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       The Predicament of Redwood Paddock, p.1
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The Predicament of Redwood Paddock
The Predicament of Redwood Paddock

  Copyright 2014 Hylton H Smith

  Hylton Smith

  All rights reserved

  This book is sold subject to the conditions that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the author's or publisher's prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

  Introduction

  The Predicament of Redwood Paddock is a political satire, first published in 2008. Six years have passed, and yet the characters, portrayed as animals, still offer the reader an opportunity to supplant them with real politicians. It would seem that the main parties have become even more blurred in their ideology during this time. So much in fact, that a change of government has made no difference to the thrust of the tale. Beige politicians are the new Blue, Red and Orange ones.

  Warning!!

  There is a veritable legion of characters to contend with, but fear not, there is a Dramatis Personae at the end of the book for reference. It denotes main protagonists, supporting cast, and extras. Although this publication is pure fiction, maybe even a farce, we all know how many hangers-on abound in ‘managing’ the country. So, please forgive the irresistible urge to inject a touch of realism, in the form of a torrent of irrelevant personalities. Hopefully, the list, or index, helps to focus on the movers and shakers.

  Attention

  For those readers resident outside the shores of Britain, the machinations of UK politics must appear to be confusing, if not ludicrous. That is perfectly understandable, because it is the same for the people of this green and pleasant land. It would seem that we are all in a similar, if not identical leaky boat. This story is but one version, the truth will be far stranger.

 

 

 

  Chapter 1

  There was a light mist spiralling down the steps of the Town Hall on that auspicious December morning. The occasion was to ratify the appointment of the new leader of the Council of Multicoloured Meadow. Improbable Richardson was a budgerigar of Eastern descent who came to our country when he was a mere chick. His original family name was Jehangar Ashraf Jawadenal Mumtaz St. Clair, and he had thought before entering the election process of the new leader, that he should have a new name, one which would be more easily pronounced in this Northern village, where a strong regional accent was the norm. He chose Improbable as a sign of modesty, believing he wouldn’t be successful, and Richardson because he had lived next door to a squirrel family, and his best pal in his youth was the son of the family head - Richard, hence Richardson.

  When he finally realised that he had been voted in, his brain activity went off the Richter scale, thinking about all the responsibility he had let himself in for. He panicked, and even in his speech of acceptance on the broad stone steps, he unwittingly offered only one promise, “I’ll always find a way to put forward the voters’ feelings on each issue that I receive, and I’ll only go ahead with proposals which make sense for the majority of the citizens of our village.”

  Here was a perfect example of negative voting and apathy conspiring to elect such an ignorant candidate, a marvellous fluke result! As soon as he stopped talking he realised this promise would be impossible to keep. Still, he thought, ‘I don’t want to be just another cretinous, boring public official like my predecessors, so I’ve said it, and I’ll do it.’

  As he had previously worked for the council in a pretty minor role, he had absolutely no relevant experience or idea how to tackle this mighty job - so he decided that this must actually be the reason he was elected. The citizens were fed up with sleazy individuals who thought they were always one step ahead of the sack. This also meant he had no allies.

  He started to mull over names that he might be able to trust. Strangely, the first port of call was a destitute cat generally known as Mosey Barracuda, unemployed and sleeping rough. Mosey’s family went back generations in this country and were from a nearby village. He was, unlike the more recent immigrants, not really up to speed with all the complicated benefits legislation, and how they could be claimed, therefore he suffered in relative silence. IR chose Mosey precisely because of his view of life, which meant he had little or nothing to lose by being honest.

  “Who should I consult?” said IR, “you know, in order to get at the heart of the frustrations of our citizens, Mosey?”

  “If I were you, well even if I was me, which I am, I would start by speaking to a wise old owl, someone who was here when things started to go so wrong, and who has certainly predicted why, and was mocked for those predictions.”

  “Uh huh,” said IR, “and that is?”

  “Enoch Owl,” said Mosey, “you’ll have difficulty persuading him to express his views now, because they might offend someone. They might not, but these days we can’t take the risk, because we’re told there is nothing worse than offending someone, nothing!!!”

  “Where can I find him?”

  “The Old Oak at the top end of the village.”

  “Ok, is that a tree that I would easily recognise?”

  “Get real, IR, it’s a bloody pub. Enoch may have been old and controversial but he won’t spend his twilight years hanging around on some wobbly branch on a winter’s night. He is still welcome at the Inn.”

  The Old Oak was as its name suggests - old, very old, a traditional Inn, quaint, cosy and a forum for all kinds of discussion from prize winning leeks to atomic physics.

  From the crackling, glowing embrace of the hearth’s fire to the seemingly antediluvian stoicism etched into the sturdy wooden furnishings, a vision of unchanging safety and rustic oneness presented itself. Improbable Richardson felt like he’d been there forever and not at all. Entranced, he wandered slowly to the bar. It somehow seemed that this venue demanded slowness as a show of respect.

  “Hello.” chirped IR. “Bitter weather, er, I’m looking for Enoch Owl, can you help me?”

  “Over there,” said Collie Moddle the bardog, “the machine in the corner, press play and wait for the prompt.”

