|Lions pad across the parched grassland as a Paramount Chief of the Zulus
hefts his assegai.
Yes, summer has come to Rutland. The days flow into one another - hence the
rather freehand nature of this Diary. I am modelling my literary technique upon
the 'stream of consciousness' pioneered by Virginia Woolf (or was it Ruel Fox?)
It has not rained for quite some time; hence the dry grass. I shall certainly be
selecting a second spinner in home fixtures until further notice.
The lions? I always suspected that we had not crated up all of them when the
Bonkers Safari Park was obliged to close so suddenly. (I still maintain that
those nuns were the authors of their own misfortune). For years there has been a
tendency for fielders at deep fine leg to disappear when the bowling is from the
Pavilion End, but this summer they have grown tired of lurking in the
undergrowth and they now wander about the old demesne as though they own the
place. (They don't, of course - I have consulted my solicitor). Still, their
very visible presence does serve to discourage Health and Safety inspectors and
And the Zulu chief? He turns out to be quite a big cheese: as far as I can make
out, his role in Africa is something like their equivalent of being Lord
Lieutenant of Lincolnshire (without, one hopes, the cannibalism). He is here to
make a documentary about the Dimbleby family, and when he first arrived at the
Hall I had to explain that in primitive societies - and the BBC is a good
example - positions are awarded not on merit but on a strictly hereditary basis.
Because Richard Dimbleby commentated upon every occasion of state from the
launch of the Queen Mary to the conception of Princess Anne, today it is
impossible to turn on the moving television without seeing one of his many sons.
(They do, however, wear lounge suits, rather than the penis gourd their father
I have ever been one to rejoice in giving hospitality, but there is a
particularly fat bluebottle in the ointment. My Zulu friend is a little overfond
of blowing his vuvuzela. Normally, I would simply adopt a smaller calibre of ear
trumpet, but when Meadowcroft heard him playing he took the Chief by the
shoulders, hurried him to the potting shed, took out his clarinet and staged a
'jam session' that went on all night. Its plangent tones could be heard for
They are planning another one for this evening. I shall set up my base camp in
the Bonkers Arms.
In the bar, the talk is all of Ruttie, the Rutland Water Monster - everyone
claims to have seen her recently. I would put this down to an excess of Smithson
& Greaves Northern Bitter if it were not for the fact that I saw her myself the
other day when I fled Meadowcroft and the Chief's first 'jam session'. She was
close to the shore - rather closer than usual - and I remember idly wondering if
she might scare the lions off.
Eventually, conversation turns to other subjects - England's failure in the
World Cup, the fortunes of this new coalition government and whether it might be
possible to farm psychic octopi on Rutland Water ("Why not ask them?" I suggest)
- and then it is time for the quiz. I have set a particularly sporting set of
questions on Liberal by-election candidates of the 1970s and a good time is had
by all. By the time the contest is over, the lovely Hazel Grove had called "last
orders" and, after a chorus of 'The Land', it is time to have myself driven
A letter arrives from a cove I know at the Natural History Museum - he spends
his holidays in the village and gets excited and waves his arms about when
Ruttie puts in an appearance. This morning's screed is full of speculation about
a "high-pitched, warbling mating call" and gives the old girl a rather grand
Latin name. I think this rather farfetched: if I had had any reason to think
that Ruttie knows Latin, I should have sought her assistance when I was a
schoolboy. Believe me: a chap needed all the help he could get with the dratted
language in those days. Anyway, I acknowledge his letter with a postcard and
forward the whole thing to the Professor of Cryptozoology at the University of
Then Meadowcroft appears, muttering and cursing. It transpires, as best I can
make out, that something has been "a-trampling his botanicals" around the
potting shed and snapped his hollyhocks clean off.
In the midst of all this, the telephone is brought to me and I find the Deputy
Prime Minister on the other end - he often calls when in want of advice. Today
he is worried that he is in a bit of a fix: committed to five years of coalition
with a Conservative Party committed to taking bread from the mouths of widows
and orphans and all that. I am able to reassure him that it is often possible to
get out of what appear to be a quite impossible predicament. Why, I tell him, I
once saw the great Houdini! The fellow had himself bound hand and foot and then
sewn into a mailbag which was wreathed in chains and hung upside down in a tank
of water. Just as I am telling him how the illusionist got out of it, I drop the
receiver. By the time I retrieve it from under the sideboard, Clegg has gone.
This evening I walk by the shore, trying to ignore the entwining tones of
clarinet and vuvuzela. Suddenly Ruttie rears from the water with what can only
be described as a spoony look on her face: goo-goo eyes isn't the half of it.
She lollops across the field, making a beeline for the Hall and it is all I can
do to keep up with her. Skirting the cricket pitch in front of the old place
(she is nothing if not a lady), Ruttie bursts into the my walled garden and then
into the kitchen garden.
With a beatific smile upon her face she leaps into the air and lands smack upon
the potting shed amid an appalling sound of splintering wood. I do hope
Meadowcroft and the Paramount Chief are all right.
Lord Bonkers, who was Liberal MP for Rutland South-West 1906-10, opened his
diary to Jonathan Calder
Click here to return to the home page.