No 166 - 2001
Chapter 12: Twelve Drummers Drumming
An extract from the novel ‘Ten Lords a Leaping’. In the previous chapter, which appeared in Ambit 165, we learned how Peter Marshall (the Prime Minister) got his position. We also learned that the anarchist group the Pilgrims planned to break into Chequers and present P.M. and his guest, the US President (T.P.), with their alternative manifesto. In this chapter we learn about the politics of T.P., read more of the Crusades, and watch the break-in unfold.
More and more the sad conclusion forces itself upon one that the play-element in culture has been on the wane ever since the 18th century when it was in full flower. Civilisation today is no longer played, and even when it still seems to play it is false play, so that it becomes increasingly difficult to know where play ends and non-play begins. This is particularly true of politics.
In American politics it is even more evident. Long before the two party system had reduced itself to two gigantic teams whose political differences were hardly discernible to an outsider, electioneering in America had developed into a kind of National sport. (Collaged from Huizinga.)
Theodore Prince like all American Presidents revelled in the National Sport particularly if, as he had done, you came out on top. There were not many routes to go, of course, you could be an outsider roped in by ‘your’ party to be put up and get them in: so you had had an old screen actor - he didn’t even have to be a good one. And some of the good old boys had at one point flagged up the notion of running an astronaut but mostly it was best to stick by the old political ways. Being a senator, getting to chair important House Committees or to be independently prominent, a great family name has worked sometimes - a Kennedy, a Roosevelt, whatever: the other way to go of course was to come up from an individual state. After all the governor of California had a bigger budget to run than most of the countries in the world. So he had, it was supposed, plenty of experience of public administration and he had a launching pad of supporters - a caucus from the home state. A senator might develop such a caucus but the intimacy of the governorship often meant he was more in with the local party people than the senator.
There were other possible advantages if you had been born and brought up in that same state, you could present yourself as somebody with what the Americans admired - the pioneering spirit. If you could get yourself imaged sitting on a fence looking over an area of pretty scrubby looking ground with the odd cow in the distance, you could have a line like ‘a President who still knows his cattle’ written about you.
Any rate that was the way Theo (Theodore Prince) had elected to go. You need some sort of degree, preferably from somewhere on the East Coast like the school of business studies at Princeton. Your wife is going to be very important.
Here is another long aside from the Pilgrims:
PILGRIMS IN DISCUSSION
Sarah: I think the Saints we de-sanctify should be half men and half women so that we have equality of nastiness across the sexes.
Jonathan: It may be it’s in the genes! But - there are far more nasty men than there are women.
Sarah: There may be more who’ve become prominent but that’s because of the historical suppression of women from political power. But there are plenty of nasty women when they get power... Mrs Thatcher.
Jonathan: Name others...
Sarah: Golda Meir in Israel, Mrs Gandhi in India and then there was that French premier who went to Brussels and was caught giving jabs (and not dental jabs) to her dentist. But that’s all. The rest are men. And we all know business, finance, local politics, the Army forces it’s still ninety percent men. No if we find two female saints we will have done well and the other problem is that many women get there because of their bodies and they are too simple to become full saints; they are really acolytes.
Celestine: A difference has to be made too between our Saints and the early Saints. They were, or at least thought, to be celibates. Some of them - ‘Saint Augustine’ - had mothers who were important but of course the Saints of today have wives and those wives they use. They are really part of their path in Sainthood and they, the women, like it - most of them. (Nancy Reagan had her dinner alone on a tray in front of a television video set which was running her husband’s old movies.) Wives, spouses, partners, whatever you call them they are adages.
Max: Eleanor Roosevelt ran the country when Theodore sat sick. But we’re the other way round as Pilgrims, as desanctifiers; it is the women, Sarah, Caroline, Celestine, Rosetta, they are running this show. Aiming for a fairer world in our brand new millennium! OK kids enough said.
