The Shoe Leather Express

Writing and Comedy from James Harris

Category: Satire

Proposal For The Second English Civil War

Angus Kirk Fight

Photo from Angus Kirk. Licenced under CC by 2.0.

What a tremendous pickle this country has got itself into. Eighteen months on from that referendum the UK remains hopelessly divided, between young and old, north and south, university graduates and people who hate them. Our lamentable political class are circling each other like ducks with bread up their bumholes and as for our press – well, those guys are currently exploring the previously unheralded territory between fascism and music hall. Our country is going to the dogs who we will be shortly forced to eat.

In this context, please allow me – a balding 35-year old from Nottingham and frequently-rejected supplicant to the metropolitan elite – to propose my own solution. In my view, there’s nothing about our current collective national imbroglio that a good old-fashioned English Civil War wouldn’t fix.

It seems so obvious when you think about it. After all, in such matters, England has always been ahead of the continent. We got to our own previous Civil War as early as the 1640s, a full three hundred years before our Spanish neighbours. Typical Spanish idleness! Plus we already have all the conditions in place for our society-destroying reboot. We have two bitterly opposed camps, one of which advocates parliamentary sovereignty regardless of its human cost, and another of disorganized loyalists to a recently-toppled regime. Just like the Royalists of old, with their sympathies to continental ‘Popery’, the Remain masses are seen as open to foreign ideas to a suspicious degree, all in good contrast with the stout, bitter-drinking Roundheads of Brexit. And just like Cromwell’s lot, the Brexit bunch seem to have no qualms about threatening the actual really-existing Parliament when it disobeys them.

Clearly the New English Civil War will be a little different from the first. For example this time around, executing our monarch is unlikely to resolve many issues and may even complicate them. Also, unlike last time, Scotland and London are firmly in the hands of loyalists to the ancien regime, stocked as they are by an unholy alliance of freelance creatives, German IT consultants, and Polish people who can fix things. Just like back then though the Parliamentarians base their success on extraordinary victories in places no-one has ever heard of: What, for example, is Spalding? To communicate this blend of historical similarity and difference, I suggest supporters of the EU retain the previous term Cavaliers, while Brexit puritans are from now known as Blockheads. After all we are currently being told Brexit will allow us to diverge and harmonize at the same time.

How the war will go is anyone’s guess. On one hand, the New Cavaliers have youth on the side; on the other they, with their hipster beards, need to caffeinate constantly and inability to commit to long-term relationships, look far from battle ready. In contrast the Blockheads are clearly an older army – but one brief clip from Question Time tells you they’re one more than ready to kill. Indeed are actively looking for an excuse to do so. As battle is joined, can we see really the cosseted denizens of Richmond Park or Cambridge putting up much resistance to pitchfork-wielding northern pensioners? On the other hands – if the New Cavaliers destroy Grimsby, how will we be able to tell?

In keeping with modern sensibilities I suggest the war be pacific in nature. Instead of guns, each side will be armed with symbolic weaponry. On the pro-EU side, soldiers will carry yards of ‘Brussels Red Tape’, used to baffle and tether their foes (until the need for a response creates the even more nightmarish British Red Tape, able to induce migraines from over two years away). For their part, the Leave hordes will drench enemies of the people from water guns mounted on white vans filled with lashings and lashings of weak English lager supplied by General JD Wetherspoon. Fighting will be intense, but bloodless; the clash of croissant on powerful non-EU regulated vacuum cleaner, the battlefield ringing with the ‘God Save the Queen’ against the pinging of the Duolingo app. War is no reason to neglect your language learning! Once a soldier is fallen, either a Cavalier from exhaustion at making the same two repeated arguments over a period of many years without any response or, in the case of the Blockheads, chlorinated-chicken poisoning, they are to be daubed with a symbol of their hated foe. This will either be a tiny Euro sign or a pound sterling symbol, with the total of such currency symbols then counted at the end of the battle to determine the overall winner. However before said counting, 18% of pound sterling’s value will be deleted, and this will be subject to further depreciation over the course of the war. To counter this, Leave commanders will deny that it is even happening.

