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  1. #151
    Thanks, I enjoyed this piece but I hope Health Minister Jeremy Hunt doesn't read it as I fear he would find a way of adapting the system to the NHS.

  2. #152
    Hello and welcome, topcol. Glad you liked the piece. Writing these oddments is good fun.

    Best wishes for your own work. Cj
    Last edited by Courtjester; January 22nd, 2018 at 05:04 PM.
    Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustn’t sigh and you mustn’t cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.

  3. #153
    Yes, I agree, Courtjester, it is fun especially writing humorous pieces. I do so in the hope that what makes me laugh will have the same effect on my readers.

  4. #154

    The item below is a letter we received a few days ago.

    For the attention of the editor of Madazine.

    Dear Sir,

    I write to ask if you would be so kind as to acquaint your readers with a procedure I have perfected, which can confer immortality upon anyone other than those who die suddenly – I cannot resuscitate them. People in good health or who are ailing, know roughly the extent to which their days are numbered and wish to avoid the Grim Reaper will need only to contact my organisation when I have everything in place. I will do the rest.

    To put it briefly, the position is that I have found a way of moving matter, including human beings, to distant places at far beyond the speed of light. This is done by use of the space-time warps which I am told have so far eluded everyone else who has sought them. My work has enabled me to discover planets much like the Earth and eminently suitable for habitation by humankind. For the initial stage, I have selected a body orbiting a star one hundred light years from here. Anyone with even a slight knowledge of astrophysics will understand that events, including lives and imminent or expected deaths, on the Earth will not in effect occur at the spot in question for a century, so my customers will be whisked off there, thus extending their lifespans by that length of time in earthly terms.

    Anybody wishing to use my services will need to make a non-refundable advance payment. I work only in Bitcoin and am putting the figure for one transfer at whatever the equivalent of £25,000 may be when I am requested to act. I specify a single operation because the process can be repeated indefinitely. For example if a user of my system has undergone an initial transfer, he or she may wish to do the same again at some later time. In due course I shall offer an unlimited number of relocations for whatever Bitcoin sum equals £200,000. Thus those taking advantage of my offer will be able to stay ahead of the man with the scythe for as long as they wish.

    You will appreciate that for the moment I must be circumspect with regard to my whereabouts because I dare not leave myself open to being overwhelmed by prospective clients. However, all will be revealed in due course. In the meantime, I am happy to accept deposits of 50% of the single transfer figure given above and to facilitate this I shall soon advertise under box numbers in various newspapers providing that facility.

    Yours sincerely,

    Charles Attanne

    P. S. Please note that although as British as they come, I am of Huguenot extraction and the names of my family members are still pronounced the French way, so in my case the ‘s’ is silent. I just like to see such little proprieties observed.

    Editor’s note. Very ingenious of our correspondent to have found those mysterious distortions of space and time which have so long evaded other researchers. Everyone in our office is wondering how this wizard intends to whisk his clients away from the Earth’s gravity. Perhaps he will demonstrate the same level of ingenuity as he proposes to use in depleting their finances. I note with interest the comment about his family background. The silent ‘s’ he refers to seems to indicate that we should refer to him as Charl-attanne, for which I read Charlatan. That seems about right to me.

    * * *
    Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustn’t sigh and you mustn’t cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.

  5. #155

    Rodney: Make yourself comfortable Charles. You moved those chocks away from the main wheels, right?

    Charles: Yes.

    Rodney: Good. Now let me get familiar with these controls.

    Charles: What do you mean, Rodney? I thought we were just supposed to get into the plane to conceal ourselves from those fellows who are chasing us. Surely you aren’t contemplating flying this thing?

    Rodney: Certainly. I have no intention of being here when those hoodlums arrive, and if you look off to our right, you’ll see that they’re approaching us at quite a speed. That car can’t be much more than a mile away and they must have seen the motorcycle we abandoned back down the road. They’ll guess we headed for this airstrip because it’s the only spot for miles around that offers a chance for anyone to hide.

    Charles: Never mind that, Rodney. Have you flown an aircraft before?

    Rodney: No, but I’ve read about how it’s done.

    Charles: Read about it? Where?

    Rodney: In two books. One was called How Things Work and the other was the Oxford-Duden Pictorial Dictionary. The procedure seems to be simple enough.