Theo had no qualms about his wife; she was going to play ball. She couldn’t be old fashioned like Nancy Reagan, or glamorous like Jacqueline Kennedy, or personally ambitious like Hilary Rodham; no she had to have a bit of a career herself but basically be able to strike right notes at conventions, charm senior members of the party at those conventions and in general get him where he wanted by her worming her way into the confidence of wives and partners of colleagues. So she heard what they were thinking in private while he found out what was going on publicly. You needed to have selected such a wife carefully and Theo did that - looking the pack over critically. He knew he could get good screws: he wanted a certain talent. Clever but really admiring him yes and within the family accepting his clear leadership. They didn’t in the end have to like each other much - but actually Wendy was O.K. - screwed too.
He said to Her: ‘You’re a hazy truth’
She said to Him: ‘You’re a shining lie’
Theo had his good old grey haired mother at home which was good: pity about his Dad who had beaten it when he was eleven but - good thing - Dad had died in that car crash (alcoholic) before Theo was running for his first office.
Once you had become governor you had to run two successful terms and keep your nose clean. You had two nostrils: one could sniff out so called corruption (odd because it was all so corrupt but there were particular forms of corruption, which were over-the-top.) The second nostril could sniff out sex. The trouble about America was it still had this Christian surface and the seething cauldron of sex underneath had to be subsumed to it. Theo supposed one day it would be possible to say ‘yes’ I had a screw with this twenty-three year old girl. O.K. I know she partly fancied me because of my power status, my position in office and all that but she wasn’t sweet 17 she was all of 23 she knew what she was doing and we had a good time, Wendy understands that sort of thing. But it was not for today. There was no chance of real honesty in politics: so you had to watch that sex on the side. The girls would try and sell their stories and you’d be in the schnuck. It was safer to get what you could from yours. (Old Peter in England really was religious. He really believed in sin. He had to go and confess to a priest - what a bore!)
Nostril 1: Corruption, - money - that really was coupled with an impression of having run a clean but efficient state administration. If you could do that it gave you the edge over the Presidential candidates who were senators in Washington. They couldn’t but be regarded as corrupt. They were tainted always with the view of Washington as a private corrupt world and where you ‘make’ the money you needed to run for President. You make personal money. T.P. had worked in Real Estate, still was a nominal partner, but he couldn’t really draw much money out of that company now. One solution was to see that you spent no money at all. Free dinners you could accept, free accommodation, you could go on holidays with a friendly businessman - after the contract had been awarded and not before. Your house you had got cheap through the firm who kindly mopped up the insurance payments. Wendy worked too - construction management. So they had, when he was governor, two incomes. They scrimped and saved and really worked at the internet financial advisers services. They built up capital.
Lies and lethargies police the world
In its periods of peace. What pain taught
Is soon forgotten; we celebrate.
What now ought to happen as if it were done,
Are blinded by our boasts. Then back they come.
The fears that we fear.
So: What did Richard do in Palestine? He got there to find his fellow kings - Philip of France - Guy ex king of Jerusalem - Leopold Duke of Austria were besieging Acre, themselves besieged in their camp by Saladin. Richard’s arrival heartened the Christians and in July the garrison that Saladin had in the city surrendered. The duke of Austria, who had brought a German army with him, claimed equal rights with the kings. He had his banners displayed on the walls beside those of Richard and Philip. Richard would have none of it. The English soldiers tore down the Austrian banners fermenting the continual rows between the Pilgrim Crusaders.
The terms of the surrender of the city Saladin complied with. He had to return fifteen hundred Christian prisoners and in exchange the prisoners who were the surrendered garrison of Acre were to be released. Richard claimed that all the prisoners of rank who were to be released had not been handed over. There was some exchange of ambassadors but on the twentieth of August 1191 Richard, saying the terms had not been met, ordered his soldiers to butcher the twenty-seven hundred survivors of the garrison of Acre. His soldiers gave themselves gratefully to the task massacring not only the soldiers but the wives and children at their side. Ambroise, the chronicler, praises God for the massacre.
And even more sinister detail is suggested by some. It was thought that Moslem soldiers swallowed their gold as a way of protecting it. Richard had the bodies burnt, it is said, and the ashes raked over looking for the gold. In vengeance for this Saladin slaughtered any stragglers from the crusading armies that he caught. But a curious detail ‘Only the washer women were spared’. Who were they and could they switch from washing Christian to washing Moslem shirts? The Christian Army was now once more marching towards Jerusalem. As they trudged along the heat was intense, men died of sunstroke or simply fainted and were found by Moslems who slew them where they lay.
