And now, on the day after the 29th of March no longer has the Old Testament ring about it, having been honed by The Dame into part of her mantra for the past two years it has been dropped by her without a tear in her eye: "ah, but she has a purview," explains Timothy Michaelmas-Daisy to the oily dihydrogen monoxide as the outgoing tide lowers the river level and Tim has moved down a dozen steps: "she has truly and honestly, conscientiously and devoutly fought the Christian fight, on behalf of England and her people . . . . ." but "ahem," the cough caught him in mid flow and he wasn't surprised, on glancing over his shoulder, to see the Old Man, much better dressed now. standing there and regarding him: "come on down, Mr Everyman – I've always wanted to say that – you find me now engaged upon the Retreat from Moscow, or evacuation of the US Embassy in Saigon," but he is interrupted: "oh, come on now Tim, no-one's died – although that's strictly not true now, is it? there was Jo Cox and a number of less well-known folk whose murders were at least designated as Hate Crimes, but not on the scale of either Napoleon's or Hitler's armies breaking on the Russian Winters or even Nixon's failure to beat a few dozen people who fought wearing only black pyjamas;" he produced the bottle and paper cups and this time Tim found himself sipping Laphraoigh rather contentedly, and puffing on the cigarettes the Old Man had produced from the pockets of a coat that wouldn't have given much change out of £500, "she really wasn't up to, or should it be down to, the way those fellows can haggle and niffer, but they likely take it in with their mothers' milk," and the Old Man sat down carefully, and spoke softly: "just bein a wee bit racist, ur ye there, Tim, me ould bhoy? - ah, see how easily it can creep up on ye, until it's the blanket that keeps ye warm at night, or the chain-mail that doesn't let an arrow through to pierce yer skin, an keeps it nicely pink-white an blue!" said the Old Man and there it was, just that edge to his voice, which sent synonyms running up and down Tim's spine and playing an arpeggio on his conscience!
"That was a rather rum do," said Sir Wilfred Heath-Robinson as he sat with his fifth cup of coffee and watched a replay of The Dame's Speech to the Nation last night: "it wasn't what you wrote, Quentin, was it?" and his young PPS shook his head: "she tore mine up and dumped it in the bin, said it was too wishy-washy and she had no intention of taking the blame for the mess Brexit is in – instead she was going to point the finger at the 649 wanwits who were really responsible for the crisis, the Members of the House of Commons, excluding herself! she wanted to let the Country know that she was the only person working to achieve what the Referendum vote decided – I thought then that she had flipped, and the Address last night showed it! she's getting more like Trumpet-Trousers every day, there's a real hamartia in her psychological make-up, creating a situation where she can proclaim herself as the true defender of the Referendum decision fighting the naysayers and traitors of the Commons, tooth and nail and fully prepared to spill blood to get what she says the People want! she has floated an idea, and I use the word floated advisedly, that a flotilla should be sited in the middle of the channel, to create an impenetrable wall, like the one Trumpet-Trousers wants between Mexico and the USA! she's surely certifiably barmy now, do you thing we should call in two doctors to give us a diagnosis, and a couple of Male Nurses with a straight-jacket? putting her in carcarel might be the only way to get things back on an even keel!" but Sir Wilfred was now reading the papers and groaning: "those rascals in the ERG are hoping to get permission for an urgent motion- for all the obeisance she has shown towards them, we all know that they intend to stab her in the back and deep six her, but whenever I try to speak with her about them, she points a finger at me, cries: 'get thee to Milford Haven and shut the doors, they're coming in the window!' you're quite right Quentin, as nutty as a fruit cake, God knows what the Heads of Government at the EU Summit tonight thought about her; oho! talk of the Devil, here comes our Brexit Secretary, welcome Timothy, just the man I want to have a quiet and discreet – not to say, Top Secret – word or two with, and you stay, Quentin, we need to put our three heads together!" and Timothy said: "like the Red Etin of Ireland, he had three heads," but Sir Wilfred only said: "is that so? now look here, Tim, here's the Big Idea that Quentin and I have been working on – it's a Political Improvised Explosive Device and you are just the chap to plant it!"