  Improbable approached the black screen with caution, but did as instructed. He suddenly leapt back in astonishment when a 3D image of Enoch flickered into being, and shouted “Yes stranger? I know you are a stranger because of your retina scan, we have not talked before. What can I do for you?”

  “Richardson sir, er, that’s my name. I’d like your help and advice, as I have somehow become the new leader of the Council.”

  “This is a first,” sneered Enoch, “Are you serious?”

  “Yes, unfortunately. I was given your name by Mosey Barracuda, and he said I would find you here but maybe you wouldn’t want to talk, but you aren’t here, where are you?”

  “What you see Mr Richardson is….”

  “Improbable Richardson sir, and it’s never felt more apt than right now.”

  “Yes, whatever. What you see is a holo-projection. You must surely realise that I died a long time ago, but before my demise I had an anonymous friend who programmed this Holo-matrix with an interrogative database for such occasions - like a political jukebox, so to speak. My friend can update my programme remotely and remain unidentified, but he also installed an unbreakable access code which makes a digital fortress look like a one character password.”

  “Whoa, let me get this right sir,” squirmed IR, “you are….”

  “It would seem you have taken on a big job for someone of extremely modest intellect, I think you have promise,” retorted the owl.

  “Well Enoch,” ventured IR, “that’s why I came her
e, on behalf of the citizens of Multicoloured Meadow.”

  “You mean Redwood Paddock.” snapped Enoch.

  “No, Multicolou…..”

  “The name has changed because Redwood Paddock was not PC, didn’t you do any research before you took the job?”

  “PC?”

  “My God, this is refreshing, it means ‘Proper Comment’ my boy, contrived non-offensive language for something we all really know as something completely different. You see, many of the previous administrations felt that as a lot of the new immigrants were, well - not red - they might feel left out at best, or even offended if they thought more about it. Also, ‘paddock’ has a tendency to suggest closed borders, definite boundaries, and this runs counter to the happy family policy they were trying to promote.”

  “Well, I suppose I had possibly heard about this, but I must admit it seemed pretty boring. So what else was changed because of PC?”

  “Virtually everything in our lives.” screeched Enoch. “You must have heard that we can no longer recite a very old poem called ‘Baa-Baa Pink Sheep.’ Well, the inference from the Minister for PC and the Political Psychologists was that a pink sheep is very rare, and can look like a less acceptable member of the family, and therefore this association of pink with sheep genetics might make some ethnic minorities in this country feel undervalued. This is but one example, there are countless refuges for them.”

  “But, Mr Owl,” said a wide eyed IR, “the two things aren’t connected, and anyway, as the sheep is pink and there is surely no argument about that, why didn’t we start to refer to those citizens as ‘ethnically variant?’ I mean, there is no way the poem would be changed to ‘Baa-Baa Ethnically Variant - so, no confusion! It’s curious that I myself am pink, yet I don’t feel undervalued, probably more overwhelmed by my appointment.”

  The wise owl thought in silence for a moment and said, “Son, you may just be the right man, in the right place, at the right time. I am enjoying our conversation immensely. However, before we get bogged down with just one example, I think you may have to hear many others, and also listen to the reasons why I think we got into this mess in the first place. This could be a long night. Do you want to get yourself a beer?”

  “Ok, would you like one too?” quipped IR, gaining in confidence.

  “Remember I am a hologram son,” said Enoch, “however, if you tell Collie you are buying me a drink he will add the cost to our re-location fund. Thanks for the gesture.”

  “Re-location, are you moving?”

  “Hopefully not Richardson, but the primary reason for creating the Holo-matrix is that they can’t arrest or harass a dead man for expressing what they think are non-PC views. I am as fireproof as DH Lawrence! What we have to bear in mind is, they could shut us down by court order, but we can then re-locate to another pub in another village, as there are plenty of citizens who appreciate these discussions we have. It’s a lot like trying to track down and eliminate a sponsor of terrorism.”

  “I see. Well I’ll get your ‘drink’ then. Bardog, do you have Bud Ice?” enquired IR.

  “We have Black Sheep and Old Speckled Hen.” retorted Collie Moddle. “It is an old traditional pub, you see.”

  “Right,” said IR. Thinking quickly he blurted out, “I’ll have a pint of Non-PC Black Sheep.”

  “That’s the spirit sir, will that be all?”

  “No, the owl will have the same, can you……?”

  “Yes I can sir, no problem.” smiled the bardog, winking at IR. “You resume your little chat with Enoch and I’ll bring your drink over.”

  Chapter 2

  Sniffy Badger was reclining in his hammock in the garden despite the inclement weather, and he was astounded when the radio crackled out the Local Council election results. Talking to himself was quite normal. “Never heard of him – Improbable Richardson, this must be the citizens’ way of saying they are fed up with the usual suspects.”

  ‘Sniffy’ was always first with the news, especially anything controversial or saucy. Well, you can imagine how depressed he was hearing about the new head honcho of the council on the news broadcast, when he should have ‘sniffed’ this out days ago. It illustrated the apathy and distrust surrounding politics when even the media were caught flat-footed. He made some enquiries and eventually tracked IR down at the pub.

