After that, it only remained for the Ponty Pilot to ask the Hello Girl at the City Switchboard* to connect him to The Jerusalem Clarion so that he could dictate his Court Report to the Copy Boy – I really do hate to be pedantic, but the Hello Girl in question was an 18-year-old gossipy skinder – just like his dad – Bruce Beynon, from Llareggub, and the Copy Boy was 14-year-old Dilys Roberts from Ponty; these sexist job titles were common in Jerusalem in 30AD, although the editor of The Clarion, Gus Tavish, a canny Scot who had been a passenger on the Ponty Pilot's plane, was an enthusiastic supporter of the Holy Land Suffragettes, one of whose most recent campaigns had been for the Abolition of Discriminatory Nomenclature in the Workplace, which, sadly, was unlikely to gain widespread support, mainly because the majority of purchasers of the tabloid newspaper bought it for the Football results, the Hatches, Matches and Despatches column, and the Page 3 girls – a series of engravings of busty Greek statues of Goddesses, most of which were, in the words of Sailor Sam, the seller on the corner of Jericho and Jordan Streets: "a bit of 'armless fun!"
(*the rudimentary telephone system was a network of strings with a tin can on each end and once Bruce, or one of the other operators, had connected the call, the strings between the two ends had to be pulled tight – Ed)
The Ponty Pilot rang a bell and his clerk came into the chamber and served two bowls of stew for the Governor and the lawyer; when the clerk had left and closed the door behind him, the Governor got to the point: "tell me. Mr Lewis, Aladdin, is your parents' choice of name for you of special significance?"and the flush across the younger man's face should have rung warning bells in the Ponty Pilot's head, as spontaneous a case of aposematism as you can get, but he was undeterred: "many magic lanterns in the house, boyyo?" and Lewis scowled: "while I find personal questions about my name and family circumstances distasteful, Governor, I bow to your position – it's an example of teknonymy; in a long established family firm like Lewis, Lewis, Lewis, Lewis, Lewis Lloyd-George & Lewis, it's easier to identify which of the senior partners you want to refer to, by saying Aladdin's Dad, or Nebuchadnezzar’s Dad, or even Gwilym's Dad, because we, the Juniors, do most of the bloody work although the client's think our dads' are the ones concerned about their cases – they're usually out playing golf while we knock our pans in, interviewing witnesses, checking statements, importuning insurance companies, or accident assessors and trying to get all the papyruswork in order so that Judges, like yourself, sir, have all the necessary information on which to base your judgements," and the Governor offered the youngster a cigar and a more generous than usual glass of his own, dwindling, supply of Laphraoigh: "drink that, boyyo, and taste that cigar, genuine Havana – I never flew the old bus without an emergency crate each of the malt and the smokes – you can't get anything like them here, call it The Holy Land? it's so backward it's almost prehistoric, worse than Cardiff on a wet Sunday in February," and smiled benevolently at the young lawyer, who, after a few moments thought, said: "yes, the cigars and the whisky are kif all right, sir, but don't you think the way they operators have recreated the character and ambiance of Biblical times is superb, such attention to detail – no television, no mobile phones, no cars, no smoking, no advertising hoardings, no credit cards, just gold, silver and bronze Roman coins and pockets full of shekels, I only wish I had a camera, the sights and scenery are ten times better than back in Ponty, and, if I can speak in confidence, sir, none of us at Lewis and co, want to go back, and nor do most of our clients, they prefer life here," and, gratified at the younger man's touching, if misguided, faith in him, the Ponty Pilot leant closer and sotto voce explained to Aladdin Lewis that this was not a Holiday Resort, and that due to a freak storm during the flight, the plane, it's passengers and crew, had all been thrown almost two thousand years into the past: "this is the real deal, sonny, and even if I manage to get Spirit of Ponty airborne again, fuck knows what we'd find back in Wales in 30AD, probably wolves, polar bears and glaciers, people running around blue with cold, but this conversation is strictly on the QT, no record, no quotes, no pack-drill, nothing attributed, we'll call it quits, no winners, no losers, a gentleman's agreement, just between you and me, okay?" and Aladdin took the proffered hand, not quite sure what he had agreed to, but had the distinctly uneasy feeling that, somehow, he had just lost the case!
