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Issue 44                                   April 2021
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Dearest Friends of Booktown Richmond……

It may just be the ever so slight opening of the grand door of the blackened room, which we have been in for the last year, to the bright sunny day outside, but there is definitely some light on our faces and boots. The door may be creaky and resisting our gradual pull at the big wrought iron handle, but it is opening…..slowly.

Our Covid driven lives and the lives of those around us are also gradually getting back to some semblance of normal although if truth be told we are still light years away from blowing out the candles on our birthday cakes or enjoying the pleasures of a packed out restaurant and pub. Like in the old days. When will we be able to give people a hug just to show them that we love them or greet them or just to show them that we are a gregarious species? We are not even back to feeling OK with shaking someone’s had in greeting. But it is getting better.

At my clinic, I am a small animal vet BTW, for the past year we have been open, albeit with drastically reduced hours and have not permitted clients into the clinic. We have had to go out into the parking area and discuss the patient history and requirements all appropriately masked and in the early months, in gloves and operating gowns as well. Like everyone had the plague or Ebola! The patient would then be brought in and examined and then we would trek up the sidewalk through the clinic’s garden to the parking to discuss the case and say what we were going to do. I got lots of exercise and it chalked up many good points on my Fit Bit watch which then was entered on my Vitality account, which my wife then converted into a purchase of something or other. There had to be a positive spin on Covid somewhere and for me this was it! That is if she bought me some socks, not make-up.

We are now, since the beginning of the month, permitting actual people into the clinic, masked and minimal contact. Elbow shakes and quite an innovative feature I have developed for my better and more familiar longstanding clients. We rub backs together and it is the new hug in greeting. Try it out.
 
PIETERMARITZBURG FOR UNESCO CITY OF MUSIC
 
The article by Rob Haswell (Don’t give up on our city, 11 February) got me thinking. It brought out the cynic in me. A former ANC councillor telling us not to give up on our city, a city destroyed by his very party. But then the kinder side of me said: maybe he has a point. I remembered the Rob Haswell with vision. And he is right. The Dusi was started by ordinary men. Not politicians. Comrades was started by an ordinary man with a mad idea, but a beautiful one at that. But the problem with Rob Haswell's article is that it dwells on past glories. Comrades. The Dusi. Art in the Park. Struggle heroes. These are ideas that have admittedly placed Sleepy Hollow on the international map. But unprecedented times call for unprecedented ideas. 
 
ASK NOT WHAT YOUR CITY CAN DO FOR YOU, BUT WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR YOUR CITY
 
I come from a musical family. My paternal grandfather L.B. David was one of the first Indian principals and music teachers in Pietermaritzburg and church organist for many years. (I wrote about him in a short story An Orchestra in a Teardrop.) My father’s brother and sister were music teachers. My mother’s two sisters were music teachers. When I lived at hostel at UDW, my only initiation was that I had to sing love songs to all the seniors girlfriends – ‘as long as I did not get any ideas!’ Up until today, if my ex- principal meets me on the street, he will always ask - so you became a music teacher Darryl?  In a nutshell, music is in my blood. 
 
So the last project I would like to undertake is a musical project. I already created a UNESCO City of Literature in Durban in 2017, the first on the African continent. In 2019 I pioneered Africa's first UNESCO City of Gastronomy in the greater Hermanus area. They say all good things come in three’s, and this year I think I will take Rob Haswell's advice and not give up on the city of my birth, the city that shaped me and the city I want to die in. In 2021 I think I will do something for my home town for a change and make a bid for Pietermaritzburg as a UNESCO City of Music. 
 
 I had written about this as far back as 2017 in The Witness. In 2019 I started the process with John Tungay, founder of the Drakensberg Boys Choir, and more recently the Drakonsdale Girls Choir in Howick. A true doyen of the musical world of this province. But just when we thought that we could not go wrong with a mayor who was an ex- choir master, our bid fell to pieces. Corruption. A city placed under administration. An administrator placed under administration. A city that was technically insolvent. Not the score we had in mind for a UNESCO City of Music. 
 
This time around, the words of Frank Sinatra are going to form the soundtrack for our bid. I DID IT MY WAY. 
Admittedly, it will be a very risky way. It is a way that might see Pietermaritzburg 's bid disqualified at the first stage. For, in order for UNESCO to consider a city's bid to join the UNESCO Creative Cities network, the bid has to be endorsed by the Mayor of the city. The Mayor has to furthermore give the financial backing for such a bid. 
 
