Tag Archives: politics

The Fat Cat in the Red Hat

There was a sharp knock on the heavy oak door, which swung open into the dim evening light of the Oval Office.

‘Mr. President, the PR team is here for the daily update. Mr. President…are you alright down there?’

A flustered-looking face poked out from behind the opulent sofa in the middle of the room. Wayward strands of yellow hair were stuck to the moist brow of President Trump, as he crawled out on all fours and stood up.

‘Lost my fidget spinner,’ he said breathlessly as he dusted himself off.

‘Gone behind the sofa.’

‘I’ll get someone on it right away, sir.’

‘Get the girl from the press office. What’s her name, she’s got really skinny arms, like a child’s arms.’

‘Rosita, sir? I think she has a skeletal condition, I’m not sure if…’

‘Yeah, I knew it was one of those brown ones. Get her up here right away.’

‘Yes, sir. Eh, your PR team, sir.’

A group of nervous-looking men shuffled into the room and stood awkwardly at the door.

‘Alright, sit down, let’s do this quickly. I’ve already had two meetings today, it’s crazy in here.’

The men sat down in the chairs around the formidable desk as the President collapsed into his chair.

‘Good evening, Mr. President,’ said one of the men, shuffling some papers in his lap.

‘Yeah, yeah, get on with it. Where did I put that other spinner?’

As the President rifled through the drawers of his desk, the man cleared his throat and continued hesitantly,

‘Well, eh, J.K. Rowling has been Tweeting about you again, sir.’

‘Rowling, who’s that? Did I play golf with him last week?’

‘No sir, she wrote the Harry Potter books. You know, Hogwarts?’

‘Hogwarts? They’re back again? Can you see them? I need to get some more of that cream.’

‘No sir, it’s fine. Put your trousers back on, please. Anyway, it’s the 20th anniversary of the books and Rowling was answering fans’ questions on Twitter. Someone asked if she would ever write a villain based on you and she Tweeted back,

“What a great idea. I could call it Harry Potter and the Big Orange Twat.”’

‘I don’t get it.’

‘It’s not important sir, but it got us thinking that maybe it would be good to try to soften your image with young people.’

‘Young people love me, I’m great with young people.’

‘Indeed sir, but we thought it would be a good idea if you wrote a children’s book yourself.’

‘I’ve written tons of books, I have the best books. Tell them to read The Art of the Deal, you can never start too young.’

‘Sir, the focus groups are showing that a warm, engaging children’s book coming from the Oval Office could shift your image with young people away from the creepy, handsy uncle perception to more of an affable, doddery grandfather type.’

‘This sounds like a lot of work, I’ve got golf tomorrow morning, I need to fly out tonight.’

‘We’ve freed up your schedule for a few hours, sir. All we need is a rough draft and we’ll have the press office do the rest.’

‘Have any other politicians done this?’

‘Yes sir, quite a few. In fact, Jeremy Corbyn’s just written one.’

‘Who?’

‘Corbyn, the UK opposition leader.’

‘The homeless guy who can’t do a high-five?’

‘Yes, his book is called The Very Hungry Caterpillar who Lost his Food Stamps due to Tory Cuts.’

‘Never heard of it.’

‘It’s not great. Marine Le Pen wrote one recently too, it’s called Where the Even Wilder Things Are. It’s about Calais, apparently.’

‘Calais, what’s that? A type of cheese?’

‘…Yes. Yes, it is. Very good, Mr. President.’

‘I knew it. Nobody knows more about cheese than me. I’ve got some cheese in one of these drawers, you guys want some? Let me have a look here.’

‘Eh, sir, Putin has just released one too. I mean it’s just transparent anti-Western propaganda, but it’s given him a five-point bump among 11 to 15-year-old undecideds.’

‘Vladimir Putin?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Did he respond to my Tweet yet?’

‘Which one, sir?’

‘Any of them.’

‘No, sir.’

‘Time difference issue, I imagine. Well, what’s his book? Is there golf in it?’

‘I don’t think so sir, it’s called Charlotte’s Web of Lies. It’s about a 9-year old girl who gets locked up for posting pro-homosexual propaganda on her Facebook page.’

‘Sounds like a good read. Get a copy for me.’

‘It also comes with an autographed photo of Putin himself.’

‘What’s he doing in the photo? Is it just the face or full body?’

‘I’m…not sure sir. I could check…’

‘Just get me five copies.’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Okay, get out of here and let me write this thing.’

‘Excellent, sir. Here’s some paper and a new box of colouring pens. Now, remember what we talked about last time. If you don’t put the lids back on…’

‘Yeah yeah, they dry out, I know, I know. Gimme that.’

‘May I suggest a Dr. Seuss type book, sir? I think that would suit your…unique style.’

‘Who’s Dr. Zeus? Does he have my cream? He sounds foreign. Gary’s my doctor. He wears an army uniform.’

‘…Good luck, sir.’

~

Let me tell you a tale

Of a big White House

And the traitorous fraud

Who lived there with his spouse

 

It’s a story of winning

And electoral drama

It’s the tale of the Donald

And that sucker Obama

 

It starts with a boy

Who grew up in Queens

Already a winner

While still in his teens

 

He made so much money

And had all the best things

All the women he wanted

And more gold than kings

 

But the people were jealous

And the laws were corrupt

It wasn’t his fault

He kept going bankrupt

 

He moved into TV

With the best talent show

People loved The Apprentice

(Should’ve won the Emmy though)

 

Then one fateful night

This loveable winner

Went to the White House

To attend a dinner

 

By the vicious Obama

He was mocked and hurt

The guy never even

Showed us his birth cert!

 

So our hero decided

He’d show that chump

He’d get his revenge

As President Trump!

 

And so it began

His quest hard and long

The losers all doubted him

Well guess what guys…Wrong!

 

So the campaign started

And Trump hit the trail

His opponent was Hillary

(who should be in jail)

 

Trump told the people

He’d build a big wall

To keep out bad hombres

(And they’ll pay for it all)

 

The media were mean

But Trump was too clever

Even for Megyn Kelly

And her bloody…whatever

 

They spread lies about him

But the voters weren’t fussy

They knew that the Don

Grabbed life by the pussy

 

Then election night

Saw Hillary collapse

(Oh, have I shown you

These electoral maps?)

 

Hillary had folded

To Trump the champ

(Just like John McCain

In that POW camp)

 

So Trump won the vote

Now he sits in the chair

While the rest of you losers

Are left out there

 

He won, he’s the best

He’s a real Alpha man

Getting things done

Like his great Muslim ban

 

There’s some talk about Russia

As if it’s a -gate

But don’t worry folks,

He’s here for the eight!

 

The future is bright

We’re all winning bigly

With President Trump

He’s our man – Covfefe!

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And Never Brought to Mind (Again)

It was Nietzsche who wrote: “To live is to suffer; to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.”

Well I wish I could channel some of Gloria Gaynor’s optimism right now but I get the feeling that if our survival depends on extricating some grand meaning from the veritable shit pile of suffering that was the year 2016, we’re going to need a bigger shovel.