"No," said Timothy Michaelmas-Daisy, "my handwriting is fine, not that it is particularly calligraphic, but it's readable, as always; why do you ask?" and the Old Man grinned: "just that I wondered if you've had time with Brexit's teething troubles all around you to have written any more speeches?" but Tim shook his head: "not for myself or The Dame; that's what we call the PM," and his friend smiled: "I always picture her as Alastair Sim playing headmistress Millicent Fritton in The Belles of St Trinian's – you know the film?" and this time it was Tim who grinned: "that's what Sir Wilfred said, Sir Wilfred Heath-Robinson, he's the Secretary of State for Cabinet Affairs, it was he who first dubbed her The Dame, I suppose it's a touch mythopoeic! but it's his PPS who actually writes most of the speeches, Quentin Quibb, he's the Member for Penrith and The Border," and the Old Man nodded: "oh, yes, young Willie Whitelaw used to have that seat, we used to share a table in the Bunch of Grapes, he could be very funny, but there was a sleekit side to his nature; so this chap Quibb, friend of yours?" but something held Tim back from replying, as he recalled some of the preposterous ideas that Quentin came up with – he was certainly an Ideas Man and he seemed able to make them up as he went along, flinging out what Sir Wilfred called Quibb's Squibs and although many of them ended up in an imaginary waste-paper bin, there were always plenty more, and The Dame liked to have a few of them in her speeches – she had a soft spot for Quentin and it was he who coached her in her rehearsals, suggested when she should lower her head and look sideways if she was having a runt at the Leader of the Opposition, Mungo Jerry, or Jacob Yule-Logg of the European Rugger Group, her Arch-Enemies in the Party and Jacob was the Archest, the canker that unchecked threatened to destroy the Party!
"Hungover?" Tim looked round and saw the Old Man on the step above his; "just a bit," he replied, "how can you tell?" as the Old Man sat down beside him and produced his bottle and two paper cups, the kind you get with coffee to go; "they've been washed out," and Tim accepted one, into which his friend poured a couple of fingers: "just like Flossie," said Tim and the Old Man said: "he's a pal of mine," then said: "when you scrub up, Tim, you're quite an Adonis, but today your general facies indicates that you've either been sleeping rough or drinking too much in order to get to sleep, so, how's the job? still weighing you down?" and Tim laughed – a genuine chuckle: "oh yes, but Mr Speaker got the Dame's knickers in a twist – put a stop to Plan A! she was incandescent - 'cos there's no Plan B! mind, I didn't think much of Plan A, anyway – if you rerun a Meaningful Vote again and again, the House quickly rumbles that they were all Meaningless; and that whole process makes a protestation that the Opposition only want another Referendum because they didn't like the outcome of the first, sound pretty hollow; you know I voted for her as Party Leader thinking she would bring something new to the Party and Parliament, but now it feels like Tammany Hall, reeking of skulduggery – d'you know people call Number Ten 'The Bunker'? as in Hitler's Last Stand?" and the Old Man nodded: "it's not very original, but it's apposite," and Tim looked at him: "you don't sound Irish tonight, what are you anyway? sorry if that's rude," and the Old Man laughed: "idle curiosity is never rude, it shows you're thinking about things – you could call me Irish, certainly Celtic, there's probably some Pict in there too," he said, then added: "how's your orthography? still up to the mark, or has the booze affected it?"
"C'mon, best hurry if we want to get to The Hispaniola before reveille," said Sir Pompus MacFarlane to his table companions and it was with a remarkable display of alacrity on the parts of Natalie Rhombus and Digby Doubleday, that the three reached that Piano Bar in less than fifteen minutes after leaving Floozies; here, they were greeted by a cheer from a group of fellow members of the European Rugger Group – not in fact a sporting association, but rather, a dyed-in-the-wool collection of Patriotic anti-European Conservatives, determined to tear Britain away from it's forty-year membership of the European Union, which they hated with a passion for it's lack of Englishness, of love for Saint George, and preference for Snails and Frogs'-legs over Fish-and-Chips and Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding! there was a jar on the bar counter for donations to the ERG funds, and it was stuffed to bursting with wads of fifty pound notes and leaning against the bar beside it, Jacob Yule-Logg MP was deep in conversation with Dame Joan Hunter-Dunn MP (the ERG's Pin-Up Girl) his hands describing with exquisite delicacy the Group's parabolic rise in popularity, carefully returning them to his pockets before they might be thought to be indicative of it's consequent decline; "we don't," he spoke in single words, or two-at-a-pinch, "want, to be, identified, as a, party, within a, party, which might be, considered, subversive!" this last word spoken with such distaste as to convey much more to Dame Joan than the word itself: "but nor," he had resumed, and his hands were once again moving in a rather snake-like manner which reminded Dame Joan of Sir Hiss in the Disney version of Robin Hood, "do we, wish to be, viewed as, monocarpic . . . . ." it was the spray of champagne when Dame Joan burst out laughing uncontrollably which cut him off in mid-sentence and gave him an appropriately carp-like look as his mouth opened and closed soundlessly.