  Having introduced himself he was promptly informed that IR’s second consultation was private and that he could not participate. He was incandescent with anger at such a rebuff, but being able to hear the odd word from a short distance, his sixth sense nudged him and said quickly, ‘Sniffy, there may be a volcano waiting to erupt here and this consultation could be the detonator to burst through the crust of PC fudge, which we have all come to know and despise, so stay with it and keep your temper.’

  He retired to a more acoustically advantageous distance, settled down with an Old Speckled Hen, and told Collie Moddle to reserve him the next slot on the Holo-matrix. It should be noted that this Old Speckled Hen was Collie’s girlfriend, not one of the beverage variety – Sniffy was a soul of temperance.

  “Mr Owl,” whispered IR, “I appreciate going back in time and covering all walks of life where PC has crapped on our landscape, turning it from ‘green and pleasant’ to ‘dry, arid and dull,’ but I thought my job would be to do my best for our villages, towns and country by helping to tackle things like - crime, drugs, binge drinking, stupid laws, silly sentencing and even sillier citizens in wigs who administer them, global warming, better health care for all, benefit fraud, education - real education, and terrorism.”

  “Patience son, this will all fall into place and many other aspects as well, when we journey back. Going back cannot in itself change what we have now, except to learn how we have strayed from common sense at crucial crossroads, whenever they have arisen. The psychologists fear the words ‘common sense’ because they do away with their entire vocabulary of indecipherable twaddle which basically distils down to - “we must never say or do anything which makes us appear ‘unenlightened.’ Being unenlightened is the only thing which could be worse than being non-PC. No matter that the King is not wearing any clothes at all, it would be unenlightened to do anything other than congratulate him on his wonderful dress sense. We really do need the child who sees things as they are, and thereby continually demolishes subterfuge and spin without any embarrassment or broken stride. Do you really want to be that child Improbable Richardson? If so you must tell the King that he has no clothes on. It could be your destiny! Alternatively, you could be out on your backside in a month. There are many more sharks on land than there are in the oceans.”

  “Where do we start?” mumbled IR apprehensively.

  “Well now, let us choose a point just after the second great conflict, which in itself started because of shambolic political appeasement. Every conflict is triggered by some incident, but the preamble always contains clues that the actual device can be intended rather than happenchance, or accidental. After such incalculable loss of life, the various protagonists in the conflict always revert to their own agendas. In this country we went through a phase of reconstruction, not only of buildings and cities, but of morale and friendship - loving thy neighbour was easy because of the shared burden and common loss. Somehow this galvanic and altruistic environment of citizenship did not quite extend to the ‘us and them’ of employment in a capitalist society, but on the plus side the crime level was negligible. Drugs were largely limited to alcohol and smoking, binge drinking was there but limited by cost, and in any case was not so often a catalyst for aggressive behaviour. Some stupid laws were there but they could be understood, and at least their purpose was transparent to all. Sentences and judges were much more respected by the populous. The government truly tried to have a one-tier health care system and welfare state. Benefits were simple to understand, not easy to come by, and rigorously means-tested, but gave incentive to work. Education was not inhibited by excessive parent interference, lack of teacher respe
ct, and chronic indiscipline. Yet it was not at a lower standard than the current scenario. Although everyone could not expect to go to university, in the way they are indoctrinated today, people seemed to recognise that there were many important jobs which did not require or indeed benefit from a university degree. Global warming was not seen as an issue, as the alleged hole in the ozone layer, although discovered, was not entirely understood. However, if more consideration had been given to the environment after all the bomb dropping, we could have avoided half a century of gross negligence. Terrorism on the scale we know it today was absent from our society, although it would gradually emerge. We had a platform then to avoid certain pitfalls, but as with every democracy we gradually abandoned vigilance over the tenet that being elected, by definition, is being the most popular. Popular policies often do not have long term benefits, commonly the reverse. Being continually popular brings systematic pressure to dismiss the longer term struggles and pave the way for appeasement. So imagine yourself, IR, fifty years ago as Council Leader, and confront the dilemmas of that time with your knowledge of how it turned out, so you can choose another route to follow. That is the only hope of knocking some of your current challenges into a different orbit, and different projected outcome.”

  “Wow,” inhaled IR, “I think I’d like to kick off with terrorism as it seems the most acute threat to the way we live right now. Let’s do this.”

  “That may be,” offered Enoch, “but sometimes the cause can be disguised from the mechanism, perhaps you should consider the reasons - not justification or dismissal of them - only the existence of them, to begin. Then I am sure you will lower your objectives to match your ability to achieve them.”

  Chapter 3

  His mind being ablaze with a kinetic conflagration of ideas and questions, IR failed to notice whoever was sat at the table adjacent to the exit, the face concealed behind the cumbrous, unwieldy broadsheet held up in front of him. The newspaper was slowly and deliberately lowered as IR passed the table, revealing a vulpine face of red and grey, its gaze trenchant and unrelenting.

  “Improbable Richardson. You simply must join me for a drink!” the fox uttered before IR reached the door, managing to sound both jovial and sinister.

 
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