In fact if 2016 were a person then Nietzsche’s life seems to be conveniently analogous, seeing as it was one marred early on by tragic deaths, scarred throughout by severe ill health, and finally and mercifully extinguished only after a prolonged deterioration into madness.

Thankfully we don’t have to wait much longer now for the denouement, though if the process could be sped up at all I’m sure we’d all be on the first plane to Switzerland, dragging this burdensome, festering near-corpse of a year behind us in an effort to forego whatever fresh hell its death throes may yet vomit onto the carpet of civilisation.

The morbid imagery is apt, as 2016 looks set to be remembered – for whatever brief, hellish future remains for us to eke out – as the year of death. Not content with simply providing us with the usual amount of war, conflict and terror, this year we’ve been treated to an especially horrific smorgasbord of human pain and torment. It has been a miserable existence this year for so many groups of people: Syrians caught up in a bloody civil war, tourists attacked by bloodthirsty fanatics, and black people in the US who wanted to do things like drive through town or walk down the street.

Perhaps the only place more dangerous than Aleppo this year has been the world of show business, as 2016 ruthlessly dispatched celebrities with the zealous abandon of a drone at a Pakistani wedding party. Bowie, Prince, Ali, even R2-D2 died for fuck’s sake. It’s bad enough when someone you respect and admire passes away but even worse is having to deal with the outpouring of ostentatious social media grief from the kind of people who celebrate their cat’s birthdays.

There were times this year when we got up to at least a 7 or 8 on the Princess Diana-Ometer of disingenuous attention seeking. Twitter has only compounded this phenomenon as each passing is now hailed with a cacophony of teary emoticons, exclamation marks and greeting card phraseology digitally expectorated with a drooling vacancy by the chattering classes.

This was also the year that politics in the UK went from worrying about how Ed Miliband eats a sandwich to a Votey McVoteface catastrophe as the country committed economic and political seppuku to spite the Brussels fat cats who had for so long lorded over them with an iron fist of politeness, inclusive democracy and subsidisation.

The tabloid level of public discourse on display during the campaign, and the ultimate victory of witless, shameless demagoguery should probably have given us an indication of how events would unfold later in the year across the Atlantic, but most people were too busy floundering in apocalyptic angst to indulge in this kind of analysis. Or maybe even at that stage, there remained a modicum of hope, of faith in ordinary people to make a sound decision for their future. I can’t be sure as I can’t remember what that feels like.

And so we move to the biggest story of 2016, and to the proud nation that has just elected a human YouTube comment as its commander in chief. In one fell swoop the trite and much-maligned concept of American exceptionalism was confirmed as reality once and for all, if not exactly as it was meant, as US citizens defeated all competition in the race to the bottom of the barrel of narcissistic populism, displaying the collective self-awareness of an inert gas with Asperger syndrome.

This is the endgame of neoliberalism, of letting the free market dictate societal progress. An ideology that not only accepted but embraced some of the worst characteristics of a species still suffering from an evolutionary hangover and stumbling round in a haze of fear, anger and primitive chest-beating was never going to end well.

This is the broken, bitterly divided, hideously unequal pot of shit at the end of the shimmering rainbow of the American Dream. The US is trapped in a Kafkaesque Bruce Springsteen song, becoming ever more socially and culturally bereft as everything turns to misery and loss.

The binary echo chambers of the fascistic, identity obsessed left and the intractable, dried-up paleo-conservative husks will continue to orbit at a distance around the frustrated, disenfranchised majority whose antiquated political system has robbed them of their voice, and now their future.

But never fear, the wretched failed experiment in democracy that is America will stumble on in its own crass, inimitable way. After all, tomorrow is another day and there is work to be done: freedom to be wrested from tyranny; superhero sequels to be released; and of course, walls to be built. Home of the brave, indeed.

I suppose I should try to finish on a positive note and mention some of the happier moments of the year, such as they were.

Bernie Sanders was a brief bright spot amidst the gloom of the US election, refreshing the political tableau of the country with his ability to form long, coherent sentences and display something approaching human empathy. That is, before he was inevitably crushed by the Clinton money machine, like some insignificant insect or a woman whom Bill sexually assaulted.

In the world of mass entertainment as avoidance of reality the first season of Westworld was pretty good. That said, it’s a little disconcerting that TV plots now seem to be written not with story or character as the driving force, but rather constructed in such a convoluted way as to evade the painstaking, labyrinthine speculation by a committee of Reddit neckbeards that every frame of every episode is now subjected to. There’s also the unshakeable feeling that these violent delights will have nebulous and frustratingly unresolved ends.

Okay, more positives…well…the Olympics was fun I guess? Mmm…Zika didn’t become as widespread as initially feared…Planet Earth II? That was pretty impressive, right? Even if that terrifying scene with the lizard and the snakes provided us with a fitting existential metaphor for the year it’s been.

Well, what else is left to say? The long, painful penetration of the annus horribilis is almost at an end. So wipe yourself down, take a deep breath and brace yourself for 2017. It’s going to be yuge.


All’s Well That Trends Well

To celebrate the recent 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, one independent drama company is planning a series of the great man’s plays with a modern twist.

The Millennial Theatre Company for Millennials is situated in a trendy borough of London that is home to a plethora of pop-up art galleries, theatres, organic coffee shops and confused, angry locals slowly being airbrushed out of existence by the unyielding yoke of gentrification.

Indeed this chic quarter is so fashionable that it foregoes the archaic nominative traditions that have historically been used to label residents of an area as being residents of that particular area, and is often referred to by those in the know as simply The Borough with No Name.

The company’s innovative re-imaginings of the Bard’s work are designed to attract a whole new audience of young, vibrant trendsetters to the world of community theatre. Its tagline of “Drama: It’s Dramatic!” underlines the simple approach of its director, Fiach Atticus Higgins-Collins.

“Young people want to be entertained,” says Higgins-Collins. “Shakespeare’s works have a lot of extraneous nuance and subtext that tends to confuse people. We’ve just focused on keeping the drama, and that’s what our theatre is all about: Drama.”

The last word is whispered with the sincerity of a true artist at work. His ground-breaking vision is one of theatre as social network, in which the audience plays an active part in proceedings.

“They’re encouraged to Tweet their reactions scene by scene, to live blog the plays, to put pictures on Instagram,” explains the director.

“The audience is our portal to the digital world,” he says with a theatrical and rather complex hand gesture that lasts several seconds.

So what can people hope for from yet another modern Shakespeare adaptation?

“Whatever happens it’s going to be dramatic,” promises Higgins-Collins, “very dramatic.”

To give us a taste of what we can expect the company has kindly provided the following guide to the programme of plays, with a brief synopsis of each one.

~

Hamlet

The King of Denmark is having problems with paranormal activity in his royal residence. He needs to put his mind at ease so he can get back to being fiscally prudent and enjoying football and expensive beer in moderation. So who’s he gonna call? That’s right – Ghost Büsters!

Not to be confused with any existent trademarked fictional paranormal detectives, Ghost Büsters are Scandinavia’s premier exorcism specialists. Which of course means that they have their own reality TV show on Danish satellite channel Kanal Umlaut.

