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.

Doors

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.

Friday Flash Fiction – Fall Guy

This time I was determined to get to the end of the book. Last time I was out by chapter three, without my name even being mentioned. Then there was the time I was the lead character in the sub plot, all was going well until the editing stage…

The clothes were uncomfortable, it was my first historical drama, but I was determined not to let my author Hermione down, together we would prove there was more to the plot than Guy, or Guido as he liked to call himself.

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 Chapter One, December 1604: sluggish, all that tunnelling while Thomas Percy swanned around upstairs scheming.

Chapter Two, March 1605: I thought things would get more exciting with the lease of the cellar, but who ended up lugging all the barrels of gunpowder?

Chapters Three to Six: Hermione digressed, a whole summer and autumn of waiting, hanging out with the two Roberts and John Wright, but at least I was still on the scene, strolling around Seventeenth Century London, helping to give the novel a bit of context.

Chapter Seven, November 1st 1605: it turns out I’m going to be the one to give the plot away, straight to my priest for confession. Turmoil for my character, not going to let my friends down, but I do have a conscience. Then Hermione goes and makes the priest an agnostic spy who has no compunction in breaking his vows.

Chapter Eight, November 5th 1605: I was tempted to tell Guido to go home, why should he get all the blame?

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Guido and I were the only two to make it to the last chapter, me the forgotten chap alongside Guy Fawkes. I gave in after only half an hour in the torture chamber, my fate was not made public. The longest chapter ever written, I thought I’d never get off that rack, now I’m wondering what is going to happen in the Epilogue.