And that was how it so happened, that come Monday Morning, pretty damn near all the Ponty and Llareggub folk living in the warmer climes of Jerusalem and it's leafy environs, arriving as a phalanx to do battle and came to be crowded into the Courthouse for the Civil Compensation Case against Mr Clive Morgan, AKA the Ponty Pilot, for stranding them all in the Middle East as a result of his failure to adequately maintain his aircraft according to the safety standards contained in the Magic Carpets (and other forms of flight) Regulations Act in which "it is clearly stated," said their lawyer, Aladdin Lewis, a filiated partner in the firm of Lewis, Lewis, Lewis, Lewis, Lewis Lloyd-George & Lewis, Solicitors and Estate Agents, originally of Town Hall Street, Pontypridd and now of Lewis Chambers, Courthouse Lane, Jerusalem, "that failure to mend any holes, frayings or other faults caused by age, moths or any other reason, likely to render it unable to complete the return journey for such social, business or any other purposes, paid in advance by it's passengers, must," and he stretched that word out to five, or possibly six, syllables, if you count the sharp intake of breath between the last two, and then let it float on the smoky air of Court 6, sweltering under the watchful eye of the Praetorian Prefect, Clive Morgan OBOE (he played the Lead Oboe part in the Pontypridd and Lower Jerusalem Brass Band) "accept responsibility for their return journey, failing which. . . . ." and here Mr Morgan, excused himself from the Bench, quickly moved to the Dock where, representing himself, as Defendant, shouted: "objection!" and then returning to the Bench, in his measured tones – as befits the Roman Governor of the Province – said: "sustained; Mr Lewis, you must restrain yourself from Judgements, those are my responsibility," and Mr Lewis paused, to rephrase his remarks: "ought perhaps to consider himself responsible for fulfilling his part of the contract by providing transport to return his passengers to their eventual destination, that is, to the place where their journey began," and sat down to cheers from the public benches, at which the Governor banged his gavel on the table and cried: "order, order in Court – I will not permit any such excesses in this Courtroom and if there are any further egregious displays of emotion will have no alternative but to declare you all In Contempt and order the Bailiff to clear the Court," and in the silence which followed, the Governor – who could have heard a pin drop -smiled and said: "Mr Lewis, I will hear submissions in my Chamber," the Bailiff, Taffy Thomas, formerly of Gas Works Lane, Pontypridd, bawled: "all rise," and after the Governor and Mr Lewis had disappeared into the Governor's Chamber, where a savoury tajine if Lamb and Cous-cous awaited, the Bailiff and his Assistant cleared the Court and resumed their game of draughts; outside, the passengers, quite mazed by the morning's proceedings, gathered into huddled groups, discussed the chances of their case and the rumours which had been circulating all weekend, that the Ponty Pilot was having his plane repaired and there might be a chance of going home; but not all were happy about this – gey few in fact – as they had been in Jerusalem for some years now, and most had rather happily settled into their new lives: "it's all that Lewis chap's fault, cajoling us into this, with his legal mumbo-jumbo," said Winston Smith, former Town Clerk of Pontypridd, "me and Doris are happy here, we don't want to go back, the kids are settled into school and all," and Bob the Bike, who had set up a new business, similar to the ailing one he had left behind, and was now the foremost supplier of bicycles in the whole of Greater Jerusalem, agreed: "we've all got a better life here, it's too wet in Ponty, I don't want to go back, neither," which was the prevailing sentiment among the Claimants, who had only agreed to join the Claim in the hope of getting some financial compensation, not a return flight.