As they marched they cried out ‘Sanctum Sepulchrum Adjura’ - Help us Holy sepulchre. A somewhat strange chant when you reflect that the sepulchre was an empty tomb from which Christ had arisen.
On Saturday September 7th the Moslems forced a battle at Arsuf where they attacked the Crusaders who Richard had drawn up in line of battle. Richard controlled the battle and, despite some impetuous behaviour by his knights, finally led a charge and by nightfall the field was in Christian hands and the march South towards Jerusalem continued. They got as far as Jaffa on the coast which they had been marching along. And there they paused. There was plentiful food and ships brought down ‘gay ladies’ from Acre to entertain the troops. Richard had problems persuading his men to give up this way of life and move on towards Jerusalem. Now the heat had gone and it rained incessantly but in December he moved up to within twelve miles of the city at Beit Nuba and he repeated the visit there early next year.
But he never went on to retake Jerusalem. Saladin blocked up the wells between Beit Nuba and Jerusalem and in case they were looking for refreshment any other way, he cut down all orchards. Richard fell on a Moslem caravan supplying Jerusalem which fed his camp for a time but even then he hesitated. If he got into Jerusalem who was going to stay there? He and his murderous troops wanted to go home, Saladin seized the opportunity to attack Jaffa and actually seized the town but not the citadel, Richard rushed to the rescue and recaptured the town, Saladin made one more assault on it but Richard thwarted him with a palisade made of tent pegs: he with just 54 knights and only two thousand infantry men, but that was his last victory.
On October 9th he sailed for Europe only to spend eighteen months imprisoned by Leopold of Austria and the Emperor Henry VI of Germany. He died in 1199. So the most famous crusade after the first was over. A failure. Richard is said to have boasted to Saladin that his sword was sharper than Saladin’s, with it he cut an iron bar. Saladin laid a silk cloth over his blade and it fell in two halves. That was the blade that had struck off the head of the treacherous Reynold of Chalillon. In his hand at that moment Reynold had held the goblet which contained the water of life but of which neither he nor Richard ever drank. Richard’s desires for power, fame and authority had in the end failed him. Crude as a politician might see him now he was practising the art of power in his age and, sainted or not, was one whom was hallowed, Richard Coeur de Lion. Bastard.
‘Sexual identity,’ Sarah was waiting with the other pilgrims in the tunnel to get into the house, ‘and their vocation.’ She could make nothing of her twins sexual identity except as she’d noticed, they had already got very pronounced identity differences and she thought that might have something to do with their gender. But of course Ericson was thinking of it in adolescence when all those hormones from puberty had flooded through you overwhelming you with feelings and sexual desires. And to what extent would she mind if one of the twins or both turned out to be homosexual: she knew that she would find it hard - the flood of feelings she had for Jonathan could not, she thought, ever be like the feelings that she could get - even if mixed with sexual feelings - for a girl friend. She had to face that fact but then they had many gay friends - Oswell, Harry - among the Pilgrims. Celestine was always telling her that she, Celestine was bisexual and sometimes fancied women. The thoughts about the twins in their adolescence as sexual creatures could not stay in her mind. But the thought of the twins’ work, their vocation, had come rushing up in the thoughts as she had sat there in the tunnel thinking of how they were trying to ‘get’ their last two Saints and unhallow them and get them to totally change the tack they were on and in the end of course lose their power their position their corrupt vocation!
What would she like the twins to do? She wanted them to be clever that was for sure. She wanted them to be happy - she could already see the boy hurt desperately if someone disapproved of him. He was going to be anxious all through childhood but she could help him through that. It looked as if the little girl would mainly skip along happily despite her moods. She wanted them to enjoy things like music - they would probably listen to the same awful popular music which she would think was boring but she hoped they’d like Stravinsky in the end. Art, theatre, film, all that, the girl perhaps an actress - but that might involve all the vain behaviour they had all deplored in ‘Shadow’ so maybe it was studying something and doing something you liked as with Jonathan, his genetics. Perhaps one of them would be a physicist. Would that be good? But then she thought fifteen years from now they’ll be adolescents; what will jobs be like, what will the world will be like, would it be safe, would it be free of violence, could it be clean and unpolluted? These had been all things on their initial hit lists for the President and Prime Minister but they had now decided to go for something much simpler by simply getting them to admit they were placemen. What they were doing now was trying to see that the twins could never grow up to be Richard Coeur de Lion, Peter Marshall, or Theodore Prince.
