The Swiss Army Willy – by Andrew Batty - Copyright 2021: All rights reserved
For the first cloud on the horizon refer to: Case Note 1
FOREIGN OFFICE INVESTIGATION
THE VETERAN ISLANDS
CASE NOTE: 33 DATE: 15th SEPTEMBER 1990
SUBJECT: ANDREW BAKER
THE SWISS ARMY WILLY
We’re going to let the cat out of the bag, but first we have to find the bag. The cat is Andrew Baker, Governor of the British Veteran Islands. The bag, his kidnapper’s hideaway. In the bag with him are his fiancé Karen, his friends, Winston, Tarquin, Quinlan and Josephine, and his personal assistant, the Third Recorder. Our job is to find the bag before the cat loses his ninth life.
Andrew Baker became Governor for a number of reasons: he applied for the wrong job, there was a mix up in CVs, and an imminent invasion never occurred. He kept his job because his assistant agreed to train him, a Foreign Office investigator turned out to be a friend, his girlfriend can write best-selling novels, his pal knows a president, and he has a surprise passion for bamboo boxer shorts. That’s eight lives down already.
These case notes follow the cat as he explores his new territory, leaping over obstacles and squeezing through every opening to get where he needs. We are finally catching up with him; we are almost on his tail. Soon we will know how and why things turned sour, for the cat that got the cream.
Case Note: 33 - The Swiss Army Willy - 15th September 1990
Andrew Baker had turned Oikland from the Veteran Islands' greatest enemy into its greatest ally. A ball had been organised to cement the peace. It would also be his friends’ last day on the island before they returned home. The Third Recorder felt they should celebrate their few remaining days together. He cleared the Governor’s diary of all official appointments and arranged a series of ‘enjoyable,’ excursions. The first, a fishing trip, ended in disaster. What would today’s adventure hold.
Case Note: 33 - Transcript of a secret recording by Anne the Housekeeper, of conversation over breakfast.
Andrew Baker and Karen Hannah were the first down to breakfast.
‘I was pushed,’ Andrew said with absolute certainty.
‘You fell,’ Karen replied, equally assured.
‘I was pushed I tell you.’
‘How come nobody saw it?’
‘She had you looking for an imaginary whale at the front of the boat.’
‘We didn’t hear you scream.’
‘The engine was running and she put that terrible music on.’
‘It was whale song, to attract the whale.’
‘A whale no-one else saw.’
‘What were you doing at the back anyway?’
‘Throwing away the surplus bait, like she told me.’
‘You must have tripped.’
‘I was pushed.’
‘Well it was her that pointed out you were missing.’
‘’After how long?’
‘I don’t know, five or ten minutes. It wasn’t long.’
‘And how long did it take you to find me.’
‘An hour. You were five minutes away.’
‘It’s not her fault. The sea is a big place.’
‘She was steering the boat.’
‘She had us scouring the waves. You were impossible to see.’
‘I would be if you were going in the wrong direction.’
‘It was her that pulled you out.’’
‘After she had dropped me back in a couple of times.’’
‘She’s a master of deception.’
‘She’s not Paul Daniels.’
‘She is. She’s Paul Daniels. Same height and everything.’
She is not Paul Daniels.
Same sinister laugh
She’s got to be twenty years younger
She’s a woman
She was wearing chiffon.
Exactly. What could be more feminine?
‘She can’t be Paul Daniels, she’s got a sense of humour.’
‘Shouting “shark,” is not a sense of humour.’
‘She’s a menace.’
‘She’s the sweetest thing. And I don’t care what you say, she’s coming.’
‘To the ball? You’ve got to be kidding.’
‘She’s coming. She knows the Majumpas. She’ll put them at ease, relieve the tension.’
‘What about me?’
‘We’ve got to invite you, you’re the Governor.
‘No! What about relieving my tension?’
‘That’s my job.’
‘Oh!... er, hmm… I’ll put in another order for strawberries.’
‘I’d prefer ring doughnuts.’
‘Playing hoopla again, Winston said as he arrived with Josephine.’
‘Only if the Third Recorder hasn’t organized another fishing trip,’ Karen replied.
‘I wonder what he’s got lined up for us today?’ Quinlan said dragging out a chair.
‘Where is he?’ Tarquin asked, doing the same.
‘Nobody knows,’ Andrew Baker said. ‘He’s disappeared.’
Conversation turned to the table as coffee was poured and marmalade spread. After a minute or two the big oak door swung open and the Third Recorder walked in.
‘Where have you been?’ Josephine asked.
‘Shopping. I’ve got presents.’
‘Ooh goody.’ Karen said, rubbing her hands with glee. ‘Come on, hand them over.’
The Third Recorder passed a parcel to Karen. ‘Here you are… Governor, this is for you… Winston… you Tarquin… this one’s Quinlan… and the last one is yours Josephine.’
‘What are they?’ Josephine asked.
‘Outfits, for today’s activity.’
‘Outfits?’ they all asked. ‘What for?’
‘Open them and see.’
The sound of eager unwrapping echoed round the dining room, followed by a moments silence as they inspected the goods.
‘Leotards! Why leotards?’ They all asked
‘We’re going to Fifi L’amour’s’ The Third Recorder announced with the enthusiasm of a character from an upbeat musical.
‘Fifi L’amour’s? Are we taking part in a drag act?’ Andrew Baker asked, with less enthusiasm.
‘Fifi L’amour is a highly respected yoga teacher… I’ve been told. We’re going to her retreat on Saunter.’
‘Saunter?’ Tarquin said. ‘Where is Saunter?’
‘Small island to the east.’ The Third Recorder clarified. ‘Beautiful beaches.’
‘I am not going on a boat again,’ Andrew Baker stated emphatically.
‘It’s joined by a causeway to the mainland, well at low tide it is. You park on Pootle and walk across. Come on, get your leotards on, we might as well arrive appropriately dressed.’
There was a rush to finish toast and drink a last cup of coffee, before everyone scuttled off upstairs to change. A few moments later they gathered back in the dining room. They chatted while they waited for the Third Recorder. The audio tape was still running.
‘Animal prints, why did he choose animal prints?’ Karen asked.
‘Well I think they’re fun,’ Josephine replied.
‘You would you’re a sexy leopard. I’m a zebra.’
‘Zebras are sexy.’
‘The stripes get fatter round the stomach. I look enormous.’
‘I thought they’d stretched wider,’ Andrew Baker said with the sensitivity of an Orc.
‘No hoopla for you this evening,’ Karen sniped.
‘I don’t know why you’re grumbling,’ Winston said. ‘What about me? All in grey, what am I supposed to be?’
‘You’re an elephant,’ Josephine stated, as if stating the obvious
‘There’s no trunk,’ Winston said.
‘There is from where I’m standing,’ Josephine advised.
‘Quinlan, what the hell are you?’ Karen asked
‘I think I’m a peacock, but I’m not sure.’
‘Well I have to say, it’s a very nice display, all the feathers fanning out like that, but shouldn’t they be round the back?’ Karen queried.
‘Oh yeah,’ Quinlan chuckled.
‘It kinda draws your eye to the centre,’ Karen suggested. ‘Looks like a weird red Indian chief, with a hook nose.’
‘I’ll turn it round,’ Quinlan said and skipped off upstairs.
‘I’m guessing you’re a penguin, Tarquin,’ Winston said.
‘Surprisingly smart,’ Josephine said. ‘If you added a tie, you could wear it to the office.’
‘Yeah,’ Tarquin agreed. ‘If James Bond did yoga, this is what he’d wear.’
‘Are you sure he wouldn’t wear this?’ Andrew Baker asked.
‘No-one in their right mind would wear that,’ Josephine said.
‘I know,’ Andrew Baker said. ‘A cow, why choose a cow? I wouldn’t mind, but this dangly udder is just a bit weird. Looks like I’ve got five willies.’
‘One is never enough,’ Karen chirped.
‘It’s a Swiss Army Willy,’ Winston suggested.
‘I assume by Swiss Army Willy, you mean, like a Swiss Army Knife,’ Karen said. ‘I’m guessing most of the willies in the Swiss Army are actually a fairly standard mono willy, rather than the multi-functional willy to which you are alluding.’
‘Thank you, Miss pedantic. I do indeed mean, a Swiss Army Knife WIlly,’ Winston confirmed. ‘I wonder what the functions are?’
Tarquin took each teat in turn. ‘This one’s for filing your nails, this one’s a corkscrew, this one’s a bottle opener and I think this one is for getting stones out of horses’ hooves. I just can’t think of a good use for the last one.’
‘Do you mind? I don’t go around feeling your udder,’ Andrew Baker chided.
‘It’d be hell going to the loo,’ Winston said. ‘I mean, which one do you hold?’
‘What if they all fire at once?’ Tarquin said.
‘Messy in the bedroom,’ Josephine suggested.
‘Messy in the bathroom,’ Karen added. ‘You’d need a funnel,’
‘Or five loos,’ Winston said.
‘You could just sit on the loo,’ Josephine pointed out
‘But where would the fun be in that?’ Winston said.
‘I tell you what though,’ Tarquin said, knowingly.
‘What?’ Andrew Baker asked, intrigued
‘Your underpants would fit like a glove.’
Winston burst into fits of laughter, spluttering coffee all over the table. Karen and Andrew Baker fell off their chairs, then fell about laughing. Contagious giggling kept erupting, before the tremors finally died away. Josephine heard footsteps on the stairs.
‘Is that the Third Recorder?’ she said. ‘I wonder what he’s wearing?’
‘Fox,’ Winston suggested.
‘Shark,’ Karen said.
‘Silver Back Gorilla,’ Andrew Baker proposed.
‘Killer Whale,’ Tarquin chipped in.
The Third Recorder appeared at the door.
‘Oh how sweet… a pussy cat,’ they all said.
‘How misleading,’ Andrew Baker added.
‘Come on; time to go,’ the Third Recorder announced. ‘We mustn’t keep Fifi waiting.’
Gone Fishing – by Andrew Batty - Copyright 2021: All rights reserved
This is the last straw. For the first straw refer to: Case Note 1
FOREIGN OFFICE INVESTIGATION
THE VETERAN ISLANDS
CASE NOTE: 32 DATE: 14th SEPTEMBER 1990
SUBJECT: ANDREW BAKER
Andrew Baker was a lucky, lucky, lucky bastard. He should never have been Governor of the Veteran Islands, yet he was; He should never have written a best-selling novel, but he has; he should never have won the heart of Karen Hannah, but he did. He was without doubt, a lucky, lucky, lucky bastard. That was then. Now his luck has changed. Now his life hangs in the balance, along with those of his fiancé Karen, his friends: Winston, Quinlan, Tarquin and Josephine; and of course, his personal assistant, the Third Recorder. They have all been kidnapped. If we are to find him, we need a clue. Even with Baker luck we don’t expect a star hanging over the hideaway; a neon arrow pointing the way; or a giant X marks the spot. We’re going to have to do this the hard way. These case notes trace his time on the island. Hopefully they will trace a path to his door.
