To Hampton Court. Although I had not been asked to take part in the summit in so
many words, I felt sure that the leaders of the European Union would be grateful
if I were on hand to offer them the fruits of my considerable experience of
international affairs. And what a good thing I came! I arrived this morning to
find the place in uproar. It transpired that, against all advice, our own prime
minister had entered the palace’s maze without Peter Mandelson at his
side and was as a result quite lost. One heard cries of “Keep turning left,
sir,” “Look, I am sure this is the same hedge I saw half an hour ago” and
“Couldn’t we ask the RAF to bomb it slightly?” It happens that I know a thing or
two about mazes, having a fine example of my own at the Hall. Planted with the
fast-growing Rutland leylandii – if one ponders too long which path to
take, both may disappear – it has proved a firm favourite with visitors,
particularly since I hit upon the idea of charging them to leave the thing
rather than enter it. Given this experience of mazes, it was the work only of a
few minutes to lead a pathetically grateful Blair back to the outside world.
Later I receive a intemperate telephone call from a Scotsman at 11 Downing
Street (he reverses the charges) complaining that I did not leave him in there.
At Leicester London Road railway station I purchase a copy of Socialist
Worker from an unkempt young lady – I am house-training a setter puppy and
it uses a wonderfully absorbent newsprint. My glance happens to fall upon a
reference to “Respect” on the front page. I enquire what this may be, and am
told that the SWP has thrown in its lot with that fellow Galloway, who was so
fond of the old Soviet Union, and the more thoroughgoing sorts of Muslim. “Take
my word for it, my dear,” I reply, “no good will come of this. It never does to
weaken your party by joining people with whom you have nothing in common
philosophically. You are too young to remember it, but the Liberal Party once
got itself involved in something called ‘The Alliance Party’ – and look what
happened to us.” I pass on my way, shaking my head dolefully.
I hear that one of Pakistan’s leading leg-spinners is in the jug for roughing up
the pitch in the second test. One should not rush to judgment: perhaps he was
practising his foxtrot in the hope of emulating Mr Darren Gough on the electric
television? Besides, people can be so suspicious. Here on the Bonkers Hall
estate I have long practised the rotation of crops: clover one year, wheat the
next, then turnips, then a cricket pitch and then back to clover. So it was that
during the tea interval of my XI’s last match of the season I gave orders for
the pitch to be ploughed up. There were one or two raised eyebrows when we went
on to bowl the other side out cheaply, but I am sure all my readers will
understand that my actions were motivated purely by a concern for the principles
of sound agricultural management.
I spend the early evening writing letters of congratulation to the Greenpeace
activists who scaled Mrs Presscott’s hairdo in order to protest against… well,
something or other – you know what these fellows are like. I then hurry to the
Bonkers’ Arms to enjoy the arrival of 24-hour drinking in the village. My
favourite hostelry has long enjoyed the services of a fearsome landlady, with
the result that there is rarely trouble of any sort, even though she does insist
upon keeping the dreadful gassy Dahrendorf lager in addition to the celebrated
Smithson & Greaves Northern Bitter. Come eleven o’clock, the landlady draws the
curtains, locks the door and continues to serve us. A few days ago she would
have drawn the curtains, locked the door and continued to serve us. How times
As the scientists amongst us will know, these days “peer review” is all the
rage; it works along these lines. If a chap believes he has come up with
something juicy in the scientific line, he writes it down and posts it off to a
member of the House of Lords. I have a skim through it and write something such
as “Splendid,” “Terribly Clever” or “Sounds a bit far-fetched to me” on the
bottom, before sending it on to the editor of one of our leading journals.
Occasionally, if it has lots of those Greek letters and equations in it, I will
recommend inviting the Department of Hard Sums at the University of Rutland at
Belvoir to have a look at it too. Some may ask why the landed aristocracy should
play so central a part in British science, but I would argue that there is
virtue in the solidity and consistency we provide.
High excitement at the Bonkers’ Home for Well-Behaved Orphans as Charles Kennedy
comes to read the little mites a bedtime story. “It’s one Vincent Cable wrote
for me,” he confides as they gather round, smelling strongly of toothpaste. It
turns out to involve a little girl called Goldilocks who breaks into a house
belonging to three bears and helps herself to their porridge. (I wonder whether
this is the sort of thing one should be relaying to young ears, but decide to
hold my peace.) The first bowl was too hot, the second too cold and the third
just right. You might expect the aforementioned Goldilocks to tuck into this,
but then two medium-sized bears come along and start discussing the optimum
level of personal taxation in a market economy. I would tell you how it all
turns out, but unfortunately I fell asleep at this point.
To St Asquith’s for Divine Service. The Revd Hughes preaches on the parable of
The Man Who Refused to Carry an Identity Card – a new one on me, I must admit.
It is all about a brave chap who refused to have one of those beastly cards and
went to prison as a result. Everyone said what a splendid fellow he was, and
when he came out they agreed that he had much more go than that dreadful
Scotsman and was not a wet blanket like the member for Winchester. As a result
he became leader of his party and everyone loved him. I wish I had paid more
attention in Divinity.
Lord Bonkers, who was Liberal MP for Rutland South-West 1906-10, opened his
diary to Jonathan Calder.
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