Theodore got through the Governor bit with, people thought, both nostrils clean. He had decided now was the time to go for it. All the business then of electioneering. He’d started two and half years before getting the electoral money into the war chest. He came from a wealthy state but he had to repeatedly and personally talk up the three really big guys in the state who could bank-roll him in the millions he needed so that he could begin. They had to feel they needed him, liked him, wanted him to be President. But chiefly they needed to know that he would let their businesses, their global conglomerates, roll on so that they would make more and more millions, more millions of money. He knew of course once he had begun he would do no work any longer, he had to have arranged that he did nothing except: get himself elected (his own personal money was such a worry). Good team: he had to have policies and all that but mainly the right press officers, P.R. media people. All the dry runs of TV interviews - curiously that guy from England Paul somebody - he really knew how to get you talking up - but then he had written the Princess’ speeches for her and given her help with delivery. Each TV appearance afterwards had to be analysed over and over again and again. Every slip picked up.
Then you had to work out what to do about the jokers. Issues which were not really to do with politics - the main issues like taxes and the heavy spending budgets - Star Wars - well you’d said you’d do that of course. But, these were the side issues. The jokers in the packs - never never promise anything legislative - but they had massive voting powers so you had to be cunning. Like the Jews; you wanted them to vote for you but there was the whole Palestine/Israel lot and not getting the country involved in some body bag Middle East War. You had to be pro-Israel but not too anti-Arab. All racial things were murder, very keen on the blacks of course but then all that Southern vote the good ole boys who the millionaires liked. And the abortion issue - all those darned women screaming waving banners when you visited that medical facility where it turned out they occasionally did abortions. All the women of America wailing at you: ‘I believe you women will advise me what decisions you want me to take,’ he had to shout into his mic, ‘I won’t take them for you.’ But they wanted a firm commitment no or yes. You had a crisis team ready to sit up all night if, at a high school rally, you had made an incautious remark about too many adolescents going to prison. Death row issues (why not kill the assholes) - the list was endless.
The primaries were the worst really: tearing to and fro across the country and then finding yourself talking to three old people in a barn (which you did). Then you had won the primaries - things were better. You had that whole party machine behind you and you could get a strategy with your Vice-President - he would make some of the gaffs and you would sort them out. And all this time you’ve been electioneering you had been unable to pay too much attention to what actually was happening in America and in the world. You scanned the front page of the Washington Post / New York Times and then you had a digest prepared by your staff. Mostly domestic because apart from the Jewish questions and provided you kept America ‘strong’, nothing was a voting issue. What was a voting issue? Most of the country wouldn’t vote anyway. Didn’t they mind that you were to become the single most powerful man in the world? Now you had all these secret service people around you - why you had special tags for your luggage - if it went astray the airline had to take it straight to the F.B.I.
THE PRINCE’S SPEECH
Of course you had to make a big speech when all those state delegates who were going to vote you in got together like a bunch of goddamn monkeys, shrieking, shouting, bloody balloons and you were up front putting down that ghastly frump who you were standing against. Well - it wasn’t all wasted - you could use the speech again at the inauguration if you got in.
‘We are the greatest nation in the world. We are the most perfect example of democracy. We are a nation who care for our people for all our people whatever the colour of their skin, the nature of their religion, their gender and their wealth. We look after all our people. Other nations look to us, respect us because they know we are the cornerstone of democracy honest honest democracy to which other nations have to aspire. We tell no lies, no bullshit.(1) Our institutions our forms of government are such that other nations look on jealously at how we conduct ourselves. We are the Greatest Nation in the World.’ (You could say that again, and would, every time you got stuck.)