Case Note: 32 Gone Fishing - 14th September 1990
Andrew Baker had achieved all his personal aims except one. Every Governor has a degree. The CV that got him the job had a degree. It was not his CV. He needed one to stay in post. He hoped his best-selling novel would get him an honorary degree. With Baker luck he might just be right.
Andrew Baker returned from Oikland on the 13th September to a hero’s welcome. The island’s greatest enemy was now its greatest friend, and any hint of an invasion had evaporated. It just needed a special event to cement the peace, but what should it be?
His friends were all due to leave on the 22nd September. Tarquin had been advised of his next post, Quinlan needed to write a travelogue on Thailand, Winston had to get back to rugby training, and Josephine had to prepare her lectures for the new intake. The Third Recorder felt their last week together should be a week of rest and relaxation. He cleared the Governor’s diary of all official appointments and arranged a number of ‘enjoyable,’ excursions, the first of which was a fishing trip leaving at six o’clock… in the morning.
The following account is derived from a tape of the onboard video recording, discovered in Josephine’s bedroom. We attempted to interview the fishing boat’s captain, but she insisted, what goes on in the boat, stays in the boat, apart from bad fish, which are always thrown overboard.
The bleary-eyed bunch of reluctant sailors dragged themselves through the deserted streets down to the harbour. It was cold and damp with the smell of salty seaweed hanging in the air. The first sprinklings of sunlight sparked off the rippling ridges of the sea. They huddled together by the wall looking out over the marina, wondering which of the floating gin palaces, was theirs. Hidden amongst the slick yachts and stylish cabin cruisers, was a small white painted, wooden fishing boat, with a proud pop-up cabin. It was straight out of a children’s picture book. The captain however was not. They were beckoned forth by a waving arm and a cheerful ‘yoo-hoo, come along now, we don’t want to keep the fish waiting, do we.’ They wandered down the wobbly wooden pontoon to the boat. Painted on the stubby little prow was the name ‘Little Nose.’ Karen ran her finger along the sign.
‘I used to have a Long Nose,’ the captain said, ‘but it got me into all sorts of trouble. Little Nose is much more reliable. Keeps me on the straight and narrow.’
Karen placed a nervous foot on the wide wooden gunwale. The captain offered a delicate feminine hand for assistance. That was the first time Karen had really opened her sleep encrusted eyes that morning. The gnarled old sea dog with bushy white beard she had imagined, was rather at odds with the elegant lady in a long chiffon gown, trouser suit, and slingback sandals. She wobbled precariously.
‘Don’t worry my dear, you’ll soon get those sea legs,’ the captain said.
The men jumped in, as men will, stumbling into benches and tripping over buckets of bait. The captain sighed and shared a look of despair with Josephine as she guided her into the boat. There was a flurry of activity as the passengers scuttled around, likes hens in a new coup, pointing at every landmark and checking how easy it was to rock the boat. It wasn’t long however, before the steely gaze of the captain had them silently pinned to their seats.
‘I am Captain Ali, and this,’ she said tapping the engine cowl, ‘is Little Nose. First of all, a little health and safety. If you fall in, please don’t drown. You wouldn’t believe the paperwork. If you’re feeling sick, there is a big ocean out there, please aim for it. If you miss and it ends up in the boat, don’t worry, it won’t cause me any inconvenience, because you’ll be cleaning it up. If you are sick on me, your life won’t be worth living, so please avoid it, for everyone’s sake. I hope you have brought a jumper, coat and hat, otherwise you could get cold, wet and sunburnt.
Have you got anything, in case we get cold, wet and sunburnt?’ Andrew Baker asked.
Captain Ali gave him a cold stare. ‘Sympathy,’ she said, ‘but that is in short supply, so I wouldn’t bank on it.’
‘Andrew rubbed some warmth into his bare arms.’
‘We will be out for about four hours,’ Captain Ali continued. ‘Any questions before we leave?’
‘Are there any sharks?’ Karen asked.
‘What do you advise if we see a shark?’
‘Don’t fall in.’
Karen gulped and scanned the shimmering surface for a telltale triangle. Ali returns to her spiel.
The video camera here on the cabin, is for those who want a memento of their fun filled adventure. If you fall overboard, it is also to prove it wasn’t me who provided the push. It also encourages me to resist the temptation, no matter how idiotic my passengers may be.’ She smiled sweetly. ‘If you ever see me switch it off, I would take that as a warning. Should you want a copy of the video, see me at the end.’ Having dispensed a downbeat pep talk she smiled an upbeat smile. ‘Well, I think we should get this party started, don’t you?’ Everyone nodded.
Soon the little white boat was riding up over the swell and heading out towards the open sea. The splutter of the engine, splash of water, and screech of gulls made conversation difficult. Everyone soon gave up trying and scanned the surface for fishy things instead, pointing and screaming ‘fish’, at anything that moved. Eventually the boat turned the headland and settled into an area of relative calm. The Captain cut the engine, and allowed the boat to drift. She addressed the crew.
‘This is where we’ll be fishing. There’s a rack of rods here, pick a rod, any rod. There are buckets of bait to stick on the hook. Go to it.’
‘Is that it?’ Winston asked.
‘Is that what?’ Captain Ali asked, with just a hint of menace.
‘Is that all the instruction we’re going to get?’ Winston said.
‘There’s a stick, some string, and a hook… we’re not talking flat pack furniture… how much instruction do you need?’ Winston looked suitably chastened.
‘Where do you cast the hook?’ Quinlan asked.
‘It’s simple. You see here, in the boat?’
‘Ye… s,’ Quinlan replied
She wagged her finger, ‘No fish. There,’ she embraced the ocean with dramatic wave of the arm, ‘many fish.’
‘So we cast anywhere?’ Quinlan asked tentatively.
‘No! You don’t cast anywhere. You lower the hook carefully into the water. The last thing I want is a lot of barbed hooks flying around. This is Dior,’ she said pointing to her shawl. ‘Snag a single thread in this garment, and we go fishing for sharks, with you as bait.’
‘What type of fish… are we catching?’ Josephine asked.
‘Let me see, you’ll find there are three types of fish in these waters,’ Captain Ali said.
‘Oh, and they are?’ Josephine queried.
‘Big fish and little fish.’
‘And the third?’
‘Middle sized fish.’
‘Don’t they have names?’ Karen asked
‘You can give them names if it make you feel better. But, a word of advice… ‘
‘Call the ugly fish Ali, and you’re walking home.’
‘But we’re in the middle of the ocean,’ Andrew pointed out.
‘I didn’t say it would be easy.’
‘When I said names,’ Karen said, ‘I meant species. What species are they?’
‘The big fish are mahousive the small fish minousive, and the medium fish… midousive.’ Ali advised.
‘You made those up,’ Winston said.
Ali rolled her eyes and shook her head. ‘Jeepers you’re a tough crowd. They’re fish, who cares what they’re called? You catch one and throw it back. Take a picture and look it up if you need to know.’
‘Hmm… Okay,’ Winston accepted grudgingly.
‘Have you been a captain long?’ Karen asked.
Ali’s eyes narrowed. ‘Not very,’ she replied, ‘Why do you ask?’
‘Well, you don’t seem to know the fish, and you are hardly dressed like a sea captain.’
‘Well, if you must know, it is a bit of a hobby. My husband is away a lot, and I need something to fill my time. But, I don’t see why being a captain means I have to dress shoddily. This way I can pop in for G & T with a friend on the way up from the harbour. It’s difficult to do that wearing a sou wester and a storm jacket. Now, can we get on with the fishing. Gentlemen, feel free to get your tackle out.’
They each chose a rod and grabbed a piece of bate from the buckets next to the rack. They stuck the bate on the hook and lowered it carefully into the sea. Staring at the end of a piece of string can’t keep anyone entertained for long. Soon they were utterly bored. Rods were jammed into the holders provided and left to catch fish on their own. They sat against the bulwark wondering what to do next. The captain had been expecting as much, and drew from the hold, a tray of heavy bottomed glass beakers, which she placed on the engine cowl. Then with a flourish she presented a bottle of gin, and one of tonic, which were met with a chorus of nods. She poured the drinks and handed them round.
‘I don’t blame you,’ she said. ‘Fishing is the most boring pastime on the planet. Nobody can be bothered for long. I hate it.’ She paused. ‘So, what is driving diplomats doolally nowadays?’
‘The Third Recorder laced his fingers and leant back to consider. ‘The trip to Oikland was a complete success,’ he said, ‘but we need to do something formal to cement the peace. I’m just not sure what that would be.’
‘What would you normally do in these circumstances?’ Ali asked.
‘Well normally we’d invite the President to speak at the Assembly. but... ‘
‘Oh, he won’t like that,’ Ali said dismissively. ‘He won’t like that at all.’
‘Why?’ Tarquin asked
‘President Majumpa hates public speaking.’
How do you know?’ Tarquin asked a little too abruptly
Ali smiled mischievously and raised a finger to the switch on the video camera. Tarquin gulped.
‘Sorry!’ He said nervously. Ali waved it away.
‘Well, if you must know, we lived on Oikland for a while. President Majumpa and his wife Yuwaring, were always popping round for pre-dinner drinks.’
‘Pre-dinner drinks,’ Andrew Baker said. ‘What are… pre-dinner drinks?’
‘Are you sure you are a fully qualified Governor,’ she said, eyeing Mr Baker with suspicion.
‘Er yes, of-course I’m er fully qualified, I’ve just not heard of the term before.’
‘The clue is in the name,’ Ali said. ‘Pre-dinner drinks… are drinks before dinner. Everyone knows that… everyone.’
‘So, if drinks before dinner are called pre-dinner drinks, what do you call drinks… after dinner,’ Andrew Baker asked as if reciting a tricky question from the English etiquette O’level examination.
‘Drinks after dinner,’ Ali replied, with the air of an expert in the field, ‘are called… drinks.’
‘Why aren’t they called post-dinner drinks? Andrew Baker asked
‘Because, pre-dinner drinks end at dinner. Nobody would know when post-dinner drinks ended.
‘Surely at pre-breakfast drinks,’ Karen chipped in.
‘Pre-breakfast drinks do not exist,’ Ali said exasperated.
‘So what do you call drinks before breakfast then?’ Andrew Baker asked.
‘A bad mistake, the slippery slope, an alcoholic’s appetizer, anything but pre-breakfast drinks.’