But, knowing that would never happen, Timothy Michaelmas-Daisy found his voice: "a large brandy, thank you, Toby," and watched the barman, Flossie, pour him two fingers; "what can I do for you gentlemen?" he asked, "two whips in one place seems a tad excessive, not to say bingeable!" and Toby leaned into Timothy's personal space: "the Dame was so impressed with your speech the other day, when she'd lost her voice and the whole Government was stood at a cliff-edge and all depended upon your clarion call, she wants to hear it again next week," and he laughed, "you seem to be her blue-eyed boy right now! you could always take a clarsach into the House and accompany yourself," but Tim was puzzled: "in what context does she want to hear it?" he enquired cagily, but it was Simon who took up the reins: "exactly the same one, Timmy, old son – when her New Deal gets it's third chance," and Timmy goggled: "you mean she's bringing it back?" and received the assurance that indeed she was: "and we're putting up a Four Line Whip! any Cabinet Minister who fails to vote is going to be hanged, drawn and quartered," guffawed Toby: "by Ripple and me, after we've separated him from his balls, personally and very publicly!" he rubbed his hands together with glee: "so you'd better make it spontaneous, filled with rhetoric and meaning, as many double-entendres as you can muster, and enough threats to ensure that they'll be piling into the Lobbies faster than their hairy little legs can take them!" with which he and Simon drained their glasses and after patting Timothy on the back, squeezed out of the door and went off singing, and playfully whipping each other just to keep in practice, after which Timothy joined Sir Wilfred and Quentin at their table: "what's all this about bringing it back for a third time?" he whispered, well aware that the three Beddingshire Members had their ears tuned in his direction; Sir Wilfred ostentatiously looked under the table, then covering his mouth with his hand, said: "she needs to smash the Confederacy of Dunces to smithereens!" and Timothy looked at him in surprise: "Dunces? what do you mean?" he asked; and Sir Wilfred explained: "the alliance of Right, Left and Independents, together with the DUP, Nationalists, Green and disaffected Remainers – we have to split them up if we're going to command a majority, and she's relying on you to do it, Timothy," at which Tim rolled his eyes: "it isn't even my speech, Sir Wilfred, you know that; my speech-writing skills are nothing but scripturiency – Quentin wrote the speech for the Dame and I don't have the proper cadence, I'm no orator," but his protestations were waved away: "nonsense m'boy, you have a natural diffidence, but that can be overcome by rigorous practice, you just have to sound as if you believe in what you are saying and it will all come out right; remember Passport to Pimlico?" and Timothy brightened at mention of the famous Ealing Comedy set in his own constituency: "of course, sir, it's the first film I remember seeing – it's what gave me ambitions to enter politics!" and Sir Wilfred smiled: "then imagine you are Stanley Holloway as the new Burgundian Prime Minister, defending your citizens' right to self-determination – think you can do that?" and Timothy agreed eagerly: "oh, yes, Sir Wilfred, I'll watch the DVD again tonight and begin practising my delivery – you don't think I'm a bit young to be Stanley Holloway?" but Sir Wilfred shook his head: "no. no. lad, he was your age when they made that film, he was just one of those chaps born looking older than he really was," and he was pleased that Timothy believed him – it was important that Timothy had no doubts about his own abilities, if he was to swing any final floating voters in the House when the Dame brought her New Deal back again, and, possibly, again and again!
Any careful reader of the preceding sentence will note that, while the words growl, encroach and walla are indeed there, for some mysterious reason the other word - bingeable - has disappeared from the corrected proof, clearly the work of a gremlin, intent on putting a spanner in my works but, as it is quite obvious where it stood, I will be grateful if readers merely insert it in the proper place, using their undoubtedly massive immaginations; thankyou MissTeriWoman
Editor's Note: well it wasn't me, Dearie!