‘Our Armed services have, do and are the prime defenders of the free world. They carry out their duties in an exemplary manner with courage with commitment and with a sense of purpose and rightness which stand alone in this world. We think of it as a happy world, our world is a happy world but other parts of the world where our influence has not spread we can see is an unhappy sad world. Our fighting men are the caretakers of the world. My opponents in government have pretended to recognise the dedication of the men and women who serve in their forces but they constantly denied them the tools, yes I mean the weapons, they need to carry out their function. They have even denied them their fiscal rights.
‘Yes this Great Nation has denied the moneys to see that each and every member of our armed forces can live decently as respected citizens of our society. We must correct that. We must maintain our military leadership. We must see that we do not fail the world through our failure to sustain this great body of men and women who have made us the greatest nation on earth. In all my plans, in all our plans it is these men and women who serve us all so nobly who stand for our military progress our military success that I place first. That I have always placed first.’ (Cheers and applause.)
‘We are the greatest in the world. Who then do I place second. They are our children. If we are to remain the greatest nation on this earth we must invest in our children. We must give them what they need so that they can in time take their place as full citizens of this great nation and enjoy rewards of full citizenship. But they must learn too their responsibilities. They must learn discipline. They must learn to be disciplined, wrong doing amongst our youth must be controlled. Undisciplined youth have no part in our society. Wrong doing must be punished if our great nation is to hold its head high.
‘Therefore I say to you law and order must be maintained in our society and I will see our law officers, our police have the finances and have our support so that they can effectively as they do now maintain the fabric of our society. We are the greatest nation in the world.
‘In Health we live. Our doctors, our scientists lead the world in their endeavours. They have made us the Great Nation we are. They help our citizens when they are sick. Our senior citizens we must look after their Health - for this is our message - when you work hard we will reward you in old age because you are a citizen of the Greatest Nation and we are the Greatest Nation in the World.’ (Was that long enough Bill? No, we want another five minutes! What a drag...)
Suddenly you’re there. At home for the voting day in your own state and then of course into Washington. Talk to that ‘has been’ you’re taking over from. Very serious face at the inauguration ceremony and then the inauguration ball messages from people in the home state: we want tickets? For God’s sake why should they be asked. You were about to be inaugurated but you had all these new staff. The old Pres was always very concerned about people from his home state. Theo couldn’t really give a damn about them. See Wendy has money for a really good dress - you weren’t going to let that Washington crowd get you down. And she did look good - well bless her. You led off the first dance. You went ‘home’ to the White House and slept there. You were the most important man in the world. You were President of the United States of America. What the hell next.
Plumed and potent
Go forth, fulfil
A happy future
And occupy that
Loved by infinite
Or possible cases:
It wasn’t like the other world leaders; he knew his term was finite. He was out: for good in two terms. Mostly people expected you to win a second term which he did. The strategy was, of course, to be very fiscally tight in the first four years and eventually you could plan to do some real innovative things in your second term. But what would it be? You’d spent so much time getting there that you were really strapped for ideas, policies that would have a real, a total impact not only on America but the whole world. When you thought about it who did the arrogant college kid remember (if anyone)? Washington? Lincoln? Roosevelt? They all fought wars - that was their achievement - but the people in between? Most of the people in the country would be pressed to tell you another 19th century President apart from Lincoln. So what hope had he to make an impact? I mean what with Star Wars and with rising health care costs and those sort of things, where were the dollars? (Thank God he’d got a decent quack although he charged a lot.)
‘He’ll be the one,’ said Sarah. ‘I bet he is actually thinking what the hell am I to do, if we get him. Peter M. will come along for the trip. A statement which Theo will sign. We may need to separate them and bring in the document signed by him. P.M. will come in too to make a grand gesture.’
Theo liked the foreign travel bits - providing the state department briefed him properly. Bit too much pressing dirty hands, of course, and too much ethnic music and dance. But they hung on his every word and it wasn’t that hard to get it right. The benign uncle Sam and of course some of those African countries when he did that visit around South Africa you didn’t have to waste many dollars to get some real gratitude from them. Just hope the state department had got it right and the guy wasn’t going to fall in some coup the following week amid all those accusations of filthy American dollars propping up corrupt regimes. He had always somehow assumed that because, after all, he liked it here that most people all over the world liked Americans. Wasn’t true.