‘The rules don’t make sense,’ Andrew Baker asserted.
‘I don’t make the rules,’ Ali said matter of fact, ‘but at least I know what they are.’
The Third Recorder attempted to drag the conversation back on track. ‘So, if President Majumpa hates public speaking, what do you suggest instead.’
‘A ball!’ Ali proposed. ‘The Majumpas love a ball. He’s not a bad dancer as a matter of fact, and Yuwaring can be frightfully amusing,’ She said in a frightfully posh accent.
‘Hmm… a ball… a ball for peace… a peace ball. I like it. I like it a lot.’ The Third Recorder said.
‘And we get a chance to celebrate our last day on the island together,’ Josephine pointed out.
‘Yeah,’ Andrew Baker agreed. ‘It’s a great idea; a really great idea.’ He raised a glass to the captain who returned the gesture. She picked up the bottle and offered it round.
‘I assume you’ll want me to be there?’ Ali said, in her most beguiling manner.
‘Well, we could do with a waitress,’ Andrew Baker suggested.
At that point the video stopped abruptly.
Hero’s Welcome – by Andrew Batty - Copyright 2021: All rights reserved
For Fates first twist on the dance floor of disaster, refer to case note: 1
FOREIGN OFFICE INVESTIGATION
THE VETERAN ISLANDS
CASE NOTE: 31 DATE: 13th SEPTEMBER 1990
SUBJECT: ANDREW BAKER
The Veteran Islands are a Japanese Puzzle Box. We’ve been pushing and prodding, turning and twisting, searching for that elusive opening. The Governor, Andrew Baker is hidden inside. His life hangs in the balance. We have to lift the lid and lift it soon.
On the other hand, it is a beautiful box. It would be a crime not to enjoy it. Such lavish decorations: beach, bar, café, bar, beach. I mean, why would you cram yourself into a pokey little incident room up in the hills, when there is so much on offer?
To be honest, Andrew Baker should not be in the box. He should not be outside the box. He should not be here at all. He applied for the job of Governor by accident. He was the wrong man at the right time. The islands were about to be invaded. This unqualified, unskilled, unconnected, individual appeared to be the perfect patsy. The invasion never happened. Patsy is still in power. To stay there he needs a degree. An honorary degree is his only hope, a best-selling novel his only chance. The novel is out, the novel is news, the novel is big.
Case Note 31: A Heroes Welcome, 13th September 1990
The Governor and his entourage had been on a peace mission to Oikland, the hostile chain of islands to the east. Oikland is famous for bamboo products, from bikes to boxer shorts. When the Governor expressed a passion for bamboo, it was dismissed by the Oikland military chief as a publicity stunt, and a sham. The Governor and his entourage dropped their trousers to reveal bamboo briefs with the Oikland flag emblazoned on the front.
Photographs of the “brief incident” made front page news around the world. Headlines included: A case of brief madness, Bamboozled, and Y oh Y oh Y oh Y oh Y fronts. Sales of bamboo briefs sky rocketed, as did sales of the Governor’s book, ‘The Boy and the Briefcase and the Moose.’ In one day the Veteran Island had been transformed from enemy to closest ally. This unorthodox approach to diplomacy had been an overwhelming success, and a technique copied the world over, with mixed results.
The Governor and his friends returned to the Veteran Islands as heroes. Crowds cheered as two open top limousines slowly wound their way up through Lax to the Assembly. There the Governor made a short speech, before they returned to Ivory Towers for a welcome rest.
The BBC included a half hour slot on a Saturday for locally produced programmes. The Veteran islands Media Company decided what could be better (or cheaper) than installing cameras in the hair salon in the centre of Lax and listening to what customers had to say. The first episode went out live, the day after the Governor’s heroic return from Oikland. It never went out live again. We include a transcript below as an honest portrayal of the Governor’s appeal at this time, and how he compared to previous incumbants.
BBC production from ‘Get a Grip’ salon, Lax’s Reality TV show 14th September 1990
In the salon Lillian leans back in the chair, resting her neck in the arc of the basin. She rolls her head back. Elaine collects her hair into the bowl, showering it with warm water. Mavis sits impatiently with her hair layered in foil envelopes as she waits for the colour to take. Gloria flicks through the magazines on the coffee table, then slowly slides one out. She checks to see if anyone is looking, then opens it up wide eyed and peers inside. Grant, the trainee, is fiddling with the new coffee machine. There’s a swoosh of steam. He jumps back nervously and eyes the machine with suspicion. Elaine looks at him and shakes her head, then rummages around on a shelf looking for the right product. She squirts a little into her hand then draws it through the hair with her fingers.
So, what do you think of the new governor? She asks
‘He’s alright,’ Gloria replies, hiding the magazine down the side of the sofa. ‘He’s got the common touch. Easy on the ears.’
‘He don’t speak Latin and Greek like the last one,’ Mavis says. ‘That’s a bonus.’
Lillian is less enthusiastic. ‘I liked the Latin… it’s sophisticated… sexy. But he was a bit pompous.’
‘Pompous! Toffee arse twat, more like,’ Mavis blusters.
‘Toffee nosed, Mavis.’ Lillian lifts her head out of the bowl, much to Elaine’s annoyance, ‘It’s toffee nosed.’
‘He ‘ad enough arse lickers,’ Mavis says forcefully, ‘There must o’ been a reason.’
‘They were just trying to climb the greasy pole,’ Lillian says.
‘I wouldn’t put it past them,’ Mavis grunts snidely.
‘They were looking for a leg up like everyone else.’ Lillian continues, settling back over the bowl.
‘More like a leg over,’ Gloria chips in. ‘He was quite active with members in the Assembly, I hear.’
Elaine picks up the shower fitting to rinse Lillian’s hair. ‘Did they ever prove… he did, y’ know?’
‘They yanked him out pretty quick. There must a’ been a reason,’ Mavis snorts.
‘He didn’t even say goodbye,’ Lillian says, with a hint of bitterness.
‘Where’d he go?’ Elaine asks, rinsing away the last of the suds.
‘Saudi,’ Gloria says. ‘Out of harms way. No sheep in Saudi Arabia.’
‘It was a dolphin,’ Lillian says.
‘How do you know it was a dolphin?’ Elaine says looking up.
‘Sheep don’t swim,’ Lillian states.
‘And?’ Gloria asks.
‘They were scuba diving at the time, off the coast around Fritter, from that fancy hotel… the, er… Maharaja.’
‘It could have been apres scuba,’ Elaine suggests, ‘back at the hotel.’
‘Was it a bottlenose?’ Mavis asks.
‘Does it matter?’ Elaine says. ‘A dolphin’s a dolphin.’
‘You’d can never get a bottlenose back to the bedroom,’ Mavis explains
‘You’re right,’ Gloria chips in, ‘they’re a bugger to chat up are a bottlenose. Not a kinky bone in their body.’
Mavis rolls her eyes. ‘It’s got nothing to do with how frigid they are.’
Lillian is irate. ‘Hey! You can’t say frigid, it’s demeaning. They’re not frigid, they’re just choosy.’
‘You’re only saying that because your husband called you frigid.’ Mavis taunts.
Gloria raises her hand to her mouth ‘No! He didn’t, did he?’
Mavis nods. ‘She thought it was a term of endearment till I told her what it meant.’
‘He’s not my husband anymore.’ Lillian sits arms folded defiant.
‘You probably misheard. He probably called you Bridgette,’ Gloria says.
‘You think that’s any better?’ Lillian queries angrily.
‘It is your name,’ Gloria points out.
‘My first name yes, but I never use it.’
‘Maybe he forgot,’ Mavis says.
Lillian shakes her head. Elaine drags the conversation back on track.
‘So, assuming arousal is not the reason, ignoring cross species issues, and a lack of feet, Why wouldn’t a bottlenose dolphin follow you back to the hotel.’
‘They’re too big,’ Mavis says.
‘So?’ Gloria throws her hands out, ready to catch the response.
‘It’d never fit in a standard double bed,’ Mavis says smugly
‘Ah, but what about a King size bed,’ Goria says, ‘They’re bound to be king size at the Maharaja.’
‘A bottlenose dolphin is huge,’ Mavis points out. ‘You wouldn’t get one through the door.’
Lillian nods. ‘For Apres-scuba It’d have to be a Hector or a Maui dolphin.’
‘They’re so cute,’ Grant says gooey eyed.
‘Not cute enough to… though,’ Mavis says.
Grant shakes his head. ‘I could fix ’em up. A bit of mascara, eye shadow, and a little of blusher… they’d be irresistible.’
‘They could do with getting it on,’ says Gloria, ‘with each other that is. They need to get their numbers up.'
‘I hope there’s no dolphin/governor offspring,’ Mavis says
‘Why?’ Elaine asks, while guiding Lillian round to the styling station.
Mavis wags a finger. ‘You wouldn’t want that boring bastard swimming alongside your boat quoting Shakespeare. That’ll drive you onto the rocks better than any mermaid.’
‘I reckon it’s all a cover up anyway,’ Lillian suggests.
‘What do you mean, a cover up? Gloria asks.
‘The rumour about a dolphin is to cover up something much, much worse,’ Lillian says looking over her shoulder. Elaine gently guides her head back round to the front.
‘Worse than a dolphin!’ She says ‘What is worse than a dolphin?’
‘There’s loads worse than a dolphin,’ Mavis says a cheeky look in her eye.
Lillian points at Mavis in the mirror. ‘Please can we avoid going through the whole of the animal kingdom deciding which animal is worse than a dolphin?’
‘Well I think we can all agree, small is worse,’ Mavis suggests.
‘Please No! Enough. No more animal talk. I am a member of the WWF after all,’ Lillian says
‘Funny,’ Gloria says smiling. ‘You don’t look like a wrestler.’
‘The World Wildlife Fund, not the World Wrestling Federation,’ Lillian clarifies.
‘Thought it was odd,’ Gloria says knowingly.
‘I wasn’t talking about worse animals,’ Lillian strops. ‘I meant, I bet there is a real scandal, a terrible scandal. The dolphin is just a red herring.’
‘Now that would be worse,’ Mavis says.
‘Granted,’ Lillian accepts, ‘but something else was probably going on at the time. Something we all missed.’
‘If we missed anything, it'll be money, sex, drugs, murder, or treason,’ Mavis suggests.
‘Well I miss the money, sex and the drugs,’ Gloria chips in, ‘but I don’t miss the treason.’
‘They passed me by altogether,’ Mavis says looking a little disappointed.
‘There was that thing with the Saudi Prince,’ Elaine suggests, snipping at a few strands of hair.
Gloria smiles cheekily. ‘The one that liked to dress up as a dolphin?’