Follow the exploits of the team, Lars, Kristian, Lars Kristian and Magnusson Lars Magnusson as they investigate the ghoulish goings-on at Castle Hamlet. Will they succeed in ridding the place of its spectral intruders before the important visit of the Norwegian Minister for Fishing? What supernatural device does Lars Kristian find in the Queen’s underwear drawer? And which of the house servants comes under increasing suspicion as the full story is revealed in a devastating and dramatic denouement? To be there or not to be there – there is no question!

Romeo and Juliet

This timeless love story is brought into the digital age in this brave adaptation. Romeo is bored with meeting the same dull, vacuous girls on Tinder, and is feeling hopeless. When he comes across Juliet’s profile, however, it’s love at first swipe.

The two share stories, laughs and animal memes as Romeo falls deeper in love with this seemingly perfect woman. Her answer to every question is exactly the response he had hoped for; every text is witty and self-deprecating; she shares every one of his hobbies, interests and rather vanilla sexual fantasies. Romeo is besotted – he must meet her in person.

However the frisson of romance is dissolved in a heartbreaking and dramatic twist when Juliet turns out to be a Google drone that had been deployed for marketing purposes in order to improve their targeted advertising algorithms. Romeo is crushed, and after sharing some valuable insurance policy price-comparing information, and a somewhat clumsy yet beautiful kiss, the two part ways forever.

Elizabeth II

Nobody wants to hear about a boring old bunch of Richards, Henrys and Johns so the Bard’s oeuvre of historical plays have been replaced with a majestic and moving tribute to the current Queen and her family. In fact most of the play centres on Prince William and Princess Catherine, since Twitter polls have shown that they’re the most popular royals among most key demographics. The Queen and Prince Philip are actually quite far down the list behind all of their great-grandchildren, some of their pets and even a few of Princess Charlotte’s teddy bears.

There is also the fact that a large number of millennials are somewhat hazy on the particulars of the monarchy; many of them think that the Queen is either David Cameron’s mum, or the woman who invented paper money.

The action of the play, therefore, is mostly based around the morning of an OK Magazine photo shoot in William and Catherine’s stately mansion. The drama unfolds as our protagonists are forced to deal with lighting problems, make-up shortages, and a delightfully whimsical last-minute wardrobe change after a hilarious (and dramatic) juice spillage.

The play also presents us with several tense sub-plots such as Prince George’s traumatic flashbacks to his brave battle against chickenpox, and Princess Charlotte’s touching personal struggle to learn how to use a spoon to eat her yoghurt.

Othello

Othello is a Syrian refugee who attempts to flee his war-torn homeland with his family to start a new life in Europe. The story follows his heartbreaking struggle in the face of adversity.

Othello’s journey begins with a narrow escape from death in his country’s bloody civil war, which impels him to seek a new life for his loved ones. The family overcome many physical, emotional, financial and political obstacles on their odyssey to the safe haven of Europe, enduring oppression, rebuttal and failure at every turn.

Eventually Othello and his family are successfully processed and granted asylum to live and work in Europe. Many months after they had set out on the long road to meet their uncertain future, they finally arrive at their new home: a sleepy English seaside village that reminds Othello of his grandfather’s home town which he used to visit as a boy. He is relieved beyond words, beyond emotions; relieved, content and even a little proud of what he has achieved for his family.

Their travails along the way have made them stronger and brought them closer to each other than they had ever thought possible. They wake at last to a dawn full of promise and possibility.

Unfortunately two weeks later Britain votes to leave the EU and they are promptly sent home.

Macbeth

This tale of a married couple seduced and corrupted by the promise of political power is transposed to the more glamorous setting of the US for a contemporary audience, because nobody cares about Scottish independence.

The gullible, power-hungry Macbeth manages to get elected President through nefarious means, while his cold, calculating wife is the real power behind the throne.

Years after her husband’s career has finished, the cunning Lady Macbeth plots a return to power. Spurred on by her ruthless ambition, hurt by the indiscretions of her husband and supported by supremely powerful vested interests, this reptilian warmonger looks set to claim the Presidency for herself, with only a court Fool standing in her way on the other side of the political divide.

Enter the brave Macduff, a plain-speaking, honest merchant, and a member of the Macbeths’ own court. His is a hopeless task as he attempts to stand up for the rights of the downtrodden and defy the might of the Macbeth dynasty. However his wit, intelligence and integrity convince the people of the realm that the last thing they need is another Macbeth on the throne, and the vile harridan is defeated.

King Lear

Juxtaposing this classic tale of human suffering and familial conflict with the trappings of the modern entertainment industry, this adaptation sees the Lear family take their dispute to the ultimate arbiter of fairness and justice in the land: Mr. Jeremy Kyle.

The absurdly wealthy landowner Lear, a mean-tempered, conservative war veteran, is terminally ill and wishes to divide his estate among his three daughters. Regan, the eldest, is married to a successful City broker and has raised a family of her own. Goneril, the middle child, is a partner at one of the country’s top law firms. Both appear on the show to fulsomely profess their love and respect for their father.

Cordelia, the youngest, has always been different, and has not spoken to her father for many years. She identifies as a non-binary pangender individual who lives an austere, self-sufficient life on an alpaca farm in Cumbria with her life partner Esperanza, with whom she has adopted six children, each from a different African country. They earn a little extra money by making Anarchist Party woollen jumpers that they sell online.

The explosive and dramatic showdown between estranged father and daughter is one you won’t want to miss. Can Lear and Cordelia grow to accept each other before it’s too late? Will Jeremy’s sage judgement help Lear to overcome his heteronormative bias and embrace his little girl’s life choices? Or will the drama be too much to keep this dysfunctional family from crumbling apart? Drama!

The Tempest

Climate change is having a more egregious impact on our planet as each year goes by, and this retelling serves as a prophetic warning about its dangers.

As prevailing weather conditions become more erratic around the globe, the Pacific Ocean becomes one of the most turbulent regions, being struck almost daily by violent storms. One fateful day a super storm with immensely powerful wind speed hits just a few miles off the US coastline, causing a massive waterspout.

This spout causes thousand of the sea’s most fearsome (and most dramatic) creatures, great white sharks, to be pulled out of the ocean depths and deposited onto the streets of downtown LA, resulting in chaotic scenes of epic proportions.

* The Millennial Company’s legal team has advised that this synopsis be accompanied by a reminder that the company’s recent legal battle with the Syfy channel was settled out of court, and that the details of said case shall remain private by special court order.

Elizabeth II Part II

This one hasn’t been written yet, but it will just be the most popular characters from Part I repeating the catchphrases that trended the most over and over again.


Presidential Disorder

The lights come up on a stage with seven equally spaced, empty podiums. A large audience is in attendance, and as a woman enters from stage left, the crowd rises to its feet, cheering and applauding. The woman turns to the audience and the assembled television cameras and raises a microphone.

Oprah: Good evening America!

Crowd: Good evening Oprah! We love you!

Oprah: Welcome! Welcome everyone, to the 2023 Republican Presidential Debate, sponsored by Trump Cola. Mmm, tastes like capitalism!

Crowd erupts into whooping and hollering and a “U.S.A.” chant breaks out. Eventually they take their seats and fix their glazed expressions once more on Oprah.