Which was when young Tom Jones, known throughout Pontypridd (and now the Holy Land) simply as Sam's Son, received a summons from the Ponty Pilot, requesting his help in an attempt to get his plane repaired so that he could take all his stranded passengers home and hopefully put paid to the Compen claim they had raised against him; "why me?" asked Sam's Son, "because you're one of the brightest in Ponty," said Delilah, who was smocking a shirt behind the bar in the Taverna, "look you," she put her hands on her hips, "didn't you get the Governors' Prize in Sixth Form, when you invented an individual hovercraft, I saw you with my own eyes, hovering six feet off the ground and you went right round the whole school building – it was amazing is what it was," and Sam's Son hung his head to hide his embarrassment, for he knew how the trick had been done, but hadn't had the gall to own up to it when the Prize was announced, and the cash that went with it had helped ensure Taffy and Morgan kept their gobs shut too: "but I don't know anything about aeroplanes, Del, still, I suppose it can't hurt to go and see him," and that was how, later that afternoon, in the Roman Governor's Palace, the one-legged, one-armed, one-eyed Ponty Pilot introduced him to a couple of guys he said were whizzes when it came to flying machines; they were both from Llareggub, a father and son, Derek Luscombe and Ivor Carlos Luscombe; "everyone calls me Dedilus, and Ivor, here, Icarlus," said the father: "you know what a hypocoristic place Wales is," and Sam's Son grinned, "oh, don't I just, but how are we going to fix the plane?" so Dedilus showed him some photos of the aircraft, with both it's wings drooping, and explained: "what we're going to do is cut two sheets of plywood to the size of the wings, and fix them under the wings, with a guy rope from each wing-tip going over the fuselage and pulled tight till we've got the wings at the correct angle, and we are hoping that you would be the Test Pilot, with your experience – we've heard about your Hovercraft – with Icarlus navigating – he's good at map-reading, did some orienteering for his Duke of Edinburgh Award – but the most important attribute for a pilot is what's known in the profession as sitzfleisch – the ability to sit tight for long periods of time, no getting up every little while and going for a walk, stretch your legs, no, no, can't be done, you get an empty milk bottle for emergencies, but that's your lot, same goes for the lad with the map and compass, and my lad's a natural, he can sit for Wales and no mistake," and Icarlus smiled shyly – he obviously didn’t like being in the limelight; "and what about fuel, Mr Pilot? sorry, Mr Jenkins?" asked Sam's Son, and the Ponty Pilot laughed:"nobody ever calls me by my family name, son, gets me quite addlepated when they do, stick to Pilot and I'll know you're talking to me! but as to your question, d'you mind Ronnie Boyle? had the Ponty Refinery and three petrol stations in the town, and supplied all the local chippies with their cooking oil, well, Oil as he's better known, was one of my passengers, him and his wife Nancy always travel with the Ponty Pilot and when he heard I'd bought the plane back from the scrappy and about Deddy's plan to fix it, he did a bit of exploration in the desert and he struck oil in the Meged! he's set up a refinery and now he's supplying oil all over the Middle East, and there's enough fuel stockpiled for me so as soon as you and the boys get the plane working, I'll be able to start holiday flights from here to Wales; most of them's been here so long they've got used to the good weather and wouldn't want to emigrate back but would like the occasional week or two to visit their friends and relations, unless they’ve had a fall-out, in which case I'm hoping to take Safari parties to Africa, there's lots of Big Games at the Pan-African Bingo Hall in Chapel Street, top prize is a cruise on the Nile – a Murder Mystery Weekend, fancy that yourself, son, take Delilah Pew with you?"
"The new PM said I could keep my job as Secretary of State," said Timothy Michaelmas-Daisy, as he and Mr Scratch drank their coffee and watched the dawn come up like thunder, "do you think I should agree?" and the old man stared at the burning cigar he held up, then grunted: "do you believe in faeries, Tim?" and Tim laughed: "not a single one, not even the Tooth Fairy, but why is he making them?" and Scratch regarded him as a horse-trader in Ultima Thule might size up a mare, before offering a risible amount, just to get the bidding started: "you might suppose that he is setting you all up, so that if the projects you're working on collapse in ashes, he can blame you and hold up his hands, clean and innocent and evince to the electorate that he and they are all in the same boat, betrayed by his Ministers pissing in instead of out; but to tell you the truth, Tim, I'd say he's planning an early election and these are his campaign promises, hoping to get enough voters so desperate that they'll forget that he has actually never fulfilled any of his promises, but his optimism sounds a whole lot better than the more accurate but boring pledges of the other parties, and they'll vote for him, just like turkeys voting for Christmas – he wears a Teflon suit, nothing sticks to him, and mark my words, like Nero, he'll skronk on his fiddle while Britain sinks beneath the waves, but he'll be lifted from the Tower of Big Ben by one of Trumpet-Trousers' Presidential helicopters and spend his early retirement playing golf at one or other of the President's luxury courses, and even be occasionally granted the honour of caddying for the Great Man himself," and Tim felt obliged to ask: "so what should I do, I feel I'm stuck in a swamp and don't know how to get out, I'm not a brawler, I'm not even a diplomat!" so Mr Scratch clapped him on the shoulder: "make an honest woman of Fenella, that will give you some security, eh?" but Tim blushed to his roots: "the thing is," he began, then stopped, unwilling to have to Out himself: "the thing is. . . . ." and Scratch cut in: "you're a shirt-lifter, a queer, homo, man's man, you're gay, is that right? it's not easy to remember the current socially acceptable term for what used to be called sodomites!" and Tim nodded, silently, so Scratch continued: "well, Fenella's a lesbian, so you could have a marriage of convenience – each do your own thing, while presenting a prurient public with an image of a happy young couple doing whatever they think happy young couples do, and the fact that you each might be doing it with others is neither here nor there – you have as much right to privacy as your butcher, baker or bookmaker!"