But we will have to impress upon UNESCO that the Mayor is not the city. The ruling political party are not the city. The people are the city. Were we not brought up on the mantra : the people shall govern. We must impress upon UNESCO that it is not for
 
 
nothing that the constitutions of America, India and South Africa begin with the phrase: We the people. 
 
Indeed, even the Freedom Charter of SA begins with the phrase :We the people. 
Because Mayors of cities are not the cities. We the people are the cities. And when politicians begin to misrepresent the will of the people by stealing moneys meant for the people, for toilets so that children don't drown in pit toilets, for bridges so that school children don't drown on their way to schools, for houses, for running water, for electricity, Covid relief and arts and culture initiatives, then we the people must begin to save our cities without the help of politicians who we elected to do so. Under these conditions, we the people must save our cities and our country by taking back control and prepare for a better life that excludes corrupt mayors and city councils. 
 
We must start dreaming of a UNESCO City of Music where we take responsibility for repairing the finest organ in SA located in our iconic city hall, the largest red brick structure in the southern hemisphere, so that we can organize the first annual organ festival in the country. (And dare I say it, restore the dignity of the phrase ‘city hall’ in  ‘the lovely city’). We must dream of a festival of Indian music at the Pietermaritzburg Railway Station, on the very platform that launched the political career of Gandhi, and get the Indian Embassy to fund the participation of artists from India. We must prepare for a Soaring Voices Choral Festival from the base of the Howick Falls. The naysayers will tell us it is impossible. But we the people of Pietermaritzburg must continue to dream of a UNESCO City of Music. Why, we must even dream of taking a music festival to the PMB prison and hopefully secure the services of their superstar inmate Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma to open the festival with his signature song Umshini Wami (bring my machine gun!!!). 
 
So you see, Rob Haswell might just have started something here. We must not give up on our city. We must dream of a UNESCO City of Music for our beloved city. It is not for nothing that the association of music is harmony. We the people must use the arts to unite the people of our fractured city. Our broken city. Broken by the ruling ANC. We must look to the words of singer Jimmy Nail in his song Big River for sustenance: 
 
For this is a mighty town
Built upon a solid ground
And everything they've tried so hard to kill
We will rebuild 
 
CODA
Precisely a year ago, I invited Jonathan Jansen to the Adam Small Boekefees in Stellenbosch. This at a time when he had just criticized an Afrikaans bookshop owner for "insisting" on speaking Afrikaans to him. The air was tense as you can well imagine. But as he was closing his 30 minute talk on his book about his mother
Song for Sarah: Lessons from my Mother, he went to the piano in the church. Perfect photo opportunity I thought. But then he began playing. Beautifully. Beautifully. I did not recognize the song. But everyone in the church knew the song. And as they began to sing with one voice, I felt the hairs on my hand stand up, my bodily response to let me know I am in the presence of greatness. That is the power of music, I thought to myself that day. To unite people who might differ with you ideologically. But to hear the congregation sing in unison like that, it was one of the most special moments of my life as organiser of book
 
 
festivals. I hope to experience many more moments like this in my home town of Pietermaritzburg, when it hopefully becomes South Africa's first UNESCO City of Music.  
 
 
 
Darryl David is calling on all interested parties who share in his vision to contact him on 0813918689 / ddavid@uwc.ac.za. He is especially keen to hear from knowledgeable people on the Indian music tradition in Pietermaritzburg, and on the musical heritage of Edendale.
You can’t keep a good man down, so just to keep him more busy, all the while he is living in a to be built house that has not even had plans finalized.……seriously he is living in the construction shack on the site where he is constructing a house on the most wonderful piece of land overlooking Simonstown Harbour, Darryl is getting even more up to eyeballs and is starting yet another and completely new Festival to his growing list; a Children’s Literature Festival which he with Booktown Richmond shall be putting together in Capetown.
All in another day centered around the written word…
 
Book Town Richmond is proud to announce the second festival born out of the union with the University of the Western Cape.  This time however it will be a threesome. From the 2-4 July 2021, the inaugural Festival of Children's Literature will be held at the Heartlands Baby Sanctuary on the border of Stellenbosch and Somerset West.  
 
