Mr Scrooge’s blog February 27th

Mistakes can happen.

I remember when Mr Sickens sent me to the guillotine on page 233 before he realised it was the wrong day of the week; he was writing ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ on Thursdays, ‘A C*r*s*m*s Carol’ on Tuesdays.

I still get twinges in my neck at the thought of it. I’m so glad I managed to burrow my way out of Victorian Literature and into the twenty-first century, although sometimes there doesn’t seem to be too much difference.

As for the Oscars, how do you think I felt when La La Land was announced the winner? I’d staked a whole ingot on Moonlight.

At least they confessed that it was the wrong envelope. 2016 was a year of mistakes it was far too embarrassing to put right.

It’s a little-known alternative fact that Remain beat Leave 8.4% to 2.5% with 89.1% voting for an immediate invasion of mainland Europe – somebody mis-read the figures and by the time they realised, Mrs May was already Brexit-means-Brexiting all over the front pages; that several million spoilt ballot papers voting for Donald Duck were counted as votes for Trump; and that two-thirds of those dead celebrities are still living , condemned to a state of non-existence by over-excited headlines. Once the florid obituaries were published and the distraught fans had shed bucket-loads of tears on Sky news and the posthumous awards were awarded posthumously, nobody had the courage to come forward and say, ‘I had a slight cough, that was all.’

It’s all turned out well in the end. Of course I had a spot bet on Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway being handed the wrong envelope. I got VERY good odds on that. It pays to have inside information, whether you’re betting on a pie-eating goalie or the start-date of World War III.

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Mr Scrooge’s blog February 22nd

Baron Barrelbelly, Lord Richman of Moneybury and Lady Avaricia had just popped into the House of Lords to collect their attendance fee before meeting me for a drink.

‘The place was full of people talking about Brexit,’ said Lady Avaricia. ‘I’ve tried to explain to them that all they need to do is show their faces and ask for their money but some of them insist on debating things.’

‘Yes, they’re a strange lot some of them,’ said the Baron

‘Personally, I’ve lost interest in Brexit,’ said Lord Richman. ‘I thought that once we’d liberated ourselves from Brussels we could bring back feudalism but apparently not. I’d never have accepted a peerage if I’d have known I was going to slave away getting my butler to write speeches for me.’

‘Ah,’ said Baron Barrelbelly, ‘some of my friends in government think we might manage it by the back door. While the peasantry are too busy skipping through the Sky TV channels on their giant flatscreens to notice, we can propose a bill to abolish the House of Commons.’

‘You mean, the Commons will self-abolish? Are you sure they’d vote for that?’ asked Lady Avaricia.

‘Oh, they’ll be so fed up with debating Brexit and State Visits and People’s Petitions by then, they’ll do anything to escape, provided we offer them huge pension entitlements.’

‘In fact we could have a referendum. People are always saying that they want to get rid of politicians, so the result wouldn’t be in doubt. And there are very few MPs who are willing to follow their own beliefs and go against the Will of the People.’

‘And then the House of Lords will be the ultimate power in the land!’

‘We can bring back Droit de Seigneur and Compulsory Forelock-Tugging and Aristocratic Incest and the Divine Right of Landowners.’

‘What do you think, Scrooge, old boy? Oh, he’s vanished.’

I’d finished my luxury whisky-and-gin-infused gruel by that time and slid out of the door before I was asked to share in the bill.

I hurried past the House of Lords. I could hear voices echoing: ‘Brexit … Brussels … Britain … Brindependence …  Breconomic Bruicide … Bree Brade Brabreements … Brabrendments …’

Their brains were all being gradually brexitised.

Jo the crossing sweeper’s blog February 17th:

‘If Trump can do it, so can I.’

He paused.

‘Prunella Pridescombe, joined the angels 1826. I don’t like that question. Go back into your coffin. Lie down and shut up!’ he castigated.

‘Zebadiah Cobblewood, passed away 1853, which paper are you with? Are you a friendly journalist? Or are you a Centre-Left Snowflake?’ he harangued.

I’d been asleep on a tomb when I’d heard him enter the graveyard, a bearded man. At first I thought he was another tramp. Or was he JC…? Yes, it was the Leader of the Opposition who’d come here to find some peace outside Parliament. He was turning to different headstones, practising his press conference technique, channelling Trump.

