THE METROPOLITANS — Episode Forty Six

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A saga of everyday life in the Big L and a wry look at contemporary culture

By Tony Carden

Episode Forty Six

 

WESTMINSTER FOLLIES

Or “A BIT OF A MUCK UP”*

 

Cast

Mary Pyle – Prime Minister of Great Britain

Barnacles – Minister for Exiting the European Union

Morton – Head of the International Division at Number Ten Downing Street

Andrew – Personal Secretary to the Prime Minister

 

Location: The Salvation Army Hall, Westminster-by-the-Thames

ANNOUNCER

And so, ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to introduce our guest of honour – one of Westminster-by-the-Thames’ most distinguished citizens.

A woman of many parts.

A politician, a wife, a long-term member of the Conservative and Unionist Party, and currently our Prime Minister of Great Britain.

In short, a good lass all round.

Ladies and gentlemen, Prime Minister Mary Pyle!

MARY PYLE

Mr Chairman, Mr Town Clerk, ladies and gentlemen. When I was first invited to be guest of honour tonight at the launching of Westminster-by-the-Thames’ ”I’m Backing Britain Campaign”, I accepted without hesitation.

After all, I have always backed Britain.

CROWD

Hear, hear!

MARY PYLE

I got into the habit of it in 1970s, but we ALL backed Britain then.

CROWD

Hear, hear!

MARY PYLE

It was the darkest hour in our history.

The odds were absurdly against us, but, young and old, we stood there, defiant, determined to survive, to recover and, finally, to win.

News was desperate, but our spirits were always high. We overcame punk!

Now the massive EU machine is pushing its way across Europe like in the movie Mortal Engines, engulfing neutral countries using a plutocracy, sorry I meant to say, bureaucracy, unmatched in history. Just this week, Macedonia of all places agreed to join “The Project”.

WHISPERED ASIDE

Where’s Macedonia?

MARY PYLE

When Junket comes up against British sang froid, it’s a different story. We’ll fight him every inch of the way, giving as good as they get.

Is Tommy Atkins downhearted? We’ll say he’s not! Why should he be with a leader like me? But take it from me. A new malice has been added to an already brutal struggle.

We’re at risk of hordes of Remainers descending from the skies, all trained to sabotage our Brexit.

Even our own shores may not long be spared this latest of Bernard’s tricks.

We all have our part to play, and every effort is being made to confuse the EU. In this, Parliament has been superb!

So, look out, Junket! Every day, our defences are strengthened, and if the EU does try some hanky-panky, like agreeing to a postponement, let’s give it and Junket’s bureaucrats a sharp welcome!

A VOICE

Well done, Pyle.

 

Location: The Desolation of Dover

MORTON

This is heavy!

BARNACLES

That’s the sand being wet.

You should have waited for the tide to go out.

He stacks another sandbag on the pile.

 MORTON

This keep out the illegal immigrants.

BARNACLES

Don’t take so long over the next one.

MORTON

It’s not my fault, sir. I spent ten minutes picking the shrimps out.

BARNACLES

Thank you, Morton.

Points at the wall they are building.

On there, please.

That’s a reasonable field.

It covers most of the high street.

MORTON

Yes, we can safely say that interlopers will be rounded up like the sheep at Stead’s farm.

BARNACLES Hand shielding his eyes, gazes down towards the docks.

We’d get a clear run down to the ferry terminal if that woman got out of the telephone box.

MORTON

It’s Mrs Haskins calling her sister.

She’ll only be three minutes.

BARNACLES

Let’s hope that Junket stays his hand till Mrs Haskins gets the pips.

MORTON

Let’s hope he waits till we get our customs sorted.

Fills another sandbag.

 This is the last one.

BARNACLES

Looks at their efforts.

It’s not high enough to keep them out.

MORTON

There’s no more sand, sir.

BARNACLES

There’s a beach full of it down there.