    Charles: Heaven help us. On the strength of that, you intend to try it yourself, with no experience at all?

    Rodney: It will be fairly straightforward, once we get airborne.

    Charles: Airborne! Are you really serious about this, or just trying to scare me?

    Rodney: I’m a serious as a terminal disease, Charles. Need I remind you that the four goons in that vehicle approaching are not pleasant people and that the bag you have there contains a great deal of money we stole from them. If they catch us, they’ll tear us limb from li –

    Charles: All right. You don’t have to paint a picture for me. Anyway, you appear to be leading us to suicide, and that might be better than our getting into the hands of those chaps.

    Rodney: Oh, Charles, must you make a drama of this? We are not going to commit suicide. What we have here is a very small high-wing two-seat monoplane. In some ways, flying it should be easier than driving a car. I think I can remember everything that matters. First, we start the engine with the ignition key here.

    Charles: It’s news to me that aircraft have such keys.

    Rodney: The big ones don’t but quite a lot of the small ones do. Anyway, this one does. However, that wouldn’t matter much. We could start manually by swinging the propeller. That was the original way. Now, I seem to remember that as soon as one gets the engine going, one needs the throttle out and the fuel mixture in. Those are the two things down there.

    Charles: I see them. Then what do we do?

    Rodney: Strictly speaking, we should taxi to the end of the take-off strip, but we’re nearly there now, so I don’t think we’ll bother. The whole airfield is no more than a level grass surface, so we’re as well off here as anywhere. We’ll just trundle forwards a few yards, then straighten up and be on our way.

    Charles: Oh, Rodney, why did I throw in my lot with you? You’re totally irresponsible at times.

    Rodney: Look, Charles, we are supposed to be gentlemen thieves, so please try to act the part. There are times when I think you don’t have requisite raffish air for our kind of work. Top-drawer people may lose their fortunes, or even their lives, but never their equanimity. Think of Sidney Carton at the guillotine.

    Charles: That’s really comforting. If you don’t mind, I will paraphrase. “It is a far, far crazier thing I do than I have ever done. It is a far, far -”

    Rodney: Shut up and get a grip on yourself. As soon as we’re aloft, I’ll explain things as we go along.

    Charles: Well, we’d better get going now. I’ve just seen why that ignition key is in place.

    Rodney: What do you mean?

    Charles: I’m referring to those two men who’ve emerged from that control tower, or whatever that building is called. They’re coming this way. I imagine we are occupying their aeroplane. Perhaps they’ve simply had a tea break or something and now want to fly again.

    Rodney: Yes, I see them and I’d say they’re too far away to catch us. Now, engine on, throttle out and brakes applied while we rev up.

    Charles: Brakes?

    Rodney: I seem to recall that they are the little fellows at the ends of the rudder pedals. I believe I have to press on them until we get up enough steam, so to speak, then I’ll release them and we’ll shoot off.

    Charles: Heaven help us. I don’t think anything else can.

    Rodney: There you go again with your histrionics. Strap yourself in and we’ll be on our way in a jiffy.

    Charles: I hope to goodness you’re right, Rodney. I never came across another man with so much confidence based on so little knowledge. Oh, we’re rolling.

    Rodney: Of course we are. The trouble with you is that you’re an incorrigible worrier. Now settle down and we’ll get up as much speed as we can, then try to take off. Here we go. . . . . . . You see, we’re climbing. I knew it would work.

    Charles: Congratulations, but do you know how to manage this beast through the air?

    Rodney: Small aircraft work very simply, Charles. Once they’re aloft, they have three axes of movement: lateral, longitudinal and vertical. The first relates to pitching, the second to rolling and the third to yawing. Two controls cover all three axes. The rudder pedals allow turning and this semi-wheel or joystick, call it what you will, copes with both height and banking. If I pull it back from the neutral position, as I’m doing now, the elevators go up and so do we. If instead I push it forwards from neutral, the elevators go down and we do likewise. If I twist it or push it right or left, that enables us to bank, assuming we have ailerons.

    Charles: And do we have these ailerons, and what happens if we don’t have them?

    Rodney: I’m not sure whether a little crate like this has them or not, but that isn’t very important. If there aren’t any, we can use the rudder alone. As I understand it, that makes turning somewhat less smooth than it would be if we could bank too, but we needn’t concern ourselves with that because we aren’t going to be flying far.