When Fenella took her coffee with her to the bathroom for a shower, Mr Scratch whispered in Tim's ear: "black, no sugar – I've got to watch my weight and Hippocrates keeps warning me about cholesterol," and sat at the kitchen table, reading some of Tim's mail; he casually asked: "is that car still waiting for you?" which caused Tim to swear and raise the blind, but if there had indeed been a car, it was long gone: "never mind," said the old man: "you'd only have been selling your soul for a mess of pottage, you really should value yourself more highly, I'm sure that better terms could be arranged," and moved behind Tim as Fenella returned, dressed and ready to face life in The Bunker: "do you think you'll still have a job?" asked Tim, uncertain about Fenella's status, but she just laughed: "I'm Civil Service, Tim, Executive Officer, not just an office temp, whether I'll stay in The Bunker will depend on how long I can restrain myself from kicking our new Master in the proverbials, but I'm an old stager, so I've probably got more self-control than you, and if it comes to arm-wrestling, his wanking days will be over – I'll send you a text, don't worry," and pulled him into a clinch, kissed him hard before heading for the door, saying: "don't let Arthur Daley lead you astray," which made Tim turn round to find Mr Scratch comfortably reclining on the sofa with his coffee and pipe: "perceptive lass, young Fenella, she'll go far," he blew a smoke ring and watched it neatly surround the smoke detector as if he were playing Hoop-la; as Tim sat down opposite Mr Scratch, he felt himself compelled to ask: "what were you doing at Ultima Thule?" – and his visitor smiled benevolently, then said: "actually, I was only a passenger on a carrier wave, sort of a stowaway, you might say, if you were so inclined – are you a Moonwalker, Tim?" and Tim's eyes bulged, rather like Eddie Cantor's, at the man's impertinence, as he sat, quietly observing Tim, just as a lab technician might a hamster running ever upward on a revolving wheel, never reaching the end, never progressing, always blindly running – is that how he sees me? Tim wondered, "no, no," said Scratch, although Tim was certain he hadn't spoken his thoughts aloud, "it's not like that at all, you have come on enormously since we first met, why, then you were but a callow youth, seeking to please your Head Mistress – I trust I'm not being ungallant in referring to Mrs Maybe-Maybenot so, is it sexist? surely not racist? forgive me, but while the Bildungsroman of your own maturity may feel to you to be spread over a fair number of pages, I have been at this job for quite a while, and as I get older, time seems to flash by at a giddying pace, so you may be at page 32, but I am – at a guess – somewhere in volume 15 and trying to forget the conventions of, oh, say, Georgian England, or Pre-Columbus America, which were extant just a couple of pages earlier, so if you feel like a hamster, does that make me a Whirling Dervish? oh, I must tell you funny story about that, remind me after you've had your bath, and please forgive the ramblings of a very old man, Tim, it's not me I'm here about, it's you!"
"I've been to Ultima Thule and back, in case you were wondering," said Mr Scratch, looking quite effulgent in his varicoloured motley, although Tim wasn't sure if he would be allowed to dine at the Café Royal in such mismatched colours and fabrics and his tie! why it was positively recherché, but the old man interrupted his thoughts: "got you a peace offering, actually a piece of moon rock," and he handed Tim something that looked almost as if it could actually have come from the Moon: "don't turn your nose up at it, young man, it's the bit Buzz Aldrin dropped, climbing back into the Lander, should probably be in a museum, but you're welcome to it, I've been carting it around long enough – see, it's worn a hole in the lining of my pocket!" and he pulled out the torn lining as evidence, but Tim forgot to ask how his visitor could know that Aldrin had dropped a piece of the Moon and how he could have got it; instead he turned toward the kitchen and: "coffee?" he asked over his shoulder, and Fenella replied: "yes, please, two and a coo!"