MORTON

The tide’s in.

The water’s up to here.

It went right over my mum’s wellies.

BARNACLES

Damp boots don’t matter when the whole of Europe is wriggling under the EU’s directives.

MORTON

My mum won’t see it like that.

We could get some more sand at low tide.

BARNACLES

Time and tide wait for no man.

We must improvise.

How much paperwork have we got?

MORTON

Paper? Work?

BARNACLES

Yes.

MORTON

There’s a fair amount in the back of the van. Two cabinets worth.

BARNACLES

Go and get it, Morton.

Morton returns dragging the cabinets.

BARNACLES

Lay ’em out along here.

MORTON

I don’t think we ought to do that.

Taking them will cause a form shortage in the town.

It will be very inconvenient.

BARNACLES

They’ll have to grind their teeth and bear it.

There’s a crisis on!

MORTON

The Home Office won’t like this misuse of government property.

BARNACLES

This is no time for red tape.

At any moment, hordes of Europeans—or worse—may arrive on one a ferry.

He taps the side of his nose.

 They’ll be in disguise.

Points

A regiment of them could come dressed as nuns, set up their headquarters in that church over there, and we’d never notice.

MORTON

I think we would.

That’s the Methodist Chapel.

They’d notice if they ever got a congregation that size.

If they had any congregation, even.

 

Location: The Secret Headquarters

There is a knock at the door.

 MARY PYLE

See who that is, Andrew.

Say I’m not to be disturbed.

ANDREW

It’s a messenger from The Department for Exiting the EU.

He’s got a packet.

MARY PYLE

Poor devil.

What was it, a paper cut?

The messenger hands Andrew a thick brown package wrapped up in string.

Andrew reads the label.

ANDREW

It’s for you, PM.

Mary takes the document, rips open it open, holds up the documents and reads the front page.

MARY PYLE

This is the moment I’ve been waiting for.

Pipped them to the post, didn’t I? A few weeks ago, I sent a letter to the EU, asking for clarification in case of an impasse. That’s different to a cul-de-sac, in case you didn’t know.

I told them that I’d served in the last conflict. On the Remain side, no less.

ANDREW

Somewhere in the Midlands, wasn’t it? Must have been hard going.

MARY PYLE

I was a commissioned deputy canvasser for Rutland, but I served in France during the whole of the referendum campaign.

ANDREW

That meant you missed the whole thing.

MARY PYLE

Someone had to clear up the mess.

She waggles a finger in his direction.

Where were you during the campaign?

ANDREW

At university. Then the Civil Service College.

I was a second reserve campaigner, though.

But I was never called to serve.

MARY PYLE

Never mind that now.

She reads.

”In view of the grave danger of a revocation of Article 50 and Great Britain remaining in the European Union, it has been decided to form a committee to investigate the impact of such a decision.

This committee will be known as the CTITUKSITEUP.

ANDREW

Strange title.

MARY PYLE

It’s an acronym, it means Committee to Investigate the United Kingdom Staying in the European Union Problem.

There is a knock at the door. Anna Bendrick enters.

MARY PYLE

Yes, Anna?

Did you know your name is a palindrome?

ANNA

It’s Boris Johnson, PM.

MARY PYLE

I thought you were Anna.

ANNA

It’s him, Johnson.

MARY PYLE

In person?

ANNA

On the TV.

They say what he’s saying is very important.

Mary turns on the TV. Johnson fills the screen.

BORIS

…we want large numbers of such men in Great Britain who are British subjects between the ages of 17 and 65.

Mary scribbles on a notepad in front of her

MARY PYLE

17 and 65.

BORIS

The name of the new force in British politics to help cement our exit from the EU will be the “Exit Europe Volunteers”.

This name describes the new force in three words. Exit. Europe. Volunteers.

Here then is the opportunity for which so many of you have been waiting.

Your loyal help will make and keep our country safe.

By exiting.