It all started after the success of the Madibaland World Literary Festival last November when I got a message from an old friend. Nikki Bower. For those who have experienced the wonders of the Midlands Literary Festival in Howick - Nikki is the lady who helped me create KZN's premier book festival some ten years ago. But then she left for the Cape. When she left it was a body blow for the Midlands Literary Festival.  In fact we went through a major slump when Nikki left. 
 
In November last year Nikki approached me to help the Heartlands Baby Sanctuary raise funds to look after the abandoned babies that are entrusted to the care of Heartlands. I know I have a lot of festivals on my plate. But how could I say no to supporting such a cause. And helping out an old friend from Howick who shaped the very ethos of the Midlands Literary Festival.  And thus the SA FESTIVAL OF CHILDREN'S LITERATURE was born. There are a few book festivals that run a children's programme alongside their main Festival. But I always knew that one day I would start a festival dedicated to only children's literature. I had started such an initiative many years ago with the UKZN KINDERBOEKFEES.  But when Afrikaans was discontinued at UKZN, our sponsors, the ATKV also withdrew.
 
When I joined UWC I always knew that being in a Faculty of Education offered the perfect platform for a Festival of Children's Literature.  Moreover, the Education Faculty at UWC, unlike UKZN, is a truly multilingual Faculty. They promote English, isiXhosa and Afrikaans equally. And so I always sensed such a language policy offered great possibilities for a truly multilingual Festival of Children's Literature.  Working with Heartlands brings home the truest meaning of the term community engagement.  The buy in from all sectors of society has been overwhelming. 
 
 
However, Book Town Richmond is no idle partner in this venture. The vision for a broader template for the festival is all Book Town Richmond.  
 
Firstly, I have allowed Heartlands to open a bookshop under the name of my bookshop that I opened Book Town Richmond with all those years ago. THE BOOK ORPHANAGE. What an apt name for a bookshop housed in an orphanage that looks after babies abandoned at birth and babies under 3 years old abandoned by their parents.
 
 
Secondly, when I heard how much money Nikki needs to raise for the orphanage (it is frightening- even more frightening if she fails), I realized Heartlands needed a steady stream of income throughout the year, not only during the book festival. 
 
And so I resurrected an idea from the museum of failed dreams in Book Town Richmond. A TEDDY BEAR MUSEUM.
 
Now you may think I am crazy. But trust me, lovers of teddy bears are even more crazy I have learnt. Although the idea failed in Richmond, where the only word book lovers want to hear is BookBedonnerd,  what a perfect fit a Teddy Bear Museum is for an orphanage dedicated to caring for abandoned babies. Although we don't have money yet for a new structure, we already have the critical mass of teddy bears for our Teddy Bear Museum at Heartlands.  
 
When I look back at this project, I feel the presence of the woman who raised me. You know when I left KZN for UWC, the first place I visited when I knew I was leaving was the gravestone of one Susan Emily David. My paternal grandmother who was like my mother until she died. She was the first person I went to say goodbye to when I made the treasonous decision to abandon the place of my birth. 
With this project I sense the subliminal role she has had on this project. Because my grandmother was herself an abandoned baby. Her mother passed away when she was very young. And her father could not care for his children because he worked far away. And so he placed his children in an orphanage. And would visit regularly.
 
I can still remember how I would want  to cry when my granny would tell me how they ate dhal and rice almost 365 days a year. Meat was only served on special occasions like Christmas. And to break the monotony of dhal and rice my granny would eat green chillies from the garden with her  meals. All my life as a child I could never shed the guilt and sadness that this woman, who raised me, was raised in an orphanage. Maybe that is why I named my bookshop The Book Orphanage. A bookshop with the express aim of finding loving homes for abandoned books. And that is why I could not say no to Nikki. Because in my DNA, in my blood courses the memory of an abandoned child I called MA till the day she died. 
 
The preliminary line up for the inaugural SA FESTIVAL OF CHILDREN'S LITERATURE to follow soon….stay tuned.
 