    Charles: Oh, I’m so pleased to hear those words. Where and how are we going to land?

    Rodney: Well, we’ll get far enough from here to ensure that we’re safe from pursuit, then find a spot long enough and flat enough to touch down. You must have noticed that this a rural area, so I feel sure there’ll be such a place. We’ll use a fairly traffic-free road if we have to.

    Charles: Fairly traffic-free! I’d like it to be entirely in that state.

    Rodney: Moan, moan, moan. You really do pile it on, Charles. You’d be sensational as a ham actor. When you turned to crime, the underworld gained what the stage lost. Let us proceed and see what crops up.

    Ten minutes later.

    Rodney: That field over yonder looks about right, and it’s straight ahead, so we don’t have to turn at all. The landing may be a bit bumpy, but I doubt there’ll be a better chance. We’ll give it a go. Right, down with the elevators. . . . . . . . Oops, that mound ahead isn’t exactly welcome, but we can’t have everything . . . . . . . Ouch! . . . . . . . Are you all in one piece?

    Charles: I think so, but I’d feel better if we hadn’t ended upside down.

    Rodney: Oh, you’re such a fusspot, Charles. I got us up, away and down. Now, put one hand on the roof, or rather the floor as it is now, undo your seatbelt and wiggle out backwards, then we’ll leg it until we can pinch a vehicle.

    Charles: That seems to be the best course of action. I must say that associating with you is one long laugh.

    * * *
    Last edited by Courtjester; March 29th, 2018 at 02:56 PM.
    Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustn’t sigh and you mustn’t cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.

  6. #156

    You’re listening to Our Country Today with Sue Eager and me Jonathan Hustler. It’s ten past eight. There’s been much talk about our inland transport network, particularly since Monday’s statement by Desmond Strange, the man currently responsible for tackling the country’s road and rail problems. We have him here to flesh out his proposals. Now, Mr Strange, you have the prime morning slot to tell us what your plan entails, so please go ahead.

    Strange: I’m pleased to have the chance to –

    Hustler: And do bear in mind that our time is limited, so it would be helpful if you could stick to your specific brief and avoid advertising your government’s policy in more general matters, or denigrating the opposition’s ideas.

    Strange: I will certainly oblige you in that respect, so –

    Hustler: You’ll probably never get another opening to speak to so many people at such prime time, and you must be aware that our listeners are astute enough to notice any ambivalence on your part. Let’s get on with it.

    Strange: That is precisely what I am attempting to do and my first point is that –

    Hustler: Strange by name and strange by nature is how some people are referring to you. Here’s your opportunity to respond to their comments.

    Strange: I’ll ignore the non sequitur and do my best to –

    Hustler: Attempting, eh? Well, I think most of us would like your attempt to be successful. A good try won’t quite cut it, and I must point out that we have other guests waiting to be interviewed, so as I indicated earlier an element of brevity would be appreciated. Please proceed.

    Strange: I’m doing my best to give our audience the most important details, but so far I’ve not been able to do that, thanks to your persistent interrup –

    Hustler: Oh, petulance now, is it? Well, I don’t think that will gain you many friends.

    Strange: I’d hardly describe my attitude as petulant, considering that I’ve barely been able to get a word in edg –

    Hustler: There he goes again. Sadly, we usually have this kind of trouble with politicians. I mean, you all say you want to make things clear, but when put to the test, you’re nearly always found wanting.

    Strange: Oh, this is intolerable, and I’ve a good mind to –

    Hustler: A good mind, you say. Well, there are those who have expressed doubts about the state of your mind, and you’ve said nothing here to . . . Hey, what are doing? Get your hands off my throat. Ah . . . aagghh . . . aaarrrggghhh . . ..

    * * *
    Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustn’t sigh and you mustn’t cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.

  7. #157
    The item below is a scribble our boss did recently. He probably didn’t mean to have it included in Madazine, but he’s away for a couple of days, so I’m slipping it in. He’ll be cross when he gets back, but in the meantime I’m in charge so there’s nothing he can do about it. Tom Bola, Subeditor.


    Some time ago, I noted with interest that the UK had sold a sizable part of its gold reserves. I had nothing against the move, but found myself thinking about this metal in general. Though no expert, I understand that it has certain useful qualities – the immutability of which Charles de Gaulle spoke with such emotion, the ductility and goodness knows what else. However, I have long been puzzled by the ‘use’ to which so much of it is put.