‘Yeah him.’ Elaine’s tone is sarcastic.
‘Anyway I’m glad they got rid of him,’ Mavis says
‘The Saudi Prince?’ Elaine asks.
Mavis shakes her head ‘No the old governor. What a tosspot.’
‘They were all tosspots till this one came along.’ Gloria says.
Mavis attempts a seductive pout. ‘And he’s a bit of alright.’
Gloria nods, ‘Shame he’s taken really. I would.’
‘We know you would,’ Lillian says. ‘If it moves you would.’
Gloria shrugs. ‘Who cares if it moves?
Elaine looks up from some tricky trimming. ‘He looked good in that open top limo on the way up from the harbour.’
‘That shirt with the open collar really suits him,’ Gloria says dragging at the neck of her blouse.
Mavis shakes her head. ‘I prefer the big black guy, the Rugby player. I’d like to play with his odd shaped balls.’
‘Mavis!’ Lillian chides.
‘Well, if we had to make a choice,’ Lillian says, ‘I’d go for the James Bond look alike.’
‘The guy from the Foreign Office?’ Elaine asks.
‘Yeah him,’ Lillian agrees.
Grant places a cup of coffee on the low table next to Gloria.
‘Coaster!’ Elaine scolds, pointing.
Grant, grins a ‘sorry’ and moves the cup across. Gloria gives him a smile.
‘So Grant, who do you like, from the procession?’ She asks.
‘Me? I like the Governor’s Girlfriend,’ he says.
‘Really,’ Gloria responds, ‘I thought you had a different… perspective. I thought maybe… the blonde?’
Grant shakes his head. ‘Not my type.’
‘But the girl… Karen… you fancy her?’ Gloria asks, surprised.
‘I don’t fancy her,’ Grant says. ‘She’s fun, she’s a hoot.’
‘Yeah,’ Mavis says, ‘she is that. That was funny, when she stood up in the car and lifted her skirt to reveal the Oikland flag.’
Lillian laughs. ‘The best bit was when she bent over and there was a union jack on the other side.’
‘The old bloke next to me had palpitations,’ Mavis says, patting her chest.
‘I thought he was going to have a stroke,’ Lillian says.
‘He would, if he could reach,’ Mavis jokes. They all laugh
‘Tying underpants to the car aerials was a nice touch,’ Elaine suggests.
‘Did anyone throw their nickers?’ Gloria asks looking around.
‘I heard them suggest it on the radio,’ Lillian replies, ‘so I had a spare in my bag. She forgot,’ she says pointing to Mavis. ‘Ended up taking them off in the street.’
‘Mavis!’ Gloria says in mock horror.
‘I didn’t want to be left out,’ Mavis says.
‘Not very hygienic though is it Mavis,’ Lillian says, ‘An old pair of nickers, hitting you in your face.’
‘They didn’t hit him in the face.’
‘They did hit the blonde guy in the car behind though,’ Lillian points out.
Gloria squirms. ‘Hope he didn’t catch anything.’
‘That’s what did it for Tom Jones you know,’ Mavis says.
‘What?’ Elaine asks, frowning.
‘Chlamydia?’ They all say together.
Mavis leans forward as if to share a secret. ‘When his career went quiet in the seventies. All those nickers… chlamydia overload.’
‘Why would chlamydia stop his career?’ Elaine asked doubtfully.
‘Apparently men’s… round things.’
‘Testicles,’ Gloria prompts.
‘Yes those,’ Mavis agrees, ‘they can swell up. Tom Jones gyrating like he does, they get a bit of a swing on them, disturbs the balance. He was all over the place.’
‘No!’ Elaine gasps.
‘A gyroscope out of control,’ Mavis says nodding.
‘He performed here one year you know,’ Lillian says. ‘He was visiting Ritchard Branston. Did a little concert, up at the assembly.’
‘Did you go?’ Elaine asks.
‘Of course I went,’ Lillian says. ‘Took a spare pair of nickers with me. She forgot hers again.’
‘Tripped down the steps, nickers around my ankles.’ Mavis clutches her hands embarrassed by the memories.
‘The Governor is a bit of a pop star himself now,’ Elaine says.
‘Well, he’s famous here. He’s hardly a world-wide phenomenon,’ Lillian suggests.
‘I don’t know, he was on the front page of all the papers,’ Gloria points out.
‘And that book of his, The Boy and the Briefcase and the Moose, is a best seller,’ Elaine says. ‘I’ve got a copy.’
‘Any good?’ Gloria asks.
‘Well it’s alright, but it's no Violet Eyes.’
Violet Eyes, is a new novel by Elaine Ramsey, published on August 28th 2022 by 'The Book Guild.'
“Engaging with Oiks” – by Andrew Batty - Copyright 2021: All rights reserved
For the first case on this carousel of catastrophe refer to case note 1
FOREIGN OFFICE INVESTIGATION
THE VETERAN ISLANDS
CASE NOTE: 30 DATE: 12th SEPTEMBER 1990
SUBJECT: ANDREW BAKER
ENGAGING WITH OIKS
Sometimes an investigator is blinkered; strolls down a cul-de-sac and can’t find their way out. Maybe the cul-de-sac is pretty; they don’t want to leave. Throw off the blinkers, they still won’t turn around; they’re enjoying themselves far too much. Now I’m not saying the Veteran Islands are a cul-de-sac, but they sure are pretty.
I digress. The Governor of these fair isles, and his entourage have disappeared. We are here to find them and find them we shall. They have not fallen down a rabbit hole or strolled into a cul-de-sac. They may have been abducted by aliens, who knows, they’ve certainly been abducted by someone.
The Governor, Andrew Baker, has never lived in a cul-de-sac. This is just one of the many fascinating jigsaw pieces we have discovered. If we can piece, all those jigsaw pieces together, we will have a picture, a picture of where he is… or a picture of a dreary Tudor inn with a horse and carriage outside.
Remind me never… never ever… to write a report after going to Rumshackle’s Ramshackle Rum Shack. I’m not blinkered anymore… because, I can’t see. Maybe I’ve got my eyes closed. I’ll check in the mirror.
Case Note 30: Engaging with Oiks, 12th September 1990
Sorry about that boss. Jude here. I’ve taken over typing for now. Geoff’s birthday party last night. Tiny bit too much to drink. Temporary blindness is the least of his problems. When he eventually opens his eyes, he’ll realise he forgot to get dressed this morning. Well, he is wearing a traditional bow tie, but not necessarily in the traditional location.
So, where were we. Oh, yes, Case note: 30 Engaging with Oiks
Tensions are running high between the British Veteran Islands and Oikland, the island chain to the east. Oikland had tried to invade once, and was threatening to do so again. The Governor of the Vets and his associates held a meeting at Rumshackle’s Ramshackle, Rum Shack on the 1st September to discuss ways of reducing the tension.
Following that meeting a number of things occurred. Tarquin Pallister managed to obtain funding for the literature for peace initiative; Andrew Baker convinced the publisher to help with costs; Winston Grahame telephoned Paranoid Majumpa and arranged a meeting in Oikland; and Tarquin Pallister also obtained a tentative agreement for the England Rugby team to stay over in Oikland for one night, on their return journey from their Pacific Tour. To make the meeting with Paranoid Majumpa feel more like a high profile diplomatic mission, it was agreed that Andrew, Winston, Josephine, Quinlan, Tarquin and Karen, accompanied by the Third Recorder would all visit Oikland together. Tarquin arranged a visit to the bamboo bike factory on the outskirts of the capital city of Dubious. Perhaps, most important of all, Andrew Baker bought everyone several pairs of bamboo briefs, made in Oikland. The following article is taken from the capital’s daily paper ‘The Dubious Observer.’
The Dubious Observer
Oikland’s No.1 local paper: Building a better community, with none of that namby-pamby left wing libertarian nonsense.
10.00 scruples. (If you lack any scruples refer to page 3 article, ‘how to dish the dirt on your neighbour for cash)
September 13th 1990
1: Editor’s Opinion – Pages 1 to 39
2: Facts – Page 40, column 4, last paragraph.
Visitors drop everything to show they care
Paranoid Majumpa’s invitation to the Governor of the Veteran Islands to visit Oikland, in order to defuse tension between nations, has proven to be a complete success. The Governor’s team included Winston Grahame, the well-known England international rugby star and his physiotherapist Josephine Carter; representatives of the British Foreign Office, Tarquin Pallister and Quinlan Weston-Smythe; the Governor’s personal secretary, Karen Hannah; and of course, the Third Recorder.
The day started with Winston Grahame teaching a group of school children how to form the perfect scrum. He then challenged them to stop him pushing his way from one end of the training pitch to the other. With several children wrapped around his ankles he collapsed within a few feet of the try line; the children collapsed with laughter.
After lunch Andrew Baker drove a lorry full of books to the secondary school in Goon. There he handed out copies of his new book ‘The Boy and the Briefcase and the Moose.’ Over the next few days the lorry was to visit all the secondary schools in Oikland providing a book for every pupil as part of the President’s Great Literacy Initiative. Paranoid said the Governor’s book is a gas, great fun to read, and will make pupils realise the schools in Oikland are every bit as good as those in Great Britain.
Following dinner the guests visited the famous Bamboo Bike factory on the outskirts of the city. It was here that Leery Strudel, head of the army, and strong supporter of military intervention in the Veteran Islands, broke ranks with Paranoid’s diplomatic team, and declared the visit a pathetic attempt at appeasement. He went on to say the visit was a sham, a charade, and the guests had absolutely no interest in Oikland bamboo, and nothing they did could prove otherwise. There was stunned silence, while the diplomatic mission teetered on a precipice. All seemed lost until Andrew Baker, the Governor of the Vets gave the instruction to ‘drop ‘em.’ Five pairs of trousers and two skirts hit the floor to reveal bamboo briefs with the Oikland flag emblazoned across the front. The crowd went wild.
“Appeasing the Oiks” – by Andrew Batty - Copyright 2021: All rights reserved
For the first flush on this drain run to disaster, refer to Case Note 1
FOREIGN OFFICE INVESTIGATION
THE VETERAN ISLANDS
CASE NOTE: 29 DATE: 1st SEPTEMBER 1990
SUBJECT: ANDREW BAKER
APPEASING THE OIKS
We’ve lost the car keys, somewhere in the house. We’ve done the cursory glance at the mantlepiece, on top of the bread bin, bathroom windowsill, and felt in the pocket of every casually discarded pair of trousers in the bedroom; no show. We go through the coat rack, kitchen table, chest of drawers and down the side of the settee; still no sign. At this point we have a choice: either, we take the house apart brick by brick, or we retrace our steps, rule in and rule out, until we find what we are looking for. Annihilation or investigation. We prefer the latter.