 
 
We are moving ahead great guns for BookBedonnerd XIV scheduled, as usual, for the last weekend in October which as it now happens is also the week of local elections. These elections are very important to our country as we have seen the decline and decay and in many cases the demise of our municipalities, which in their vast majority are ANC mismanaged, misgoverned and quite frankly, destroyed.
Maintenance and upkeep are foreign concepts to the ANC run municipalities, which are interested only in the self-enrichment of the cadres appointed to run organisations for which they have absolutely no training, education, or experience. The government brings in Cuban Engineers to fix our broken infrastructure (Cuba’s infrastructure is no benchmark in these matters) when we have hundreds of South African trained engineers with the know how to fix the broken beloved country.

As we plan to, at this stage, stick to the last full weekend in October and with the elections in mind we are imploring all attendees to please look into acquiring a “special vote” which can easily be done online through the IEC website IEC Home - Electoral Commission of South Africa (elections.org.za)

This will enable attendees to vote on the 25th of October in their home constituency. I plan to change my address to Richmond for these elections as I reckon that my Blue vote there is more important than in Bryanston where I live, and which is solid Blue. I have no qualms about indicating my personal political preferences which basically revolves around the need to vote the ANC out of power at every level. El Presidente Ramaphosa said quite emphatically in his Freedom Day address that voters should not under any circumstances vote for crooked and corrupt politicians. Well, that eliminates just about every ANC politician running or thinking of running for office. Almost three decades is enough to prove that the ANC is unable to run a country, province, municipality, village, or SOE. Its time for a change, for as Margaret Thatcher said: “Politicians, like babies’ nappies must be changed often and for the same reason.”
 
Things are moving a pace WRT BB XIV and we have the pleasure of attaching below our presenter’s list running current. Things are hotting up and from the sound of it everyone is very anxious to get back into the life as we all knew. Last year despite the Covid business we staged what everyone said was just about the best event ever…….well they would as it was the only literary event for the entire year!
1. Dominique Malherbe . Sarah Goldblatt
2. Annari van der Merwe. 
3. Matthys Strydom. Kuns-memoir
4. Raj M. Isaac. Reflections. Short Stories
5. Mark de Wet. Scattered Thoughts
6. Vernon Head. New book
7. Gamieda Henry. Poetry
8. Cecile Jadin. A disease called Fatigue
9. Cecile Jadine. The crazy journey of a medical chameleon 
10. Rhiannon Reid. Dystopian Fiction
11. Chris Marais & Julienne du Toit. New book 
12. Linda o' Shea. X 3 writers
13. Nicola Hayward. Two Birds.
14. Igno Van Niekerk.  Light on Leadership 
15. Leon Nell. t.b.c. The West Coast
16. Shana Fife. Ougat. t.b.c
17. Kirby van der Merwe. Nuwe roman
18. Max & Sue Hoppe. Windmills
19. Garth King. t.b.c
20. Kathryn Costello.  Port St John's 
21. Francois Smith. Die kleinste ramp denkbaar. t.b.c.
22. Pieter Fourie. t.b.c. n Hart is so groot soos n vuis 
23. Frederick de Jager. Op n fiets erens heen.   
I attach the second installation of the three part Darryl Conolly short story for your amusement……
Flo White and the Hoods of Nottingham
A nonsense story

 