    It seems that I am not the first person to express bafflement here. I once read a short story in which, purely as an aside, the main character remarked that he could not comprehend why gold was extracted, mostly from deep holes in the ground, at not inconsiderable human and environmental cost, only for a very large part of it to be processed at further great expense, then buried in other underground locations around the world. The man commented in much the same manner about diamonds.

    While dwelling on this matter, my train of thought drifted to humanly contrived items. Possibly this musing was inspired by the fact that just before reading the above-mentioned story, I had watched an antique show in which I saw a number of bits of old junk sold for astounding sums of money, merely because they were rare. Nobody seemed to consider whether they were desirable in any other way.

    My ruminations went on to postage stamps, which I imagine must, relative to size and weight, be the most prized of all objects. I understand that there are instances of a single one being sold at auction for millions of pounds, merely because of a belief that it is unique. Imagine the reaction of a collector who pays a vast sum for such an item, then hears of somebody unearthing a long-lost cache of identical ones.

    Perhaps unsurprisingly, I then thought about why people pay staggering prices for old paintings. About a month ago, I strolled through a local shopping precinct, noting an exhibition of the brushwork of our contemporaries living within twenty miles of me. Now, while hoping to avoid being labelled a philistine, I thought the offerings I saw were far preferable to the efforts of the old masters. Those chaps did wonders with what they had to hand in their day but things move on, right? If I wished to add to the few pictures hanging in my home, I would take the new ones every time.

    Notwithstanding the above comments about things limited in number or quantity, I am no more averse than the next person to cashing in on human peccadilloes. With this in mind I intend to proceed to Mauritius, where I hope to find a limited quantity of dodo droppings. Naturalists tell us that these birds flourished only on the island in question and became extinct over three hundred years ago. Therefore, if there is any residue of their deposits, it must have great rarity value. I am prepared to accept provisional offers of £50,000 an ounce.

    They say that a competent strategist always has an alternative scheme ready in case the preferred one seems unworkable, so should my effort to locate the faeces of extinct birds come a cropper, my Plan B is to return home and put myself up for auction. After all, I am over eighty years of age, and it seems to me that an antique of six-foot-two and seventy-odd kilos must be worth quite a bit. Watch this space.

    * * *

    Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustn’t sigh and you mustn’t cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.

  8. #158

    After a spell of inactivity, described by some of his critics as merciful, the Yorkshire engineer and inventor Kevin Spout has once more attracted a good deal of attention by carrying out another of his spectacular experiments. It took place at three o’clock yesterday afternoon in a church hall close to Kevin’s Sheffield home. This time, the redoubtable pioneer was dealing with an aspect of Albert Einstein’s work.

    Addressing an invited audience of scientists and technical experts from the press, Kevin explained his thinking. “I have long been convinced,” he said, “that the father of relativity was in error in one particular way. Most of his equations were correct, but I take issue with him about the way he maintained that no material object can reach the speed of light because as it moves towards that velocity its mass increases, as does the force required to propel it, to the extent that both would need to be infinite in order for the object to get to the limit.

    “My purpose today is to demonstrate that the assertion concerned is unsound. The machine you see here is designed to prove this point.” Here Kevin waved at his apparatus, which comprised a tube, three inches in diameter, formed into a circular shape, known to the cognoscenti as a torus, about six feet from side to side, set atop a tripod. On the floor, close to this structure was a metal cube with sides of three feet, to the top of which was attached a corrugated hose with a two-inch bore.

    Kevin held aloft a spherical object, slightly less in diameter than the tube. He continued: “My experiment is simple and will take only a few minutes. This ball and the torus are made of an alloy I produced recently. It is totally resistant to heat and pressure. I hope I am not being immodest in calling it kevinite. You will note that the torus has a raised seam at one side and a cap at the opposite one, and that there is a meter fitted to the cap. The seam is hinged to allow me to insert the ball into the torus, while removing the cap will enable me to connect this cube on my right to the torus, by means of the hose, which is also impervious to temperature and any other type of stress. Both hinge and cap are designed to withstand all phases of the operation.