‘Vernon Crockle, fell to sleep 1822, you’re an enemy of the people. If the Tories are in government for the next millennium, we’ll know whose fault it is. I know who you are!’ he ranted.

‘Francis Doublecrotch, went to a better place, 1798. The Mail? Hah! (No, I need more sneer. Imagine I’m looking straight at Paul Dacre) The Mail? Hah!!!  You’re the ones that print pop-eyed photos of me that make me look crazy,’ he raved.

‘Martin Basilisk, met his maker 1791, you’re not honest. You don’t have good ratings. Nobody reads you. Why should I talk to you? The public is smart. Everybody knows the BBC is biased against me,’ he blustered.

‘Victoria Queenleigh, gone to Abraham’s bosom, 1811. The press should be ashamed of themselves. It’s all fake news. (Repeat three times.) It’s been a very successful year for Labour so far. It’s been fantastic. I’m fantastic. I’m the most fantastic Leader of the Opposition there’s ever been,’ he vociferated.

Suddenly he seemed to shrink into himself. ‘

‘Are you all right?’ I asked anxiously.

He turned a kindly face towards me. ‘They told me to be more like Trump, to ride the tide of populism. I thought I’d come here and practise. It’s easier talking to the dead than to the Parliamentary Labour Party. But I can’t do it. I’m the wrong sort of populist. I’m not even orange.’

‘But I don’t want you to change,’ I said. ‘I like you the way you are. You’re not fake. I suppose that’s the problem – you’re out of step with the times.’

He smiled. ‘Thank you, young man. I wish everybody felt like that. I’ve been banned from Stoke until after the by election. Apparently, I’m not a “plus on the doorstep”. I’m just a division sign.’

‘But you’ve made me feel better. I’m not resigning until the party loses every seat it has. Then I might have to …’

He passed me a jar of home-made jam. ‘Here have this  –  you look a bit peaky.’

He shook my hand and walked out with new vigour through the cemetery gate. As he did so, two figures rose from behind the headstones and followed him like two ghosts. One was tall and cadaverous, the other was super-tanned and beady-eyed. A zombie and a goblin.

There was something ominous and threatening in the way they moved and they trailed inky shadows. But no, they weren’t supernatural beings. They were Mandelson and Blair, risen from the political dead.

Mr Pickwick’s blog February 9th

‘Three hundred and twenty-two said “MIGHT or MIGHT NOT” be able to stay’

I looked at the Romanian waiter who was serving me coffee. ‘What?’

He had to explain, I’m not well-informed on the news these days.  I’ve been setting all my devices to shut down automatically as soon as the word ‘Brexit’ is about to be mentioned. My laptop is programmed to explode if I accidentally log on to a website that includes certain key names: May, Farage, Boris or Trump. I’ve used the remains of the previous 55 exploded laptops as fertiliser on the garden. Mr Scrooge recommended it; he said something I didn’t understand about horse manure but I took his advice anyway.

Using impeccable syntax  –  he’s a foreigner, so he’s learnt English properly  –  he told me about the vote in Parliament.

‘Don’t take it personally,’ I said. ‘It’s the will of the people, that’s all. They just want to get rid of you.’

‘Why?’

‘Well, I suppose they don’t like having you here. But it’s nothing personal.’

He looked shiftily around. ‘That’s why I put slow-acting poison in the coffee,’ he said. ‘I know a Spanish pharmacist who gives laxatives instead of antibiotics to any British clients.

‘A Polish builder whose houses look good but are all programmed to collapse in March 2019 when the concrete degrades to jelly.

‘An Italian pizza-maker who invites local children to see how he makes pizza in his wood-burning oven. ‘Look at the pretty flames. Ooops!’

‘A Lithuanian mechanic who’s sabotaged the brakes of half the cars in Sunderland.

‘A Czech lawyer who’s had great success at getting his clients sent down for murder when they thought they were in court for a parking offence. It’s nothing personal.

‘We might have to leave but we’ll make sure we take your infrastructure down before we go!’

I pushed my coffee to one side.

‘It’s all right, Mr Pickwick,’ he said. ‘I’m only joking. I’ve been here too long, I’ve got a British sense of humour. Ha ha.’

He looked around darkly. ‘But if any of those three-hundred-and-twenty-two MPs come in here for a cappuccino… The strychnine is ready.’