So next European tour. ‘P.M.’ We’d liked him when he’d been over, nice wife too - they’d had some good dinners. ‘Why don’t we really have a weekend, couple of days at the old country house I’ve got with the job. Like your Camp David. We could sit up where no-one could see us and drink a few of those brandies you like and Fleur really liked Wendy. We could work out some statement.’ Well he saw what P.M was up to - American president spends weekend with him nine months into his first term. But what the hell - he was a nice guy. Sitting in some old British museum drinking a bit of brandy, a whiskey, no conference the next day. Just the four of them staying. Butlers, he’d bet, it sounded fine.
We belong to our kind,
Are judges as we judge, for all gestures of time
And all species of space respond in our own
Contradictory dialect, the double talk
Of ambiguous bodies, born like us to that
Natural neighbourhood which denial itself
Like a friend confirms; they reflect our status
Tim had been in the night before, cut up into a wine cellar and had a look around. The question was whether the security people would ‘sweep’ it again next day. He wanted to put in probes but decided not to in case. He was right, too - the British Security said it’s clean but the yanks didn’t believe it and wanted to sweep it all again.
But Caroline was in during dinner. The butler was bemused although she’d told him she’d be there and Tim getting probes into the sitting room while they sat at dinner - chef and two maids still there. But the butler said, ‘I'll finish up.’ Caroline was sitting in his pantry. Friday night they’d all want to get home.
It was a big group to get in. Twelve drummers drumming, eleven pipers piping. Ten Lords a-leaping, nine maids a-milking. That was all the humans in the party but it was forty people. And what about the seven swans, the six geese, the five gold rings, the four calling birds, the three French hens, the two turtle doves, and the partridge. It was a rather small pear tree they dragged along the tunnel. There had to be twelve drummers to drum, eleven pipers calling the tune, there were ladies who could dance, dance all night and nine maids (Sally amongst them pointed out the only thing she’d ever milked were men’s balls. Milk T.P. tonight if you can.) The real American ball player was still being dried out. Shadow the singer would probably have come but been unreliable. Jim (the fat cat water director), the water baby they called him now, was bringing two old mates, actually water men at their main site of entry; they were testing - if asked - for a reported leak! They had decided against bringing in the swans, the geese, the calling birds, the French hens and the doves but they brought a simple plump partridge to sit in the pear tree. Stephen had put a little monorail down the centre of the tunnel and you rode through to Chequers crouched on something like a skateboard.
They all had a copy of Sarah’s manifesto:
• Political parties must be abolished
• No guns, no Star Wars
• Patriotism is not enough:
• I must have no hatred or bitterness for anyone.
• Everybody must have a secure home
• A dry house but free water for all
• Queens, film stars and Dukes to be no more
• Global Company Directors (the Murdochs of the world) to winter alone in Antarctica
• Couples to be constantly copulating
• Lawyers reduced in number and cut down to size
• Doctors dedicated to being devoted to their patients
• A health service free and fair
• Accountants and bankers to earn only the minimum wage
• Pessoa’s ‘Book of Disquiet’ to replace Gideon Bibles
• Bill Gates, the Wallmart family and the Sultan of Brunei to pay for primary education of all children.(2)
• Fossil fuels to be abandoned
• Fish and grass must be allowed to flourish
• Wind, wave and sun to keep us warm and energise us
• Put the clawing chimaeras in cold storage
• The Gods are wringing their great warm hands:
• Farewell to them! Put all religions to bed for good
• Everything happens now: not in the past or the future
• Consumer shopping malls are time expired
• There is only one end for money. It too must be no more
• No more seekers of fame and power
• People being perpetually peaceful and perceptive
• We will leave a place for the word love
Under Green Grass
The Grass that fades.