And just as the voices subdued – for no-one wants to be named by Mr Speaker, although, in truth, all three of the Honourable Members from Beddingshire had indeed been named on occasions which really aren't part of this story, but to which I may return later – sounds of a strange song could be heard from the Gentlemen's toilet: "ooh, eeh, ooh, aah, aah, bing-bang-walla-walla-bing-bang; ooh, eeh, ooh, aah, aah, bing-bang-walla-walla-bing-bang!" and the door flew open and two Right Honourable Members tumbled out, faces red and clothes in some disarray! there was a growl from Sir Wilfred, sufficient to discourage the newcomers too avoid encroaching upon the table he occupied with young Quentin; at which point Toby Tunnock – known to his intimates as Teacake – and Simon Sigismund-Smoot – whose closest friends nicknamed Ripple, for some reason known only to themselves – spotted Timothy, and swung, as one, towards him, quickly zipping up their flies as they encroached on him, while he, instinctively took a step back, only to find himself pressed against the bar, where Flossie asked for their order: "usual for Ripple and me, Flossie, dearest," boomed Toby, "what's your poison, Timmy? you're not a regular habitué of Floozies, are you?" at which point, for the fifth time in as many weeks, Tim wished the floor would open up and swallow him!
Which is how it came to pass that on Friday, after a thoroughly hectic fortnight and with the prospect of more of the same to come, in more ways than one, Timothy Michaelmas-Daisy found himself, to his profound surprise, still the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union and at a bit of a loose end, and that is why he plunged into the subterranean passages of the Palace of Westminster and eventually, round a series of concentric corners, in The Floozie's Bar, where, as he expected, he found The Conservative Members of Parliament for the three Beddingshire Constituencies, North (Sir Pompus MacFarlane), Mid (Mr Digby Doubleday) and South (Ms Natalie Rhombus) - the first-named, known to find bingeable boys in the Gents here, the second a two-bit slugabed who only ever arrived at the Palace after 3pm, while Natalie was a renowned routinier who, in the days of The Cameronian Cat and the Villain from Vanity Fair, was universally referred to, but only behind her front, as Batty Natty – but also, totally unexpectedly, Sir Wilfred Heath-Robinson, Minister to the Cabinet Office, and his PPS Quentin Quibb, both of whom Timothy had been assiduously avoiding since his first encounter with the old man, on the River Steps and even now, he turned sideways and hoped that he could get behind the bar before he was spotted, but, alas, he was too late and five distinct and easily identified voices turned his name into a melodious harmony complete with a soprano descant and provoked the barmaid, Flossie Flowers to cry out: "stoppit, you lot! if Mr Speaker 'ears you've bin a-singin' an' a-dancin' when we ain't not got no entertainment licence 'e'll 'ave us up afore the Ways an' Means Committee an you lot'll be named an' given a seven-day suspension!" at which Sir Pompus, an occasional wit, replied: "well I'll be hanged!"
Two days later, Tim was again joined on the River Steps by the old man: "are ye still in a joab, Tim?" asked he, and Tim replied with a nod: "she says it isn't over till she says it's over!" and the old man laughed: "do you remember South Carolina's Nullification Act?" but Tim had to shake his head, so the other continued: "of course, ye're just a slip of a lad, and I must have looked a bit like ye then, but if ye put things in terms of gamification - ye'll be familiar with Transactional Analysis and the Games People Play?" and sadly, Tim again shook his head: "ah, it's a poor kind of education ye've had, Tim, me dear fellow, and I'm sorry tae express animadversion on the antics of ye're boss-lady; I daresay that an Einsteinian approach to her problems might not be welcome, but ye know, when there's a roxy apple in the barrel, it's only gettin rid of it that saves the rest – but ye have tae time it right, Tim, if ye don't want it tae burst in yer haund, an spatter yer guid suit an shiny shoes, maybe ye have tae think about yer own situation in terms of a story, d'ye see what I'm drivin at, Tim? d'ye follow me drift?" and this time Tim nodded, for he recalled a school
play, in which he wore a white sheet and carried one of those retractable stage daggers, while he and the others crowded around the tragic figure who cried out 'et tu. Brute?' without the inflexion, and despite the Drama Teacher's reprimand and the giggles of the other assassins, Tim squirmed with guilt and remorse, but took the old Man's bottle while they sat on the steps just a couple of feet from the bible-black, slow black oily ripples as the river flowed past them, below and above, although the sounds of the city barely reached their depth, and he enjoyed the warmth as the whiskey trickled down his throat, and he asked: "why are you here?" and the old man took a swig himself, before saying: "why, jist like yersel, Tim, me lad, I'm just waitin fer Dogot," and Tim almost laughed, then said: "don't you mean Godot?" at which the old man looked at him with a curious expression of sadness and mirth, and whispered: "ye'll ken when ye see him, with yer own eyes, Tim," and took another swig, before passing the bottle to him!