Our missing ‘key’ is Andrew Baker, our ‘house’ the Veteran islands, of which he is the Governor. He has not slipped down the side of the settee or been discovered on top of the mantlepiece. We are now retracing his steps. By doing so we hope to discover a whole set of keys on the same ring; namely, his friends: Karen, Josephine, Winston, Quinlan and Tarquin, along with the Third Recorder, his personal assistant.
Andrew Baker is the key that did not fit the lock; a key that opened a door to the prestigious post of Governor. An imminent invasion meant, for a while, any key would fit; it would soon be disposed of anyway, so who cares what it looks like. The invasion never happened. Andrew Baker is now being re-cut and re-shaped, by his personal assistant, with the right skills, knowledge and experience for the job. A degree is the only bit missing. He needs one before they change the locks. His only chance is an honorary degree; a best-selling novel, his best hope of getting one. The book is written, the book is published, the book is not selling well.
Case Note 29: Appeasing the Oiks, 1st September 1990
A lot has happened since our last Case Note on the 28th of July. Andrew Baker’s novel, ‘The Boy and the Briefcase and the Moose,’ has been published and is languishing on shelves in respectable book shops everywhere. He has proved to be a popular Governor, and the Veteran Islands a paragon of efficient and effective administration.
On the 1st of September Andrew Baker, his friends and the Third Recorder met at Rumshackle’s Ramshackle Rum Shack. There they discussed book sales, as well as the possibility of another invasion from Oikland, the hostile island to the east. Quinlan was still cycling round wearing a helmet fitted with a video recorder. We are fortunate he cycled to the Rum Shack that day and placed his helmet down on the table without switching it off. Below is a transcript of the recording.
Case Note 29: Transcript of cycle helmet recording device.
‘Book sales are good,’ Winston said. ‘Not best-seller good, but doing alright.’
‘That’s in the book shop on the island, nowhere else,’ The Third Recorder replied, ‘It’s not good enough. Sales need to be off the scale.
‘We need a new marketing angle,’ Josephine suggested. Andrew Baker nodded.
‘We need to sell a shed load of books and quick. Enough to push us right up the list. We need to get noticed.
How big a shed, is a shed load? Quinlan asked.
‘A very, very, very big shed,’ The Third Recorder advised.
Tarquin changed topic. ‘I’ve heard reports that the Oiks are getting uppity again. The military are undertaking manoeuvres.’
Andrew Baker frowned. ‘Do you think they are planning another invasion? I’m not sure we’ll be so lucky with a tidal wave, second time around?
‘An invasion looks likely,’ Tarquin advised.
Karen shook her head. ‘Why? Why would anyone want to invade the Vets?’
‘It’s the president,’ Tarquin advised. ‘His support is waning, he needs something to boost his popularity. An invasion might just be his best option.’
‘I guess diplomacy is out,’ Andrew Baker said. ‘There’s no point negotiating with someone who’s paranoid.’
‘He’s not paranoid,’ the Third Recorder stated.
Andrew Baker looked confused. ‘You told me Majumpa was paranoid.’
'No! He’s Paranoid Majumpa. That’s his name.'
Winston brightened. ‘Paranoid Majumpa is the president of Oikland?’
‘Yeah. Do you know him?’ the Third Recorder asked.
‘Of course. He used to be a rugby player. Some time ago now. He was pretty good. I’ve bumped into him at Twickenham before. He’s a massive rugby fan. Nice guy.’
‘Not at the moment,’ Tarquin said ‘At the moment he’s being a massive pain in the arse.’
‘He’s probably a bit upset,’ Winston said.
‘A bit upset!’ Andrew Baker said. ‘You don’t invade because you’re a bit upset.’
Winston explained. ‘That place he comes from, Oikland, were ruled out of the Rugby World Cup. Can’t remember why. Some technicality. I think he posted the submission form too late, or something like that. The Oiks are all crazy about the game. His ratings probably took a nose dive.’
‘Not just that,’ the Third Recorder said, ‘he was elected on the promise of improving literacy across the islands. But there’s been no change.’
‘Why? Karen asked. ‘Why has there been no change?’
The Third Recorder shrugged. ‘Not enough books.’
‘It’s a shame we can’t just send him thousands of copies of The Boy and the Briefcase and the Moose,’ Karen said.
‘Why can’t we?’ Tarquin asked.
‘They’re in English,’ Karen replied.
‘They speak English in Oikland,’ Tarquin pointed out.
‘Do they?’ Karen asked.
‘Uhuh,’ Tarquin confirmed.
‘Well, it’s a very cheap book,’ Andrew Baker said. ‘I hear the author has waived all royalties for Oikland, and I’m sure he could persuade the publishers to see the marketing potential. We could get the price right down.’
The Third Recorder looked a little less enthusiastic. ‘You can’t sell them to him. That would be an insult. We’d be even more likely to get invaded.'
Tarquin smiled. ‘If the book is so cheap, I reckon I could get the Foreign Office to fund it as a diplomatic mission. Literature and peace, a perfect combination. I might leave out the title and author on correspondence. The Foreign Office will just assume we’re sending another set of Shakespeare plays that no-one will read.'
The Third Recorder still looked doubtful. ‘Oikland have broken off all diplomatic relations. If we can’t speak to him, then we can’t arrange a deal.’
‘He’ll talk to me,’ Winston said.
‘Are you sure?’ Andrew Baker said.
Winston nodded. ‘Yeah. I’ll ring him and suggest I’m trying to arrange a friendly game between England and the Oiks, “Can I come over with a few mates for a chat.” He’d be intrigued. He loves his rugby.
Josephine sighed. ‘It’s a shame the England team aren’t stopping off at Oikland on their tour. That might have calmed things down.'
‘Yeah, there’s nothing the Oiks would like more than to play England,’ Winston agreed.
‘I could have another word with the foreign office,’ Tarquin said. ‘see if we can get something set up.’
Winston chewed his thinking finger. ‘In the short term, I can get a few of my rugby mates over, make some waves, a few publicity shots with Oikland kids. That will buy Paranoid Majumpa some time. I reckon we can talk him round.’
'It can’t all be one way,’ the Third Recorder said. ‘Paranoid is a proud man. He won’t want this to be a sympathy mission. He’ll want to look strong. He’ll want to make out Oikland can hold it’s own. ‘
‘What’s Oikland’s main industries?’ Andrew asked.
Tarquin scratched his head. ‘Palm oil, coffee, bamboo bikes.’
‘Bamboo bikes?’ Andrew Baker asked.
‘Yeah, bamboo bikes,’ Tarquin confirmed.
‘Bikes, made out of bamboo?’ Andrew Baker asked again.
‘How many times?’ Tarquin said.
‘But that’s perfect,’ Andrew said. ‘What could be better than that. We can send a trade mission to Oikland, to learn about eco transport. We can make them out to be world leaders. We’ll herald the potential for bamboo everything, cars, planes, trains, boats, underpants, It’s perfect.’
‘Underpants?’ Karen asked.
‘Sorry that just slipped in,’ Andrew said.
Karen frowned. ‘Why bamboo underpants?’
‘I’m wearing some at the moment,’ Andrew Baker said rubbing his groin.
‘I’m glad you pointed to your groin,’ Josephine said, ‘cos I thought you’d be wearing them on your head.’
Quinlan still couldn’t believe it.‘You’re wearing bamboo underpants. Underpants made of bamboo?’
‘Don’t they chafe?’ Josephine asked.
‘No! it’s not bits of bamboo. They’re made of bamboo material, like cotton. They’re quite comfortable.’
‘But why?’ Quinlan asked. ‘Why wear bamboo underpants?’
‘Bamboo wicks moisture away from the body,’ Andrew advised.
Winston screwed his face up in disgust. ‘Uggh! Doesn’t that mean the outside of your pants are all wet?’
‘No! It evaporates,’ Andrew Baker explained. ‘But, your bits stay dry. It’s the heat. I get a bit moist, a bit damp, so I ordered a load. They’re really good.’
Winston looked interested. ‘To be honest, I’ve had a bit of a butter butt myself.’
‘Butter butt?’ Josephine queried.
‘You know, when it feels like someone’s spread butter between your butt cheeks.’
Tarquin frowned. ‘I’ve never been in that kind of relationship, I wouldn’t know.’
‘I’m a margarine man myself,’ Quinlan said, ‘lower cholesterol.’
‘Your arse isn’t going to eat it,’ Karen said.
‘Someone else might.’ Quinlan said. ‘No, sorry, that’s strawberries and cream.’
‘Quinlan!’ Josephine chided.
He does have a point,’ Andrew Baker said.
‘With the strawberries and cream?’ Karen asked, looking doubtful.
'No! well yes, but with regards to margarine, it does spread better.'
‘True,’ Josephine agreed.
‘I bet you’re a virgin olive oil person,’ Andrew said.
‘Don’t call me Olive Oil,’ Josephine said.
‘Ha! Very good,’ Andrew Baker chortled..
Josephine looked coy. ‘Actually,’ she said, ‘I’m not immune to a sweaty betty myself.’
Winston raised an eyebrow. ‘I’m not sure what a betty is, but I get the gist.’
Tarquin nodded. ‘Presumably it’s the equivalent of a sticky dicky.’
‘Surely more swilly willy or pooly goolie,’ Quinlan chipped in.
‘Or maybe, grotty botty,’ the Third Recorder added.
‘Due to hotty botty,’ Andrew Baker suggested.
‘Leading to spotty botty,’ Karen concluded.
‘Well, it sounds like we all need bamboo briefs,’ Winston suggested.
‘I’ll get everyone a set,’ Andrew Baker said. ‘They’re made in Oikland, as it happens. They’ve got the Oikland flag on the front.’
‘Nice touch,’ the Third Recorder said. ‘Come-on. Time we were going back.’
‘Can we go back via the green grocers,’ Andrew Baker asked. ‘I want to buy some strawberries.’
“Mr Rumshackle’s Ramshackle Rum Shack” – by Andrew Batty - Copyright 2021: All rights reserved
For the first nail in this literary coffin, please refer to case note 1
FOREIGN OFFICE INVESTIGATION
THE VETERAN ISLANDS
CASE NOTE: 28 DATE: 28th JULY 1990
SUBJECT: ANDREW BAKER
MR RUMSHACKLE’S RAMSHACKLE RUM SHACK
Like the forlorn lover we want a particular fish. We know there are plenty more fish in the sea; everyone keeps telling us; but we are only interested in one. Our fish has gone missing so we are going fishing. We are not using bait. We don’t think we can lure the fish out. We think it is caught in someone else’s net. Our job is to find the net, and free the fish. To find the net, we have to find the fisherman.
