CASPER, part III and the bad timing of Sir Godfrey

[for CASPER, parts I and II see]

Onan Hash, the prime minister of England, tapped his pipe impatiently. Eight o’clock had sounded on his orang-utan cuckoo clock, sixteenth in a series of extinct animal clocks. He sipped his coffee. Checked his i. Sipped more coffee. And was just relighting his pipe when finally a knock came at the door and his cabinet filed in led by a bleary-eyed Sir Godfrey.

“Dear fellow,” began Sir Godfrey. “Terribly-“

“Do shut up, Harbinger. No time for niceties. Where’s the blasted report?”

Nat Eb followed Sir Godfrey, with Stumpy Regenkurt behind him. Stumpy had a smug look on his face; the look of a man who knows he has solved a problem applying intellectual dexterity well beyond the wit of his peers. Klaxon-Schmitt slipped in at the end and went straight to the coffee machine which he began to pedal furiously, cursing in strong German accent. “Prime minister, with all due respect,” he panted. “This is a matter of state. Surely we can have some Central Electricity just today…”

“I’ve told you before, Klaxon. No compromise. If it gets out we’re ignoring the PPOs? [1], there’ll be bloody riots.”

“But why don’t you just commandeer a de-urbs [2], PM?

“You know my views on that. Anyone your size should generate their own power. Now, what have you got for me?”

Stumpy coughed. The smile played over his lips.

“PM, I think we can say that the danger has been pretty much averted,” he preened.

“Great. How?”

“Well, we looked at the practicalities… You know, the institutions they’d need, the processes, the people, the expertise. It’s just not practical. I think we can safely-”

“Institutions?” What are you talking about, you hopping buffoon?”

“For example, PM, they’ll need an international court, a fund to finance the lawyers, they’ll need designated national authorities…”

“What the dickens are you blathering on about, Stumpy?”

“PM, it’s all here.” Stumpy tapped the 200 page report.

“International court? Fund for lawyers? Are you insane?” snapped the PM.

“Of course, not. Sir.” Stumpy sensed there was something wrong. He looked at Sir Godfrey for help, but Sir Godfrey just shook his head, mouthing something Stumpy couldn’t make out.

“Then why the dickens would we need an international court to save the capercaillie? I don’t want lawyers! I want wardens, rangers, zoologists … Land protection orders…. I want a blasted plan! That’s what I asked you for.”

“But, Sir… we … I …” stammered Stumpy.

An uncomfortable silence laid its sticky hand over the assembly.

“If I may, Sir…” It was Heinz Klaxon-Schmitt who spoke first. “I believe there has been a slight … misverständnis. We worked all night on a report about rebutting the CASPER scheme. Meanwhile it appears you were expecting an ornithological treatise on the capercaillie…”

Onan Hash stared at him. “You complete, blithering idiots. CASPER? CASPER was dead in the water the moment they announced it. Why would I want a report on that?”

“But PM,” pleaded Stumpy. He had a sinking feeling. He’d just made the cabinet – and Gertrude – ah! Gertrude! – stay up all night to write a report on the CASPER scheme, when he could have knocked out a two pager on the capercaillie in his sleep. Eb and Harbinger would be livid. He studied the ornate design of the Turkmen rug beneath his feat, and felt a strange burning sensation in the back of his neck.

“But, Sir,” jabbered Stumpy. “You said-“

“Why the devil would I be interested in CASPER, Regenkurt? It’s evidently nonsense. Simple numbers. Let’s say 200 million Africans sue 10 million Californian commuters. That’s 2,000 trillion claims. And that’s just Africa and California. Utterly unworkable, class action or not. Never mind when 160 million Bangladeshis sue 200 million Indonesians for the cutting down all the forest.” He scribbled something down on his note pad. “32 thousand trillion.”

“But, Sir, the whole point of the class action-“

“Shut it, Stumpy.” He pointed to the window. “Politics is not about the details. It’s what I can sell to the people out there. Now, piss off the lot of you, I have important work to do.”

Heads down, each to his own angry thoughts, like snotty school boys who’d done the wrong homework and got a beating for it, the cabinet shuffled out of the PM’s office. But Sir Godfrey Wolfram-Harbinger hung back.

“PM,” he whispered, as the others had filed out. “I wonder if I could have a word on another small topic. A private matter.” Sir Godfrey had a fine brain but his sense of timing was poor…

“Hmmpph. After this bloody debacle? I’ll give you two minutes.” Onan Hash looked at his watch, following the second hand as it climbed dutifully back to twelve. He wrote down the time on his note pad. “Listening … now.”

“It’s about my Ag Sab. You see… things are rather busy in the office. It’s coming up rather soon, and I wondered if there might be the possibility of … you know …”

“Deferring Ag Sab?” You must be mad!”

“Actually, Sir, I was hoping for a dispensation rather than a mere deferral…”

There was another silence. An uneasy one. Not that peaceful silence after a storm has passed and the air is filled with freshness and the sense of opportunity. It was a silence with presaged something ill-fated.

“You … want … dispensation from Ag Sab???” whispered the prime minister, voice a-tremble. “Dispensation from Ag Sab… You vile German import. Ag Sab took me twenty years to devise and implement. Thanks to Ag Sab every man woman and child in this country takes an agricultural sabbatical not every seven but every three years to relearn the skills of organic food production and reacquaint themselves with nature. Thanks to Ag Sab, our nation is prepared for the day when the Russians squeeze out their last drop of oil. Thanks to Ag Sab, when the last Chinese coal field is cemented over, we’ll still have food on our plates. Thanks to Ag Sab, when the last fertiliser plant is shut down and the last Tesco shuts its doors, the British housewife will still be able to cook a roast on Sundays. Ag Sab is the most important policy this country has implemented in the last fifty years. And influential. The French are doing it. The Arabs. The Chinese. The Indians. They’ve all got Ag Sab now. It’s reshaping human society… and for the better… Finally politics which works…

“And now you… a member of my own cabinet … are asking me – ME! – for a dispensation so you can carry on running your crooked investment schemes … and God knows what … in the City of London…”

Sir Godfrey blushed. “Look, PM. I’m not made for the country-side. I’m a city man… Think of all the good I can do … in the city. For the country, for the economy…“ he pleaded.

“You are not my best friend, today, Sir Godfrey. You are indeed a city man, Sir Godfrey. You’re an overweight and idle city man, too. You’re a disgrace. You are a disgraceful slob. You will bloody well get yourself to the countryside and get digging just like everyone else … otherwise…” shouted the prime minister.

Sir Godfrey made one more effort. “PM, let’s be reasonable about this. Look, I’ve a very good deal going on ivory futures. You know, the Ellie Farm Scheme. I can let you have 10,000 at a quid each.”


Sir Godfrey clutched at his chair. “Eighty p.”

“NO!” shouted Hash.

Sir Godfrey was panting desperately. “OK. 15,000 at seventy p. It’s really my last offer,” he hazarded, dealmaker to the last.

“NO! NO!! And NO!!!” roared the PM. For all his faults, Onan Hash was a man of principle. “Now, piss off!”


[1] PPO – A pedal power order. From time to time PPOs are issued in order to reduce the burden on the power system, whose capacity is much reduced. Large numbers of people are deployed at treadmills. This policy has been particularly effective at giving purpose to the lives of unemployed urban youth.

[2] De-urbs. The de-urbs is a rebel movement promoting the dismantling of cities and re-establishment of rural society. While the government supports many of its aims, it does not approve of its method. Agricultural equipment has no place in political debate. De-urbs rebels are often hauled in during PPOs.

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