Oprah: Well, after seven glorious years under President Trump, it’s finally time to start thinking about who we want to be the next leader of the free world. Tonight we meet the seven candidates who will contest the primary for the presidential nomination for the greatest, and thanks to our current President, the only, political party in America: The Republican Party!

Crowd explodes into a frenzy of thunderous applause and indecipherable feral yelping. At one point somebody produces a banjo. Eventually they take their seats again.

Oprah: Let’s meet the contestants!

The live band that has been hidden in a shaded alcove springs into life and begins to play a bass-heavy version of “I am a Real American” as seven figures file onto the stage.

Oprah: Introducing…the man who said he’d be back, he’s no girly-man, Arnold Schwarzenegger!

Next, the first daughter hoping to be the next little lady in the big house, Chelsea Clinton!

Back from Alaska for another shot, the mom who came in from the cold, Sarah Palin!

He’s not the Messiah, but he’s a very talented boy, voice of a generation, Kanye West!

A reluctant late entry to the race, former Democrat, Old Man River himself, Bernie Sanders!

The belle of the ball, and winner of the 2023 Hoes That Pose reality TV show, 6-year old child beauty pageant sensation, Amber May Alabama!

And lastly, a surprise wild card entry into the race after a special sitting of Trump Congress. Ladies and gentlemen, your President, looking for four more years, Donald “The Donald” Trump!

Crowd erupts into a cacophony of jingoistic yodelling, saucepan clanking and pistol shots. A sheep emerges from the maelstrom and runs off stage right. A man dressed as Uncle Sam gets hit with a steel chair. After some minutes they settle and retake their seats.

Oprah: Okay, it’s time to start the questions. Unfortunately the network has stipulated that the debate can last no more than ten minutes this year, in order to avoid a clash with tonight’s eagerly awaited finale of Dancing with the Stars: Sitcom Wars between the casts of Modern Family, and Modern Family spin-off Lily’s High School Misadventures. Accordingly, each candidate will be asked just one question on a given topic and will have one minute to answer.

Bernie: That’s not a debate, how dumbed-down can you get?  I knew I shouldn’t have lowered myself to this circus…

Oprah: Dumbed-down? Bernie please, you’re being ridiculous. Okay folks, it’s question time and you know what that means. Let’s…Spin That Wheel!

Crowd leaps to its feet, yammering approval, as a giant wheel is rolled in from offstage.

Oprah: Okay folks, you know how it works. Each candidate will spin the Issue Wheel, and will receive a question on whatever issue the arrow lands on. Immigration, Terrorism, God, all the big ones are up there! Okay, Arnold, you’re up first. Come on up and…

Crowd: SPIN THAT WHEEL!

Oprah: Okay, let’s go. Wow, that’s a good strong spin there, Arnold. Now we just wait…until the arrow stops…still going…that really was a big spin…Arnold’s new movie Terminator: Revelations is out next week folks, get your preview tickets now…

Arnold: I play a Terminator Satan. But it’s very understated.

Oprah: Okay…and, it’s stopped! Finally. Okay Arnold, your issue is immigration. Your question is this: Do you agree with the construction of the Trump Wall and would you continue the President’s policy of selective immigration protocols based on physical attractiveness?

Arnold: As you know Oprah, I am an immigrant myself. So I feel I am best placed to say to these illegal immigrants: Your stay here has been terminated. Hasta la vista, baby! That’s Mexican for “Go back to Mexico”.

Crowd rises in rapturous approval

Bernie: Jesus Christ…

Donald: Obviously Mr. Sanders thinks it’s okay to take the Lord’s name in vain. Go back to Soviet Russia, Comrade Bernie!

Crowd boos loudly and some throw peanuts at Bernie

Arnold: Bernie’s candidacy has been terminated. Ha ha. Ha ha. Terminated. Ha ha. Like the film.

Okay, next up is Ms. Clinton. Let’s…

Crowd: SPIN THAT WHEEL!

Oprah: Okay Chelsea, your issue is Family. How do you feel about the political legacy left by your father? Will you ever be able to emulate his achievements, or are you simply trading on a well-known political surname?

Chelsea: Well, I’m actually really glad I get a chance to address this tonight because this campaign has been such a cathartic exp-

Arnold: Hey Chelsea!

Chelsea: Em, yes? I’m kind of in the middle of some-

Arnold: Who is your Daddy and what does he do?

Arnold turns and winks at the camera as the crowd goes wild

Chelsea: Can I answer the question now or-

Oprah: Okay, let’s move on!

Crowd: SPIN THAT WHEEL!

Oprah: Kanye, you’re up. Okay, your issue is Celebrity. As part of President Trump’s Celebrity Cabinet Initiative, you’re currently the Secretary of State. Do you really think celebrities are suited to these important positions?

Kanye: Absolutely. Everybody that isn’t me makes mistakes, as we saw with Secretary of Defence Beyonce’s recent nuclear mishap with North Korea. But that song she wrote about it afterwards was number 1 for six weeks and had a killer beat. So I ask you, how much is a human life really worth?

Oprah: Okay…ah Bernie, it’s your turn to…

Crowd: SPIN THAT WHEEL!

Bernie: A question mark, what does that mean?

Oprah: It’s the Mystery Prize! Bernie, you’ve just won a washer-dryer!

Bernie: Oh for God’s sake. Can we please talk about child pover-

Oprah: No time Bernie! Time to spin the wheel again! Okay this time it’s…Education!

Bernie: Finally, a real issue. Okay, so there are three fundamental problems with our education system that need to be tackled before we-

Kanye runs up to Bernie and grabs the microphone from his hand

Kanye: I’mma let you finish Bernie but I just wanted to say I don’t think making fried chicken is any kind of a qualification to be President.

Bernie: I’m not Colonel Sanders you moron, what the fu-

Arnold: Chill out, dickwad!

Oprah: Okay, time to move onto our next candidate, Sarah Palin. Sarah…

Crowd: SPIN THAT WHEEL!

Oprah: Okay Sarah, your issue is God. How big an influence is God in your daily life, and how much would your faith influence your Presidency?

Sarah: Well Oprah, I think America is God’s country. Otherwise why would he have made it the greatest country in the world?

Crowd roars its approval and rises to its feet, waving miniature American flags

Sarah: And if God doesn’t love freedom, why did he only give it to civilised people in mostly white countries?

Oprah: Em…

Crowd continues to go crazy. Somebody throws a pig dressed as Lincoln into the air.

Sarah: And if God doesn’t hate homosexuals, then why did he make them so easy to spot? I mean they prance around the place like-

Oprah: Okay, and your minute is up! Ah, thanks Sarah. Little Miss Amber May, you’re up next honey. Let’s…

Crowd: SPIN THAT WHEEL!

Crowd emits a collective “Aaaawww” as the diminutive Amber May totters over to the wheel in her six inch heels

Amber May: Ms. Oprah, Ma’am, I can’t reach that there wheel. She’s higher’n a kite on a Mississippi Mayday.

Crowd: Aaaaaaawwwww

Arnold: I will help the tiny prostitute to spin the wheel.

