Sunday, December 31, 2006

Lord Bonkers' last diary of the year

This is Lord Bonkers' contribution to Liberator 315. He also has his own website.

After writing the item on football in Rutland I discovered that the Pukka Pies people are one of the major shareholders in Leicester City. That explains a lot.

You will often find me in New York, perhaps enjoying a Nick Harvey Wallbanger in one of Manhattan’s more exclusive bars. A few days ago I visited a club where the famed comedian Woody Allen has been known to appear and, sure enough, he turned up that evening. Some of you will be familiar with Allen’s work because our own Dr Evan Harris regularly recites one of his monologues word for word at the Glee Club. Funnily enough, Allen’s party piece consisted in a word for word recitation of one of Dr Harris’s Conference speeches. The audience joined in and a good time was had by all. Yet, was it just me, or did I gain the impression that my fellow revellers had heard this particular turn a little too often?

Catching up with business after my sojourn in America, I call in at Cowley Street to give Lord Rennard the benefit of my advice. Whilst there I pass the kitchen and find Miss Fearn busy rubbing in. She tells me that she is baking a cake for our erstwhile benefactor Mr Michael Brown. I reply that I find this a fitting gesture: if a chap stumps up a couple of million for your party, the least you can do when he finds himself in the jug is send him the occasional Genoa cake or Victoria sponge. Amongst the dried fruit and candied peel I notice a sturdy metal file: Miss Fearn has always been blessed with sound common sense and a warm heart.

A highlight of our party’s Conference are the early morning prayer meetings organised by the Liberal Democrat Christian Forum. I seldom attend them myself, being occupied with the eggs and b at that hour, but those who do assure me that their outstanding feature is the virtuoso performance put in upon the organ by none other than our own Professor Webb. Hearing of this, I have long tried to persuade him to come to the Hall to play upon my own steam instrument, which was installed by my grandfather to mark the arrival of Gladstone’s first ministry. Webb finally accepted my invitation last week, and I have had men stoking the boilers ever since to ensure a fine head of steam. Whilst I tucked into the kedgeree this morning Webb serenaded me with a selection of favourites: "Kumbaya", "We Shall Overcome", "D’ye Ken John Peel?" and so forth. I had just requested "The Land" when a low rumbling noise was heard. I urged Webb to ignore it, and was waving my napkin in lieu of a ballot in my hand, when the organ exploded. Fortunately. no one was hurt, although Webb sported a blackened face when we finally dug him out of the wreckage. The result is that I have given up the day to telephoning for estimates to have the blessed contraption repaired.

The talk nowadays is all of "road pricing"; here in Rutland we have been doing it for years. It happens that in order to drive between our little nation’s two principal cities - Oakham and Uppingham - it is necessary to cross a narrow neck of the Bonkers Estate, and in order to dissuade people from undertaking unnecessary journeys, I levy a toll on each vehicle passing that way. I am not one to blow my own trumpet (as my regular readers will know), but I can claim to have been concerned about this global warming business for longer than most: after all, I have been charging a toll for years.

Perhaps because of my efforts to combat global warming, the day dawns cold and blustery; I therefore resolve to spend it in my Library amongst my papers. I soon turn up an old issue of the Radio Times carrying an article on the programme "I am Rather Well Known. May I Leave Now Please?" Though long forgotten, this was quite the thing in its day and frequently challenged "What’s My Line" and "Muffin the Mule" for pride of place in the ratings. IARWKMILNP (as it was popularly known) featured a number of celebrities of the day staying in a country house and suffering various indignities - an unsuitable choice of wine with the fish course, being obliged to go for a country walk when they would have been quite happy with the newspaper - to the amusement of the viewing millions. It was quite a coup when I was able to arrange for Clement Davies, then Liberal leader, to take part in the programme. That year the other contestants included such luminaries as Sherpa Tensing, Pat Smythe the show jumper, Gilbert Harding, Dame Anna Neagle and Wally Hammond. Unfortunately, poor Clement was voted out in the first round when the viewers‘ postcards were counted; I have always suspected low dealing from Muffin the Mule’s agent, as he had hoped that his client would take part. Nevertheless, our victory in the Torrington by-election came shortly after IARWKMILNP was shown, and I flatter myself that the show played no small part in it.

Association football is not what it was, what with all these foreign millionaires taking over. Chelsea is in the hands of a fellow called Abramovich who made his fortune buying and selling polonium; West Ham has just been purchased by an Icelandic biscuit magnate; Aston Villa has been sold to an American called "Randy Lerner" (what can the board have been thinking of?) In Rutland these matters are on a more stable footing, with the teams having remained in the control of the moguls of the pork pie and Stilton industries. This has done much for their financial stability over the years, though perhaps less for the players’ waistlines. So it is that today I travel to watch the Oakham Dynamos, only to see them soundly defeated.

I read that one of Blair’s confidants is feeling rather sore at being hauled in for questioning by the boys in blue and hopes to live to see the Prime Minister himself enjoying hospitality under similar circumstances. One of the best things about being the possessor of a well-established peerage is that one does not live in fear of Scotland Yard’s finest knocking on one’s door and demanding to know how one came by it. I am proud to say that my ancestor William de Bon Coeur came over with the Conqueror (even if some historians maintain that he was obliged to return to Normandy shortly afterwards).

Lord Bonkers, who was Liberal MP for Rutland South-West 1906-10, opened his diary to Jonathan Calder.

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