Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Bonkers Code

The July issue of Liberator is now with subscribers, so it is time to post Lord Bonkers' latest diary. You can find an archive of them on his own website.

To London for the launch of my new book The Bonkers Code. I had the idea for it when I was told that an American chap was making a fortune out of the tale of a sinister conspiracy. I took a particular interest in this as I understood my interlocutor to be saying that the conspiracy was conducted by the SDP – I posted sentries and called out the militia without delay. A little fine-tuning of my ear trumpet revealed, to my understandable relief, that the sinister organisation at the heart of the book was not the SDP but Opus Dei, but even so it set me thinking. What if, after Joseph of Arimathea had brought Liberalism to England, he had conducted a marriage with, say, an ancestor of Nancy Seear? And what if that marriage had produced offspring whose heirs are amongst us even today? I retired to the Library at once to dictate the whole thing to my Literary Secretary.

In recent days there has been a great deal of ill-informed comment about our Deputy Prime Minister’s penchant for the game of croquet; he has suffered obloquy and had contumely poured over him – and dried contumely is a devil to brush off one’s jacket. The charge seems to be that by indulging in this pastime Prescott is betraying his proletarian roots. What rot! Have these people never been to Kingston upon Hull? If they did so they would see games of croquet taking place on every street corner, allotment and piece of waste ground. After a hard day’s trawling, there is nothing the doughty citizen of that historic city enjoys more than tying his whippet to a hoop and wielding the mallet in his shirtsleeves. Granted the game is a little rougher than that one encounters in the Home Counties – and features a more prominent role for dried fish – but to dismiss it as the preserve of the aristocracy betrays the most dreadful ignorance.

I have been reading more about these Opus Dei people. Did you know that Ruth Kelly, the woman with the deep voice and strange hairstyle who was briefly in charge of the nation’s schools (presumably on the grounds that she attended both Millfield and Westminster herself), is one of them? Apparently they wear spiked bracelets around their thighs – it can’t have made question time in the House any easier for her. Just imagine it: You are trying to find the figures for the number of children taking Hard Sums in the Soke of Peterborough in your folder when you suddenly feel the most ghastly pain. No wonder she struggled sometimes. Still, Mr Gladstone would scourge himself at the drop of a hat, and no one thought any the less of him for it.

At the village shop I encounter my old friend Mark Oaten – his days as Rising Star the Indian brave now far behind him, I fear. “Another gross of Kit-Kat, Mr Patel,” he demands, and I am not surprised to see that he has a bit of a tummy on him. It transpires that he is trying to obtain a Golden Ticket that will win him ingress to something called “The Big Brother House” and numerous appearances on the electric television as a result. He assures me that this is the key to his rehabilitation, but I have my doubts. Mind you, I did see our own Julia Goldsworthy take part in some form of sports day, and enjoyed it thoroughly.

The morning brings news that the first printing of The Bonkers Code has already sold out: I allow myself a second helping of kedgeree. When I stroll down to the village, however, I find the place in turmoil. So vast are the crowds come to view the ceiling painting of the Circumcision of the National Liberals (to which I allude in the book) that PC Heath has had to be called for to steward them. When I return home I receive an angry telephone call from the clubhouse at Rosslyn Park where equally large numbers are demanding a site of their painting of “The First Lady Bonkers Going Over From A Five-Yard Scrum”. Then I hear cries from the garden and hurry out to find Meadowcroft, a broom in one hand and an orchard doughty in the other, driving away some people who are trying to dig up my lawn to look for the first edition of Mill’s On Liberty, the discovery of which marks the denouement of my bestseller. “They liter’ry types be nothing but trouble,” my gardener opines. I join in with a rolled-up copy of the High Leicestershire Radical and we soon command the field.

Donning the velvet smoking jacket and wielding the cigarette holder – you know what we writers are – I go through the morning’s post: an invitation to judge the next Booker prize; another to open the annual Hull vs Grimsby croquet match; a letter asking me how to spell ‘Mississippi’; a parcel of books to review for The Times Literary Supplement. I think the literary life will suit me down to the ground.

You may recall that poor Menzies Campbell was bullied into promising to sell his Jag during the leadership contest – he tells me that Clegg and Teather were the ringleaders. I suggested that he keep it in one of my outbuildings here at the Hall until the fuss has blown over, and he gratefully accepted the offer. This evening I decide to take her for a spin, as we don’t want her getting out of condition. As I bowl along the lanes of Rutland I ponder how to spend my windfall from the success of The Bonkers Code (I have been fielding calls from Hollywood moguls all day). The Reverend Hughes is always launching appeals to repair the roof of St Asquith’s; the Home for Retired Canvassers at Herne Bay would appreciate a cheque, no doubt; I might treat myself to another race horse – it is simply years since I won the Derby; perhaps some jube-jubes for the Well-Behaved Orphans?

At this point in my revelry there is a frightful bang and I find that I have driven the Jag into someone’s garden fence. I beat a hasty retreat, only to wake in the small hours alarmed lest the registration number has been snapped by one of these new cameras the police have everywhere. (Rather unsporting, don’t you think?) Remembering, however, that the Jag is still registered in Ming’s name, I turn over and soon go back to sleep.

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