Arnold spins the wheel so hard it comes off its axel and rolls away offstage, mowing down a cameraman on the way.

Arnold: Oops.

Oprah: Ah, okay. Amber May, my producer is telling me to ask you about the War on Terror. How do you think ISIS’s latest incursions in North Africa have affected geopolitical stability?

Amber May: Shucks, I just wish there wasn’t so much fightin’ and that all them brown folks could get along. Pops had some chickens once that was like that, always fightin’ like varmints. Then one day he just done wrung their necks and that was the end of it.

Crowd: Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaawwwwwwwwwwww

Oprah: Okay, we’ve got one minute left, and no wheel…

Crowd: SPIN THAT WHEEL!

Oprah: I said we’ve got no wheel you braindead…ah…okay, let’s go to President Trump for the final word. Mr. President?

Donald: America, if you give me four more years, I will continue to crush our enemies, see them driven before us, and hear the lamentations of their women.

Arnold: Hey, that’s my line!

Donald: U.S.A.! U.S.A.!…

Crowd: U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

Oprah: Well, you’ve heard from all the candidates. Now it’s up to you, the American public, to decide. To gauge the reaction to tonight’s debate we’ve had a Twitter poll running all night. And I can now announce that the winner is…me. Oprah. Ah, I think some of you may have misunderstood what was happening here tonight. Oh well, we’re nearly out of time, you know what that means. Everybody grab a partner! Goodnight America!

The lights are dimmed as the band starts to play a Garth Brooks tune. The crowd and the candidates all file out onto the floor and begin line dancing. As the camera pans out Donald swings Chelsea around the floor and begins to slide his hand down her lower back. Arnold grabs Oprah and spins her, accidentally putting her through the studio wall. Bernie Sanders simply stands at his podium disconsolately, aghast at what is unfolding before him. He trudges offstage, his feet crunching over the detritus of miniature American flags as a solitary tear runs down his cheek.


New Year’s Devolutions

As another year draws to a close we are left to look back on the events of the last twelve months, and assess their impact on our lives. Unfortunately, however, due to my reliance on modern technology, I have no memory whatsoever of anything that happened before yesterday. Therefore, until we manage to invent some sort of collated, easily accessible database of news through which we can record our history as it unfolds, any attempt at such reflection is pointless.

Instead, I will attempt to predict what may lie in store for the duration of our next revolution around the sun, which conveniently gives me even more scope for absurd exaggeration and crude humour. To that end, here follows a synopsis of what we can expect in the year 2014…

To domestic affairs first, as Ireland continues its upward trajectory out of the doldrums of recession. Normality returns in increments as shoddily built apartments are bought by the thousand, helicopters are dusted off to head down to the Galway Races, and solicitors start snorting cocaine before midday again.

In politics, Enda Kenny finally gives in to pressure to reform the Seanad, and appoints David Norris to take charge of the transition. Unfortunately, Norris chooses to make no changes whatsoever to the political structures or powers of the upper house, deciding instead to use millions of euro of taxpayers’ money to build an exact replica of an Ancient Roman Senate chamber, complete with annexed bath house, and opulently furnished in marble and gold leaf. The Taoiseach defends the developments by arguing that attendance in the house is at a record high average of 11%, a vast improvement on previous years.

Unfortunately for many of our émigrés, next year will also see Australia suffer a severe economic crash akin to the one that sent them there. Thousands of young Irish people are left floundering in a sweltering, barren wasteland, with no employment and no money to get home. As the last remaining Aussies leave their shores en masse to seek bar work in London, our hapless emigrants are left to fend for themselves in the desolate wilderness. Rule of law breaks down and society devolves into a post-apocalyptic nightmare, like Mad Max with more swearing and Offaly jerseys.

In the US, troublesome Republicans once again force a shutdown of the government, which lasts for over six months. The leadership claims it is due to Obama’s wish to implement stricter gun laws, but House insiders maintain it is predominantly a backlash to the dryness of the muffins in the Congress cafeteria. The country is thrown into chaos as millions are denied access to essential services. A deal is eventually brokered after military cutbacks contribute to a worrying breach in security in an army base in Kandahar, in which an enemy missile lands inside the perimeter. After eliminating the insurgents responsible, the missile turns out to be a football that had come from a nearby playing field, but military intelligence verifies that the deceased 12-year old boys were ‘a lot more terrorist-y than they looked.’

More revelations are forthcoming in 2014 from Edward Snowden regarding NSA monitoring of internet communications. In a somewhat tragic twist, it emerges that an entire subsection of intelligence operatives, who had been tasked with examining comments on YouTube to seek potential terrorists, take their own lives in what seems like a ritual mass suicide by self-immolation. NSA chiefs announce their grief and shock over the lost lives, especially since the group had just started their first day on the project.

In Britain, police continue to crack down on abusive behaviour on social networking sites. This policy reaches its zenith when a student is imprisoned for three months for calling Harry Styles a ‘gobshite’ on Twitter. When the presiding magistrate orders everyone who retweeted the offending message to be given the same sentence, thousands of hardened criminals are released onto the streets to make room for the hordes of potty-mouthed youngsters. This results in an unprecedented crime wave sweeping across the country, which the government announces is ‘probably something to do with immigrants.’ The Daily Mail takes a different approach and blames the situation on Ed Miliband’s dad.

In international news, North Korea follows China’s example by expanding their space program. They spend months ferrying men and supplies to the moon, much to the concern of the international community. When it is revealed that Kim Jong-un has built an enormous moonbase, fears grow over what kind of terrible weapon he might unleash. This alarm is soon allayed, however, when it transpires that Kim was simply remaking the movie Moonraker, starring himself as James Bond, and featuring Dennis Rodman as Jaws.

The winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, take place in February under the shadow of a decree from President Putin that absolutely no gay behaviour will be tolerated. Secret police are stationed around the ground to enforce the law, with security particularly heavy in the figure skating arena for some reason. Putin himself projects his usual uber-macho image by appearing at the games naked, save for the pelt of a bear that he had killed that morning, which he had come upon in the wild and hadn’t been tranquilised in any way, shape or form.

However, events take an unexpected turn at the speed skating track, when Putin’s attention is turned to a young Finnish athlete named Matthias. The Russian premier feels a strange sensation stirring in him as he watches the young man glide over the ice, his golden hair radiant, his enormous quadriceps rippling with every stride. To the alarm of his aides, Putin suddenly rushes onto the track, but trips on his bear suit and falls crashing to the ice. As he rises to his knees, a strong arm appears to help him up, and he finds himself gazing upon a set of chiselled Nordic features. Matthias lifts him into his arms and embraces him, and as the strains of Up Where We Belong begin to play over the PA system, the pair exit the arena to the cacophonous cheers of the assembled masses, and disappear into the setting sun.

Technology giant Apple’s reputation takes a hit next year after it is discovered that its iPhone 6, and its iPad Extra Mini Micro, are in fact the same device. Their PR troubles continue later in the year as a 16-year old worker in one of the company’s Beijing factories hacks the official Apple Twitter account. His strongly worded criticisms of working practices and his uploaded selfie of the effects of an unfortunate smelting accident are Tweeted for the world to see. Unfortunately for him, his revelations are overshadowed by the release of the iPad Pico, a tablet roughly the same size as a postage stamp, which is later revealed to be simply an actual stamp designed to look like a tablet.

