Monday, 20 January 2014

World's 85 Richest...

I fear that this article will lead to quite a few begging letters...

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Avoiders Tower

Bad 4 television has been accused of exploiting contributors and pandering to prejudices about tax avoiders with it's new reality show set in Goldblock Tower.

The first episode of Avoiders Tower made for extraordinary viewing. It showed residents discussing schemes for avoiding paying their rent to me. It also featured meetings with their accountants where they planned how to take advantage of various tax loopholes and tax avoidance schemes.

After the first episode aired, Desmond Moneybags, a banker who featured in the show, told the Homeward Gazette: "They said they wanted to film for a TV show about how great community spirit is in the tower. I participated in the show on that belief. But this programme has nothing to do with community, which you can tell from the title. It's all about people in the tower quaffing champagne, getting huge bonuses, eating caviar and dossing around all day. It makes people out as complete arses !"

Ivor Goldsack, who claimed during the film to have got three times his salary in bonuses and squirreled it away in Monaco, came to his front door and chatted to neighbours but was reluctant to discuss the documentary. "It's all nonsense," said Ivor. "I only doubled my salary - I was just boasting to impress the other members of the golf club. My wife lives in Monaco and she owns me - so everything I earn is legitimately untaxable !"

Another resident, Rich Ascroesus, who was watching a dwarf polishing his front-door knocker, said: "I'm just a cleaner. I launder money on a hot cycle for the other residents. I pay my taxis - I mean taxes." 

It's disgusting," said Hyacinth Lottadosh, who featured in episode two in a subplot that followed the tower's dwarf throwing competition. "It's not a fair picture of what the tower is like. All the dwarfs who were thrown got half a crown each - and they were very grateful for it, I can assure you. A lot of them are living off the benefits and the whole event raised five pounds and five shillings. A dwarf can easily live off that for a whole year you know ! They are making us look terrible, which we are not. There was one shot of me guffawing and knocking back the champers when a dwarf landed on his head - well, it was funny!"

The broadcaster rejects claims that residents were tricked into taking part by claiming the programme was all about community spirit. Beaver Hateman insisted there had been no significant complaints from the participants "Well just those that don't like the old tax man seeing their shenanigans! " he claimed.  He also defended the name of the programme, which has upset many householders. "The majority of residents are tax avoiders," he said.

The executive producer of Avoiders Tower, Hitmouse, denied on Tuesday that the makers had "bribed" the residents with promises of an expenses paid Champneys weekend spa break.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Are you reading enough ?

In an article in 'The Guardian' newspaper, Mister Phillip Hensher argues that something should be done to keep literature at the heart of national life. He uses the example of the belated republishing of my biographies in the United Kingdom as one example of how this may be achieved.

He goes on to suggest that a government recommendation that it is good for you to read 15 books a year might also help.

I used to be a great reader, but since taking my degree I must admit I have read very little. The burden of leadership has been too great, leaving me little time to indulge in the pleasures of fiction. I do find time, however, for the occasional factual discourse on the subjects of economics and good governance.

Also, I still order at least a thousand books every year, for my library, and there is always a vast pile there waiting to be put on shelves.

The building consists of a stupendous hall which goes all round the bases of four big towers that are set about a lake. It's really four rooms in one, and the rooms are so big that if you want to go from one of them to the one opposite it's easier to row across than to walk around. Good boats have been provided for this. Although the lake comes right up to just below the windows, the hall is perfectly dry. It has books going up so high that you can't possibly see where the top rows are, but luckily there's a patent step-ladder with a chair at the back. One simply presses a button and the chair soars right up to the ceiling, so that you can easily reach the topmost books.

Free boating and reading holidays to the library are offered to all the inhabitants of my towers.

This has two successful outcomes  - it ensures that all the citizens of Homeward are as well read as possible, and all the rowing improves their fitness !

The Library is a popular destination for winter holidays. The lake freezes over and is perfect for a spot of ice skating. Then, after this physical exertion, guests can curl up by one of the nine immense gas fires that surround the library. What could be better on a cold winter evening?

This is my own little contribution to celebrating the power of reading and the value of literature.