Having a good old-fashioned internecine conflict is simply the honourable British thing to do. To this end I plan to raise the New Cavalier standard on March 30 at London’s Old Street roundabout, after which we will have a rare vinyl auction followed by a live DJ set from Gina Miller. The same day, a similar Blockhead ceremony will take place at Barnsley Town Hall, after which there’ll be ham sandwiches and a public execution. As I look out of the rows of boyish man-buns and Chinese-character tats I’ll be better able to assess the chances of those who wear the Blue and Gold. And if we Cavaliers are to lose again we can always console ourselves that the last time parliamentary sovereignty became a moral absolute in English politics its advocates only held onto power eleven years before everyone got thoroughly sick of them and their joyless bullshit. Victory or no, we Cavaliers can march on regardless to 2027 when a delegation to Brussels will be dispatched to solicit our re-entry to the bloc, and the most tremendous piss-up held for the UK’s ecstatic EU Restoration. The bonfires of blue passports will burn all night.

Advertisements

Two politicians talk about God

This poem was written in 2012.

 

Cameron and Clegg at Downing street,

Last meeting before Christmas done.

Nick puts on his coat to leave

And Cameron stops him with ‘Nick.’

‘Hmm?’ ‘Just one thing, chum, a question –

Do you believe in God?’

A pause, and Clegg answers hesitantly,

‘Actually I don’t. Since my youth I’ve been an atheist

I’ve never had much use

For bells and smells and promises

Which life itself can’t keep. I read

The works of Samuel Beckett, who would’ve

Prayed to God but -’

‘He doesn’t exist,’ says Cameron.

Then Clegg: ‘Surprised you know the quote.

I don’t believe in God, but

In the interests of full disclosure I should state

My sons are being raised Catholic.’

Nick goes further into his coat, then farther

To the door; at which point he turns, seeing

David stood in the room’s middle

Blowing his cheeks out,

Face puffy and red-eyed

From tiredness and overwork.

‘And you?’ after a moment Nick asks.

‘Oh it comes and goes.

I like to read the Bible…

I’m a cultural Christian…

But I wouldn’t say I believe.

Increasingly I find in meetings

My mind hovers above the fray,

In our interminable monetary discussions

I end up somewhere else.

The scene I see is seashores

And families playing there;

Ice cream on children’s faces,

Wasps in the orange juice.

I believe, I think I realize,

In a very British God –

A kind of aquatic protector

Who keeps this island safe.

I operate in a basic wavering

Position of vague belief;

You could say I’m a coalition

Of certainty and doubt.’

Nick nods and turns back to the door,

Then holds just another tick.

‘We should talk about these things more often,

It might help us win the day.’

Cameron gives a half-smile then says, at last

‘Give my love to your family

And enjoy the Christmas break.’

Cameron Clegg

Image Credit: The Cabinet Office.

Currency exchange

Scene: A currency exchange. The Customer enters.

Customer. Hi, I’d like to exchange some lives please.

Employee. Sure – what have you got?

Customer. I’ve got 132 Iraqis and I’m looking to change them to Germans.

Employee taps calculator.

Employee. Okay, 132 you said – Iraqis gets you… two Germans.

Customer. Germans are strong, huh?

Employee. Very strong at the moment, sir.

Customer. Ok, let’s do it. Germans always come in handy. And before I forget I’ve got three Canadians here and am looking to buy Russians.

Employee. Going to Egypt, sir? Well, let me see… As of today three Canadians gets you 55 Russians.

Customer. Wow – that’s fallen too. I remember when three Canadians got you 100 Russians. I went to St. Petersburg in the 90’s and I only spent ten Canadians the whole time; I didn’t even spend any men! Just out of interest, how many Americans would 155 Afghans get me?

Employee. One moment… 155 Afghans would get you 0.01 of an American. Namely a hundreth. That’s actually improved in the last few years.

Customer. So that means… 1 American equals 15,500 Afghans?

Employee. And don’t forget there’s no commission on Afghans either. But between you and me, even Americans aren’t what they were; 1 American only gets you 0.9th of a Canadian these days.

Customer. Wow. The times they are a-changing. Canadians worth more than Americans!