Social media continues in the new year in its quest to rid the world of unuttered thoughts, comfortable silences and the last remaining semblances of privacy. Google introduces a controversial new app in which a drone follows the user’s daily movements and updates their Facebook status and Twitter feed accordingly, with observations like ‘Sarah has just been dumped and appears inconsolable’, ‘Paul is masturbating over a fire he just started’, and ‘Sally is bleeding profusely from a head wound caused by my malfunctioning gears’.

As collective attention spans continue to plummet, the fad of six-second long Vines becomes passé. They are replaced by Stems, videos lasting just one second. The most popular of the year is of a 2-year old child from Kansas saying the word ‘jam’ in an adorable fashion, which is shared by millions. The child is later mentioned in Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, which prompts knowing laughter and warm applause from the crowd, followed by an eighteen-minute chant of ‘USA, USA’.

New varieties of the ubiquitous selfie become popular with the babbling, androgynous masses that populate the trendiest corners of the internet, where they smear digital pictograms of the tedious minutiae of their lives across social networking sites, and heap scorn on those of us born before 1994 that still use words like ‘trendiest’. These include the ‘elfie’, a festive self-portrait, the ‘farewellfie’, an inappropriate picture taken at the service of a deceased relative, and the ‘continental shelfie’, photos taken in the shallow waters of the glacially eroded coastal plains of continental land masses. Okay, that last one doesn’t really become that popular.

In Hollywood news, the most anticipated film of the year, the third instalment of The Hobbit, is delayed as director Peter Jackson falls ill during filming. The only director available to take the reins at short notice is Michael Bay, who selflessly offers his services. Upon its release, many critics question the wisdom of Bay’s changes to the original script, including casting Samuel L. Jackson as Gandalf, replacing the eagles with a fleet of Chinook helicopters, and even contriving an entirely new female elven character called Tauriel to spice up proceedings. Well actually, that was Jackson, but it was Bay who decided she should be played by Eddie Murphy in drag as the film’s comic relief.

Most of the criticism, however, centres on the movie’s antagonist, Smaug Mohammed Smaug, who is portrayed as an Islamic oligarch who uses his obscene wealth to arm a sinister band of Yemeni terrorists. The film’s denouement sees the dragon and his insurgent colleagues consumed in the hellfires of US Army drones remotely piloted by a ragtag bunch of wisecracking dwarf grunts, who are all played by Robert Downey Jr. Empire magazine gives the film five stars, their review simply consisting of the words ‘high-octane action’ repeated seven hundred times, followed by an exclamation mark.

In the world of music, Miley Cyrus continues her crusade against subtlety with her new single, Dark Room Full of Middle-Aged Men. The raunchy video becomes a viral phenomenon, and gives rise to a new dance craze among adolescent girls the world over, affectionately called ‘the Miley’. This is much like the Macarena, except with less smiling, and more penetration using household objects. Twitter is abuzz for months with trending topics like ‘doing the Miley’, ‘My tongue is a feminist too’, and ‘late night emergency room visit’.

In hip-hop news, Kanye West releases an experimental 3-hour long album featuring the sounds of his infant child’s bowel movements, set to a snappy bassline from a little-known 1970s adult movie about a Ku Klux Klan Grand Dragon who falls in love with a sassy waitress named LaQuanza. It sells eighteen million copies, and is hailed by music critics as ‘the seminal post-racial artwork of this, or any, millennium’.

So ends my forecast for the year 2014. Some of these things may come to pass; some will not; some may even look tame when reflected in the reality that comes to meet us. The future is a puzzling thing; no less a man than George Orwell had a great fear of it, which manifested itself in his works. This sense of foreboding is nowhere better illustrated than in an achingly bleak line from 1984: ‘If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.’

While I don’t think I’ve quite reached the depths of Orwellian cynicism just yet, it must be said that the pain in my face seems to be increasing exponentially with each passing year. Happy New Year you shower of bastards.


Ode to Osama

In the wake of the recent Kenyan shopping centre attack, much opprobrium centred on the alleged role of a 29-year old British woman, Samantha Lewthwaite, or ‘The White Widow’, the somewhat derivative but admittedly catchy sobriquet bestowed on her. Lewthwaite was married to 7 July 2005 suicide bomber Germaine Lindsay, and is currently wanted by Interpol in relation to suspected terrorist activity.

After raiding her house in Mombasa, Kenya recently, detectives found a laptop that betrayed a long history of research into chemicals and bomb making. They also found a 34-line elegiac poem to the deceased al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, the full text of which can be found here.

This fulsome ode in honour of a murderous terrorist has, unsurprisingly, outraged Britain’s conservative media. As a response, and in order to evoke the average Briton’s take on such an unpalatable affair, the Daily Mail recently organised its own poetry compilation, accepting submissions from ordinary people around the country on the subjects of bin Laden, religious extremism, and modern, multicultural Britain.

Below is an extract from the collection of poems, with observations by the renowned Mail columnist Richard LittleEngland, an effusive, outspoken commentator known for his traditional values and moral fortitude.

~

Hello, and welcome to the inaugural Daily Mail poetry compendium. We’ve been inundated with responses from people who love their country and their way of life. Reading your entries has made me even prouder than usual to be British. Below is just a small flavour of the poems we’ve received, with brief analysis from yours truly, Richard LittleEngland.

(P.S. Don’t forget, my new book, No Thanks, We’re Full: The Real ‘Big Issue’ of Our Time is available to buy in all good bookshops from next Monday.)

~

There once was a menacing sheikh
Who had the inordinate cheek
To proclaim his disdain
With a couple of planes
But the Yanks put an end to his clique

Trevor, Middlesex

Excellent work, Trevor. He was a cheeky old sod alright, wasn’t he? I always think of limericks as the lost art form.

~

Go home ragheads,
We don’t want you here
20 quid to the airport?
I’ll get a white driver next time
But I still like curry

John, Barnsley

Well…that’s a courageous use of the free verse technique John, I’ll give you that. Moving on…

~

The fire of Islam
Hot embers slip through the grate
It’s smoky in here

Quentin, Cambridge

Nice haiku, Quentin. A bit highbrow though, don’t you think? Try not to show off so much.

~

The boy from Riyadh, a gun in his hand,
Knew no other course but that of martyr
The infidel had raped his land,
From ancient Maghreb to modern Jakarta

Armed by those he wished to destroy,
He held his hand and played their pawn
Within him burned a latent ploy,
He would enact before the dawn

And on young minds his words did prey,
His lecture holding them in thrall
Until he sent them on their way,
As New York summer turned to fall

But monsters thus are never born,
And not for nothing was his scorn

Rob, Edinburgh

Eh, I think you’ve missed the point here Rob. Don’t you love your country? Or are you a Communist? Come on people, let’s get back on message…

~

Muslims in my corner shop,
Muslims on my street
Muslims wearing silly dresses,
Muslims in bare feet
Muslims taking all our jobs,
Muslims on the social,
Muslims fucking everywhere,
Muslims by the bowlful,
Muslims.