CHAPTER FOUR
 
When the big day of the All-England Archery Championship finally arrived, Nottingham was a hive of activity. Archers from far and wide – the finest in the kingdom – had descended upon the town. The prize? A golden arrow and two tickets to the Nottingham Forest versus Manchester United game the following Saturday.
Sherwood Forest was well represented in the competition, for amongst the entrants were Rob-the-Hood, Big Con, Will Starlet, Not Much, Staid Marion, The Big Mad Wolf, and from Nottingham town, Red Hood. Entered for the team event were the Three Little Pigs and the Seven Smurps.
          The day’s proceedings got underway with the team event, and although all ten of Sherwood Forest’s entrants gave of their best, their height – or lack thereof – would prove a huge handicap. All nine arrows allotted to the pigs fell well short of the target, while those of the smurps crept, crawled, skidded and slithered along the ground on their final approach.
          If it was of any consolation to them, they were in good company, for few of Sherwood Forest’s individual competitors fared much better. With his first arrow BMW the Big Mad Wolf had already taken aim at the target when out of the corner of his eye he noticed a rabbit with a guitar slung over his shoulder. “Maraudingk mulberries!” he exclaimed. “A rock rabbit!” and shot the unsuspecting musician between the eyes. For this he was disqualified and given a small fine as the sheriff was unable to find a big one. “Zat’ll be fine,” said the wolf on accepting the fine, “I don’t really neet a bikker von.”
          Staid Marion, Rob-the-Hood’s fiancée and the women’s rights activist, wished to know whether the target was male or female before shooting at it.
          “It’s neither!” shouted the official. “It’s a chunk of wood!”
          “He wood, or she wood?” enquired Marion.
          “Neither he wood, nor she wood,” answered the official.
          “How do you know?” asked Marion.
          “Because I asked them. Now get on with it. You’re wasting everyone’s time.”
          “And the arrows?” asked Marion.
          “What about the arrows?” shouted the official.
          “What gender are they?”
          “That’s it! You’re disqualified. Next contestant please.”
          Up stepped Red Hood. “I have a special request,” she called out.
          “What’s that?” asked the official.
          “Lady in Red by Chris de Bergh,” she responded.
          “Not on our playlist. Now stop wasting time and take aim.”
          With all the strength she could muster, Red Hood drew the arrow tight, its feathers flush to her cheek, her eyes closed, the bow pointed skyward, before unleashing the arrow. Up, up into the sky went the arrow, and down, down to earth plummeted the paraglider who was filming the event for Sky Sport.
          “Disqualified!” yelled the official, adding, “with damages.”
          “What damages?” demanded Red Hood.
          “Broken paraglider, broken TV camera, broken pilot. Next please!”
          Now, as Rob-the-Hood and his Ferrymen were outlaws in the eyes of the sheriff, all were dressed in disguise: Rob as a lowly peasant, Big Con as a ballet dancer, Not Much as an urchin, and Will Starlet as a fairy.
          First up amongst them was Not Much, and as there was not much about Not Much, there is not much to say about his effort, suffice it to say that it was not much of an effort. 
          Will Starlet, on the other hand, although he fared little better with bow and arrow than the others, was a sight to behold in his dainty crown, frilly dress, clean-shaven legs and bent wand. The least said about his archery skills, however, the better.
          Apart from the serious archers who had come to the championship, the only local athlete with any real hope of challenging Rob-the-Hood was Big Con – if one could take a seven-foot-tall ballet dancer seriously, that is. Dressed in the tightest of tights and a shirt flared at the elbows, he introduced himself to the packed stadium with a dazzling pirouette that covered the length of the shooting range. Then, after taking careful aim, he released an arrow which, with a loud ping, swoosh and thwack, lodged itself within millimetres of the inner circle, or bull’s eye.
          Having sat through some lacklustre performances by the archers up until then, the large crowd erupted with clapping, foot stomping and roars of approval. “Encore!” they shouted, “Encore!” as if at a gala performance of the Royal Ballet Company. Adrenalin pumping, Big Con obliged his ecstatic supporters with two follow-up shots, both whizzing into the target with not a hair’s breadth separating the three arrows. Yet, remarkably, not one of his arrows had found bull’s eye.
          In the royal box up in the main stand, the evil Prince John turned to his sidekick the Sheriff of Nottingham, seated beside him. “Who is that fellow?” he asked. “He looks vaguely familiar, yet I can’t seem to place him.”