The fish is Andrew Baker, Governor of the Veteran Islands. He is a fish out of water. No qualifications, experience, knowledge, or skills, and yet he was appointed by the Foreign Office to this prestigious post. An imminent invasion meant they needed a fall guy, someone expendable. Andrew Baker was that man. The invasion never happened. Now, he has the experience, knowledge and skills, he is just missing the qualification, a degree. An honorary degree is his only hope and writing a best-selling novel his only chance of getting one. With his friends help the novel is complete. There is just the best-selling bit to go.
Case Note 28: Rumshackle’s Ramshackle Rum Shack, 18th July 1990
Case Note 27 is a continuation of case note 26 ‘Ugly Fish.’ The Governor and his friends: Karen, Josephine, Winston, Tarquin and Quinlan, along with his assistant, the Third Recorder, are already on their way to the famous Rum Shack. The following conversations would have been lost, if Quinlan hadn’t spotted a bike shop. In the window was one of those brand-new cycle helmets with a built in video recorder. He purchased one and tested it, by wearing it for the rest of the day. The helmet was discovered at the Governor’s residence. Quinlan, along with the Governor’s other friends and the Third Recorder have also disappeared, presumably caught in the same net as Andrew Baker.
Rumshackle’s Ramshackle Rum Shack is a place to lose yourself. You just have to hope, you can still find yourself the next morning. You will, no doubt, have found someone else, it is often the way. So, provided they have only two legs and not lost the power of speech, you can work out who you are, between the two (or possibly three, or more) of you.
Born and bred on the island, the Third Recorder was a regular patron. This was where he let his hair down (the little he had). It was he who penned the legend of Mr Rumshackle’s Ramshackle Rum Shack, painted on a rusty metal panel by the always open door. From the writing, we can only assume he’d had a drink or two. During our investigation, the team have spent quite some time at the rum Shack and can confirm the writing to be a fair portrayal of the establishment. We include the legend as it provides valuable contextual information.
Mr Rumshackle’s Ramshackle Rum Shack
Mr Rumshackle’s ramshackle rum shack.
Clitter clatter tin lap, rickety old rattletrap.
Better bring a hammer tack, you’ll need to pin a panel back
Mr Rumshackles ramshackle rum shack.
Mr Rumshackle’s ramshackle rum shack.
Chatternatteriffic for a jibber-jabber chitchat,
Clams lift their lids right back and turn into a yakkity yak
Mr Rumshackle’s ramshackle rum shack.
Mr Rumshackle’s ramshackle rum shack.
Gigglegagglelicious it’s a titter snicker gag rap.
A melancholy moose will be honking like a goose
Mr Rumshackle’s ramshackle rum shack.
Mr Rumshackle’s ramshackle rum shack.
Periliquorisky for a quaffer, slosher knock back.
Guzzleswigs gurble like a blubber jabberwack
Mr Rumchuckle’s ribtickle rub shack
Mr Rumbutter’s gutchucker sick bag
Mr Rubsnuggle’s ragshaggy rug shop
Mr Ratcatcher’s bloodsplatter cat flap
Mr Rapscatter’s madprattle clap trap
Mr Ragcutter’s naffsatin ruck sack
Mr Rumcookie’s plumtruffle flap jack
Case Note 28: Transcript of cycle helmet recording device.
The Governor of the Veteran Islands, Andrew Baker, along with his friends Karen, Josephine, Winston, Tarquin and Quinlan, as well as the Governor's assistant, the 'Third Recorder,' are walking down to the Rum Shack. Quinlan is wearing his brand new cycle helmet with its built in video recorder.
‘Do you have to wear that thing? You look ridiculous,’ Karen said.
‘This is the future. Everyone will be wearing one of these in ten years time,’ Quinlan replied
‘A device for recording everything you do. Your nuts. Life is too boring the first time round, I wouldn’t want to see it again,’ Winston said.
‘And, I can post the video tape to my friends.’
‘Is their life so boring they’d want to see yours?’ Andrew Baker asked doubtfully.
‘I live a very exciting life. I’m a very exciting person.’ Quinlan stated confidently. Everyone looked at Quinlan in silence.
‘Deluded,’ Winston said
‘Doolally,’ Andrew said
‘Dreamer,’ Josephine said
‘Desperate,’ Tarquin said
‘Disinfectant,’ Karen said
Disinfectant? Everyone asked.
‘Begins with a D,’ Karen explained.
‘It has to make sense,’ Winston said.
‘Okay – dipstick!’
‘I’ll edit the video. Just do the best bits. “Quinlan, the Highlights.”
‘You’ve gotta have a soundtrack. All good films have a soundtrack,’ Josephine suggested.
‘I don’t know if I can add stuff?’ Quinlan said. Andrew Baker had a solution
‘We could be singing in the background wherever you go, you could pan round and there’d we be, standing by the stream, under a tree, or on a rocky outcrop.’
‘We could be ‘The Veteran Island Singers’ Josephine suggested.
‘Too long. How about “The Veterans,”’ Karen proposed.
Too old. How about ‘The Vets,’ Tarquin said.
‘Great,’ Andrew Baker replied. ‘We could all wear arm long rubber gloves and do the calving song.’
‘Which is?’ Quinlan asked.
‘You put your left arm in, your left arm out, in out in out shake it all about,’ Andrew Baker sang.
‘That’s the Hokey Cokey,’ Karen said.
‘Hokey Cokey is calving in French. I distinctly remember Madame Oublion telling us at School,’ Winston said.
‘I don’t think I’ve got any arm long rubber gloves.’ Josephine said.
‘You must get some, they’re very versatile,’ Winston advised.
‘What can you do with arm long rubber gloves apart from calving?’ Karen asked.
‘Gynecology, Customs Officer, drain clearance, and you only need one pair,’ Winston said.
‘Where can I buy some?’ Karen asked with mock enthusiasm.
‘I think they’ve got spares at the Cat and Fiddle,’ Andrew Baker said.
The group approach the dilapidated collection of corrugated iron comprising the Rum Shack.
‘We are now approaching Rumshackle’s Ramshackle Rum Shack, and I must say, it is every bit as ramshackle as the name suggests,’ Quinlan announced.
‘Are you going to run a commentary on everything we do?’
‘That was Josephine Carter asking ‘Are you going to… ‘
‘I know what I said.’ Josephine gave Quinlan a withering look.
They entered in and sat at a rusty round table on rickety old chairs. They looked up at the roof, as if they can’t quite believe it is staying up. Rusty old bikes, bits of washing machine and bed frames had been strung together with rope, then tied back to a number of large bolts, sunk deep into the rockface. Tarquin prodded the iron panels with uncertainty.
‘Here we are inside the famous rum shack. Looking around there are only a few other inhabitants,’ Quinlan continued his commentary. At that point, the others started singing.
‘You put your left arm in, your left arm out, in out, in out and shake it all about…
Quinlan scans the shack. The sweep of the camera passes over four surprisingly well-dressed customers. Subsequently these have been identified as the First Recorder as was, and two members of the Oikland Assembly.
‘Drinks?’ Mr Rumshackle asks.
Everyone looks to the Third Recorder for Guidance.
‘Six Rainbows,’ he said.
‘Are you sure? Do you think it wise?’ Mr Rumshackle asked.
‘I think so,’ the Third Recorder replied.
Six tall glasses arrive containing a liquid layered in bright colours with what appears to be a tiny pot of gold floating on the top, and a plastic leprechaun grinning from the edge of the glass. They scoop out the pot, remove the leprechaun and take a sip.
‘Hey it tastes almost as nice as it looks.’ Karen licks her lips enthusiastically.
‘It doesn’t taste that strong,’ Quinlan said taking a second sip.
‘Really quite refreshing.’ Andrew Baker takes a swig.
‘Is it non-alcoholic,’ Josephine asks.
‘Not entirely,’ the Third Recorder advised.
‘I could have several of these,’ Quinlan claims, ‘I really could.’
A few minutes later the video recorder crashes to the floor, along with the helmet and the head beneath.
‘Ugly Fish” – by Andrew Batty - Copyright 2022: All rights reserved
For the first note in this concerto of catastrophe, please refer to case note 1
FOREIGN OFFICE INVESTIGATION
THE VETERAN ISLANDS
CASE NOTE: 27 DATE: 18th JULY 1990
SUBJECT: ANDREW BAKER
We are looking for a needle in a haystack. The haystack is the Veteran Islands, the needle is Andrew Baker, its Governor. We don't want to comb through every strand of straw to find the needle, no siree. We need a metal detector. These case notes are that metal detector. They'll lead us to the needle sooner or later. We, are the detectorists.
Andrew Baker has lived a charmed life. Up to arriving on the Veteran Islands the charms had been cast by a malevolent and mischievous imp with an appalling sense of humour. Since his arrival, a much kinder sprite had been stirring the caldron. Mr Baker was wholly unqualified, wholly inexperienced, and wholly unsuitable, and yet he was still in post. He was slowly gaining the knowledge, skills and experience he needed. The only thorn in his side was the lack of a degree. He needed one. His only hope was an honorary title, and writing a best-selling novel, was his best chance of getting one. He was well on the way. With the help of his friends: Winston, Tarquin, Quinlan, Josephine and Karen, and that of his assistant, the Third Recorder, the first draft was now complete. The copy editor, Punctilius Grunge, was locked away in Ivory Towers, hard at work checking all the details. Punctilius, or Punk as she was known to her friends (and enemies, of which there were considerably more), was best left alone, for everyone’s sake. So, they abandoned the Governor’s residence and made their way to a local watering hole.
Case Note 27: Ugly Fish, 18th July 1990
Rumshackle’s, Ramshackle Rum Shack, is a favourite bar for those in the know. It is not a tourist destination; not because it is an unfriendly place; quite the contrary. It is one of those places where everyone knows everyone else. A fresh face would assume it was intruding on a birthday celebration, flush red, spin round, and leave, taking its body with it. For the familiar face it is a place to chat and relax and let your hair down, while your body takes a hell of a beating. The drinks have a strong narcotic effect. Soon the troubles of the world seem to have drifted away, along with all dignity and self-restraint.
The Third Recorder, the Governor and his friends had left the Governor’s Residence, and driven up to the Assembly in Lax. There they parked, before gathering at the gate to the compound.
The following Transcript is taken from Tarquin Pallister’s Dictaphone. This had been switched on to record events during their walk down through Lax. This is the unedited version before the essential elements of the meeting on fish quotas had been extracted and edited down.
‘Rumshackle?’ The Third Recorder enquired.
‘Rumshackle?’ Andrew Baker questioned.
‘Rumshackle’s Ramshackle Rum Shack,’ The Third Recorder clarified.
‘Where’s that?’ Winston asked.
