doesn’t covey the right degree of flexibility I now enjoy in every limb. Now I come to think about it, ‘enjoy’ isn’t the right word either. Mrs. Priggs tells me that when I walk, I now look like the scarecrow from 'The Wizard of Oz'.

I’m now going to sit in a draft as I go and continue to write my Memoirs. I hope to get some cold in my joints in the belief it might stiffen me up. We men of the English aristocracy are not meant to be so limber. It makes me feel positively Californian.

Again, dudes…