          “By the size of him, Your Majesty, I’d hazard a guess that it’s Robbing Hoodlum’s right-hand man, Big Con.”
          “If that is the case,” said the prince, “then Robbing Hoodlum is bound to be amongst the competitors still to participate. It would appear, therefore, my good sheriff, that we have the thief in our midst. So may I suggest that you round up your men and have them encircle the field, lest he attempt to escape.”
          As the sheriff rose to carry out the prince’s instructions, so did Staid Marion the Duchess of Pork rise from her seat, just three rows back from where the prince and sheriff sat. She had overheard their conversation, and thus hurried down to warn Rob of the impending danger. But Rob-the-Hood would hear nothing of pulling out of the competition at this stage. The prize was too valuable, the challenge too great. Besides which, all one-hundred-plus of his ferrymen were stationed in the forest that surrounded the stadium, and none was as inaccurate with bow and arrow as the likes of Not Much and Will Starlet. They, he assured himself, were true marksmen, many of whom were capable of winning the championship had they been entered. So he brushed Staid Marion aside with a gentle kiss and strode forth to the archery range.
          With Big Con provisionally in the lead, apart from Rob-the-Hood only three other competitors remained, they being Bernard ‘Bull’s Eye’ Blackbeard, Stan ‘Straight-as-a-Dye’ Sullivan and Sam ‘Wham-bam’ Shackleton.
          First up was Bernard Blackbeard. ‘Ping! Ping! Ping!’ flew his arrows, all of them thudding into the inner circle. Within seconds he was surrounded by half-a-dozen would-be sponsors, before the Ping Golf Equipment company finally got him to sign on the dotted line.
          He was followed by Stan Sullivan. ‘Swoosh! Swoosh! Swoosh!’ went his arrows, all three finding the centre spot. Minutes later Sullivan was seen, head held high and chest thrust forward, brandishing a contract from Nike.
          Then forward stepped Sam Shackleton. ‘Ting! Ding! Ming!’ went his arrows, only one of which found the inner circle. So all he got for his efforts was a T-shirt from a local Chinese take-away of the same name.
          Finally, Rob-the-Hood stepped forward. ‘Whirr! Whirr! Whirr!’ sped his three arrows, all of them grouped neatly within the inner circle.
          Suddenly a loud voice rang out from the crowd, “There he is! That’s our man! Go get him, boys!”
          Now everyone’s gaze fell upon a tall, heavy-set man in a garish checked jacket and Stetson, a cigar dangling from his mouth, as four of his burly henchmen scrambled down in the direction of the target range. Within seconds they had surrounded the peasant, alias Rob-the-Hood, while in the carriage park adjoining the stadium the sound of a helicopter warming up could be heard. ‘Whirr! Whirr! Whirr!’ it went as one of the henchmen thrust a scroll into Rob’s hands. “Here! Sign this!” he shouted above the noise. “Congratulations! You’re the new face of the Bell Helicopter Company!”
          It was now down to the final shoot-out between Barney Blackbeard, Stan Sullivan and Rob-the-Hood, each man having just one arrow to prove his worth.
          ‘Ping!’ went Blackbeard’s arrow, settling a fraction to the right within the inner circle.
          ‘Swoosh!’ went Sullivan’s arrow, landing slap bang in the middle of the target. How could this be bettered? Could it be bettered?
          All eyes fell upon the peasant, alias Rob-the-Hood, as he drew his arrow, took a deep breath, and with a loud ‘Whirr!’ watched it speed toward the target, then split Sullivan’s arrow in two, and penetrate the bull’s eye at dead centre.
          Pandemonium broke out as spectators swarmed onto the field, hoisted the peasant onto their shoulders and carried him victorious to the podium for the prize giving.
          The sheriff duly ascended the podium, raised a buffalo horn to his lips, and spoke into it. “One, two, three, testing. One, two, three testing,” he said, whereupon the crowd fell to silence. “I now call upon the winner of the All England Archery Championship to join me on the podium and collect his prize,” said the sheriff.
          But as the shabbily-dressed peasant received his prize of a golden arrow and two tickets to the Nottingham Forest verses Manchester United game, so another voice rang out from the crowd, “It’s Robbing Hoodlum!”
          The crowd surged forward. The sheriff’s soldiers burst their way through the throng, and the ferrymen hidden in the forest sprang into action. An almighty  skirmish broke out between the soldiers and the ferrymen while, with their backs to Rob-the-Hood, their swords drawn, the four burly henchmen from the Bell Helicopter Company escorted him from the stadium and whisked him to safety in the awaiting chopper.
 