The call seemed to come in the instant Tim had fallen asleep, his head resting on Fenella's ample bosom, but he found his phone tucked under her buttock; he eased it out and answered without checking the caller ID – a familiar voice reached his ear, but his semi-conscious mind was having difficulty in placing the plummy tone: "yo, Jude, I don't think we've ever met but are you up for some Facetime?" and gradually Tim realised that it was Winnie-the-Pooh, the baby-faced blonde who was now Prime Minister: "yes, surely, of course, at your service. . .errr. . .PM," he felt unable to be any more obsequious to a man he had never met, but instinctively loathed with more force than he had ever experienced before; the voice continued: "kool, baby, who loves ya?" and Tim dithered between replying: "you do," or perhaps: "actually, I think Fenella does," but instead waited, believing that it had been rhetorical, so the new PM continued: "super job you're doing, bro super, keep you there, not tainted by your working for The Dame, ma homey, hey, you're working for The Jude now, Real Kool!. pop into The Bunker, baby, shake your Mojo with me, sign on some lines, we found some nice bubbly in Sir Wilf's filing cabinet, having a gig, swinging, there's a car outside your pad, bro, jump in and roll over, we'll have a blast, lemme know what you think of the new Acronym – Jude Unites Nation Keeps Inspiring Real Kool Security Peace In Region In Time = DUNKIRK SPIRIT - don't it grab ya by the balls, hey, see ya in five, bring ya sugar, this is Party Central, ciao sweet lips!" – and the connection broke as Tim remembered what Fenella had been saying about Winnie's attempt at Street Talk, he calls himself Dude, but he can only say Jude, and not for the first time, Tim wondered if he might be a more honourable public servant if he simply jumped ship now and joined Anna Soubrey's Change UK party – ChUK! why am thinking in Acronyms? he wondered, but maybe it would be a better alternative to exile in Siberia (or, God forbid, Coventry!), then again, if he was going to be true to his egalitarian beliefs, to embrace aspheterism – but where would that take him? what sort of undergrid would that involve? he would be a Pariah in the eyes of his Party, but should their excoriation really deter him? he could always adopt some of the new PM's brujo? and become a Conjurer, a Magician, "it might serve you better to learn to play a banjo, and take up a busking stance on the River Steps," said a familiar voice; Tim pulled the curtains open and was amazed to find Mr Scratch sitting there, smoking a long pipe!
Overnight thunder, lightning and torrential rain kept Timothy Michaelmas-Daisy MP PC* awake, as did Fenella Cholmondeley-Featherstonehaugh, the first – and probably only – woman Tim had ever spent a night with and, although he had only a perfunctory knowledge of heterosexual relations, gleaned mainly from his early reading in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Fenella had experience, desire and a combination of superior size, weight and strength, to be able to overcome his lack of those, and ensure that her needs were met; surprisingly, for him, there was considerable pleasure in being able to satisfy her – it was a change from Julian or Sandy, and also – and more particularly – Kristof, his regular partner of the past three years: Kristof was a barman in The Hispaniola Club, an immigrant from Poland who lived in Brixton with his West Indian wife and their five children, and he treated Tim in bed as he would a woman, which Tim, secretly, found both demeaning and deliciously satisfying, because it enabled him to let go of his pretensions to any aspect of manliness and simply enjoy being the recipient of what he supposed was love – something never alluded to in his family, since his father had died when Tim was five, "of a heart attack at the hands of Mistress Whiplash," as Tim's mother used to refer to the incident, in a bitter, fellifluous voice, and he was then packed of to his first Prep School, assuming that he was being punished for some reason, never explained, like Josef K in The Trial – rather than duty; he had been nervously excited on the first occasion when, after a rather late night at the Club, Kristof came home with him – calling his wife and telling her that he was working at an all-night Poker School – and Tim caught his first sight of the Pole's penis: even in repose, nestled in the extravagant curls of his pubic hair, it was much larger than Tim's own could achieve even when erect, although that was only ever managed after laborious masturbation by someone else and not many people cared enough to expend the energy, so when he was straddled by Kristof and it grew to it's full engorgement, it quite took his beath away – literally! through time, Tim had accepted that his only true role in sex was to be accommodating, to be a vessel into which was poured – or, rather, shot – the ambrosia produced by Kristof''s hyperactive balls, two billiard-sized organs which, depending on his position, either battered Tim's chin or his buttocks; but Fenella was quite another matter altogether: she knew nothing of Tim's private (that is, sexual) life; he was not as flamboyantly gay as Quentin, who made no secret of his husband, Dan, but nor did he pursue any of the secretaries as some of the more louche Cabinet Minsters were wont to do, so he had acquired a shroud of mystery and it was this that Fenella tore away; by the time she had used, or even exploited, Tim's cock, he was utterly spent and when she rolled off him and settled her bulk against him, Tim was in a welter of confused emotions and had no time to reflect when Fenella started giggling, but he was greatly relieved when she asked: "did you hear Boris's Acronym, for Dunkirk, Unite, Defeat, and Energize? it's such a shame that he can't even say Dude, without pronouncing it as Jude! seems his Mojo just ain't workin' right, hee hee! he's such a hapless quakebuttock, maybe now he's at Number 10 someone'll get a safety-pin to his shirt-tail, stop it blowing in the wind, ha ha ha," and they both dissolved in laughter.