Lee, Bradford

Great stuff Lee, that’s more like it. I especially liked the part about the Muslims.

~

Whence this veiled threat?
Kabul? Khartoum? Or simply Kaboom?

East, West, Yin or Yang?
Josiah, Sharia, Qu’ran or Kerrang?

We offend the effendi,
A jihad he had

Fat chance a fatwa
From distant Islamabad

Will Allah wither
Or whither Allah?

Sunni or Sunnah
In sunny Caliphornia?

Stephen, London

Eh…it’s a bit esoteric, isn’t it Steve? That’s not even how you spell California. You bloody public schoolboys are too clever for your own good. 

~

An angel’s smile is what you sell
You promised me Heaven, then put me through Hell
Chains of love got a hold on me
When passion’s a prison, you can’t break free

Osama, you’re a loaded gun
Osama, there’s nowhere to run
No one can save you
The damage is done

Shot through the heart
And you’re to blame
You gave Islam a bad name (bad name)
I played my part and you played your game
You gave Islam a bad name (bad name)
Yeah, you gave Islam, a bad name

Deborah, Swansea

Bravo Deborah, a tour de force. Although it seems slightly familiar to me, I hope it’s all your own work?

~

And so ends our poetic celebration of Britain. Let this stand as a testament of our resolve in the face of political correctness and multiculturalism gone mad. Join us next week in the Arts and Culture section, when we’ll be seeking submissions of paintings and sculptures that capture the failings of the NHS.


Demolition Lady

Paddy O’Donnell stood motionless in the dock, his hands cuffed together at his waist, a scornful look of indifference etched on his scarred face as he stared fixedly at the judge who sat before him. His arms and neck were covered in a sprawl of black ink, his skin a patchwork of intricate Celtic symbols, murals of fallen comrades, and various words and phrases scrawled in old Irish script. Somewhat incongruously, he also bore quite a detailed tattoo on his forearm of Irish actor Colm Meaney as Chief O’Brien from Star Trek. The magistrate’s officious voice echoed around the grand chamber,

‘Mr. O’Donnell, you have been found guilty of each of the charges levelled against you. You have not shown an ounce of remorse for your heinous actions…’

As the judge continued to address him, O’Donnell’s lips curled into a sinister smirk.

‘…hereby sentenced to life imprisonment at the Royal British CryoPrison. You will be eligible for parole only after serving no less than fifty years in cryostasis.’

O’Donnell did not react but maintained his leering glare as the judge looked down at him over the rim of his glasses.

‘That is the judgement of the King’s Court on this, the third day of September 2029.’

As the judge’s gavel fell and the guards began to escort him out of the courtroom, O’Donnell turned to look at the magistrate once more.

‘He’s not my King, your honour,’ he spat contemptuously at him, although unfortunately this venomous riposte was negated slightly by the fact that the judge had already left his seat. As O’Donnell was led away he raised his head and crowed to the assembled masses, ‘Tiocfaidh ár lá’, his face still contorted in a fiendish grin as he was taken from the room.

Constable Jessica Phillips stared distractedly out of her hovercar window as the buildings of London rushed by in a glistening blur. It was early still, the roads almost empty and awash in a bluish neon haze of artificial light. As the car steered itself around the corner onto Simon Cowell Square she noticed a car that had been pulled over by two traffic drones. The driver had clearly tried to make a run for it, since he lay prostrate and unconscious on the kerb as the drones processed the vehicle.

The radio hummed quietly as the car glided towards its destination.

‘This is 20FM, your only station for non-stop 20th century music. That was I Will Survive, a huge hit for Gloria Gaynor in 1979. A hundred years old folks, and still a great tune. Stay with us, coming up after these short messages we’ve got a classic from Will Smith…’

‘Radio off,’ muttered Jessica as she continued to gaze out the window. The Captain’s phone call half an hour earlier had unsettled her. He was not a man given to panic, yet his voice had betrayed an anxiety that troubled her as the car cruised towards the imposing Metropolitan Police complex. Newer Scotland Yard was an impressive feat of architecture, its glass edifice shimmering in the dim morning light as the sun crept over the horizon.

She had met the Commissioner only once, briefly, at a fundraiser for the Science Academy a few years earlier. Something about cloning worker bees as part of their Pollination Project to alleviate food shortages. She remembered he kept making awful jokes about stinging and honey and hive minds, at which she had laughed heartily of course. Not that such fulsome indulgence had furthered her career in any way. Her superiors had always seemed wary of her obsession with the culture and history of the 20th century, as though she was somehow infected with the barbarity and lawlessness of the period. Eight years on the force and still a Constable. Perhaps this impromptu meeting was the opportunity she had been waiting for. This thought lifted her spirits, and she skipped up the marble steps to the entrance as the attendant drone guided her hovercar to its parking space.

The Commissioner’s office was, like that of most professionals, purely functional; all austere minimalism, white walls, straight lines, and gleaming chrome surfaces. The shelves were neatly stacked with masses of colossal grey volumes – legal reference material, political polemics, that kind of thing. She scanned some of the titles: Order from Chaos: Before and After the New Constitution, Civil Liberties: Bane of a Unified Society, Zen and the Art of Drone Maintenance. The only colour present in the room was the deep crimson in the swollen jowls of the man himself, a look of flustered anguish greeting her from behind an enormous desk as she entered. The Captain was already seated in front of him, and nodded curtly to her as she sat down.

‘Thank you for coming at such short notice Constable Phillips. Time is of the essence here so I’ll get right to the point.’

Jessica listened attentively as the Commissioner outlined the situation. It transpired that yesterday evening, during a routine parole hearing at the CryoPrison, a convicted terrorist had somehow escaped. He had also managed to free several of his comrades, after which they took control of an entire wing of the facility and barricaded themselves in. This O’Donnell character was one of the leaders of the Actual IRA, a group of revolutionaries from the early part of the century, who were very sensitive about confusion with other contemporary factions such as the Bona Fide IRA and Seriously, We’re the IRA. These terrorist organisations sprang up after economic difficulties forced the Irish government to sign the Act of Union II in 2023.

The Commissioner continued, ‘Which brings us to why you’re here, Constable. The Captain tells me you’re something of an enthusiast regarding the 20th century.’

‘Yes Sir, I studied the history and politics of the era as an optional module during my Citizenry Training. But the 21st century IRA was quite different to…’

The Commissioner held out his hand to stop her.

‘It’s not an expert on the terrorists we need, Constable. We unfroze our own last night, after the escape.’

Phillips looked from the Commissioner to the Captain in confusion.

‘I don’t understand Sir…’

‘You’re the expert on our expert, Constable Phillips. You’re to be her handler for as long as this situation takes to resolve.’

With these enigmatic remarks the Commissioner pushed a button on his desk and addressed his secretary in the hallway.

‘Sarah, please send in the Baroness.’

Jessica turned to face the door as it slid open with a hiss. A figure she instantly recognised swept into the room, her beady eyes surveying the three of them with a slight hint of curiosity, and no little amount of disdain. Her hair was immaculately coiffed, her overcoat prim and pristine. Her frail hands, more bone than skin and practically translucent, were tightly gripped around a small brown handbag.

