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,