‘’It’s at the end of Easy Street,’ The Third Recorder said looking down the road. Everyone followed his gaze.
‘I thought Heartbreak Hotel was at the end of Easy Street,’ Quinlan said, referring to the Elvis Presley Classic.
‘That’s Lonely Street,’ Tarquin corrected, singing, ‘It’s down at the end of lonely street, At Heartbreak Hotel. I’m feeling so lonely baby, I’m feeling so lonely I could die.’
‘Easy Street is the song out of Annie,’ Karen advised. ‘It’s a bit more upbeat.’
‘You’ll find nowt but happiness at the end of Easy Street,’ Winston said, matter of fact.
‘I thought It was the Cat and Fiddle at the end of Easy Street, not Rumshackle,’ Andrew Baker queried.
‘It is,’ the Third Recorder confirmed. ‘Rumshackle is further on.’
‘Cat and Fiddle? Is that the house of ill repute? Tarquin asked.
‘Told you, nowt but happiness,’ Winston confirmed.
‘A brothel? I thought the er ‘Cockatoo,’ was the house of ill repute,’ Josephine said.
‘That’s the up-town brothel,’ the Third Recorder advised. ‘The downtown brothel is the Cat and Fiddle. They’re quite different establishments.’
‘Different in what way?’ Karen asked. The Third Recorder explained.
‘The Cockatoo is a risky decision, you have to ask yourself “can I live with that risk”, the Cat and Fiddle is a rash decision, you ask yourself “can I live with that rash”.’
‘At least it doesn’t have a dodgy name. like Cock-or-two,’ Josephine said
‘I think Cat is a euphemism for a euphemism,’ Quinlan advised.
‘You mean… Ugghh.’
‘Does a town this size really need two brothels?’ Josephine asked.
‘Don’t ask me. I’m not a frequent flyer,’ Andrew replied.
‘Flyer?’ Winston queried. ‘Have you been jumping off the wardrobe again.’
‘No, the women I make love to are all angels.’
‘What do you mean… women?’ Karen sniped.
‘Woman. The woman I make love to is an angel.’
‘How sweet,’ Josephine said. ‘Do those wings take you to heaven?’
‘Heaven and beyond,’ Andrew replied.
‘Funny, cause you’re often down in the mouth,’ Quinlan said, and smiled.
‘What?’ Andrew Baker said, bemused.
‘Down in the mouth, down, as in feathers. The wings,’ Quinlan clarified.
‘Very good, for you that is. Are you doing panto this year?’
‘So where is Rumshackle?’ Karen asked, dragging them down to earth. The Third Recorder clarified.
‘You carry on past Easy Street down Lover’s Lane,’ he said.
‘Makes sense,’ Winston said nodding. ‘Easy Street followed by Lover’s Lane.’
‘Is it followed by Mother’s Regret Road and Absent Father Alley?’ Josephine chipped in.
‘You’re such a pessimist,’ Tarquin said.
‘Realist!’ Josephine corrected.
‘How could you regret having lots of sweet little kiddlychinks,’ Quinlan asked.
‘A baby is the size of a bowling ball. It comes out of a hole that big.' she made a ring by touching the ends of her thumb and index finger, then on second thoughts overlapped the two. She winced. 'I think I could regret it,’ she advised.
‘It’s worth it,’ said Winston
‘Says a man,’ Josephine replied.
‘Mum says you forget the pain, you don’t remember it.’ Andrew said ‘She’s had four bowling balls.’
‘That’s childbirth,’ Josephine stated. ‘Post-traumatic stress – selective amnesia – like army veterans get.’
‘I guess mum did have me,’ Andrew pointed out. ‘That would make it all feel worthwhile.’
‘You’re right,’ Karen said. ‘The pain of childbirth would be nothing compared to bringing you up.’
‘Are you the youngest?’ Tarquin asked.
‘Why?’ Andrew replied
‘Well, if she didn’t have any more. You may have been the bowling ball that broke the camel’s back.’
‘I’m not the youngest,’ Andrew said, ‘and my mum is not a camel.’
‘You’d have thought she would have learnt from her mistakes,’ Winston said.
‘I am the Governor of the Veteran Islands. How could I be considered a mistake?’ Andrew stated.
‘You’re only the Governor if we can drag you out of the shit you’ve gotten yourself into,’ Karen pointed out.
‘True’ Andrew Baker acknowledged.
‘It’ll be a miracle if you come out smelling of roses,’ Josephine said.
‘Are we back onto childbirth,’ Winston enquired.
‘If he did come out smelling of roses, that would have been the last time,’ Karen said.
‘Do you mind not trashing my tragic life.’
‘So, where are we going?’ Karen butted in. She wasn’t sure she had heard the name correctly. It had sounded like the Third Recorder had been slurring his words, but to be honest, the name is easier to pronounce after several glasses of liquor.
‘Rumshackle!’ The Third Recorder said.
‘Where is it again?’ She asked.
‘It’s round the other side of the bay. You can see it from the quayside. Look, over there.’
‘There’s only those dilapidated fishing huts over that side,’ Winston said pointing.
‘That, is Rumshackle,’ the Third Recorder advised.
‘That! is Rumshackle. That chaotic collection of corrugated iron, is a rum shack?’ Karen asked, in disbelief.
‘Uhuh. I did say “shack”’
‘When you said “shack”, I didn’t know you meant “shack”’ Karen insisted.
‘Is it safe?’ Josephine queried.
‘The building’s fine, but the drinks are dangerous.’
‘Why go there?’ Tarquin asked.
‘The quality of the company,’ the Third Recorder said. ‘They are the nicest folk.’
‘Why have you never taken us before?’ Andrew questioned.
‘I didn’t want to upset the balance,’ the Third Recorder said innocently.
‘Charming.’ Andrew Baker suddenly raised a finger and pointed at Tarquin. ‘Hey Tarquin, aren’t you supposed to be going to a meeting?’
‘Well then, why are you here?’ Andrew Baker asked.
‘This is the meeting.’
‘Yes, we are discussing fishing quotas.’
‘We will be.’
‘Shouldn’t there be a conference table, reports, and a secretary taking minutes?’ Andrew enquired.
‘I’ve rigged my Dictaphone up to this microphone,’ Tarquin explained.
‘Which microphone?’ Andrew asked looking for a large, handheld object.
‘This microphone, see, here, on my lapel?’
‘That, it’s tiny.’
‘The military use them for spying. They’re really rather good.’
‘What about the minutes?’
‘I hand the recording to the secretary, she types it up.’
‘Bottoms. Big bottoms, small bottoms, mid bottoms and willies.’
‘Winston, we’re in a meeting, please refrain,’ Andrew chided.
‘Can I just say Oikland Fishermen need bigger… tits.’
‘Winston!’ Josephine scolded.
‘Sorry, I meant quotas.’
‘Actually I think they do.’ Tarquin said.
‘Need bigger tits?’ Winston queried looking doubtful.
‘Quotas!’ Tarquin corrected.
‘To reduce animosity between nations,’ Tarquin continued.
‘Good idea. Anything to lower the tension. We’ll double the quota,’ Andrew Baker said decisively.
‘Twice nothing is still nothing,’ Tarquin advised.
‘I see,’ Andrew replied. ‘How do you work out a quota?’
‘By weight, depending on the type of fish,’ Tarquin explained.
‘So big fish, big quotas, small fish small quotas?’
‘No! You might have lots and lots of small fish and hardly any big fish.’
‘Can’t the fisheries people work it out based on scarcity?’
‘I guess, but then there is managing fish stocks around the globe.’
‘So, they liaise with the Ecology Department.’
‘And the Veteran Island fishermen, they catch some fish which they’d want to protect but don’t bother with others.’
‘Input from Works and Pensions?’
‘There’s also the risk of Oikland military personnel masquerading as fishermen.’
‘Dumping poor quality fish on the islands.’
‘Food Standards Agency.’
‘Policing the agreement.’
‘Contravention of other trade agreements.’
‘Government Legal Department.’
‘It could tie up the whole assembly for weeks. You’ll never get a decision in time to make a difference,’ Tarquin insisted.
‘Hey Andrew,’ Karen said, pointing. ‘Isn’t that the fish restaurant you took me to the other day. The one where you pick the fish out of the tank. The one with the incredibly ugly fish?’
‘That’s it! That’s the answer’ Andrew stated.
‘What’s the answer?’ Tarquin asked.
‘Make it a 100 tons of ugly fish.’
‘Ugly fish?’ Tarquin asked.
‘Nobody cares about ugly fish. They only care about pretty fish.’
‘Sounds like a metaphor for life,’ Karen said.
‘Darling, you’ll never be an ugly fish to me,’ Andrew said.
‘What was that for?’ Andrew said, holding the side of his face.
‘That is for even thinking I might be an ugly fish.’
‘What do you mean, “nobody cares for ugly fish?”’ Tarquin asked.
‘The restaurant owner, he said, the pretty fish cost twice as much as the ugly fish, but they taste the same. Nobody’s interested in ugly fish. So, let them have the ugly fish.’
‘What was that for?’ Andrew Baker said holding his face again.
‘That was for getting me an ugly fish, because it was cheap.’
‘I thought it was a pretty fish.’
‘It had three eyes and squint.’
‘It only had a squint in one eye, the other two eyes were fine.’
‘It had legs,’
‘They were tentacles… I think,’ Andrew said. ‘It did taste nice though, didn’t it?’
‘It would have tasted nicer with a blindfold.’
‘For you or the fish.’
‘Can we get back to the quota please?’ Tarquin pleaded.
‘Sorry, yes, what do you want to know?’ Andrew Baker apologized.
‘How do I know which are the ugly fish for the quota?’ Tarquin asked.
‘If they’ve got three eyes, they’re ugly,’ Karen said.
‘You must know ugly when you see it,’ Andrew said. ‘Think about what makes an ugly person and apply it to fish.’
Tarquin looked at Josephine.
‘Look at me like that again, and I’ll rearrange your features into something more presentable.’
‘I was looking at beautiful, so I could make a comparison with ugly,’ Tarquin insisted.
‘If you look at me now, you’re in big trouble,’ Karen sniped.
‘You are both beautiful,’ Tarquin charmed. ‘Andrew is my only ugly reference, but he’s not fishy enough.’
‘Thanks,’ Andrew said sarcastically. ‘If you want my advice, the ugly ones have the lobsided faces and lazy eyes.’
‘aren’t they just a pretty fish that’s had a stroke?’ Tarquin queried.
Andrew shook his head. ‘Why don’t you ask the guy, the restaurant owner. He can tell you the ugly fish that no-one wants. Then, you work it into a quota. We’ll announce it tomorrow.’
‘It’s not very scientific,’ Tarquin said, somewhat unsure.