Employee. Indeed, sir. We do indeed live in interesting times. Pretty soon the only thing that’ll be reliable is a Swiss. Now, here’s your two Germans at a commission of 12 Iraqis, your 55 Russians at an exchange rate of just over a twentieth of a Canadian and your receipt. Keep that in case you have any bits of German left you want to bring back to us. Their brains are particularly useful.

Customer. Well – what do they say? Vielen Danke!

Employee. A pleasure doing business with you sir. Enjoy your trip, and don’t spend all those Germans at once!

Sleeping

‘A child sleeps outside a mony exchange in Chinatown, Bangkok, Thailand’ by victoriapeckham is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The real cause of the financial crisis

An interview.

Interviewer. Name.

Interviewee. David Jones.

Interviewer. Occupation.

Interviewee. Elementary school teacher.

Interviewer. Tell us your story, David.

Interviewee. Yeah well – I know a lot of people find it hard getting their head round the financial crisis but… The basic thing you have to remember is that it’s my fault. (Sighs) Sorry, this is difficult to explain… But basically it went like this. One evening in 2007, it was May I think, I went to get some money out. I wanted to buy some cigarettes and go to the movies. Anyway, just as I’m choosing, I see an option on the menu I don’t normally see – ‘Cause global financial crisis’ – right there – you know, next to all the other options like ‘take out 20 dollars’ and all that. And you know, it was late, there was nobody about, and I just thought – Why not, you know? After all, they put it there as an option. So I leant forward and yeah – I pressed it.

Interviewer. Then what happened?

Interviewee. Well, first of all, nothing. Not directly anyway. But afterwards I started to read about the subprime mortgage crisis, and Lehmann brothers, and TARP… I don’t understand any of that stuff. I mean, I understand a little bit, obviously – that people bought houses they’d never pay off, and that banks exploited that. But mainly I just have a sense that it’s my fault. And that people should know that. And I guess I should say sorry for this but you know – I’m not. Because I honestly believe that some good will come out of this. I honestly believe some good will come out of this whole thing.

Kafka at the RBS

Mildly-edited transcript of a real-life conversation, 17.09.2013.

O. Hello, Royal Bank of Scotland telephone banking, Omar speaking, how may I help?

J. Hi there Omar! I’ve just ordered a card reader over the RBS website and I’d like to have it delivered to my new address.

O. Right sir – I’m afraid you can’t change your address over the phone.

J. It says on your website you can.

O. Yes sir, but I’m afraid that’s only for our Level Two customers.

J. Okay then – how do I get to be a Level Two customer?

O. You need a card reader, sir.

J. But that’s why I’m phoning – so I can change my address and get the card reader.

O. I understand that sir. But you can’t change your address over the phone without Level Two access.

J. Then how do I change my address?

O. You can change it at any RBS branch with valid personal documentation, for example your passport or driving license.

J. But what about the card reader?

O. That will be sent to your current address.

J. But the address isn’t right!

O. I know sir; I can only apologize. If you do wait a second, I’ll see if I can get that card-reader stopped.

(Discussion in background).

O. I’m sorry sir, I can’t do anything. It will be sent to your current address.

J. My old address?

O. Yes sir.

J.
Even if I ordered it five minutes ago?

O. Yes.

J. And I’m telling you, before it’s been sent, I don’t want it sent there?

O. That’s right, sir. The card readers are sent automatically.

J. Mmm. So there’s nothing I can do?

O. I do apologize sir.

J. Say, Omar, have you ever read any Franz Kafka?

O. Actually sir, he’s one of my favourite writers. In fact it was his masterpiece ‘The Castle’ which inspired me to enter into the world of telephone banking in the first place. Something about the protagonist K’s increasingly desperate attempts to be granted access to the titular castle or ‘lock’, a process Kafka’s plans for the novel suggested would only be approved at the very moment of his death, led me inevitably to employment in a call centre. I read him in the original German, of course.

J. Of course, Omar. I’m sure a developed sense of the absurdity of all human effort is most useful in your line of work.

O. Indeed it is sir. Essential in fact. Now sir, is there anything else I can help you with?

J. No thank you, Omar. Keep up the reading.

O. I will sir, and do have a nice day. Your card reader is on its way.