Europe.

With volunteers.

Mary switches off the television.

 

Location: The Desolation of Dover

BARNACLES

Right.

Let’s go to it! Back to work.

He stretches, hands on waist.

The first thing we’ve got to do is set up an invasion committee, Morton.

MORTON

Yes?

Morton is swaying backwards and forwards.

BARNACLES

Whatever’s the matter, boy?

MORTON

I feel sick.

It’s licking all this paper.

BARNACLES

We are the escape committee.

First, we appoint a properly appointed commander.

MORTON

A what, sir?

BARNACLES

Appoint a properly appointed commander.

That’s me.

All right?

MORTON

All right.

BARNACLES

You will be my second in command.

MORTON

Thank you very much indeed.

BARNACLES

What next?

Ah yes.

Means of conveying instructions and information to the public.

An Information Officer will be appointed.

Morton, that’ll be you.

The Information Officer will be supplied with a megaphone.

MORTON

Yes, of course.

BARNACLES

You’ll find, Morton, that in times like these, improvisation is the keynote to success.

MORTON

Well done.

Barnacles searches the van.

 BARNACLES

Here’s your megaphone, lad.

He passes over a large megaphone of the type used by coxes on racing fours and eights.

Your first job is to jump on your bicycle and go around the town delivering this message: “All Exit Europe Volunteers to report to the church hall at six o’clock tonight.”

Have a go with the megaphone.

MORTON

Exit Europe…

Barnacles grabs the megaphone off him.

 BARNACLES

Let me show you.

ALL EXIT EUROPE VOLUNTEERS TO REPORT TO THE CHURCH HALL AT SIX O’CLOCK TONIGHT!

There you are.

MORTON

I don’t know how you do it.

BARNACLES

History repeats itself, Morton.

Times of peril always bring great men to the fore, a Wellington, Churchill, an Ed Sheeran.

MORTON

Ed Sheeran?

 

Location: The Secret Headquarters

MARY PYLE

Where is he? I could have had time for a round of crazy golf.

ANDREW

Boris is on his way.

 

Mary jumped up and ran over and switched off the television. ‘Now really, Des, what a load of rubbish!’

‘Hey! I was watching that!’

‘You should be ashamed of yourself. It’s a bunch of tosh.’

‘It’s popular, Mary. The show has fabulous ratings.’

‘And that woman! I mean. They’re taking the mickey, they are.’

‘It’s only a story.’

‘If I had my way, we’d bring back the Lord Chancellor. Keep such tittle-tattle off the media. Mary Whitehouse had it right, there’s far too much sexandviolence on the box these days.’

‘What? On Westminster Follies? You’ve got to be joking.’

‘When did I ever crack a joke?’

‘Well, let me think…’

‘See!’

‘I’ll come up with an example one day.’ Des paused. ‘Oh, I know. Your Brexit Plan.’

‘What? You think it’s a joke?’

‘Well, everyone does.’

‘I don’t know why I don’t divorce you!’

‘I’m rich and you’ll soon no longer be in charge.’ He gestured around the living room.

‘Pith!’

 

* With apologies to David Croft and Jimmy Perry, who would have much enjoyed the present ongoing “Westminster Follies” 2019 edition.

 

*   *   *

 

A Reminder

Did you know that a compendium of the first twenty-five episodes is now available on the Amazon Kindle store for your delight?

Click here to view

 

*   *   *

Jill squeezed his hand. ‘How about this one coming towards us?’

Andrew examined the Londoner as he neared them. He was dressed in a grey hoodie that covered up his hair and part of his face, dark chinos and red and white trainers. ‘Really?’

‘A hoodie would suit you.’

‘I think not.’

Jill turned to face him. ‘You’ve got to be more adventurous in what you wear.’

‘I’m happy in jeans, shirt and jacket.’

‘But your dress is so conventional.’ She turned away.

‘What’s wrong with that?’