All the same, I didn’t drink any more coffee and I came home to ask Mrs Pickwick to get out the stomach pump.

BANG!!!

Oh, that was the 56th laptop. I don’t know if it was Brexit or Trump that did the damage but it’s gone up in a starburst of detonated pixels and splintered megabytes.

Mr Pickwick’s blog February 6th

Dear Mr Scrooge is on the front pages today. Someone has leaked all his e-mails.

I had no idea that he could be so mean. He’s not only refused to give to charities, he’s charged them for time spent dodging into sewers to avoid chuggers, slamming the portcullis in the face of door-to-door collectors, manufacturing toilet paper out of leaflets pushed through his letterbox and devising suitable responses to cold callers such as blasting high-frequency sounds down the telephone. ‘There’s nothing like a bleeding ear-drum for discouraging professional beggars,’ he is supposed to have written.

I think the e-mails must have been doctored in some way. The poor man is being falsely denigrated.

I admire his spirit. Despite his troubles, he was grinning all over his face when I met him.

‘Aren’t you worried about your reputation?’ I asked.

He began polishing the medal he wears round his neck (he says he got it for Distinguished Corruption from the Dishonourable Company of Skinflints and Scavengers, ha ha, but I’m sure it was for charitable giving to the Company. Some of his skinflint friends are incredibly skinny and undernourished. Anyone would think they lived on gruel all year.)

‘My reputation has never been higher,’ he said. ‘I’ve been receiving messages of congratulation from fellow skinflints and cheapskates all day.’

Mr Scrooge’s blog February 3rd

The countryside!

Sheeplitudes of sheep, ranchfuls of cows, beechgroves of birches, gallons of rivers and lakes, warrenfuls of rabbits and denfuls of foxes and settfuls of badgers, forestrations of squiwuls,  meadowacres of orkwids and diazies, valleymarshes of hillfens, twitterings of tweety-tweet-tweets, poletads and backlesticks, buzzswarms of swasps and beezles and bufflepies …

It’s inexhaustible!

Land everywhere!!

I love it!!!

ScroogeKonstrukshun is planning at this moment how to re-launch the countryside. Here are some publicity ideas that we’re considering:

Put down your roots in a piece of ancient woodland.

Commemorate a meadow by naming your family home ‘Buttercup Lodge’.

Impress your friends by adding ‘former National Park’ to your address.

Earn extra income by selling access to your garden to allow scientists to study the last Red-warted crested toad in existence before your three-year-old crushes it under her tricycle.

Loosen the Green Belt a few notches, let the urban waistline expand.

Show Nature who’s boss by setting up home on a floodplain.

Do your bit to stop cruel sports by buying into an apartment block in the path of the local hunt.

Reverse the depopulation of rural communities by building a city there.

Help the poor farmers who can’t make a living now the supermarket chains won’t pay them a fair price for a radish. After all who’s going to need high-grade agricultural land after Brexit when we’ll have the vast American prairies to supply our needs, thanks to kind Mr Trump?

Protect the countryside from the wildlife that nibble and gnaw and burrow into it.

Dare to think concrete.

We have a kit of ready-made insults for anyone who stands in the way of progress. Nimby. Snowflake. Luddite. Long-haired hippie tree-hugger.

ScroogeKonstrukshun has high ideals of high profit achievement and high-price affordable housing.

I can’t see a field of cabbages without salivating.

Of course we won’t be completely environmentally irresponsible. We’ll make sure that enough of the open countryside is left to enable ease of fracking.

Mr Scrooge’s blog February 1st

I’m not envious of Mrs May but I would like to point out that I too held Donzie-wonzie’s hand while he was negotiating a slope. ‘Ebenezer,’ he said, ‘could you help me down this gradient.’ Now if I’d been Hillary Clinton, I might have kicked him down it but being a British aficionado of US dollars I gave him my support. Doubtless Mrs May felt the same way.

As for Envy, it’s a close second favourite to the big ‘A’ among the Seven Deadly Sins. But Gluttony is a dreadful waste of money when you can subsist quite happily on tepid gruel. And Sloth is something reserved for upbraiding Cratchits when they fall asleep at their work at the end of a hundred-and-sixty-eight–hour week. I’m all in favour of replacing Gluttony and Sloth with qualities I’m totally behind such as Cruelty and Sociopathic Narcissism. Then I could possess the full set!