Timothy Michaelmas-Daisy sat, rather forlorn, on the river steps which lead down to the Thames from the Houses of Parliament, a bottle of sparkling water in his hands, sipping occasionally and reflecting on the second worst day of his life, when he heard a cough behind him and looked up to see an elderly vagabond, tottering a few steps higher: "evenin' squire," said the tramp, "is that step taken?" at which Tim jumped to his feet and daded the old man down until he was safely seated beside him, when Tim offered him his bottle: "water! ferfucksake, squire, what do ye think I am? tee-total?" and he produced a half bottle of a decent Irish whiskey from one of his many pockets, removed the cap and offered the bottle to Tim: "d'ye have a phone, squire?" asked the other, regarding Tim carefully and Tim wondered if he was about to be mugged, but the tramp sensed his hesitation and laughed: "don't be worryin' yersel, squire, sure an' how on earth could I charge wan o they things, if I could even fathom out how tae work it?" and Tim returning the bottle, he took a good slug and wiped his mouth with the back of a grubby hand: "aaah, sure an' it's the Holy Water right enough; no I wondered if ye'd like tae tak a selfie wi' me?" and Tim asked: "why?" and remonstrated internally at his own crass rudeness, adding hurriedly: "why of course, if you don't mind, Mister?" at which his new friend waved the question away: "no names, no pack drill, think of me as Everyman, following the rolling English road the English drunkard made!" and Tim regarded him more closely: "G K Chesterton?" and received a nod in return: "I knew him well, laddie, me, him an' Yeats often passed a pleasant afternoon in a pub, whose name escapes me, but you're lookin' awful down in the dumps fer one so young, are the cares o the world pressin' down on ye?" and Tim replied: "you could say that, well, you see I had an important job and I failed, the thing I was working on has been scrapped because of me and my boss is in an awful mood – she desperately wanted it to succeed, I didn't ask for the job and to be honest, I'd been opposed to the whole thing, but tried my very best, and now she's become a laughing stock and she's blaming me and I can't say I blame her and I don't know if it's worth carrying on, at all!" and the tramp slid closer and put an arm round Tim's shoulders and said: "let me delate a little story, lad, it's about two men sittin on the steps above a coal black, cold black river on a windswept, rainswept night when the stars were all abed and the moon had given up the ghost and gone home; an' the first fellah, let's call him Dick and the other is Harry, anyway Dick is cryin' an' Harry asks him why, an' says: aren't you a poet? at which Dick looks down at his clothes and says: isn't it obvious? so Harry asks Dick to tell him a poem and Dick thinks and says, here's one: From Carrickmacross to Crossmaglen, There's more rogues than honest men; and Harry says, I read that in a book and Dick says, yes, lots of my poetry has been published, are you an artist? and Harry says I wanted to be one, but I had no talent, so I became a house-painter, like my aged father, and Dick says do me a picture, and Harry says I don't have any paints, or even pencils, chalks or charcoal, so I can't do a picture for you, even if I wanted to, it's impossible, so Dick says, describe it to me, and Harry asks, what with? and Dick says, words, and Harry says: well, there's a small house in a dappled glade in a forest, the house is thatched and the walls are cob, dried hard and painted in a white-ish wash, which sometimes looks green-ish, or grey-ish, or yellow-ish, or pink-ish, depending on the light, and in the house live an old man and his elderly wife and their only child, their daughter Magda, who sits outside the house, shelling peas, dropping the shells in a bucket and the peas n a bowl; the bucket is rusty iron and the bowl is cream enamel; Magda is wearing a dark dress, with an apron that was once blue but is faded from washing and stained from working, her blonde hair is tied back in a plait and her head covered with a blue headscarf, her wooden clogs are brown, and on her ring-finger is a thin gold ring that her boyfriend Wenzel gave to her before he went to the War two years ago, since when she has heard nothing of him; the War is far away, and neither Magda nor her parents know who their King is fighting, nor why, all they can do is hope that Wenzel will survive the War with his arms and legs still able, for when he and Magda marry, he will come and take over the small farm which is just to the right of the picture; the farm has a