The Henchman

Benny ‘Biceps’ Bison, was it really him? Yes it had to be, even bigger than when he was in sixth form, but if there was any doubt in Julian’s mind that he had spotted Benny on his first visit to this new gym, it was dispelled when Benny extricated himself from some weird contraption and came striding over.

‘Hey Julie Ringlets, what brings you here? No need to ask what you are doing these days, you’re never off the news.’

Julian Ringlington, MP, new Minister for Levelling Down, forced a tight smile, perhaps it was not that great seeing Benny again.

‘Long time no see Benjamin, how are you these days?’

‘Never better, but what Are you doing here.’

‘Oh erm, looking round, thinking of changing gyms, is it good here, are you a regular?’

Julian had already decided this was one gym to avoid.

‘You could say that, I own it.’

After a comprehensive tour of the gym with Benny introducing every incomprehensible piece of computer controlled equipment, Julian found himself upstairs in the designer health bar sipping a green smoothie.

‘So Jules, how many ministries have you had this year? Wonder you could get out your front door with all those climate protesters when you were minister for the Environment, now every mob seems to be attacking you. Do you actually enjoy being a politician?

‘I would if I got a chance to make a difference and put all my ideas into action. Between press and protesters I feel I can hardly breathe, let alone speak.’

Julian wondered what was in the green smoothie that had loosened his tongue to confide in Ben, but then Benjamin Bison had been his best friend at school, or the closest thing he had to a friend at school.

Look Jules, I have had an amazing idea, we were always a good team at school, remember that time they were going to flush your head down the lav?’

Julian was hardly likely to forget, one of the many times Benny had rescued him.

‘What you need is a henchman; in my case a sort of cross between a personal trainer and a bodyguard, with a few more tricks up my sleeve than your security chaps are allowed.’

 Julian Ringlington was unsure exactly what the Portfolio for Minister for Levelling Down covered, but with a new found confidence he ploughed his own path and was soon in great demand on high and low brow radio and television.

‘…so that is why we are giving everyone living alone on a tight budget a dog. A dog on the sofa and the foot of your bed keeps you far warmer than an electric blanket or the gas fired central heating.’

‘And where will you get all the dogs from?’

‘Rescue centres are overfull, all the puppies people bought during lockdown and got fed up with. The dogs will be happy and it will also be good for the mental health of their new owners, keep them out of the doctors’ surgeries. It’s all win win.’

‘…so we intend to close down all schools for the winter and return to on line teaching, saving on staff costs and heating bills for school buildings.’

‘But then families will need to keep their heating on longer if the children are at home and they will miss out on school lunches.

‘No problem, the whole family can go to the free warm hubs and enjoy community meals.’

‘Can you guarantee enough of these hubs?’

‘Of course, we will be using all the empty school buildings…’

As more and more press and public gathered wherever Julian went, his new private secretary Benjamin Bison was at his side, parting the crowds like Moses and the Red Sea, ‘accidentally’ treading on toes or knocking large news  camera lens askew. Among press and politicians alike there was covert concern as to who this Benjamin Bison was, but everyone was too scared to enquire.


Exchanges with strangers used to be mostly about the weather; now as you pass someone walking by the river they are likely to look up from their phone and say ‘Chancellor’s gone’ or ‘She’s resigned then.’ In the queue at the supermarket you will not hear ‘Why can’t they open another till’ but ‘…talk about revolving doors’ or ‘Well, we’ve got another Prime Minister.’

Revolving doors or the usual wooden black door, Number 10 Downing Street must be the most watched door in the country, perhaps in the whole world. If you see a long shot down the short street, or a news camera pans round, you will see banks of cameras and reporters on the other side. One thing you don’t need to remember if you are Prime Minister is your door keys, but you do need to remember other things; slippers off, high heels on, speech notes, the lectern ( each Prime Minister apparently has their own ) and an overnight bag just in case you aren’t allowed back in.

There are many other doors under surveillance by the press. Any MP or minister likely to be resigning, sacked, promoted or reinstated will have the press outside their home. We can watch on breakfast television as they go out jogging or set off for parliament or Downing Street on their bikes or in their cars. One of the many reasons I have never gone into politics is that I would trip as I jogged away, wobble off my bike, or the car wouldn’t start in front of all those cameras. I also have enough trouble getting out of the front door under no pressure, having gone back upstairs at least three times and unlocked the door at least twice for something I’ve forgotten. Our great leaders may not be any good at running the country, but they do know how to get out of their front doors. They do not fiddle around with the door wide open tying up their trainers or pat their pockets ( in the case of the ladies, rummage around in their handbags in panic ) checking they have door keys, car keys, phone, wallet, loose change for the Big Issue man. Nor do they slide out backwards, crouching, trying to make sure the new puppy does not escape. They do not have to drag reluctant children with them who have to be dropped off at school on the way.