But I’m not envious of Donald’s gold-plated tower or the ride in a gold coach he’s been offered in exchange for agreeing to screw the country in a trade deal. I have my own gold coach constructed out of ingots in a secret part of the hovel. I often retreat inside it and meditate. I feel the spiritual vibrations it emits of Wealth and  Power soothing my poor tormented miser’s soul. Originally I intended it to be drawn by six gold stallions but they unfortunately kicked the Cratchits to the ground as they were spray-painting them and escaped, so now it’s stationary. If you see a piebald equine with glittering hindquarters out on the moors, it’s one of mine

Right now, I’m sorting through my passports. Over time I’ve found it useful in my business dealings to hold a number of nationalities; I’ve bought, begged or borrowed every identity from Azerbaijani to a naturalised citizen of Planet Zurg. Donzie-wonzie has just made life more difficult  –  if I accidentally present the wrong one, I could find myself on the wrong side of a cell door in Guantanamo. I hear that the previous president left it with more vacancies than a Skegness B&B in November.

Donald’s refusal to allow terrorists into his country is a logical move. From now on any school shootings, police shootings or Mafia-style shootings will be pure all-American affairs. He doesn’t want outsiders muscling in on a traditional folk activity.

I’m not sure he’s targeting the right people though. Some of the men sitting round the Presidential table look more dangerous than that Iraqi interpreter who helped the US military or that Syrian family who were bombed out of their apartment block by friend Putin or that Iranian Google tech person who was about to create the latest magic algorithm.

But as a long-established enthusiastic misanthrope, I admit I’m very envious of his powers of adding to the misery in the world.

Lady Dedlock’s blog January29th continued from the 27th

Theresa invited me to meet her for breakfast. In her room, of course, downstairs would have been impossible. The heavy curtains were drawn  –  ‘telephoto lenses’ she explained  –  and we picked at our buttered lightly-golden toast in the gloom.

We’d got on so well the night before but the morning papers had unsettled me.

‘Your look-alike’s been finding herself in some predicaments,’ I said.

She frowned. ‘Oh, you mean getting herself confused with a porn star. No lasting damage. Nobody really pictures me in bondage gear.’

‘No,’ I said, ‘I was referring to … Well, holding hands with a man who’d just advocated torture. She must have wondered when he grabbed her hand what else he might grab! And then going off to sell military planes to someone with a penchant for bombing the Kurds. And arranging a Trump state visit just when he’s in full banning, deporting, wall-building, waterboarding and icesheet-melting mode. You must be glad your look-alike’s coming home before she gives your enemies in the press any more ammunition.’

‘As long as The Sun and The Mail are happy.’ She sipped her tea.

I imagined what my life would have been like if I’d had a look-alike. One Lady Dedlock for my husband and one Honoria for my lover.  But which who for what?

I suddenly had a suspicion. I got up and dramatically drew back the curtains. Light flooded the room. I stared into her face as she wiped a crumb of Danish from her lip.

‘YOU! You’re the look-alike!’

‘Nonsense!’ But her leather trousers crossed and uncrossed themselves with a creak, a little tic that betrayed her.

‘She’s using you to use me, isn’t she! If everything goes pear-shaped, if Trump self-combusts, if Erdogan invades Greece, if Brexit means Brexonomic suicide, if the just-about-managing can’t manage any more, she’ll turn around and say, “It wasn’t me! Lady Dedlock knows! Ask her! My look-alike went rogue.” You’re her get-out card, kept here in this sad hotel while she swans around dabbling sweaty palms with problematic Presidents.’

She rose calmly and went to close the curtains again.

‘Perhaps you’re right,’ she said. ‘Who knows? Perhaps I’m a manifestation of her conscience, sitting here confessing to you, Honoria. Perhaps she’s a made-in-Japan animatronic British PM, designed by a computer that’s been fed data based on Margaret Thatcher, Queen Victoria and Teresa May. Perhaps Trump is a scrawny little man wearing a Disney costume, a big friendly bear with a chronic dysfunction. Perhaps Vladimir Putin is a cardboard cut-out. Perhaps Jeremy Corbyn is a time-traveller from the 1950s. Perhaps the media have invented us all.

‘We’re all figments.’