    “The meter is graduated in rising percentages of the letter ‘c’, which as you know denotes the velocity of light. The torus is coated inside with another special material I have developed over the last few months. The cube is merely a housing for a device of my own design. It works in a similar way to compressed air but is vastly more efficient and powerful than any appliance of that kind.”

    Kevin placed his ball in the torus and refastened the hinge. He then connected the cube. “Now,” he said, “we are ready to start. I shall switch on the thruster and the ball will be forced to follow a circular path, continuously gathering speed, thanks to the unique lubricating properties of the substance with which I have, as I said, coated the inside of the torus, and to the immense power of the super-propellant released from the tank. Now, off we go to a speed in excess of ‘c’.”

    Kevin pressed the starter and the experts watched with bated breath as a combination of whirring and rumbling indicated that the test was proceeding. The prediction that it would not take long proved to be correct. After about three minutes the torus started vibrating and the hinged seam began to take on a red glow. A further minute passed, then there came what sounded like a thunderclap, the tripod collapsed, the torus fell unevenly, the seam burst open and the ball was emitted on a rising trajectory with a force that hurled it through one of the hall’s windows. It continued onwards and upwards, smashing straight through the church tower, breaking the east and west clock faces and narrowly missing the timekeeping mechanism. A collision with the headstone of a grave in the churchyard finally halted it.

    As is his custom when his experiments fail – and so far they have always done so – Kevin immediately held an inquest. This time he was able to report his findings within half an hour. The shaken spectators were still present. “Happily the explanation for this mishap is very simple,” he said. “I was assisted by my cousin Donald, who has hamp . . . er . . . helped me on several earlier occasions. The problem arose at the raised seam, which was supposed to be sealed to the torus by use of a quick-setting liquid variant of kevinite. I supplied Donald with a tube of this, in order for him to complete the construction. When it came to the sealing operation, he reached into his toolbag and instead of drawing from it the kevinite, he selected a tube of ordinary household glue, which of course was inadequate for the purpose in question. This a mere technicality that can be rectified easily.

    “I was not able to take an accurate reading of the ball’s speed when it left the torus, but it is quite clear from the way it went through the clock that it was moving at a high percentage of the velocity of light. I shall overhaul and reassemble my equipment and if you would care to reconvene here at the same time tomorrow, I am sure you will witness what you should have seen today. Meantime I shall, among other things, make restitution to the church.”

    Madazine editor’s note: Our science correspondent, Axel Griess, once more back from rehab after another lengthy bottle battle, was among the onlookers, though he had recently sworn that he would not attend any more of Kevin’s demonstrations. His verdict, given to reporters in pub near the church, was scathing. “The affair went much as I had expected,” he said. “I imagine all the other observers are as grateful as I am to have survived another of Mr Spout’s attempts at mass homicide. As between him and his assistant, it is hard to say who is the greater fool. Donald’s involvement keeps wrecking his cousin’s experiments, yet Spout continues to employ this dangerous buffoon. I suppose we cannot prevent a further fiasco tomorrow, but wild horses would not drag me back to that place to see it. I am consoled by the thought that making good the damage he has caused to the church will probably deplete the resources of this menace to society sufficiently for him to refrain for a while from endangering anyone with further displays of his ineptitude.”

    * * *
    Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustn’t sigh and you mustn’t cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.

  9. #159
    We have just received the following letter, suggesting a novel way of increasing our gross national product. Editor

    Dear Madazine,

    I write in the hope that you will put before your readers my solution to the problem of relatively low productivity in the UK. I am tired of hearing alleged experts harping on this theme. Sooner or later all countries in our world will have to stop agonising about constantly increasing their gross domestic products (GDPs). There must be a limit to population growth and the demand for both goods and services, so we might as well get used to these related facts. For anyone who cannot yet do so, I offer a stopgap method of raising the level of output per person.

    It has often been said that economists are people who know the price of everything and the value of nothing. If that is so, they should be satisfied with my answer to their moaning about UK production. As far as they are concerned, anything that requires increased efforts and rewards must be good for the economy, so obviously that includes destructive activities which necessitate remedial work. This kind of thing happens frequently, for instance where industry causes blight, which then has to be rectified by other exertions.