Malin’s last words as they set off through the tunnel were Go Now or:
A hundred centuries hence
The gross and aggressive will still
Be putting their trust in a patron
Saint or a family fortress
The seedy by taking the same
Old testaments for tedium vitae,
Religion, Politics, Love
What did Malin mean by that last word, Sarah wondered as she climbed up into the cellar. I love, my love. Each pilgrim had poured suggestions into Sarah and every Pilgrim had one requirement of his own to present to the supposed masters of the world. Sarah’s was that children should all have safety. Caroline’s would be something on woman’s rights. The gays would insist, well, on gays. Sally would want some other sexual freedoms. Who was to go in first? The ladies (the wives) had thought the men might want some serious conversation and had retired to an upstairs sitting room and Hubert the Butler had taken them there. The two Lords/Saints he had taken into the drawing room and the brandies and the ports and whiskey (good malts). They had a recently warmed pot of coffee. They were in shirt sleeves. Their jackets were over chairs by the table. Their pagers and mobiles were there. They were relaxed in two easy chairs. Neither smoked.
There were three entrances. The double main doors opened and two crusading knights in chains with drawn swords entered followed by a Bishop. The two crusaders whisked up the two jackets and stood by the other doors while the third knight entered behind the bishop to guard the main door.
‘I am Adhemar de Monteil, Bishop of Le Pay appointed by the unknown pope to lead the crusaders. I died at Antioch. I have come to tell you crusading is wrong. Saints such as yourselves are a mistake and you as world leaders must confess that and change the course of human history for this new millennium. There is a statement to be signed and much work to be done.’ Theo sat amazed but Peter jumped for his jacket and his pager but they had been slipped out of the room. There was a bell for the butler who somewhat to his surprise entered: Call security at the Lodge and get those mad men out. ‘They are your guests,’ replied Hubert, ‘you must show them out. Security, Sir, I believe have taken the night off.’ He went over and placed a log on the fire. And then to the door held open by the knight and went out.
The door was held open, to let in the twelve drummers who marched into the room followed by the eleven pipers, they stood encircling T.P. and P.M. There was a drum roll (not too loud - don’t disturb them at the lodge) and then the pipers played the Londonderry Air. ‘I suppose it’s a surprise party of some sort,’ said P.M. sitting down unsure what to do. In came ten mediaeval ladies, beautifully dressed, bare shoulders, their cleavage showing and moved elegantly round. The ten lords accompanied them and the ladies danced with them to the pipers’ tunes bowing and curtsying to the two men. In then came the maids as the music stopped not dressed as maids but elegant in varied modern dress - some long, some short, some exotic, some very sexy (Sally), some quite demure, all seeming unaffected and Sarah the demure gave a final curtsy to the two ‘world leaders’ and, joyous, said: ‘You achieved power and position by political manoeuvring and chicanery. You are not what you claim: representatives of the people. You are political power men. The imaged men. The spin men. You know the corruptness of the West. The priorities of its political systems. The indecency of its industrial giant. The meanness of its bankers. These myths and notions of the last millennium are time expired and you must change them.
‘Are these statements true or false?’
P.M. laughed ‘They are very simplistic.’ A piper stepped up and read in an excellent imitation voice of the President the speech (Supra Vide) he had made to the convention inauguration which had nominated him as Presidential Candidate. ‘We are the greatest nation in the world...’ but each sentence was interrupted... by hoots from the Pilgrims ‘no you’re not you’re thieves and rascals you treat the rest of the world like it’s your empire. Your rich are filthy rich your poor are outrageously neglected. Greatest Nation in the World. You are the dregs... from hope.’
It was easy to lambast every part of T.P.’s speech not with a political opposite but with its very ridiculousness and when offered a further large whiskey by a laughing Caroline T.P. found himself laughing a bit shamefacedly.
P.M.’s speeches were more subtle, a masterly correctness hiding no commitment. They sounded really earnest and were not clownable. So there had to be an alternative. Now on the table a bar was set and up came a young man who was wearing a face mask. P.M. realised it was of his own face. And then into the room stumbled an old man. Peter Marshall was, well - taken aback. Good Lord it looked like his retired agent Jim Parker! P.M.’s double said exactly what he’d said when they first met: ‘Of course you’ve been a bit unlucky having old Jarvis - bit of a dead weight really.’ Then Jim Parker - Good God it really was him - weighed in with ‘Better than this young shit listen what he says next...’, ‘Have to go a bit slow on the old party image,’ says the double. God he’d got his (P.M.’s ) voice so right and Jim Parker was coming in with ‘He meant destroying and ignoring any principles that the party had ever had.’ Peter Marshall looked round. God! They had a camera on the scene. (And Tim was wiring it straight out on a line through the tunnel.)