If Messrs Cameron or Gove wish to contact me for further advice I am more than happy to oblige.

Friday, 3 January 2014

Humble but delighted - King of the Badgers makes me a YOB

I have been recognised in the King of the Badger's New Year Honours list.

I am now a YOB, a Yeoman of the Order of Badgers.

I am very humbled, but also delighted.

Of course, the Badfort Crowd have tried to insinuate that he has just given me the medal because of all the money I lend him, and that he should reward achievement, not cronyism!

The King of the Badgers has assured me that no such thoughts were in his mind, and that this honour is a recognition of my many charitable works. He did complain a bit though about the cost of minting all these medals, which had left him a bit short of funds - so I lent him another few thousand, which I suspect I may never see again.

Given this generous donation, I was a little aggrieved to find that the medal was made of tin, sprayed gold.

There was also, more than a little, surprise when it was announced that George Osbadger, the Town Hall Treasurer, had been made Badger of the Year. Given that he was booed at the Homeward Olympics, he can hardly be described as a popular choice.

Many have put the honour he has received down to his policy of subsiding new burrows by giving out loans for spades and other excavation tools.

The King of the Badgers is very pleased, as he gets extra rates for every new burrow built.

However, the Badfort Crowd claim that this is just getting young badgers into even greater debt "They are literally, digging their own graves!" declared Beaver Hateman.

Friday, 27 December 2013

A seasonal ghost story

At this time of year, we have a tradition that every evening of the festivities my guests and I draw our chairs up to the fireside in the Great Hall and each, in turn, tell tales of the supernatural, which go hand in glove with the season.

Last night, it was my turn.

You will all be aware that in a dark corner of my domain there is an enormous black bulk that looms over the surrounding environs - The Haunted Tower.

It is now run as a kind of hotel, but this has not always been the case. This is the story of how it came by its name, and my first encounter with the Badfort Crowd.

Shortly after I had purchased Homeward, from Wizard Blenkinsop, the Old Monkey put together a list of recalcitrant tenants who had failed to pay the rents due on the properties they occupied. Foremost of these was a character who you are all now familiar with - Mister Beaver Hateman, and this was to be my first meeting with the gentleman. "He owns that ramshackle castle across from Homeward, Sir, but he rents the Black Tower as his Homeward residence." declared the Old Monkey.

Despite it being Christmas Eve, I decided that the matter of the rent arrears was best dealt with sooner rather than later and so my traction engine was brought around to the front entrance ands we set off to the tower.

The snow lay thick on the ground, and gaunt trees stood up black and leafless out of the white expanse surrounding the Black Tower. The sky was of a frosty blue with sharp twinkling stars, and a hard-looking moon.

Mister Hateman welcomed us with much bonhomie. Although I found him a rather uncouth character, with a somewhat offensive manner, I was willing to give him the chance to redeem his failure to pay his dues. He gave me a tour of the property. It was a wonderful old barrack of a place, with broad passages, twisting interminably like a labyrinth, small bedrooms furnished in an old fashioned manner, and vast reception rooms with polished floors and painted ceilings. Around these were suits of tarnished armour and ancient tapestries embroidered with grim and ghastly legends of the past.

I raised the matter of the unpaid debts. Mister Hateman looked gloomy as I spoke. "Unc, mate, you don't understand, the place is uninhabitable - you can't expect me to pay rent on a haunted tower can you? I mean, really I am doing you a favour by looking after the place ain't I? Cos, believe me, no one else would put up with it!"

Thus speaking, he led me into a large room with a low ceiling, and a broad window looking out on the unkempt park surrounding the tower. The walls were hung with black cloth embroidered with grotesque figures. There was a large old fashioned bed and a quantity of cumbersome furniture. It was clear the the room had not been inhabited for many years and had a desolate and silent look - and to my mind looked gruesome enough to conjure up a battalion of ghosts.

