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 is 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
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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