It would keep the press on their toes if, just as they asked a pertinent question such as ‘Will you still have a job at the end of today Minister?’ he or she pressed their palm to their forehead and fumbled with their keys to dash back indoors because they had forgotten their briefcase, to feed the cat, go to the loo, lock the back door… Or perhaps they would start to give a newsworthy answer just as their loved one came to the door with hugs and smoochy kisses to wish them luck and say they will still love them, even when they are no longer a Minister.

Forty Four Days – Digital Dialogue – 315

Well… what did she say?

Darling, you know that is confidential.

Yes, but you can tell your wife.

You know I can’t tell anyone, how many times have we had this conversation?

But these are strange times and you need someone to talk to, like Me. I bet Mama used to tell Papa a few snippets of her weekly audience.

No of course she did not, you know my Darling Mama took her holy vows and traditions seriously.

But you wouldn’t know would you, if she had told him he would never have let her down by giving the game away. So couldn’t you just tell me what you said to her? Just a little bit…

I said ‘Dear Oh Dear.’

That’s what they overheard you saying the other day.

It’s pretty much what I have said every time I have met the wretched woman. I did say more, but I’m sorry my Darling Cam Cams, you are never going to know. However, you can help me with my speech, I think it’s time I addressed the country again.

Yes, yes, you must… such a pity you can’t …well you would make a better job than the lot of them running the country.

I agree and perhaps… no no, I don’t want to be beheaded.

But that was only the first Charles, the second one they were jolly glad to have back again and so they will support you.

But he was only thirty, much younger even than Wills; I’m getting too old for all this business and I certainly didn’t think I would have to break in another Prime Minister so soon… unless I don’t have to because I abolish the office, just temporarily… oh damn it, why not go the whole hog and dismiss Parliament. Come on, let’s get that speech written; have you got your mobile handy? Call the BBC.

Apocadystolypsian Nightmare Now

Many of us, readers and writers alike, feel as if we are in a novel. All this can’t really be happening.

Caught up in minor and major medical dramas, our whole family’s normal life had already been put on hold last month, now it seems the whole world, or at least the human race, has been put on hold by The Virus. It is mainly good news for the planet and other species, except mountain gorillas, who have been told to self isolate as they could be vulnerable.

In my new role ( less than a fortnight ) as full time carer, the first week was spent with family still around and friends dropping in for coffee – though some were beginning to stay at home. Week Two of my confinement and everybody has to stay at home. We shouldn’t complain, there are people in war torn and flattened cities who have been confined for years, with no home, little food and bombs dropping on them.
But it is still the biggest national drama that has happened to most of us. The rules keep changing and depend on which country you live in. Those of you living in the USA will be fine as Donald Trump says it will blow over by Easter.

Less than a month ago, on our various hospital visits, everyone was using hand gel and I’m sure the rates of norovirus have gone down, but hardly anyone wore masks. The main entrance of the largest hospital was more like an airport, buzzing with life; 24 hour Costa, shops, Marks and Spencer café and shop. On the floor below was a large restaurant packed with staff and visitors on weekdays. I was mixing with far more people than I usually do. That week we were dealing with torrential downpours and high winds; one afternoon I insisted there was no need for anyone to come out to pick me up, what could be simpler than getting on one of the frequent buses from the hospital to the railway station? On arrival at the station it turned out there were no trains to Bournemouth due to a tree down on the line at Basingstoke. Fortunately a replacement bus was soon announced and I joined the surge of commuters boarding a comfortable double decker. Every seat was taken and in the dark and rain with the windows steamed up we had no idea where we were going. We did arrive at Bournemouth railway station in less than an hour, but had been in perfect virus catching conditions.

Now this week in Britain we are all being told to avoid public transport and keep two metres apart. Schools, restaurants and pubs are closed. We should only leave the house for certain reasons, though we don’t have to carry a permission slip yet. The rules are getting clearer, or are they? The children of key workers would still be allowed to go to school, but the list of key workers is long and which schools had enough teachers who weren’t self isolating?

But I think we understand the underlying reasoning now, it is not that the government particularly cares about your granny or the people of any age with the glibly recited underlying health conditions, it’s because the National Health Service could not cope with vast numbers of patients needing ventilators and beds in Intensive Care Units.
Statistics can never tell the whole story, most people staying home with symptoms are not being tested for the virus, so will we ever know how many? The good news is most people don’t suffer serious symptoms, the bad news is some do and when it’s bad it’s very very bad. The idea of letting nature take its course and humanity build up herd immunity to this brand new virus is certainly not being considered by the World Health Organisation, but a vaccine can’t be magically produced.