"The Black Chamber!" declared Hateman "the original owner of the tower was a silent misanthropic man, until, that is, he married a beautiful young girl. She slept in this very room. But one day the he got into a right fury after seeing a strange man at the window kissing her hand. In his temper he challenged the man to a duel and killed him. Then he cut the offending hand from his wife. And she died too. But not before she had cursed all those who dared to sleep in her room - foredooming them to a ghastly death. The owner then discovered that the man at her window was in fact her outlaw brother, on the run, who had come one last time to say goodbye to his sister. Within a year the owner was found dead in this room with the mark of three fingers on his wrist. It was thought that in his remorse he had courted death by sleeping in the room cursed by his wife!"

"What errant nonsense!" I declared "And I shall prove it by spending the night here, myself!"

Mister Hateman did his best to persuade me against this course of action. "Look Unc, best you go home, this ain't the place for anyone of a nervous disposition - you leave me to look after the place - if you just pay me and my gang a fair wage we'll look after yer property for you - can't say fairer than that!"

But I would not be deterred. "I'm ready for ghosts or goblins - if any really exist. This is my tower now!"

I took up my quarters in the ghostly territory, with much curiosity, but - as I can aver - no fear. I slipped into bed and placed my large club under my pillow, ready to my hand in case of necessity.

I lay awake for a long time, staring at the queer figures on the draperies which seemed to come alive when the draught fluttered them. I did not feel very comfortable, sceptic as I was. When the candle has burned down pretty low I fell asleep. How long I slumbered I know not: but I woke with the impression that there was something in the room. I heard a soft step crossing the room, and as it drew near a sudden spurt of flame from the candle showed me a woman standing by the side of the bed. She was dressed in a floral brocade and I felt a deadly fear as I realised that this was the veritable phantom!

The next moment I felt my right wrist gripped and with a yell I rolled over, away from the ghost, wrenching my wrist from that horrible clasp. I seized the candle with one hand and in its illumination saw the ghost gliding back towards the tapestries. With the other hand I raised the club from under my pillow and threw it at the retreating figure.

There was a yelp, the fall of a heavy body on the floor, and the thing moaned in the darkness most horribly.

At that point my followers arrived with more candles and we lowered them to look at the ghosts face.

"Beaver Hateman!" I shouted.

"Ow!" he screamed "You miserable old tyrant! bashing me with a club like a bloomin' great bully!"

It did not take long to ascertain that behind the tapestries lay a secret passage which led to Hateman's apartments. The whole story of the previous owner murdering his wife and her brother had been an elaborate charade to persuade me to leave the tower and allow Mister Hateman and his gang to live rent free in it for evermore.

Unfortunately, before I had the chance to rent it out to new tenants, the Black Tower was soon filled with squatters again. Beaver Hateman had been successful in convincing people that it was haunted. News had travelled far and wide, amongst the ghostly fraternity, that it was a welcoming place for ghouls and spectres and it was soon infested with them.

That is the story of how the Black Tower became known as the Haunted Tower.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

The Great Christmas Book Bank Raid

My usual practice, at Christmas, is to make a presentation, to the dwarfs and other eager neighbours in the towers of Homeward, a sack of coal and a sack of fine fare - cakes, hams, biscuits, chocolate and so on.

In a departure from this tradition, this year I had decided to present all with a copy of the splendid new edition of my biographies - 'The Complete Uncle'.

The majority of the citizens of Homeward were, of course, more than happy with this bountiful gift.

There were a few carpers - the Badfiort Crowd chief amongst them.

As I announced my intentions, to the gathering around the Great Christmas Tree on Christmas Eve, Beaver Hateman shouted "Who wants to read about the boring old tyrant's exploits?". "Despite it's size it won't burn like a good old sack of coal !" guffawed Hitmouse.

I thought nothing of the remarks - the Badfort Crowd always like to kick up a fuss at Christmas, but usually toe the line. They don't like to risk missing out on the Christmas Feast I always lay on for the festivities.

I should have known better. On Christmas morning I made my way to the specially set up 'Book Bank' where the dwarfs and other inhabitants of my many towers would queue up to receive their special Christmas gift. The Old Monkey came running up to me in with a concerned look on his face.

"Sir, Sir, terrible news, I am afraid" he cried. "the Book Bank has been raided - all the books are gone!"

"Stolen ! what heinous act is this, that will ruin the poor dwarf's Christmas ?" I declared.