number of fields, in two they grow corn and rye, in another two, potatoes, turnips, carrots and other vegetables, and in the fifth, they keep three cows, a dozen sheep, two pigs and twenty hens; twice a day, Magda feeds the animals and checks the hen-houses for eggs, the rest of the day she helps her mother in the house or her father in the fields; she worries about what will become of herself and the farm when her parents die, and if Wenzel doesn't return, and so, as she shells the peas, tears flow from her eyes and drip onto her apron and her hands; why, says Dick, that's a lovely picture, because it tells all there is to know, or need to know, you are a true artist, but you suffer from impostor syndrome! and Harry says, I am not an impostor, I am who I am; but, says Dick, you don't believe in yourself, you impersonate someone who cannot visualise the picture you painted with words; and in the silence, Tim asks the old man: "which were you, in the story," and he replies: "ah, you have spotted it – well, I am Dick, the poet," and Tim asks: "who was Harry, what became of him?" and the old man replies: "why you, you are Harry, and it's up to you to decide what becomes of your life!"
"You see, Dougie, old bean, the thing is, there aren't four candles missing from the stores, I mean Fork Handles of course, not even one, we only ever had a dozen large forks and a dozen spare handles, and all of them are accounted for; and while you seemed to have been roughed up, the Doc says it could easily have been self-inflicted, none of the bruises was very significant and the gash on your head that caused all the blood was superficial and there was no indication of concussion, no symptoms, y'see? you do see where I'm going with this, don't you, old chap? and then the rope that had been used wasn't even tied tightly, we cut you out to save the knots for examination and it took us no time to free you and one of the men in Hut Seven is apparently very knowledgeable about knots, you'll know him pretty well, Jock M'Toole, and he showed us that most of the knots are German – I had no idea that some knots are only used in certain countries – they don't all use our reef knots, which was a surprise – and Jock, who was in the Merchant Marine between the wars, just happened to have a book with illustrations of some of the more complicated knots and, d'you know what? he was absolutely right! the Germans call one the Bavarian Biter and there were four of them on the ropes – and the thing about that Biter is, it can stand a lot of tugging and hold itself damned tight, but if you pull one cord in a particular way, the whole thing falls apart – so it occurred to us that, if for some reason no-one came to check on you, say if there was a Hut on fire at the far end of the Camp and everyone was so busy we forgot about you, you could have easily slipped the ropes off and stowed the rope away and stretched your arms and legs and then just played doggo if you heard your relief coming, you see?" and Captain Buccleuch gave MacDougal another shot of rum, which he downed in one gulp and the Commander continued: "so we pretty well know how they got away from the Brig, but what we don't know, and I'm rather hoping you'll tell us, is did they have access to a wireless and contact a German vessel which came and picked them up? and if not, where have they gone? oh yes, and why did you help them anyway?" and MacDougal gave the Commander a baleful look: "the Gerry ane, Reichsmarshall Herman Goering, he telt me that when they tak Britten, they're goanie split up the fower countries tae whit they used tae be an he wis sure the Fuhrer, Heil Hitler, wud be gratefu fur ma help an wud agree wi Goering tae mak me King o Scoatland, King Dougal the Furst!" neither Commander Abernathy nor Captain Buccleuch laughed at the man's bathetic stupidity and gullibility, though it was a struggle to keep straight faces: "that's very interesting Dougal, I can see the attraction for you; I know the Clan MacDougal was on the receiving end of some pretty harsh treatment after the Jacobite risings in '15 and '45 and I'm sure there's no love lost between your Clan and the Government in London, or even the Royal Family, which you probably think of as German, anyway, so the thought of being upcycled to Royalty is like a dog getting a pat on it's head, am I right?" and the man smiled for the first time: "darn tootin! the rot set in after Jamie II abdicated and King Billy cam ower fae Holland, but when German Geordies cam in, hauf o them couldna even speak English, let alane Scots or Gaelic! sumdy hus tae dae sumpn tae set Scoatland free agin, so hoo no a