Avoidance and drastic measures are all we have, but will our societies survive the shut down of civilisation and the resultant loss of jobs? What will happen in the last chapter of the novel we all find ourselves in?
If you want some comfort reading during your confinement at home find out what may happen to humanity in the future in Three Ages of Man.

The Real Neat Blog Award

Thanks to Dragon Warrior for nominating me for this award.


The Rules

  1. Put the award logo on your blog.
  2. Answer the 7 questions asked by the person who nominated you.
  3. Thank the person who nominated you and add a link to their blog.
  4. Nominate any number of people, linking to their blogs and let them know you nominated them by commenting on their blogs.
  5. Come up with 7 questions for the people you nominated.

Here are the seven questions Dragon Warrior asked me.

  1. Are you messy or organized? – Both, I put things carefully away then forget where I put them.
  2. What do you want to share through your blog? – My writing, my many interests, caring for the environment and FUN.
  3. Do you like origami? – No, I can only make a paper aeroplane.
  4. What was your favourite childhood game? – Running around playing horses.
  5. What was your favourite food that your parents cooked? – Sunday roast and macaroni cheese.
  6. What is your current favourite food? – Roast vegetables and brown rice, Sunday roast and macaroni cheese. Macaroni Cheese is a bit of a family tradition, all our children and grandchildren love it. It is the real thing made from scratch; milk and strong cheddar for a homemade white sauce.
  7. Something you collect? – Picture post cards since I was eight years old.


My Nominees – any great bloggers dropping in here.

Not every blogger likes answering questions or doing awards, but if you want to have a go, follow the rules above, or just pick any questions and entertain us with your answers in the comments.


1 What is your favourite electronic gadget?

2 To live – town or country?

3 For holidays – coast or countryside?

4 Paperback or Kindle?

5 If you were given the chance to run your country, what would be your first decision?

6 You can own one form of transport only; anything from skateboard, or a horse to a private plane. Just one choice and you must use only that for the rest of your life. Think carefully…

7 Are you a homebody or a restless traveller?


Silly Saturday – How To Cheat at Being a World Leader

Be ambitious, if there is a local vacancy for a new minister, because one has resigned or been sent to prison or even if Prime Minister is up for grabs, what’s to stop you having a go? You know how to run the country because you have been telling your family, colleagues and everyone down at The Red Lion for years how it should be done. That’s the simple part, now all you need to learn is how to act in public.


1 What to wear If you are a chap this is easy, a suit and tie. You must either look smart or intentionally scruffy with shirt untucked and hair uncombed; a third option is smart casual, take your jacket off and roll up your sleeves to show you mean business.

Ladies, I’m afraid you can’t win; everyone is looking to see what you wear and whatever you wear will be criticised. The trick is to appear confident and wear red. Also choose attire that will not encumber you walking, standing or sitting (see no. 2 ). The comfort rule does not apply to shoes, do not wear trainers. Slip your feet into the most lethal heels you can walk in.

Handy Tip.  If you identify as transgender you can wear whatever you like and nobody will dare criticize you for fear of being called transphobic.

2 How To Walk This is even harder than when you were a baby. You must be able to stride confidently, head in the air without tripping over cameramen, protesters, or paving stones, while at the same time giving intelligent answers to idiotic questions from reporters who are two feet taller or shorter than you. Can you also descend a flight of worn stone steps at a smart trot or get in the back seat of the right ministerial car? Good, but your ordeal is not over  yet…

3 Leisure Time  There is no such thing as me time now you are in the public eye. Prepare to be filmed leaving home in your jogging shorts and returning in your sweaty leggings and T shirt. If you are really unlucky you will be accosted by that television presenter who runs marathons; try to talk and breathe at the same time as she runs alongside you and asks about policies. Avoid the path beside the lake in case you fall in.

4 Caring for the Environment Learn to ride a bike and practise mounting and dismounting while negotiating a crowd of amused observers.


5 Make your country proud of you.  Finally you have made it to the International Summit in A Nother country and the whole world is watching you. This is not like your holiday flight, there will be no jetty attached to your aeroplane; the door will open to bright sunshine or driving rain and an impossibly steep set of stairs; pause at the top of these to work out your choreography. Wave and smile then descend without falling or gouging your eye out on the huge umbrella being held to shield you from the sun or rain. Behind you will be someone very important in your life. See no. 6

6 Choose a Partner For the ceremonial bits it is polite to have a spouse who can engage in conversation with other world leaders while you are talking to their spouses, they will also need to know how to use the right cutlery at the inevitable dinner.

7 The Speech This is what it’s all about so don’t leave it till the last moment. It is okay to read from your notes, as long as they are not written on a paper napkin.

Handy hints: Remember which country you’re in, the name of their leader and why you are there. Recall happy historical links and if there aren’t any talk optimistically of future happy links. And finally, do you recall those ‘friends’ you met on holiday? Do not issue any invitations to visit that you may regret later.