At this point A.B.Fox appeared with even worse news.

"Sir, the books have been deployed to commit another terrible act." he informed me. "They have been piled up to form a staircase, enabling unknown miscreants to gain access to Comestibles Tower. Large quantities of miscellaneous Christmas provisions are missing!"

"I don't think I need a detective to work out who the culprits might be." I responded. A stroll across to Badfort soon revealed what had become of the missing victuals.

There in front of Hateman's ramshackle castle stood a hastily erected shed with the legend "Food Bank' scrawled across it. Beaver stood in front of it shouting "Roll up, Roll up, free food courtesy of the Badfort Revolutionary Front - if the old gaffer can't be relied on to give you a proper Christmas do, you know you can rely on me!'

"Oh, Sir," said the Old Monkey "he's giving away all your food, what shall we do?"

I looked at all the happy, smiling dwarfs with their arms full of Christmas cheer.

"Hmm, I hate to admit this, but perhaps Hateman has the right idea for a change. There is no doubt that my biographies are educative tomes, but, perhaps, not as cheering as a full belly, a warm fire, and friends to enjoy Christmas with. Bring my traction engine with a trailer full of coal sacks. Let's enjoy the end of the year the way we have always done!"

"Yes, Sir! we should rejoice in the fact that we don't need real food banks here at Homeward, unlike so many poor countries around the world !" said the Old Monkey reflectively.

For one time only, I ordered that the Great Tree be brought in front of the ramparts of Badfort. An unusual, but pleasant, Christmas Day was spent with the Badfort Crowd as our hosts.

In the evening, I shared a toast with Beaver under the branches of the tree.

"Don't worry, we been giving out youse books too, with the grub," he remarked "and actually, gaffer, them yarns about you ain't bad - especially the bits about all our great schemes to overthrow you, they are brilliant!"

"Well, I suppose they had to go in the books, if only to show how my mental agility always manages to thwart your plans!" I replied.

"Ha! not this time, though, you must admit, Unc!" he laughed.

And, truth be told, I am rather glad that his plan succeeded.

Merry Christmas, to you all.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

King of the Badgers pardons Beaver Hateman after Toy Scandal

I have done my good deed for Christmas.

I have persuaded the King of the Badgers to issue a pardon for Beaver Hateman and his gang so that they can go home for the festivities.

Earlier this month they had all been arrested and jailed, when it was discovered that they were selling horribly tacky Christmas toy figurines of myself and the King.

These they claimed "will grant every purchaser the wish of their dreams on Christmas Day - a promise to you from Uncle and the King of the Badgers, themselves."

These disgraceful 'souvenirs' were subjected to various tests, by Wizard Blenkinsop, and found to have no magical properties at all. In fact, when the innards were investigated by my detective A.B.Fox they were found to contain a large quantity of soot, a small quantity of explosive and a timing device set to go off on Christmas Day. The recipient of one of these 'presents' would have been covered in soot from head to toe, whilst a recorded message within the object would announce "The King of the Badgers and the tyrant Uncle have perpetrated this attack against you. Rise up and overthrow them, now!"

I have received much praise from leaders around the world for my kindly act, considering how heinous the crimes of the Badfort Crowd.

Whilst not wishing to blow my own trunk, I was pleased at the reception to my magnanimity. Until that is I stumbled across the copy of 'The Badfort News" that my followers had attempted to keep hidden from me:

The decision demonstrate Uncle’s singular ability not only to wield executive power but also to bend the legislative and judicial branches of government to his will, and to exert heavy control over the Homeward news media.

“What we are seeing is an elephant who has no limits on his power in a country that never was democratic, that never had anything called a balance of power — where one of the estates could balance the power of another,” said Mister Beaver Hateman on his release.

“There is no Fourth Estate,” he said. “And as a matter of fact there is no Second or Third Estate. There is just the First, just that fat tyrant pachyderm. That’s the way things are today in Homeward.” 

That is the thanks one gets from those Badfort anarchists for making sure they can enjoy Christmas with the rest of us !

I have a good mind to rescind our usual Christmas Truce and not invite the scoundrels to my Christmas party !