 
CHAPTER FIVE
 
Some while after the archery contest, the good King Dick returned to England. “Where’s Flo?” he asked of Queen Bee on reaching the palace.
          “Search me,” answered a disinterested queen. “She wandered off a few weeks ago and no-one has had sight or sound of her ever since.”
          Instinctively, the king knew this not to be the case. Never would Flo be so irresponsible as not to tell anyone where she was going. The queen was lying, of that the king was certain. He needed someone to investigate the matter, locate his daughter Flo White, and return her to the palace without delay. And he had just the right person in mind. A trusted member of his Royal Court and a women’s rights activist to boot – Staid Marion, the Duchess of Pork.
          Thus it was that after a thorough briefing Staid Marion was installed as Secret Service Agent 001, her sole assignment being the expeditious return of Flo White, the Princess Royal, to the palace.
          “Here!” said the king, handing her a parchment scroll. “Take this; it may come in handy.”
          “What is it, Your Majesty?” she asked.
          “A licence to kill,” he replied matter-of-factly.
          “To kill, Your Majesty?” she repeated in incredulous voice. “But who shall I kill?”
          “Oh, I don’t know,” said the king with a wave of the hand. “All I do know is that it says in the manual that you should have such a licence.
          “Oh, and one more thing; you’re going to need an alias, or so the manual says. I rather liked the name Bond myself, but that’s apparently been booked. So I chose the name Stick instead.”
          “Stick,” repeated a disillusioned Marion. “Marion Stick …”
          “No, no, no,” interjected the king, “both names will have to change. And as you’ll be heading up this new unit, I thought Boss would be most appropriate. Boss Stick. Sounds rather catchy, if I say so myself.”
          “Does that mean, Your Majesty, that from now on you will address me as ‘Boss’?”
          “Ha, ha! Ha, ha!” he laughed. “I guess so. Oh my! What a lovely world. Now, if that’s all, I must be getting along.”
          “Your Majesty, just one more question.”
          “Yes, Boss?”
          “This new unit you referred to; what’s its name?” 
          “Oh, yes. MI7 it’s called. Monarchy Intelligence Unit 7. Can’t say I have the foggiest idea what units one to six do, but there you have it. Now be a good girl and hurry along will you: there’s some fellow by the name of Goldfinger waiting for me on the golf course.”
 
Blissfully unaware of this clandestine meeting between her husband the king and Secret Service Agent 001 Boss Stick, Queen Bee once again stood before her magic mirror, if only to reassure herself that Flo White had, in fact, perished.
“Mirror, mirror on the wall,” she wailed, “who’s the fairest of us all?”
To which the mirror again replied:
“In far-off Sherwood Forest, where Seven Smurps lay their heads to rest,
Flo White has made her home, and she, Queen Bee, is lovelier by far than thee.”
          Need we say it; the queen was furious. Livid. Beside herself with jealousy. And not a little astonished. For had she not herself squeezed the last breath of air from her stepdaughter’s lungs? Had she not witnessed the young woman fall lifeless to the floor?
          Again she summoned Fred Dunnothing, her most trusted servant, and again they set off at full gallop for far-off Sherwood Forest.
 
Unbeknown to the evil queen (or you, dear reader), on the day she had visited her stepdaughter disguised as an old pedlar woman, the Seven Smurps had returned home to find Flo lying lifeless on the floor. Utterly distraught at the sight of her, all had fallen to the ground; Greasy removing her shoes, Sleazy loosening the lace around her bodice, Creepy pushing hard down on her chest, and Grimy applying mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, while Arthur decanted a little brandy into a glass after helping himself to two generous gulps.
          Slowly, the colour had returned to Flo’s cheeks, and shortly thereafter she had sat up, at first a little unsure of her surroundings.  Obviously overjoyed by her recovery, yet deeply upset by her carelessness, the smurps had admonished her. Did she not realise that it was her stepmother, the evil Queen Bee, who was trying to kill her? No-one, but no-one should be allowed into the house in their absence, no matter how harmless they appeared. Would Flo White heed their advice? We shall have to wait and see.
 
