Sleep like a Lord
"I didn't sleep at all well, Box," I said. "It's the pheasants roosting in the rafters, they make a terrible racket."
However, I must has been dreaming this conversation, as immediately afterwards I was woken by Box, bringing me coffee, toast and assorted toast decoration.
"I trust you slept well," he said.
"No, as I was telling you in my dream, I slept very badly indeed. I wish you'd pay attention."
"Sorry my Lord," he said in that way of his, eyes looking away and sounding not at all sorry.
"Well at least I'll be able to catch up on my sleep in the House. What's the schedule for the day?"
"We have the Criminal Justice Bill, followed by lunch, followed by the Customs Levy debate, followed by the Inland Revenue Schedule Revision."
"Excellent, I'll skip Criminal Justice, have an extended lunch and I should sleep like a log all through Customs and Inland Revue."
"My lord isn't planning to speak at either debate?"
"Hardly, I'm a peer of the realm, I'm paid to sleep, not speak. I leave that to the government lackeys."
"In which case be sure to sit away from any microphones, last time you were heard talking in your sleep."
"Don't remind me, I'll never live it down. The one time in my life I dream about taking a custard bath with Theresa May and it's recorded forever in the annals of Hansard. I'll never hear the end of it."
"Where will you lunch today? The Lords Dinning Room has pheasant on the menu."
"Splendid, a chance for me to get my revenge."
I toasted, dressed and headed for the Lords, where I robed up and headed straight for the Lords Dining Room, where I had a splendid lunch of roast pheasant, roast spuds, roast parsnip, roast peas and roast gravy - the Lords' chef truly is the master of all things roasty, followed by sticky toffee pudding which was so sticky it took me a full half hour to eat it. Thus stuffed and exhausted by my culinary endeavour I collapsed onto my supporting cushions in my favourite corner of the Chamber, where the soporific powers of HM Customs would take me back to the land of slumber. I was looking forward to finding out whether the dream version of Box had any suggestions for the pheasant problem, the real life version had proved himself utterly useless.
I was just nodding off when I was woken by a loud booming from behind me. It was the new Labour Peer, Lord Barker, who was sounding off like nobody's business.
"My Lords," he boomed. "This is the fifth time this House has looked at this issue in under a year. I wonder if we might get closer to getting the legislation right this time if honorable members stayed awake for the debate."
I was fully awake by this stage and could see I was not alone, all around me Peers, Viscounts and Baronesses were being woken from their slumber. Lord Barker seemed unconcerned, indeed if anything his voice went up a level. He spoke for a long time, all bellowed at a pitch clearly learnt from his long years in the labour movement addressing various trade union mobs and rabbles without the benefit of amplification.
After the debate Box was waiting for me in the Lords Bar with his usual box of essential paperwork.
"Did you sleep well my lord?"
"Terrible. The new socialist peer kept me awake with his ranting on about the importance of staying awake for debates. Fetch me a brandy Box."
"This is the Lords bar my lord."
"Oh yes." As a move to keep the commoners to a minimum only Peers are allowed to purchase drinks in the Lords bar, an expensive method of keeping out the rabble.
"In which case hand me my money box Box." I never carry a purse in my robes, I find it incompatiable with taking a nap.
"I've been thinking about your problem," Box said when I returned with my drink. "Why not host a pheasant shoot."
"Excellent idea Box. It's been a few years since I've held one, it explains why they're getting everywhere."
"I've taken the liberty of writing invitations. I thought we'd ask Lord Lemon, Viscount Sponge, Lord Toberone and Lord Barker."
"Lord Barker! You mean the shouty trade unionist? Why on earth would I want him?"
"I thought it would be nice to make overtures to the new peer. You never know, he might prove to be agreeable."
"Honestly Box, sometimes I wonder if I'd be better off listening to the Box in my dreams, some of the ideas you come up with. Oh well, it's an extra man against the pheasant in my rafters I suppose, your pheasant's enemy is your friend and all that."
The shoot proved a great success. I took the liberty of hiring the Lords Dining Room's chef for the day, who was soon put to work doing what he does, roasting everything in sight. We had to hide the valuable family heirlooms of course, as much as I adore the chef I didn't want to come home to roasted Gainsborough.
Barker proved as obnoxiously left wing as I'd expected, but at least he was sufficiently outnumbered that he was always shouted down - give me a shouty argument over a reasoned debate any day. Afterwards we gorged ourselves on an enormous feast of roast pheasant, roast pheasant, roast pheasant, roast pheasant and roast pheasant - the chef hadn't let us down. The meal was served with a chardonnay followed by a pinot gris, a late harvest Riesling with the sticky toffee pudding and brandy liqueur to follow. We then retired to the drawing room for scotch and brandy. Pheasant shooting is a full day's work and no mistake.
The next day I took my usual place in the House and was just dropping off when I was woken up a hideous roaring noise behind me. I turned round to find Lord Barker, fast asleep and snoring like a warthog. Even in sleep he's the noisiest peer I've ever met.
I met Box in the Lords Bar after the debate.
"Did you see Lord Barker," I said. "Slept right through the debate, bloody hypocrite."
"I know. I took the liberty of filming him from the gallery. If he does any more of his noisy rants about having to stay awake through debates there would be some embarrassing press the next day."
"So that's why you invited him to the pheasant shoot. You planned the whole thing didn't you. You're so much more clever than the Box in my dreams, I'm glad I didn't listen to him. Do you know what he suggested?"
"That we should all have one big splashy custard bath?"
"Good lord Box you're right. Can you read my mind?"
"No, but I can read Hansard."
"You were talking in your sleep again. I told you not to sleep under one of the microphones."