‘Well it’s about bloody time. Woken up after sixty-odd years and left sitting out in the hall with only a frightfully dull woman and a flying robot for company. It’s a long way from 10 Downing Street, I’ll tell you that much. If Denis were here, he’d tell you…’

‘Ah, Mrs. Thatcher,’ began the Commissioner hesitantly, ‘I do hope the security drone didn’t bother you too much…’

‘Infernal Japanese invention no doubt. Of course you know what Ronald always said about the Japanese…’

‘Baroness,’ he interrupted again, ‘I’d like to introduce you to Constable Phillips. She’ll be taking care of you while you’re with us.’

Jessica, still in shock at what was happening before her, stood up and extended her hand.

‘It’s an honour, Ma’am.’

Thatcher looked her up and down with a contempt that wasn’t so much thinly veiled as stark bollock naked.

‘A woman? Couldn’t you find someone more…senior, Commissioner?’

‘I assure you Ma’am, the Constable is an expert on…’

‘Yes, yes, alright, she’ll have to do’ she snapped impatiently.

‘Although if I may say so dear, you’ll never be taken seriously walking around with all that slap on your face. I told Edwina Currie the same thing. Edwina, I said, if you act like a whore then you can expect to be treated…’

‘Yes, well, no time to lose,’ interjected the Commissioner hastily.

‘We have a Situation Room set up at the prison. Let’s get over there and see if we can sort out this mess.’

Jessica sat in the back of the hovercar, nervously trying to answer Mrs. Thatcher’s incessant questions to the best of her ability.

‘These flying contraptions must cost a tidy sum, dear? I hope you’re not paying through the nose for labour costs, they seem quite flimsy.’ The Baroness was fidgeting with the video screen in front of her and had managed to break it cleanly off its mount.

‘Well Ma’am, we don’t really deal in money anymore.’

‘No money?’ she exclaimed, aghast at the notion.

‘Why if old Major heard that one he’d chase you round the House with his cricket bat. No money indeed. How on earth do your companies function?’

‘There are no private companies anymore. Everything is run by the City Authorities.’

‘Sounds a lot like Communism to me dear,’ replied Thatcher, and spat on the floor of the car.

A flat, monotonous voice buzzed from the speaker overhead, ‘Expectoration in a municipal vehicle is a crime. A civil obedience drone has been dispatched to your…’

‘Override dispatchment. Authorisation code Phillips Bravo Foxtrot.’

After a slightly awkward pause Jessica went on,

‘People need control. There’s practically no crime anymore; any that does occur is taken care of by the drones. They can be quite a deterrent.’

‘And the whole country is like this now?’

‘The major cities are. Some outcasts prefer to stay in the wilderness, but it’s total chaos out there.’

‘So there’s no crime, no resistance, no trade unions to be faced down, no foreign dictators to be put in their place, nobody protesting or clamouring for change?’

Phillips shook her head.

Turning back to stare out the window, Thatcher muttered with a hint of sadness, ‘What on earth do you do for fun?’

The Situation Room bustled with activity as they entered, the Commissioner waiting for them in front of a screen that showed the interior of the prison wing. A breathless subordinate ran to greet them, evidently still finishing his lunch as he clutched a half-eaten sandwich and a glass of milk.

‘Mrs Thatcher, it’s an honour. It’s all go here as you can imagine. Anything I can get you?’

‘Yes, I’m thirsty,’ the Baroness replied coldly, and snatched the glass of milk from his hand. The Commissioner motioned to her and she strode across the room to where he stood, an audible hush having descended amongst the assembled crowd as every pair of eyes followed her regal march across the floor.

The Commissioner greeted her at the screen, ‘The leader of the terrorists is ready to talk, Baroness. As per your recommendation, we’ve disguised his real voice and replaced it with an alternate.’

‘Good. He’ll get no free publicity from me.’

‘Quite. We weren’t sure whose voice to impose on him, so we picked a prominent celebrity from your era. I hope you approve, Ma’am.’

‘Yes yes, let’s get on with it, shall we?’

She stepped up to the intercom and addressed the prisoner, ‘Mr. O’Donnell, this is Lady Thatcher. What exactly is it you want that’s so damned important?’

There was a short pause, then through the makeshift speakers that flanked the giant video screen came the unmistakeable voice of 1990s’ entertainment personality Mr. Blobby.

‘I’ve told your Commissioner what I want. I want equality. I want justice. I want…’

‘Oh shut up for a minute, you sound ridiculous,’ she snapped. She turned to the Commissioner and raised an eyebrow. ‘Well, what does he want? His country freed from oppression, I suppose. His children’s children released from the yoke of bondage most likely, yes? The lifeblood of his comrades in arms vindicated by the submission of…’

‘Eh, fag breaks,’ came the crackled voice over the intercom. Thatcher turned back to the microphone, a look of confusion on her face.

‘Excuse me?’

‘Fag breaks. Just a few a year or whatever. Gets bloody cold in that thing, you know.’

The Baroness swivelled and cast an accusatory glance at the Commissioner that would turn a lesser man to stone.

‘This…is what you brought me here for?’ she snarled at him. Before he could answer she turned on her heels and promptly marched out of the room, followed closely by Jessica.

‘Eh…is that a yes?’

The hovercar drifted through the evening fog towards the Citizens’ CryoFacility on the outskirts of the city. Phillips sat opposite the Baroness, who sat sedately silent in her seat.

‘You’re sure you don’t want to stay a few more days Ma’am?’

‘What’s the point? May as well get back to that blasted ice cube for another lifetime I suppose, until I’m needed again.’

Jessica sensed the resignation in her voice.

‘You might grow to like it here, after a while.’

‘I thrive on conflict dear. In a world without any, what good am I to anyone?’

Sighing to herself, she sat back in her seat, her eyes glazed and downcast. For the first time that day Jessica didn’t see a fearsome, indomitable force of nature, but a tired and lost old woman who felt discarded by the world.

‘Well there is one place I can think of Ma’am, but like I said, it’s total chaos.’

Thatcher looked up to meet her gaze, her wizened face betraying a trace of a smile.

When they reached the outer gate the Baroness turned to Jessica and shook her hand.

‘Thank you Constable. You’ve been very helpful. I shan’t imagine I’ll be seeing you again.’

‘You’re sure about this Mrs. Thatcher? Once you go out there there’s no turning back.’

The Baroness looked her in the eye,

‘Don’t worry dear. This lady’s not for turning.’

With that she shuffled through the gate and into the bleak terrain beyond. Leaning against her hovercar, Jessica watched the hunched figure disappear into the grey mist.

After a few moments she sat into the car and began her journey home. ‘Radio on.’

‘…back to 20FM folks, and here’s a song from the 1980s that captured the mood of an angry nation. I don’t know about you but I’m glad those dark days are behind us.’

As the car thrummed its way back along the grey highway into the sprawling cityscape, the opening bars of Ghost Town reverberated around the interior of the immense machine, and a tear rolled down Jessica’s cheek as she surveyed the dark, lifeless metropolis that awaited her return.