‘It’s boring. Think what it says about you?’

‘I’m sane?’

Jill laughed. ‘Look, here comes some more.’

The two men walking in their direction were not dissimilarly dressed to the previous youth. One wore a dusty buff navy lined puffer coat, dark trousers and winkle picker boots.

The other, sported a mauve baseball cap, pale grey hoodie with navy offsets, dark blue trousers with light blue pocket trim and stripe down the side of the leg. He wore what might pass for office shoes.

The two passed them. Andrew turned to watch them walk off.

‘You can’t be serious?’

‘Well look at you. You’re frumpy. They’re good for the front page of GQ.’

‘What’s wrong with jeans and a sweatshirt?’ He looked down at his shoes. ‘And hush puppies.’

Jill nudged him. ‘That’s what’s wrong.’ She pointed at two guys heading towards them along the walkway. The taller of the two wore a beanie on his head and a black sweater over a pale blue shirt. Black matching chinos and white Nike trainers completed his outfit.

The shorter one was more exotically dressed in a dark blue jacket lined in pink, a white tee, Yale blue trousers with various prominent zip pockets and trainers. He wore a Prussian blue bucket hat.

Deep in conversation, they did not glance at Andrew and Jill as they passed.

‘Sorry, Jill, they’re crazily dressed. Blue and pink? Really. Come on. I can’t see myself being comfortable in either outfit.’

‘You’re too fuddy-duddy.’

‘I like the way I am.’

‘And I’d like my man to look sensational.’

‘But it’s the inner man that counts, not the clothes he wears. Well, that’s what my mum says.’

‘I’m sure that’s very profound but how can I present you to people if you look like a grandad?’

‘That’s unkind.’

They continued walking.

Another man of Andrew’s age appeared. He had a beard and on his head he sported a navy bucket hat. He had on a pale blue shirt over which he wore a dark grey patterned wool coat, dark navy trousers and the ubiquitous white trainers.

Jill nudged Andrew. ‘See!’

‘I’m seeing someone who, frankly, looks a bit of an idiot.’

‘He’s dressed very fashionably.’

‘If that’s fashion, I’m glad I’m a stick-in-the-mud old man.’

‘When you’ve got on the right outfit, you’ll thank me.’ She pointed. ‘Now how about that?’

The man seemed a mere teenager as a result of his shorn hair and large, frameless glasses. He was dressed in a smart grey suit that fell off his shoulders and hence seemed a bit oversized. The sartorial effect was further marred by a bright red tee and a bright green briefcase that sported a first aid sign.

‘Definitely not. The suit’s OK, but with a red tee? And his bag? Is he a first responder?’

‘Grey might suit you.’ Jill giggled. ‘Suit you. Did you get the pun?’

‘I think so.’ He paused briefly. ‘But I won’t dress like that.’ He continued in a whisper. ‘He’s a fashionista.’

Jill laughed. ‘Then how about this one coming along now?’

An older man this time, with greying and receding hair and thick biblical beard. He was wearing a black ankle length warmer that made it seem as if he was dressed in a black plastic bag. His eyes met Andrew’s as he walked past, then flicked to Jill before looking away.

‘Ridiculous outfit.’

‘It would keep you nice and warm.’

‘As if! I think I’d rather freeze, thank you very much.’

‘You’ll at least let me take you to a good men’s outfitters.’

‘Which one do you have in mind?’

‘Tim says Couverture & The Garbstore is pretty good.’

‘That’s it! You want me to look just like your brother. I knew it.’

‘What’s wrong in dressing like Tim?’

‘Well if you don’t know…’

‘You’re not gay.’

He patted her bump. ‘No, it would appear not.’

‘So, you’ll let me find you something suitable, then.’

‘If you must. But I won’t be spending tons of cash. We’ve a baby to think about.’

 

To be continued…

All characters appearing in this work are fictitious.

Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

 

You can contact the author at:

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