    Most of us could make our contributions by indulging in whatever we feel best able to do. As indicated above, whether that be positive or negative does not matter in terms of boosting the economy. I could make many suggestions, but would prefer to leave the field open to other people who are interested in my notion, as they will doubtless be as inventive as I am in this respect. However, I like to think of myself as a pioneer, so I’m prepared to make a start by giving a practical demonstration of my method, and lest anyone should think that I have any inhibitions about putting my money where my mouth is, the one I have in mind is sure to involve me in some suffering. Allow me to explain.

    Having studied the traffic patterns of the borough in which I live, I have established that, as in most urban areas, our roads are very busy at certain times. In this town (I am not prepared to divulge my address at present) there is usually a steady stream of vehicles in the main street on weekdays from about eight in the morning until six in the evening. I propose to avoid that period because for my purpose, whatever is on the road needs to be moving at close to the maximum speed allowed in a built-up area.

    I will now set the scene by explaining that from about six-thirty p.m. onwards, very little traffic passes along the street in question, though several buses do so, and at shortly after seven o’clock a double-decker goes past a row of shops, including one occupied by a jeweller. There is no stop nearby, so the driver is usually proceeding as fast as the law permits, and is on the same side as the shop. Parking is prohibited on that side, but not on the opposite one, where one can always find some stationary cars, including at least two or three luxury ones. This is the picture and now let me disclose my intention.

    On an evening of my choosing, I shall get into one of the expensive cars (I know how to do this). As the bus approaches, I shall cross the road and swerve in front of it, timing my action so that the bus driver will be unable to avoid a collision. I am going to ensure that the blow my vehicle receives is a hard sideswipe. I shall be injured, but not severely enough to make me lose control, so I will steer the car straight into the jeweller’s shop window, smashing the metal grille that protects the items behind it. They will be scattered around the shop’s interior and the adjacent pavement, or footway as I prefer to call the pedestrians’ space.

    The consequences of my noble act of self-sacrifice will be considerable and I am giving here only those that occur to me immediately, though there may well be others.

    First, as it will be easy to pick up the jeweller’s wares, people will appear like magic. Some of them are likely to make a genuine effort to help me and anyone else who may need assistance, while others, though ostensibly doing the same, will take the opportunity to pocket a few valuable objects. They will probably sell them for whatever cash they can get and then spend it.

    Second, the medical people will need to do some work for me and perhaps for others, as I cannot guarantee that no nobody else will be hurt. After I have been patched up, I shall complain of mysterious side effects that will require further attention, possibly for some time because I have every intention of being an ‘interesting’ patient. The bus driver will be badly shaken and some of his passengers will probably also be affected in some way. Knowing how the compensation culture has taken hold here, it is certain that a number of these people will exploit the incident, demanding recompense for any physical effects and for ‘acute mental anguish’ endured as a result of the experience.

    Third, there will be extensive work for builders, in restoring the shop to its normal condition, and for motor repair workers, who attend to the car and the bus. Both parties will seize the opportunity for making as much profit as they can, knowing that they are dealing with insurance claims.

    Fourth, lawyers are sure to be involved, and they will have a fine time sorting out who should get what out of the event. Among other things, there will almost certainly be at least one court case, with all that implies.

    It should be obvious to anyone who has read the above that my act of seeming irresponsibility will be quite the opposite and I shall become a great public benefactor because my deed will keep lots of people busy. All of them will have to be paid, so this will ensure a great deal of money coming into circulation that might otherwise have been tied up doing nothing. Since the gross national product and the national income are usually regarded as more or less synonymous, I envisage economists being enraptured at the thought that someone has finally worked out how to bring about a really substantial increase in our nation’s productivity. I commend my proposal to public and government alike and am hopeful that many may wish to follow my lead in their own unique way.

    Yours sincerely,

    Mr Anonymous – I do not wish to reveal my identity at present.

    * * *
    Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustn’t sigh and you mustn’t cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.

  10. #160

    Donald: Take a seat, William. I imagine you know why I asked you to call in.

    William: No, Donald. I’ve no idea what’s on your mind.

    Donald: Really? It’s the same thing that’s giving all of us some sleepless nights. To put it bluntly, we need a change of leader. You know as well as I do that every time the present incumbent makes a speech, we probably lose another few hundred thousand votes. With the election coming up we can’t afford to experience many more of our gaffer’s gaffes, if you’ll pardon the touch of alliteration. It’s been put to me that I should sound out potential replacements. What are your views?

