Friday, April 04, 2008

Never mind the 30 women, what about the cacti?

In all the fuss over Nick Clegg's GQ interview, has the real story been overlooked? Never mind Nick's lovers, what about the poor cacti?

The Times has lengthy extracts from the interview:

PM Why did you abuse the cacti?

NC I drank too much and left the party with a guy I was at school with called Tom Brown [laughs]. I shouldn’t find that funny. We wandered around the garden and found two greenhouses, and decided to go inside.

PM With malicious intent?

NC No, no, no. It was an accident. One of us had a lighter and turned it on, and this place was jam-full of furry, fuzzy cacti, and the flame nicked one of them and up it went. The effect was a beautiful glowing halo of fire, and we obviously wanted to repeat it.

PM So it ceased to be an accidental abuse of cacti and became deliberate arson?

NC It didn’t feel like it, but I suppose it was.

PM How many did you set fire to?

NC Oh, maybe 20 or so.

PM It is now mass cacti arson.

NC On reflection, yes it was.

Pretty shocking stuff, I am sure you will agree. Time, perhaps, to recall Lord Bonkers' take on the subject:

The pride and joy of my gardener Meadowcroft is his collection of rare hairy cacti. He gathers them from the arid south of Rutland and tends them in the way that a particularly attentive she wolf looks after her whelps.

I well remember his fury when a young whipper-snapper from Westminster School burnt down the glasshouse where he keeps them. My first reaction was to hand the lad over to the Proper Authorities, but learning that he was some sort of nephew of my (how shall I put it?) old friend Moura Budberg, I relented and dealt with the matter myself. I informed the errant youth that he would work for Meadowcroft until he had made full and proper restitution for the loss of the aforementioned prickly crop.

Over the years Nick Clegg (for it was he) has had himself elected to the European Parliament and the Commons, but he still comes to the Hall regularly to do odd jobs. (What with compound interest and the strength of the Rutland pound, debts can take a long time to pay off.)

This afternoon Meadowcroft and I find Clegg perched on a garden seat writing a speech. “Never mind being a scholard,” says my favourite horticulturalist, belabouring him with a broom, “get out and sweep up they leaves.” “I think Clegg has just left his comfort zone,” I observe as he rushes out to work in the garden.

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