Then this beautiful statuesque girl was at them again saying: here is our manifesto and round whirled the dancers, male and female, each delivering a line from the manifesto:
Under Green Grass
The Grass that fades.
‘And on the table here are two copies for you to sign and then there is this statement. You know the first two paragraphs. “You achieved power by political manoeuvery...” and “You know the corruptest of the West...”. Now for your third paragraph:
‘We solemnly declare that we must now change our personal behaviour and styles and we change ourselves with new Acts. We must work truly for One World. We the rich must really care world-wide for our poor. Bring every nation to the state we enjoy. We must disable the power brokers of our society. We must break the power of media moguls and utterly reform our political systems.’ Sarah declaimed it firmly.
‘A manifesto and that document to sign. Have either of you got the spunk?’ said the bearded Sir Maximus Flint (one of the knights) and the Bishop Adhemar bussled up to both with a pen for each which he slipped into their shirt pockets. And then sung a doggerel:
Forget the party line
You are both a mess
On the line
They whirled Peter M. into the next room while Sarah gave Theo her arm and stepped round the room ‘a quadrille’, she said.
The wives not forgotten, Hubert had made a delicate call. ‘Some singers are entertaining your husbands. I’ll send them up to show you the way down.’ And these few handsome young men, two with guitars, sang the ladies sweet songs:
You’d be so nice to come home to
It’d be so nice by the fire...
‘Your husbands asked us to serenade you. They are about to sign a manifesto - you must sing them a little ditty.’
A slow quadrille and Sarah talking to him all the time, ‘You’ll never be forgotten - the first politician ever to be honest and persuading Peter to sign too. What an occasion! You’ll never be forgotten.’
‘Peter will never sign.’
‘He will if you will. You lead, he follows. You’re not a man to spoil our party tonight. It’s a party for you you know. It’s fun it’s original it’s you your real personality shining through. Usquebaugh!’ she said. ‘What the hell’s that mean?’ ‘Whiskey,’ she said, offering him another tumbler and they were by the table she curtsied he took the glass he drained it. She bowed to him she pulled the pen out of his shirt and he signed.
And Peter saw; brought back into the room just at that moment. And the wives, you must never forget the wives, Fleur and the other (forgot her name for the moment) sing with four gay men ‘Sign Sign on the line line. It’ll be fine.’ And then Caroline beside him ‘Usquebaugh’ and giving him a glass, he drained it and the bishop with his crook: ‘You are a Christian it is your duty to God.’ And ‘You wouldn’t want to separate yourself from the President.’ He signed.
And the drumming once more - the dancing began again and there came champagne. And out over the ‘wires’ went the news of the manifestos and the film of the two, T.P. and P.M. signing. Europe might be mostly sleeping but America was awake, awakened and astonished. ‘We’ve been to your party,’ said Sarah, ‘for this has been your party and now you’re coming to ours and P.M. found himself led down to the cellars crammed into a little hutch shot along a strange channel hauled up some steps and settled into a limousine with T.P., Wendy, Fleur. Later in the same night the same limousine would slick up to the Lodge Gates of Chequers and an astonished security team would admit the President the Prime Minister and their wives all seemingly somewhat inebriated.
But before that to the Party. And what a friendly crowd they were thought T.P., quite a few Americans, he even heard a good ole Southern accent. Most of the fancy dress seemed to have gone although the girls were still looking (watch it T.P.) looking - well just good. And here they all were forming a circle round him and the girl Caroline approaching him with an elegant goblet. ‘We are giving you a glass of the water of life,’ she said, ‘Something that Many have wished to Drink. The Water of Life - Usquebaugh.’ T.P. took the goblet and swigged - seemed damn good whiskey. But he didn’t mind what they called it.
(1) ‘Bullshit’ O.k. at the convention, not at the inauguration...
(2) They can afford to. It has been worked out.
Martin Bax is a Consultant Paediatrician and medical editor, as well as running Ambit. He is author of 6 novels, including The Hospital Ship (Picador).
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