"Does that mean I'll still be Secretary of State?" asked Tim and Sir Wilfred beamed at him: "not for Brexiting the EU, Tim, dear boy," he said, giving Fenella and Quentin a wink: "but for the People's Vote, and your Departmental Ministers are Annie 'Get Your Gun' Soubrey and Maggie 'She'll Never Walk Down Lime Street Any More' Hodge," and then his phone chirruped again and he sneaked a peek at it: "hold your horses chaps," with an apologetic nod to Fenella, who grinned broadly, then he continued: "it looks like The Dame has changed her mind again; but that must be her prerequisite, so, in what was supposed to be her last Audience as PM, she's now going to ask Her Majesty to dissolve Parliament and call a General Election! and you, my dear Timothy, will be her Paladin – she actually names you as Chief Strategist, so get your thinking cap on!" and Tim blurted out: "but what about Winnie-the-Pooh? is he still going to be PM?" at which Sir Wilfred laughed: "that's the beauty of it, Timmy, there can't be a change in Party Leader and PM during an Election campaign, so his inauguration will be delayed until after the electorate decides – he might find himself Leader of the, or perhaps one of the, Opposition Parties, ha ha ha, serve him bloody right, excuse my language Fenella, but the whole point of having a Manchurian Candidate – or in this case, a Trumpington Candidate – is that he's supposed to get into High Office, not be left waiting on the doormat, and when High Office is his whole desideratum, it must feel a bit like being jilted at the altar, but in a Broadly Churchical Party like ours, no-one's got any time for babyish boody – if he wants petting when he sulks, he should have joined the Greens!"
Shortly afterwards, in The Red Lion, Quentin, Tim and Fenella found an empty table, most of the politicos, Lobby correspondents and other riff-raff, being clustered around the bar, watching the BBC 10 o'clock News and that was where Sir Wilfred found them when he rushed in, flustered with excitement; he signalled to Maggie, the Irish bar-maid, who brought over a large whisky for him and three pints of Guinness for the others: "what's that under your oxter?" asked Quentin, but before the Cabinet Secretary could answer, his phone chirruped, and almost immediately, as if it weree a mating-call, it was joined by most of the other phones in the room; which was whn a loud whinge erupted from a tall, skinny man with a radiole spine: "she can't!" he cried, "she shan't!" he cried, "she mustn't!" and Sir Wilfred chuckled, taking the sheaf of papers from under his arm and handing them to the others: "not like old Moggie to utter so many solecisms in one breath," and he waited for the response from his companions: "she has!" gasped Fenella, as Tim and Quentin scanned the press release from The Dame: she was not now resigning as Prime Minister because she had reached an agreement for an Interim Government with the majority of her Cabinet colleagues and supporters among Conservative MPs, together with the Labour, Liberal, Green, Scottish National, Plaid Cymru and Change UK parties, which would organise a People's Vote on the choice between leaving the European Union without a Deal, or Remaining in the EU on present terms; on the TV screen, Winnie-the-Pooh who had expected to become PM on Wednesday was huffing and puffing about "body blows," and "just not the sort of thing one human being does to another, no, not half, it's a bit below the belt," and he turned and walked away, with his shirt-tail hanging out as always, while on the other side of the room, the apoplectic Moggie was being given the Heimlich Manoeuvre by one of his acolytes.
