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.

From News Book to New Blogs

Long before the existence of Blogs, long before I had heard the term, I had Writer’s Block. Every morning in my Church of England junior school we had to write in our news books, dinky little notebooks with lined and plain pages; one side for script, the other to draw a picture. One Monday morning I said to my teacher ‘I can’t think what to write.’

Did you spend all weekend in a cardboard box? Was his reply.

Sometimes it was easy, one morning at assembly there was an incident. One boy wrote for his news Tony was sick in assembly. There was a lurid picture, the puddle of vomit had become a lake.

Parents’ evening was the only chance mothers and fathers had to see what their little darlings had written. Apparently I wrote regularly that Mum and Dad had moved the furniture around at the weekend. My mother claimed the teachers were nosy and wanted to know what went on in our homes; she was amused to meet another mother who was mortified. Her child had written Mummy went out dancing with John’s Daddy, her explanation was that their respective spouses did not like dancing…

If we finished our news book we could not be idle, we had to quietly get on with a dictionary exercise, but I enjoyed doing that. Only when that was finished could you do free reading. One time my friend had a new plan. On my unescorted one and a half mile walk to school I would call for her on the way. Her mother would wave us off, once out of sight we would slow down. If we were late for assembly we had to go straight to the classroom and get on with writing our news; thus having an advantage over the rest of the class. I did feel guilty about this, our parents didn’t know, the teacher perhaps guessed we did it deliberately, but God, being Omnipotent, was sure to know we were absent from hymns and prayers.

Scripture lesson was a better opportunity for creative writing. We had a similar little exercise book, but horizontal. We would write that morning’s bible story in our own words on one page and draw a picture on the other. Illustrations were easy, flat roofed houses and people in long robes were simple to draw. I can’t remember how much I elaborated the story, but even then I felt there was not enough back story and character development in The Bible. Maybe if the disciples had kept a news book there would have been more detail in the Gospels.

The first part of my novel Quarter Acre Block is inspired by my four years at junior school.