    William: I can’t say I’ve given the matter much thought. You know I’m fully occupied with my own brief. Now that you raise the point, I’m not sure what to say.

    Donald: Well, what do think of Tom for the job?

    William: Oh, no. The man’s an idiot. As far as our game is concerned, he doesn’t know his base from his apex. He’d get us into a dreadful mess.

    Donald: That’s unequivocal enough. How about Harold?

    William: We can’t have him. The public might learn of his shenanigans with those three women – all at the same time, if what I heard is true.

    Donald: Ah, there’s a point, and it’s sure to get out. His friends will see to that. The other thing I’ve been pondering on is the gender matter. What’s your opinion of Winifred?

    William: A ghastly woman. A wicked witch if ever I met one. All claws and spite and totally without political nous.

    Donald: So there’s another bleak assessment. Unfortunately she’s the most senior woman in our ranks. In that respect our opponents are better placed than we are. Who else can we discuss?

    William: I’m stumped, Donald.

    Donald: What do you make of Bob?

    William: He wouldn’t do at all. He can certainly box the compass in terms of changing his stance at five-minute intervals, but he can’t do it with with any degree of sophistication or panache.

    Donald: Hmn, I’d have to go along with you there. My goodness, we seem to be scraping the barrel. How do you rate Frank?

    William: A roughneck. A knuckle-dragger. The mystery to me is that he doesn’t live in a cave and carry a club. I mean you only have to look at the way he walks around this building, growling and scratching his armpits.

    Donald: Well, yes. I grant you he isn’t the most prepossessing of men. So I suppose we can rule him out. That brings me to our number two female, Amanda. Do you think she might do?

    William: Definitely not. For one thing she’s offended too many of us on her way up. There must be a score of people in our ranks who’d love to see her go back down, and they’d put the boot in to accelerate the process. It’s hard to tell which part of her anatomy is sharper, elbows or tongue.

    Donald: You’re doing a pretty comprehensive job of character assassination, William. I’m becoming desperate.

    William: We’re certainly in an awkward position. Frankly, I can’t see a really satisfactory way forward.

    Donald: We need a candidate too colourless to upset anybody. A person with no distinctive qualities or firm opinions, someone who’ll bend with the wind, a weathervane, a potential turncoat, a chap or chapess who vacillates and equivocates about every issue. Above all, whoever we choose must be malleable, susceptible to colleagues’ suggestions, ready to shift ground with changing public moods and have the ability to speak with apparent firmness while being in reality completely non-committal. Vigour without direction is what I mean.

    William: I know exactly what you’re driving at, Donald. We’re looking for a pretty rare bird.

    Donald: Indeed we are. Tell me, William, have you considered accepting

    William: Me? This is rather sudden, Donald. I mean, I’ve never for one moment contemplated a step of such magnit –

    Donald: Hang on. I was about to ask if you’d considered accepting that we might have to comb through –

    William: However, if certain circumstances were to arise, if a sufficient number of my colleagues were to be of one mind, if there seemed to be no likelihood of a serious challen –

    Donald: My intention was to ask if you feel that we might look at a few of the backbench –

    William: I was going to say that if there were no heavyweight challenger, I hope I would not fail to do my dut –

    Donald: Hey, what I meant was that we might root around among the lesser light –

    William: I had in mind my duty to the country. After all, there comes a time when a man or woman must put aside personal wishes, think in terms of what our great nation requires, hearken to the cries of comrades and other compatriots, and it would remiss of me to –

    Donald: You’re not expressing quite what I was thinking, but it occurs to me that you may have hit upon the solution to this problem. Let’s forget about backbenchers for the moment and look at what’s right under our noses. Would you care to have a go at the job yourself?

    William: I thought you’d never a – that is to say I’m immensely flattered by the trust you clearly have in me, and if the call were to come

    Donald: Let’s not go through all that again. I’ll put your name forward at tomorrow’s meeting and I think you’ll be unopposed.

    William: It will be a great honour to step into the breach and

    Donald: Yes, yes, of course it will, but I have another commitment now. I’ll see you just before the gathering at nine in the morning.

    * * *
    Even though the darkest clouds are in the sky,
    You mustn’t sigh and you mustn’t cry.
    Spread a little happiness, as you go by.


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