I ran out of the room screaming. It was too much. I wanted to be back in a Dickens novel.

Mr Scrooge’s blog January 28th

Losing American support for Nato wouldn’t bother me. Mr Putin would have the Dishonourable Division of Skinflints to deal with. I can call up volunteers from hovels and dank caves and garrets and cellars and counting houses of brothels and subterranean warrens all over Europe. They’d flock to the tattered flag – black, slightly gruel-stained, with a vulture rampant  –  bringing their muskets and pitchforks and can-openers.

We’d sing ‘The Anthem of the Avaricious’ as we hobbled into battle, a glorious croak of a song that would scatter the enemy as soon as they heard it. I have to admit we don’t have much actual fighting experience. It’s more our style to scout around after the fighting to scavenge for anything of value we can pick off the dead. Harry Hogswill once found an explicit love letter to Queen Victoria in the inner pocket of the uniform of a grenadier guard  –  it was the nineteenth century equivalent of a sex tape. He was all set to blackmail her for the rest of her reign until he realised the guard had a double life as a writer of erotica and the ‘letter’ was a chapter from ‘The Grumpy Queen and the Gartered Grenadier’.

But if needs be, we’ll fight off any invaders. The Harpagon Legion will attack on the left flank, the Volpone Regiment on the right and the Malbecco Corps in the centre. Brian Clutchwallet will swing his moneybags, battering whole divisions down in one giant blow.  The L’escrôges will catapult ripe blue cheeses into the middle of their ranks to overcome them with the fumes. The front lines of the enemy will fall choking to the ground as Phlegmy Katie Lovelucre splutters over them.

The Scrooge Platoon (me) may well hang back. I don’t like to put myself in any more danger than necessary. It’s bad for my health. But if things go badly, I’ll challenge Vladimir to single combat. He may ride around bare-chested, wrestle with bears and sing the Volga Boat Song in a manly baritone but I have a few Thai kick-boxing moves he won’t be expecting.

Of course it won’t come to that. All I have to do is shout ‘Putin’s after your Gold’ and the Skinflints will fight claw and fang till the last drop of gruel in their veins.

Lady Dedlock’s blog January 27th

Although I spend most of my time flitting about London at night in a long cloak surrounded by my own personal fog of sadness, misery and desperation, I also book in on occasion to a discreet hotel for distressed gentlewomen whose location I do not intend to reveal.

Last night, I was surprised to meet another lady on the stairs. Her trousers creaked slightly as we passed and I gasped, ‘Theresa! But you’re … You’re in the USA! How …? Why …? What ..?’

Later, sitting over a non-alcoholic cocktail, she explained. ‘I sent the look-alike. I couldn’t bear the thought of actually meeting that man myself.’

‘Yes, he has terrible views on women and tort…,’ I began.

‘No, it’s not that. Yes, he’s rather old-fashioned on enhanced interrogation. I mean, even the Church of England doesn’t approve of torture except in the case of Roman Catholics.’

‘But … Look-alike? I didn’t know …’

‘Oh yes, the whole front bench has got look-alikes. It saves us from some of the boring things a politician has to do, like answering that silly bearded man’s questions every Wednesday. Tony Blair wanted to have clones in his day but he was always trying to be modern. Imagine the risks of creating clones of Boris –  they’d be off rampaging over the whole globe or else demanding every other cabinet job for themselves.’

‘But it must be difficult. Isn’t Boris unique? How do you find a look-alike for him?’

‘That’s an easy one. We use character actors from radio 4 sitcoms. They can do him to a T. David Davies suggested to me, in confidence, that we might actually have Boris assassinated ( Ian Hislop is up for the job) and save ourselves a lot of embarrassment by letting the look-alike get on with being a proper diplomatic Foreign Secretary.

‘Michael Gove was apparently quite hard to find; it’s not that he was hard to imitate but nobody wanted to be him. David had to pay over the top for Rory Bremner.

‘On the whole it’s a very good system. Our speeches are all written for us anyway, even the ‘off-the-cuff’ jokes. So my look-alike can address Congress for me while I actually have some time alone to think.’

‘But you haven’t explained. Why didn’t you want to meet Donald Trump?’

She leaned across and touched my knee, giggling.

‘Between us girls,’ she said, ‘I don’t think I could have stopped myself laughing at his hair-do.’