MacDougal King? hoo no Me?" he asked this quite defiantly and it was all Buccleuch could do to stop himself giving the wee nyaff a guid skelp across his lugs, but it was the Commander who spoke: "so where are they now?" and MacDougal shrugged: "ah think they wis goanie trek across country tae the German base, there's radios and plenty food in a secret bunker, Goering said they could signal their whauraboots an a U-Boat wud pick them up easy peasy – he kens his onions ok, fur a Kraut!" as Abernathy stood, he said to Buccleuch: "get one of the Clerks to take down MacDougal's statement for enciphering and we'll transmit it to London, and post two guards here until further notice," and, at the door he turned and looked at the insignificant wee NCO and wondered if it wouldn't be best if he were just allowed to freeze to death, but then MacDougal said: "an mind, Airchie, if am goanie be King, ye'd mebbe best tell the men tae treat me as the Heir tae the Throne noo, so'ze they dinnae end up as ma prisoners efter the war, eh, no?" but Abernathy refused to respond to the jibe and slammed the door shut after him, swearing as he made his way back to the Headquarters Hut, wondering if there were any knuckle-dusters or cattle prods in the stores! now as it happened, Abernathy was a pretty good chess player and could usually see the game a dozen moves ahead, and he reasoned that MacDougal was a patzer, and like most, a sucker – he'd already betrayed his master's likely hiding place, and that was without the thumbscrews – so if he knew any more, which was by no means certain, it shouldn't take much of a feint to have him spilling the beans and, with any luck, they could have every last man-jack of them in custody before the week was out – oh, pity the traitor's chances when when his erstwhile friends found out how they'd been tracked down and captured!
It didn't take Commander Abernathy long to go through the schedules with Captain Buccleuch and see that the one Marine who spent the majority of the Day Shifts at the Brig was Lance-Corporal Dougal MacDougal – in fact he had swapped shifts on a number of occasions, finding many of his shipmates happy to get out of that Detail – so once he had recovered from his injuries, which looked at first more serious than they were, he was called to the Commander's Office: "take a pew, MacDougal, cigarette? tot of grog? relax man, Captain Buccleuch and I just want to bat a few ideas about, where that four might have gone, could they have been taken on board a Kraut sub? that sort of thing; but don't get the idea we're just indulging in omphaloskepsis, in newspeak, which has become all the rage back in Whitehall, we're 'brainstorming' and we want some help from you, as the last person to see them. see?" and Buccleuch chipped in: "clear as mud, eh, Dougal? don't mind if we drop the ranks in here, there's nobody listening, just as chickens, three canny Scots – well, half the Ship's Company hail from north of the Border, so did those four chaps, didn't they? have a refill, and another ciggie," and Abernathy spoke next: "isn't the MacDougal Clan connected to the MacFarlane's – some kind of marriage settlement, way back – do you know?" at which MacDougal's face clouded: "aye, sir," at which he was chided by Abernathy: "Christian names, Dougal, Club Rules, I'm Archie and the Captain here is Bertie," and the NCO looked up: "they cry me Dougie, si' pardon, Airchie," and the Commander beamed at him: "good man, here, top him up, Bertie," and Buccleuch did: "have you ever suffered from audiation, Dougie? it's common among submariners, I believe," asked Archie, going on to explain: "you can hear a piece of music, maybe just a piano, or violin, maybe a whole orchestra, but there's no-one actually playing nearby, noy a gramophone record, or radio, it's all in your head," but MacDougal shook his, so Abernathy went on: "for instance, I cam hear someone singing, right now, in my head, clear as a bell, how about you, Dougie?" and again Dougie shook his head, "how about you Bertie. can you?" and the Captain nodded: "aye, Archie, but it's a bit distant for me and I can't make out the words," so Archie began to sing: "It's a sin to tell a lie." buy not in Fats Waller's jazz rhythm, instead his deep bass turned it into a mournful dirge and he could see the marked change in MacDougal's demeanour: "are you all right, Dougie? looking a bit pale, feel" asked Buccleuch, solicitously, "another dram? here's a ciggie, are you feeling ok?" and really marvelled at the correctness of the Commander's theory, for the alazony was all to clear in the guilt now etched on the Lance-Corporal's face!