Timothy Michaelmas-Daisy and Quentin Quibb sat in the Cabinet Office with the only secretary they trusted sufficiently, Fenella Cholmondeley-Featherstonehaugh* redacting Government documents before the result of the Conservative Party Leadership Election, to ensure that if, as was widely expected, Winnie-the-Pooh should be announced on Tuesday as the winner, he would have no evidential leverage on the retiring Cabinet Members; Tim was always bemused by Fenella, whose cut-crystal accent, courtesy of Cheltenham Ladies College and Somerville College, Oxford, never quite matched her yokozuna-like build and the delicate lunules of her fingernails, painted a glittering aventurine gold, but he had tremendous respect for her ability to spot a dangerous word or phrase in a dense page of text and instantly consign it to the afterlife, as much as for the Gold Medal she had won in the London Olympics in her chosen sport of Arm-Wrestling: "there," she said, "all done, there won't be any hanging, drawing or quartering here, or at least until he fails to deliver Brexit by Hallowe'en and has to face up to his promise to Do or Die! has any previous PM committed Hara Kiri in office?" and her laughter tinkled around the otherwise empty Bunker: "now, which of you boys is going to stand me a pint of Guinness?"
(*pronounced Chumley-Fanshaw - Ed)
It was one of those days when the lunule of the moon could be seen even though the sun had not set and he tried to remember the last time he had set foot on the lunar surface, but his head was so scrambled, he felt like a bloody gamphrel, unable to form a cogent strategy, lying there on top of the hay, bumping down the lane, through the trees he saw houses and the spire of a church – wait a minute, he took a more determined look at that church spire, he had seen it before, and surely the sun had been in a different position; he was trying to work out whether the wain was being dragged north or south, east or west, and then realised as he once again saw a cow standing under a solitary tree, that they were going round a single village in a wide circle, with never any road leading away; he tried to think how long he had lain here, since his plummet from the sky – half an hour, three hours, it could just as easily be three days! nothing else changed, the driver never stopped, the two horses just kept plodding along, the sun and moon were always there in the same place; what the hell was going on?
And the haywain trundled on, bouncing him as it creaked and crashed over ruts grown hard as the sun had dried out and baked the muds from the recent rains, and his knee, with the torn meniscus, sent spasms through his bruised body and he could barely think; through the trees he caught glimpses of houses, a church with it's steeple pointing skyward, and he followed it's path up to the scattered clouds, little puffs of cotton-wool, wondering if he could see the lunule gash through which he had plunged in that rapid descent, during which he knew, for a certainty, that he would die and, even when he spotted the horses pulling the laden cart, never for one tenth of a second, entertained the briefest hope that it might save his life, until that last, tumbling moment, when he realised that it had been pitched perfectly, and that he would land on it's cushioning load, rather than under the horses' flailing hooves, and with equal certainty, that the driver would be utterly oblivious to the unexpected addition to it's weight; he had closed his eyes just before impact and been momentarily blinded and stunned, until the first flash of pain from his knee told him that he had survived and he had to bite down hard to stop himself laughing aloud, the gnomic alive, alive, alive, alive-oh-ho, and the sun was setting, he was able to make himself reasonably comfortable and take stock: he was in England, surely, for wasn't this the place of Constable, of the pre-Raphaelites, of horses and wagons and rolling hills and peaceful villages, or maybe he was simply romanticising the snatched glimpses of thatched roofs, of chestnut trees, of neat fields with hedgerows, and bluebirds, swifts and swallows darting in the open sky above, but he thought not, he had travelled through many centuries, many countries, many worlds, since his first, undignified passage through the backwaters of Time and Space, he had heard strange tongues and yet understood and could interparle in them all, had encountered so many different forms of intelligent life, but this was the first time he found himself alone, and with no escape route; he wondered if he could crawl over, or through the hay, to catch a sight of the driver, barely registered in the moments before landing, but he must try, for if it became necessary he may need to dispose of thee driver and take his place, but his knee, his bloody knee, was going to be a handicap, certainly it would be a tall order, so if it should prove necessary, the only advantage he could have would be that of surprise!
