A gentleman learns not to interfere in the management of his own
household; in particular, if I try to tell Cook how to run my kitchens, I risk
not being allowed to lick out her wooden spoon and mixing bowl. Yet I shall have
to pluck up my courage and mention to her the good value that J. Sainsbury
offers these days. A couple of weeks ago Clegg was telling me that he and his
wife are shopping at that company’s supermarkets rather than having them
delivered by those clever little Ocado vans: now he is talking about educating
his sons privately. Why, he must have saved a fortune!
I was never tempted to invest my money in Iceland, despite all
those advertisements on the moving television featuring that jolly young lady
and all her party food. You see, hereabout memories of the Cod War are still
raw. In 1975 Icelandic trawlers appeared on Rutland Water and began to harvest
our fish with the intention of taking them back to Reykjavik to be salted, dried
or whatever Johnny Icelander does with les fruits de mer. Well, we simply
weren’t having it. The Rutland Navy put to sea with your diarist, as a Rear
Admiral, to the fore, and the impertinent trawlers were driven back whence they
came. Not surprisingly, feeling ran high locally: I recall a High Leicestershire
Radical front page of the time with the headline “STICK IT UP YOUR GEYSER”.
Incidentally, in my experience this ‘offshore banking’ is never
a good idea. There is a filthy old hermit who lives on one of the tiny islands
in Rutland Water and he is always offering to look after people’s savings for
them. I did row out to him once, but decided against investing with him. My
money remains in the Bank of Rutland and the Rutland Rock Building Society.
The telephone is brought to me and the voice at the other end
says: “Hello, this is Nick Clegg. I am ringing to tell you about the Liberal
Democrats’ exciting policies.” “I know it’s you, man,” I reply, “and we were
talking about party policy only this morning. I was about to call you myself to
ask if you had had time to think about my idea of extorting money from the
Estonian Government by threatening to send back…” Clegg, however, talks over me
in the most boorish fashion and our conversation ends with my bidding him a
brisk good day and replacing the receiver. If Clegg thinks he is going to win
people’s votes by behaving in this fashion, he will, I fear, be gravely
How quickly reputations can change in politics! For years, I
have joshed the Member for Twickenham by referring to him affectionately as
Vince ‘Low Voltage’ Cable, but no one would call him that today. It happens that
I am invited to hear him speak this evening and, though I arrive at the Hall in
good time after the customary stiffener, I find queues snaking around the
building. Cable arrives and is hustled into the building by a protective phalanx
of policemen as the crowds try to rip off a piece of his clothing.
Unfortunately, it is hard to hear his speech because the young ladies at the
front of the audience insist upon screaming all the way through it. The result
is that his observations on the finer points of the marginal propensity to
consume and so forth are quite lost. Having been present at this event, I shall
in future refer to him as ‘High Voltage Cable’.
When John McCain first announced his choice of Vice Presidential
running mate, I was contemptuous. Sarah Palin’s politics are rebarbative and her
religious beliefs simply ludicrous. Yet there is something about the way she
fells a moose (they abound in the frozen North of Rutland) that puts me in mind
of the first Lady Bonkers. I spend the day looking up flights to Anchorage.
Soon it will be Bonfire Night again, and here at the Hall we
pride ourselves on having the best blaze for miles around. For weeks I have been
having my men collect fallen trees and the roof timbers of evicted cottagers and
the resultant pile of wood has not grown to quite dizzying proportions; nor
should the efforts on the Well-Behaved Orphans in collecting kindling be
overlooked. A supply of rockets, Catherine Furlong wheels and the like has been
laid in, and Meadowcroft has provided us with a sack of potatoes to bake in the
Only one detail remains to be settled: whom shall we burn in
effigy upon the top of the thing? Recent Bonfire Nights have seen such unpopular
figures as Mr Anthony ‘Tony’ Blair, President Bush and Steve McClaren play a
starring role; this year prominent candidates include young Gideon ‘George’
Osborne, the Lord High Mandelson and the contestants and judges from the moving
television’s ‘X Factor’. I am able to announce, however, that a straw tableau
depicting bankers quaffing champagne upon a yacht will be set ablaze atop the
Bonkers Hall bonfire this year.
To St Asquith’s for Divine Service. The Revd Hughes preaches a
long sermon that touches upon our economic travails, and we sing ‘Whatever shall
we do, O Lord?’ which happens to be a favourite of Meadowcroft and his former
comrades in the Wee Free Liberals.
In the evening I go for a walk along the shore of Rutland Water,
reaching the treacherous Rutlandbach Falls. I tread carefully: a chap could
Lord Bonkers, who was Liberal MP for Rutland South West 1906-10, opened his
diary to Jonathan Calder
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