Greg Gloom sat in his darkened, attic flat in Telford. His face was lit by the computer. As he pedalled furiously, his eyes flickered and he licked his lips in great concentration, searching for the provider of a marquee tent. For a caterer. For someone to supply hundreds of coloured balloons. And someone to blow them up. For a brewer to bring half a dozen barrels. For trestle tables. For cutlery. No, a dozen barrels, let’s make this a party. For musicians able to play brass instruments and Christmas carols. For a butcher to bring a hog with crackling. For crackers. For coloured hats. For song books. Vegetables. Cake. And then more sinisterly: for a clown and for fancy dresses. But not everything he wanted could be purchased on the internet. Some things would need a face to face meeting.
The revenge of Greg Gloom, Part 4: Planning a fête.
That week he worked well into the small hours several times planning the Christmas Fête of the Telford Astrological Society. With only five weeks to go he had left it late, stewing too long over the humiliation from Lord Pie and that cunt, Lunt. But there was nothing he couldn’t sort out with some perseverance and persuasion. It was a big event, reflecting the great reputation of Telford as a centre for astrological studies; and it was a tradition, a tradition to be nurtured.
And then on the Friday afternoon he had crossed everything off his list except for one item: the guest list. He wrung his hands with delight. The guest list. Every year he left that to the last. It was the cherry on his cake. The event was traditionally attended by dignitaries from across the DRB – from as far as Aberdeen (The Chief Vedic of Nigg Bay) in North Scotland and the Sage of St Agnes in Autonomous Cornwall. It was the prerogative of the Chairman to make the first draft of the guest list. But then it would have to go through committee. Something this important – it would need the approval of Martha and Mave and Colonel Gordon Gordon (retired). Particularly Gordon Gordon; getting fussy in his old age, very fussy and particular. But he held on to power, recently voted in again as Secretary to the Association. And so Gordon Gordon would also have to see the guest list.
And Friday afternoon and the evening and all the weekend stretched ahead of Gloom like a glorious, sun dappled field, with swaying wheat ready for harvest and horse drawn harvesters to music. He would gambol in the wheat – naked, even (metaphorically) – harvesting the best names in his address book, and then orchards would appear, with the heavy scents of autumn fruit, plucking the ripeness of Debrett’s, collecting and cosseting windfalls from Forbes before bruises of reputation and association browned them. And at night, he would lie happily on the hillock, looking up towards his beloved stars, seeking inspiration.
To think about an act is sometimes better than doing the act. But in this case Gloom did well. He opened two bottles and placed them carefully on his desk: to his left, whisky and to his right, ink. Rare to see whisky these days; a gift from a prominent politician whose election success Gloom had predicted. He sipped the whisky and dipped his pen. “Let’s start at the top, shall we?” he purred to himself. “Onan Hash, prime minister. Nathaniel Eb, minister for economic decline and deputy prime minister. Dame Daphne Bulge, minister for education. The top three people in the country…”
A frisson ran through Gloom’s body at this very proximity to power. And thus he continued through the night and through most of Saturday, resting only to watch the stars and check rival horoscopes online. And finally as the sun rose on Sunday morning, he wrote the last two names of his list: Lord Kevin Pie of Telford New Town and Shifnall. Herr Waldemar Lunt. These he wrote in red. What would Gordon Gordon say to that?
The prime minister was holding drinks for the new Chinese ambassador at Downing Street. Not for him the extravagance of Gregory Gloom. Low carbon austerity only worked with strong leadership. The representatives of two great nations drank heavily diluted apple juice made from apples from Hash’s family garden. They discussed tough new regulations on housing. The DRB had been censured at the UN on two occasions recently for jailing landlords who had not upgraded their properties to zero energy. Not any old landlord; not a gypsy trader with four terraced houses in Burnley; no, this time the government showed it meant business; they locked up Brian Carp and Sir John Jameen, well-known directors of listed companies!
But what really attracted international outcry was the rough treatment of five families in Windsor who had refused to upgrade their 18thcentury town houses. Sir Godfrey Wolfram-Harbinger needed an example. In a bilious fit, he ordered the houses to be demolished and the families re-housed in council-owned passive housing in Reading. Two of the fathers were jailed for climate change denial. The Chinese ambassador found himself in a difficult position. He sympathised with the DRB government – but could not be seen to. This he was explaining with immense delicacy to the prime minister and Sir Godfrey …
“Pruning apple tree, fine fruit grows. Oak finding shape no scissors. Dove sings from one, from the other.” He smiled serenely. He added: “Please forgive and forget translation.” Then he turned back to the recent publication of real estate magnate Mai Wei’s collection of poems.
It wasn’t until late that evening that Sir Godfrey found the prime minister alone. “PM, we must talk. You’ve been avoiding me all day, but this is imperative.”
“Now I know that we have certain, hem, traditions…” began Sir Godfrey when he was ensconced in Hash’s study. Briggs was under strict orders to let no-one disturb them. “But … we’ve been struggling with certain people … certain people of influence who …”
The PM stood up and walked towards the bookshelf. He was searching for a volume…
“ … malign influence … very malign …”
The PM paused.
“… and there is a point where that influence …” continued the interior minister.
The PM reached up and took down a book, studied its cover. Then he looked for another.
“ … in the interests of our nation …”
The PM found the other book. He walked slowly back to his armchair.
“ … of the planet …”
The PM put the two books on to the coffee table between him and Sir Godfrey. He laid the one book over the other and a piece of paper on top of them. The prime minister shifted the paper slightly. The first line of the title of the one below could be seen. Sir Godfrey read: “The Art of …” The prime minister shifted the paper a little more, revealing the first line of the title of the top book. Sir Godfrey read: “The Accident.” Sir Godfrey nodded imperceptibly. His face was grave. He looked up, but the PM had already left the room.