The new road
I was suspicious as soon as I tasted my early morning toast and coffee - the coffee was hot and strong, the toast brown but not burnt. Box was lingering for no good reason, which could only mean that he wanted something.
"Thank you Box, that's all," I said.
"There was one more thing, my lord."
"Yes Box, what is it?"
"I was wondering what you were doing with the East Field on the 22nd July."
"What am I doing with it? Nothing Box, I never do anything with fields. I let them lie there, being fields."
"It's just that my battle reenactment group need a new venue for their Battle of Hasting reenactment weekend, Hastings are saying we can't fight there as it's an area of significant historical interest."
"So you want to reenact the Battle of Hastings in my East field?"
"Yes, my lord. You've said yourself you won't be using it, and it's almost exactly the same size as one of the fields near Hastings when the Battle may have taken place."
"Absolutely not, Box, I've seen the people you hang around with at these weekends, a right bunch of weirdos, all dressed up as medieval knights, kings, damsels in distress and pantomime cows."
"I think the latter were from my amateur dramatics group my lord, I don't recall pantomime cows playing a prominent role in the Battle of Hastings."
"I don't care if you're reenacting the battle of men dressed as chickens and pantomime dames, it's not happening in my field."
Box stomped off in huff. A short while later he stomped back up the stairs and plonked my post and paperwork on my bedside table.
"I have your post, my lord. And the local council briefing on the new road."
"Council business, Box? I'm a Peer of the realm, I deal with important matters of state, I don't have time for nosing about what's happening in my back yard."
"It's not your back yard, my lord, it's the East Field."
"The East Field, what are you gibbering about? The East Field's mine, it's no business of the council."
"If you'll just read the briefing my lord, you'll see that under council plans The new road will be passing right through it."
"Passing through it? But what about the great tree in the centre of the field."
"I believe the plans include a proposal to cut down the great tree - they tend not to leave trees sticking out in the middle of roads."
"But that tree's been there for generations. Surely this can be stopped Box, there must be a tree preservation society."
"I will contact Mr Guthrie at the solicitors to seek his advice."
"Legal advice, Box. That's no good, pull some strings, ring a few councilors. What about Watkins, Gervais and Manglewort, they're all on the transport committee."
"Yes, they are my lord, they each reminded you of the fact when you refused to move your car when it was blocking the exit from the Con Club that night the folk band played there."
"Oh, you don't think ..."
"I will talk to some of our other councilors, see if there's a way of reconciling with them."
It was going to be one of those days. My attempts to sleep through the Hunting of the Snark (and other mythical creatures) Bill were constantly interrupted by the former MP who had plonked himself next to me. He clearly didn't understand the nature of proceedings in this House, he kept jostling me with questions like 'what do you think of this amendment', as if I was actually there for the debate. I was pleased to join Box in the Lords bar at lunchtime.
"Well, any news on the road?" I said.
"I sent Guthrie a picture of the tree, he says it's unlikely to be sufficient grounds for stopping the road. There are, apparently, lots of trees."
"What about the councilors?"
"I spoke to Councilor Wannabee and she says Watkins, Gervais and Manglewort may never forgive you. The band was a left-wing group of protest songwriters. They were stuck for the entire evening listening to ranty songs about Teresa May and Michael Gove.
"How on earth did a left-wing band end up at the Con Club?"
"Apparently they've been banned from the Labour Club and had nowhere else to go."
"So this is hopeless, they'll never forgive me, my tree is apparently just a tree and my rights count for nothing. I'm going to get a motorway in my back garden and there's nothing I can do."
"I did speak to Dr Ambrose."
"I don't want to hear about your warts, Box."
"Not my GP my lord, he's a doctor of History, I know him from my battle enactments."
"What has he got to do with any of this? Is my tree historically significant? Did Queen Victoria shimmy up it in her youth?"
"Not the tree, my lord, the whole east field. Dr Ambrose has found evidence that a civil war battle may have taken place in it."
"Fantastic, well we'll just slap an injunction on the road, get it redirected, the east field is an important historical site."
"It's not that easy, my lord. It was a minor battle and not in the public awareness. Before we could win a case like that we'd need to raise the profile of the site as a place of historical significance."
"And how will we manage that? I've only got 6 weeks to appeal the proposal."
"Ambrose suggests staging a reenactment of the battle on the site, that'll generate massive publicity. The council can't fail to notice that, and the media will love it. It just so happens that the group is available on 22nd July."
"Oh very well Box, you win, you can have your pantomime cow fight. Will you get me a brandy at least."
"I'm afraid this is the Lords bar, my Lord."
The Lords bar, in an effort to keep out the rabble, bans anyone other than Peers from purchasing drinks.
"In which case pass me my money box, Box."