But the truth of the matter was, there was no precipitancy, and nor had the four escapees been picked up by a submarine, they were still on land, having covered up the direction which they had taken by a simple ruse: first, Doubleday had walked under cover of darkness towards the cove, with a spare pair of boots on his hands, making two sets of prints, and returned, backwards, making two more; then, dressed cap-a-pie like any of the other personnel, they had left the site of Tabarin by a route which already had many footprints, walking backwards until well away from the Camp, then they had donned snowshoes and continued walking backwards for several miles before they turned and headed towards the German naval base; it was a long hike, but once there, with the knowledge of AKA, who had been here once, before the war. and identified a secret bunker and entered it, closing and locking it behind them: "there are supplies here which will keep us going for a month," said AKA, "and a radio transmitter which will enable us to contact any vessel of the Kriegsmarine which comes within range," so, exhausted by their daring escape, and after a meal from the stores and after AKA produced a bottle of whisky and plied them with just enough to help them relax, they quickly made up four of the cots in the bunk-room and retired for the night, which was when Elginbrod asked: "do you think we can trust MacDougal?" but MacFarlane made it clear that he had no time for such omphaloskepsis!
Meanwhile, down in Antarctica in the middle of World War II, Sir Paladin MacFarlane, Doughty Doubleday, Martin Elginbrod KC and Hamish MacDonald (otherwise AKA Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering), had escaped from The Brig, the Hut in which they were being held until they could be sent back by ship to the United Kingdom; where or how they had obtained weapons was not known, but when Lance Corporal Dougal MacDougal was found beaten senseless just inside the door of The Brig, the hue and cry ensued and their trail through the snow was followed to a little rocky cove where it ended; the quartet had either perished in the sea or had been picked up by a German submarine; a party was sent overland to the German Naval Base, but there was no sign of any enemy presence or activity, no indication of a landing, nothing to offer a clue as to what had happened; when MacDougal regained consciousness, he told Commander Abernathy and Captain Buccleuch that when he had unlocked to door to The Brig, instead of finding the prisoners shackled, they had attacked and overpowered him: "they hud fork handles, sur, and hut me aboot the heid and boady, sur!" at which Abernathy remarked to Buccleuch: "it's quite remarkable that they subdued him, armed only with four candles! he's a strong and fit young man, what do you make of it, Captain?" and the Captain, managing with difficulty to keep a straight face, said: "not four candles, sir, Fork Handles, Handles for Forks, the ones we use for digging," and Abernathy slapped his own head, "of course, yes, just testing you Captain, but how could they have laid hands on them?" and Buccleuch rubbed his chin: "it's possible we may have an enemy agent in our midst, sir, and if they were in contact with an enemy vessel, that would mean a radio – I'll conduct a routine search of all the Huts and see what we turn up; there aren't that many hiding places in the Huts, and a radio is quite a bulky thing to hide, sir; perhaps we could use one of the huskies, they've got a good sense of smell and if we let one sniff one of our own transmitters, it's possible it may find one hidden; I'll give it a go, anyway," and Abernathy nodded: "very good, Captain, and meanwhile I'll interview all the personnel myself – can you fetch me the files on every man here, well, aside from the three Glaswegians of course, but I can't see Cohen or the Loch Brothers having anything to do with it, relations between them and the escapees are hardly cordial, pretty strained in fact – if those four had been dead, of course, I would immediately suspect the other three of being implicated in some way; but let's see what my questioning of the rest of the crew throws up – it really does seem to be, what do they call it? an inside job; oh and the Duty Sheets as well, let's see where everyone was – or should have been – between the last check on the prisoners, and finding poor MacDougal," so Captain Buccleuch saluted and left the Commander to look around The Brig for any clues; but this felt like an exercise in omphaloskepsis, there being nothing out of order in the place, nowhere to secrete more than a pencil, let alone a radio transmitter or, what were they? fork handles! and the Commander reflected that his first thought in any other context would be cherchez la femme, but apart from young Able Seaman Nelson from Wimborne, in the occasional concert parties, the only muliebrity that graced Operation Tabarin's shores was in the chanchada musicals occasionally delivered from Brazil and projected in the Mess Hut, nicknamed The Shard, poised as it is on the edge of an ice-sheet, and the largest of the buildings here and the only one which can accommodate the entire company of HMS Penguin – their unofficial name for the Base!
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