By the time the Curate returned, with a jug of soup and three bottles of beer – two of brown for the Churchwarden and the Sexton, and one of mild for soft Mick – the rescued man was sitting on a low slab engraved: Sacred to the Eternal Memory of Job Daniel, Farmer, of Lower Exbury, March 1st 1879, aged 84, his wife Euphemia Daniel, July 7th 1884, aged 65, and their beloved children, Jonah Daniel, February 11th 1840, aged 2, Gilbert Daniel, September 3rd 1844, aged 3, Simon Daniel, March 9th 1850, aged 5, Job Daniel, August 24th 1870, aged 23, Catherine Daniel, December 26th 1872, aged 22, Maryanne Daniel, May 3rd 1877, aged 25, Constance Daniel, October 2nd 1880, aged 26, and Nathaniel Daniel, June 11th 1881, aged 24, now reunited and reposing in the Light of their Eternal Lord; Mick gladly supped the soup and drank the ale, smoking one of the Churchwarden's cigarettes and seemingly none the worse for his incarceration: "methinks I was avin a luvly dream, sir," said he, "an wen I awokened, it was darker than any night ever I saw, sir, an me room seemed ter be shrunken around me bed – or else me an me bed ad growed as big as me room, not that it's much big anyhow, but there weren't no winder, nor blanket an there were me, an no door as I could feel anyware; so I called fer help, until I fell asleep agin, an wen I awokened agin, it were still night, an I kicked the ceilin, an the walls an cried fer help, until I fell asleep agin, an wen I awokened, it were still night, an I thought I must be still asleepin, so I slept agin an it were still night, so I went ter sleepin agin, even though I were starvin ungry, sir, an after a bit I ears sumdy shouting back at me an tellin me ter stay ware I were, cos e din't know I got no door ter go noware else, sir, an then after truly believed I'd bin there fer a long time waitin fer a blue moon there wis awful bangin on the roof an it got broke an the two gennlemen ere, sir, pulled me up an out o the 'ouse, but it weren’t no ouse, sir, it were ere! an I'm right sorry, sir, to give you gennlemen so much work to do, but I thanks ye all fer yer kindliness, sirs," and the Churchwarden whispered to the Curate: "them's more words than soft Mick's ever spoken at one time in his whole life, sir, and I don't think it's really sunk into his soft head that he was taken for dead and buried, quite footfast and facing his real death, for I reckon he thinks it was all a dream, maybe still is, though happen we shouldn't speculate too much about it within his hearing, eh sir? but honestly, have you ever heard the like of this little adventure before, sir, with your knowledge of the world?" and the Curate – who wasn't used to being spoken directly to by anyone in the village, this being his first parish and the Rector usually in residence, there was really no need in the normal course of things for anyone to have a reason to speak to him anyway, so while he was embarrassed at being spoken to so freely, he was also pleased that the Churchwarden – who had held that position for twenty years or so and worked directly under the present Rector for all that time – seemed to regard him as being worth confiding in about the young man, who the Curate had regarded simply as the Village Idiot, without even knowing he had a name, but as he knew that the Rector had strong views about clergy and laity attached to the Church indulging themselves in strong liquor, and might particularly concern himself with the fact that it was the Curate who had purchased the three bottles in The Bull, only because of the extraordinary events which had taken place, he thought perhaps this was now the time to exert some influence, so he stood and surveyed the scene and addressed the three who were all looking quite relaxed and jolly: "well, then, my good fellows, I do believe that you have had an extremely unusual and perhaps even distressing experience tonight – particularly you, Mick – and that the Churchwarden's alacrity in obtaining the aid of the Sexton has in all probability saved your life, Mick, but I do confess to feeling slightly uncomfortable about the three of you drinking alcohol in the church grounds. particularly lolling on tombs smoking. . . . ." he was interrupted by the Churchwarden who pointed at him with the bottle in his hand, saying: "thank you, sir, for purchasing these bottles of beer for the three of us and bringing them to us here, in the graveyard and I don't want to get your goat, so to speak, sir, but if you were served by the Landlord, Mr Harbottle, or by his wife, Rosie, or their daughter Rapunzel, I am sure that they will testify on your behalf to the Rector of your solicitude in bringing home-made soup and three bottles of beer to us three here, an act of selfless and truly altruistic charity, which we all appreciate and therefore will be able to testify on your behalf as well," and he proposed a toast: "to the young Reverend Curate, a friend to the Working Men of this this Parish and a credit to the Church of England!" and the other two joined in: "amen to that, sir!" and finished their beers with relish; but what of him who fell from the sky and landed in the haywain, with his torn meniscus, and confused mind? for it is he who is the central character in our story, so let us leave that convivial scene in the old churchyard and discover what happened to him next.
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