‘It’s politics,’ Andrew stated.
The Third Recorder looked at his pupil and nodded. ‘My, you have come on,’ he said.
‘The Copy Editor” – by Andrew Batty - Copyright 2022: All rights reserved
For the first drop in this ocean of incompetence, please refer to case note 1
FOREIGN OFFICE INVESTIGATION
THE VETERAN ISLANDS
CASE NOTE: 26 DATE: 18th JULY 1990
SUBJECT: ANDREW BAKER
THE COPY EDITOR
Andrew Baker is not here. The Governor’s disappearance is a mystery; a mystery that is ours to solve, and solve it we shall.
The Governor was an accident waiting to happen, and then, an accident that had happened. This unqualified, inexperienced, unexpected individual was the accidental administrator of a ragtag collection of islands in the Pacific. Much to his surprise, he quite liked being a Governor. There was just one thing he needed to cement his position. A degree. His only hope was an honorary title, and writing a best-selling novel, was his best chance of getting one. With his friends help they had completed the first draft. It was a rough diamond. It just needed a copy editor to apply the polish.
Case Note 26: The Copy Editor, 18th July 1990
Helen Grunge changed her name by deed poll to Punctilious Grunge when she was eighteen years old. Few knew her original name, and even fewer, what punctilious meant. She was known affectionately as Punk. However, she was more often known with hatred and loathing as PUNK. The difference being entirely in the telling. She had an unfortunate manner, which fortunately suited her chosen career as a copy editor. She had an inane ability to pick out the little imperfections in everything, and everyone, and an insane desire to share her thoughts. She lived in an abandoned village on the far side of the island to Lax. Rumour has it, the village was a thriving, community when she moved in, before doom and despondency took their toll. Those that didn’t follow the lemmings over the cliff edge, moved to the other side of the island, or beyond. That is not to say she was the cause. In the investigation business, we all know correlation is not always causation, but in this case, I’d bet my life savings on it.
The following is a continuation of the transcript in Case Note: 25. It is from a covert recording made by Anne the housekeeper. Punctilious Grunge has arrived at Ivory Towers. The Third Recorder answers the door.
‘T.R. Hello Sexy. Is that your own body or did you hire it in just for me? I swear you get better with age. Are you man or a Mouton Rothschild 1947?’
‘Mr Recorder, my darling, we’ve known each other long enough to use terms of endearment. You may call me Punk. I’ll call you Kink.’
‘Helen, please can we just address the matter in hand?’
‘The copy edit.’
‘Of course; after I’ve been introduced to everyone. So, this is your merry band of scribblers.’
‘Helen, can we please avoid the usual…’
‘Don’t listen to him. He has probably told you I hate little imperfections. Truth is, I love them. I adore the irredeemable qualities in an individual. He should know. He has lots of little imperfections to keep a lady entertained, don’t you, Kink?’
‘Take that nose: slightly too big, too bulbous, too bent, nostrils too hairy (you really should have kept on top of that), skin too flaky, pores enlarged, and a pustulant spot forming just there, where grease collects in the crevice. But, what a great big beautiful nose, a beautiful nose with a slight bend to the right.’
‘Is that why you call him kink?’ Winston enquired.
‘Yes! Absolutely. Now, please can we get to the matter in hand?’
‘But Kink? I’d only just covered your nose, there’s the rest of the face, and then… there’s your big and beautiful body… yummy, yum, yum.’
‘Helen! A little more decorum.’
‘That’s not what you said to me up at the lake that time.’
‘That, was a long, long time ago.’
‘Maybe we could go for a wander later, relive the old Kink.’
‘Helen! No! And please address me as the Third Recorder.’
‘I could never address you as Third Recorder. You’ll always be First Bassoon to me. I’d like to play a tune on…’
‘Alright! I know my place. Aren’t you going to introduce me to your menagerie?’
‘This is Winston Grahame, the England Rugby Player. Winston this is Helen…’
‘Kink!’ Punk wagged a finger at the Third Recorder, who shrugged and started again.
‘This is Punctilious Grunge, Known as Punk to her friends, if she still has any.’’
‘Hello Punk,’ Winston said.
‘Hello my dear. I saw you on the T.V. game against France. You were quite good.’
‘Quite Good? I was man of the match.’
‘True, but you know you should have been better.’
‘Lower in the scrum. You wouldn’t have been turned, if you had been lower.’
‘You can’t know…’
‘And don’t keep swerving to the right. You’re too predictable.’
‘I scored a try.’
‘Missed a few though didn’t you?’
‘You can’t know the swerve was responsible.’
‘That big French number eight, he knew. He knew, before you went, every time.’
‘It’s not that obvious.’
‘Watch the video!’ Punk said. Winston viewed her with curious eyes. The Third Recorder broke the silence.
‘I’ll find it for you later. She’s probably right.’ He turned to the next member of the “scribblers,” ‘this, is Josephine. She’s a sport therapist, and sport psychologist.’
‘You are almost,’ Punk said
‘I am.’ Josephine replied indignantly.
‘You are almost,’ Punk continued, ‘almost a perfect physical specimen my dear.’
‘Thank you, I think?’
‘If it wasn’t for the hair there’d be nothing to discuss.’
‘What is wrong with my hair?’
‘Really? A ponytail, at your age. You are not a teenager.’
‘I am only thirty. I like to look youthful.’
‘There’s a difference between youthful and immature.’
‘Careless! And with your face shape. Tsk, tsk!’
‘What about my face shape?’
‘Wide head and square jaw, it looks all wrong.’
‘I have not got a square jaw.’
‘The mirror doesn’t lie.’
‘Winston, have I got a square jaw?’
‘Er, not that you’d notice,’ Winston replied.
‘You mean I have got a square jaw?’ Josephine probed again.
‘I’d say dignified rather than square,’ Winston clarified.
‘I’ve got a square jaw,’ Josephine looked shocked. Punk flicked her palms upward and shrugged, as if just revealing an obvious truth.
‘Don’t worry, it suits your square head,’ she said. ‘And who is this vision in piggy pink?’
‘Hot Pink!’ Quinlan said. ‘This tee shirt is Hot Pink.’
‘It was hot, now it’s not. Hot pink always comes out piggy pink in the wash. And, those shorts…’
‘What’s wrong with the shorts?’
‘Style or colour?’
‘We’ll stick with colour.’
‘What is wrong with piggy pink?’
‘There’s nothing wrong with piggy pink.’
‘Well that’s good to know.’
‘The colour is fine. But on you?’
‘It matches your skin tone perfectly.’
‘That’s a good thing isn’t it?’
‘Depends, if you want to look naked or not.’
‘Well, I mean, from a distance, in that tee shirt, with shorts that tight, shorts that short, I wouldn’t know.’
‘I bet you’re responsible for those rumours of a naked lady running round the lake.’
‘Well, you’ve hardly got the physique of a man, have you?’
‘Yes I have, including all the appendages.’
‘Well, you’d have to get pretty close to see your...’
‘Helen!’ The Third Recorder spoke her name like a teacher reprimanding a pupil.
‘Just saying,’ she replied innocently. ‘So, who is Mr Posh?’
‘This is Tarquin Pallister,’ the Third Recorder said. ‘He’s from the Foreign Office.’
‘Indeed he is,’ she said looking him up and down.
‘Oh, the clothes,’ Tarquin acknowledged, running a hand down his suit. ‘I’ve got a meeting to go to.’
‘I suppose you have to dress to fit the mould.’
‘It’s a sort of uniform. We all wear it.’
‘The pin stripe, old school tie and cuff links. Very smart.’
‘Thank you. People have expectations.’’
‘Nobody wants an individual.’
‘You have to be consistent.’
‘Lots of little clones, lots of little drones. That’s what the Queen Bee needs.’
‘There is a government line in most things.’
‘Free will, it’s not part of the job description.’
‘I do choose to wear these clothes.’
‘I’m sure you think you do.’
‘Best to keep telling yourself that.’
‘You couldn’t change your socks without a direct order.’
‘If you say so.’ She turned her back on Tarquin who was inspecting his clothing with uncertainty.
‘And who, are you?’
‘Karen, such a sweet name.’’
‘But?’ Karen said
‘But what?’ Punk replied
‘I’m waiting for the “but”,’ Karen’s eyes flashed a warning.
‘What ‘but’?’ Punk continued, ignoring the danger signs. Karen stared unflinching as she replied.
Such a sweet name… but, tart in every other way
Such a sweet name… but, oh so bitter
Such a sweet name… but, what a sour puss
Such a sweet name… but, a bilious temperament
Such a sweet name… but, a face like an arse that’s been sucking a lemon.
Such a sweet name… but your tits are too small, your bum is too big, your toes are turned in and you waddle like a duck.
‘There are no buts,’ Punk said indignantly.
‘Uhu. Really?’ Karen replied sarcastically.
‘There’s only an ‘and’,’ Punk said.
‘Okay. What is it?’ Karen asked leaning in, clenching her fists.’
‘Such a sweet name, and… so self-aware.’
‘Aaghh!’ Karen launched herself at Punk. The Third Recorder inserted himself between the two, and held up his hands, signaling stop.
‘I’m sorry Karen,’ he apologized, on Punk’s behalf. ‘It’s a compulsion, she can’t help it. It’s a type of Tourette’s syndrome.’
‘And what about me,’ Andrew Baker asked, drawing attention away from the angry exchange.
‘Aah yes,’ the Third Recorder said. ‘Helen, this is the Governor. Meet Andrew Baker.’
‘Oh my god,’ she said. ‘You are gorgeous. So many little imperfections.’
‘And a few big ones,’ Karen murmured under her breath.
‘Where do I start,’ Punk clenched her fists and wiggled like an enthusiastic child.
‘Helen! Careful!’ the Third Recorder instructed. ‘I’ve spent the last five weeks bigging him up. Now is not a good time for him to come crashing down.’
‘Bigging up? He doesn’t need bigging up, he needs coaching.’ Punk advised.
‘He has been coached,’ the Third Recorder replied.
‘You could have included dress sense, posture, and personal hygiene.’
‘Is he a slow learner?’
‘That, is quite enough.’ The Third Recorder scolded. ‘I’ve put the manuscript on the conference table. Make a start. We are going out.’
‘But when will I get a chance to play the bassoon?’ Punk enquired playfully.
‘We are leaving. If you need anything just ask Anne.’ With that he waved everyone towards the door. ‘I think it is safer outside.’
Anne wagged a finger at her unwelcome guest. ‘If you criticize my tea just once, you will end up wearing the urn.’
‘Maybe, I’ll have a coffee instead.’
As they were heading out the door Andrew Baker turned to Karen.
‘How does an arse, suck a lemon?’