From the balcony of her manor house on the outskirts of Nottingham town, three days after the king had briefed her, Staid Marion, alias Secret Service Agent 001 Boss Stick, observed in the distance the distinctive royal carriage of Queen Bee hurtling in the direction of Sherwood Forest. Swooping up her DIY Spy Kit purchased at Marx & Schlenter for the never-to-be repeated price of £1.99, she slid down the bannister, flew briefly through the air and landed atop her trusty steed Elastic, winner of the Epsom Derby earlier in the year.
          In her spy kit was everything a modern 12th-century secret service agent could possibly have needed. The kit was, in fact, a leather-bound trunk comprising several compartments, all joined by a network of chutes and tunnels.
          The bottom-most compartment housed a snorkel and flippers, a snowboard, a skateboard, a surfboard, a Yamaha keyboard, and a chess board. Just above this could be accessed various disguises such as a gasmask, a surgical mask, a Halloween mask, a Gaucho Marx mask and a Donald Duck mask. Then came a selection of reference books including Fordor’s Guide to the Middle East, a New York City Telephone Directory, an Arabic-Zulu dictionary, and A Field Guide to the Trees of the Sahara Desert. In a cubby hole to the right of this could be found items of personal hygiene and medical supplies such as a powder compact, an eyeliner, a few lipsticks, bottles of breath freshener and hair remover, a scalpel, a pair of forceps and a copy of DIY Open Heart Surgery. For sustenance, a cubby hole to the left of the reference books housed packets of liquorice all-sorts, Turkish delight, jelly beans, marzipan cupcakes and six vouchers redeemable at any Burger King restaurant between the hours of 02h00 and 04h00.
          But it was the items stored in the upper-most compartment that held the key to the success of any 12th-century secret service agent. For it was there that the weapons and combative aids were kept, they being a lasso, a popgun, a peashooter, a catapult, a knuckleduster, a pair of boxing gloves, a Zimbabwean Army Knife, a Chicago flick knife, a Babe Ruth baseball bat, an Alistair Cook cricket bat, a bow and quiver of arrows, a sword and shield, a suit of armour, a cleaver, a chain saw, a cannon, a smoke bomb, and some stink bombs.
          This trunk was so designed that any item contained therein could be instantly accessed via a hand-held remote control device.
          And it was thus equipped that Secret Service Agent 001 Boss Stick rode off in pursuit of the Queen of England.
 
Deep in Sherwood Forest itself, meanwhile, the Three Little Pigs were, since receiving their unexpected windfall of six gold sovereigns from Queen Bee, preparing to build their new home. The bricks were already stacked high in their small garden, while alongside them lay bags of cement.
          All that needed now to be done, was to dismantle their just-completed wooden home in such a manner that the trusses, beams, doors, windows and roof shingles could be re-used in the new building. They had a well-devised plan as to how this could be achieved, and to this end had erected a sling, or giant catapult, alongside which lay a mound of small stones, all about the size of glass marbles.
          Snug inside their wooden home, its doors and windows tightly shuttered, all that was left for the pigs to do was to await the arrival of the local demolisher, or master blaster. And, as expected, he didn’t let them down.
          As BMW the Big Mad Wolf trundled along the path in front of their home so they began singing:
“Who’s afraid of the Big Mad Wolf, the Big Mad Wolf?
We’re not afraid of the Big Mad Wolf, the Big Mad Wolf,
La-di-da-di-da!”
          BMW stopped dead in his tracks, snarled, turned suddenly into the pigs’ garden, and loped up to the front door. “Come out of zere!” he snarled. “Come out you … you hearty hams! You bacon-und-egg breakfasts! You ecstasy-inducingk eisbeins! Come out, or I’ll blow your miserable liddle house down!”
          To which the pigs replied: “We’re not afraid of the Big Mad Wolf, the Big Mad Wolf, La-di-da-di-da!”         
          This was all the encouragement BMW needed. He raised up on his hind legs, took in a deep breath, then huffed, puffed and blew the house down.
By then the pigs had positioned themselves behind the giant sling, its leather pouch filled with stones. “One, two, three!” counted the pigs as they tugged at the pouch with all their might. “Smack him in the knees!” they squealed, and released the pouch.
          Down went BMW in agony, the knees of his hind legs shattered. A pitiful sight, he lay there rubbing his legs and unable to walk.
          Then from behind the sling, one of the pigs called out, “Mr Wolf, will you promise not to bother us again?”
          “Ooo, I’m not zo sure I can,” came BMW’s reply.
          “Why-ever not?” asked the pig.
          “Vell, I’m profountly partial to plump prime pork. Can’t resist it, truce be told. Particularly mit a pitcher or two off pale ale while playingk poker in ze pub mit my pals.”
          So there, in the front yard of the Three Little Pigs’ house lay the Big Mad Wolf as the pigs themselves set about building their new home of bricks and mortar.
 
 
To be continued………
 
“Tradition is the only link between the dead and the as yet unborn”.
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Booktown Richmond’s 15th Anniversary
 
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IN A TIME OF UNIVERSAL DECEIT – TELLING THE TRUTH IS A REVOLUTIONALY ACT
George Orwell
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