LIFE, THE UNIVERSE AND GOATS
Wednesday 14th June Northanger Abbey Road off Whitehall
Life! Strictest of disciplinarians. Taut talons plucking Archie from a mire of obscurity and dropping him nose-splat in a dungheap of heroism.
No-one who slaps eyes on the runt from sprogging will suppose him suckled a New New New Labour hero.
A cold comfort farm litter of one, thin awkward figure, piggy skin of yellow and weak features — so much for his person — and not unfertilised for heroism seems his mind. For Archie kindles not a twit of his parents’ talent for public service. Aspires not their shining public bushels.
A low spark as fairy atop the Christmas tree, or sacrificial lamb in the Nativity play, lack of inches, brain, hair, the predilections of father and mother swing equally against.
Father practises the laying on of hands as Bishop of Lower Springwood without being neglected or poor. A respectable man but with a name of Gordon. A man given to the pursuit of sadomasochism. A man of girth. Generosity. And not in the least bit addicted to locking up his son.
The lonely only forgotten begotten son.
Mother serves the community as a White Witch — highly respectable in the modern Church of England. A woman of plain sense. She burns beacon-like on the radical wing of the Women’s Institute. The church press, glowing in its high praise, calls her a lay-lady of leading light who goose-marches in the avant-Gestapo-est of circles.
How appalling for the Good Author to report Archie the loneliest lamb-i-kins in Christendom. Not a wit inspired for New-Age heroism of the woolliest Labour kind. Fond of all girls’ plays and greatly preferring dolls to guns or cricket. Compelling father, if reason be needed, to pen the lamb promptly for public school — a suitable knocking shop where the lamb can earn his stripes.
The Lamb of the Family Loins fails to grasp the bones of Life. Greek. Latin. Fagging. And to reward such stunning mediocrity he is grilled for a career in the Civil Service.
The Gentle Reader may bet a bottom buck on the mature Archie boring a hole into the legs of the deadwood ranks to happily hibernate but for that too too cruel mistress — Life!
Gentle Reader, we warp our minds forward to a wicked decade. When that cunning fox el Presidenté Tony Blair rudely rages democracy on hot air, sea and land. Poodle-in-Chief of the Mad Axis Forces. Smarting rose-fresh from good hunting in the Iranian and North Korean oilfields. And on the home front under forests and national parks. A fifth whack at democracy. Rank, satanic, heady days when scandals of Sex and Favour run rife. Comes to mind the Majorist, most sordid of a myriad of murky scandals. So stiffen the sinews and garter the groins for a sorry tale of treason, treachery, sexual depravity, betrayal, injustice and all the other admirable traits that elevate the Englishman to the eyes of a wondrous world.
The best of times for a spawning of government spin doctors. For New New New Labour bends to privatise Her Majesty’s prisons.
(And a grateful nation responds with a generous show of apathy.)
Home Secretary Straw-Boot, secretly a bastard rebel, seeking to scupper the plan before he is appointed a spot of proper work, and seeking a sacrificial goat.
(A wholly bizarre, woolly coincidence for Archie’s mother remains famously partial to a sacrificial goat.)
Gentle Reader, we fly to a bog in the bottom bucket of a greasy building deep in the bombfields of the heavily condemned Northanger Abbey. The Queen’s lowest grade civil servant the singular Archie skiving the day dram by dram. Hip-flask of firewater for a sacrament. Daily Trumpet for a Gideons’ Bible. Swig swig. Rustle rustle. A soulless shrine to religious chilling.
Strictly in the lines of duty and hands full of a case of cocaine Home Secretary Straw-Boot crashes the cubicle next door, nose to the grindstone, a man in a rush, skis the slippery slope of soap <—> a blow for the nation <—> but Archie is on hand <—> the nation relieved <—> and Home Secretary Straw-Boot relieved to free groinal truss from hot water pipe.
What better avant-garde revenant adventurer — Home Secretary Straw-Boot leaks to a life-raft of listeners to Radio Whitehall Village — to float the nation’s penal policy in the sinking-ship century? What better unheralded hero to blow the whistle — at the wheel — on the poop deck — at the helm — of a flagship — the very first privatised prison?
Three cheers for Captain Archie!
Free red light warning: beware the Vicebergs of Life:
On the backs of blessings greatest
Burdens heaviest hitch a ride
[Editor: The publishers have asked me to point out how they do not promote the practice of hanging about public toilets. Notwithstanding, if you feel yourself drawn to this activity, ring the number printed on the inside cover and we’ll chat.]
The slow lingering torture of Life.
Archie arches red eyes to a tent of blue <—> Strange that the sun should be blasting for a first fart in a month of dog days <—> Shafts of pain poleaxe the spine <—> Pain racks your frame from backflap to sternum <—> The morning ritual begins <—> The first exercise of the day Tail grants to Trunk <—>
Soul and the peachiest parts perfectly attuned in pain <—>
Pain <—> Cold stabbing pain <—> A personal octopus stretching poisonous tentacles to tickle the tips of your fingers and toes <—> Every cell corrupted with bad electricity <—> The devil’s harpoon drives pain through paper skin, bad bone and clotted marrow <—> down the spine and back again <—> tingling along fibrous wires <—> an inner network of nerve-endings alive <—> on fire! <—>
Flushing hot like Hell <—> Perishing dungeon-cold <—> Scratching without <—> Itching within <—> Piercing sharping needles fizzing the skin <—>
Here lies the gerbolic Governor of Springwood Gaol.
Shiv-er-ing and shaking <—> pinched and gripped at the shoulders and arms <—> trying so hard to control the spasms <—> to lie at peace and at one with the world <—> When from a volcano rips a molten ball of lava to smash through the walls of his stomach and scorch a train of bullets behind <—> Shot and numb with poison rolls Archie to suck on the pillow <—> Ow-wee! <—> Oh how he wishes the quaking will go! <—> God’s morning infliction <—> Curse of the half-dead <—> A conspiracy against those souls wicked from a past Life <—>
For the sport. For the Hell of it.
Under the marital counterpane toes throb to the pulse of poison <—> God reaps a ribald revenge <—> A lump of raw Logic and Life’s lashings makes sense <—> Reality is a curse succoured by the gods to those souls wicked from a past Life.
And conspired against in this Life.