Over Christmas, Cowgill has been very busy. We have encased Homesea in a giant plastic dome.
Our purpose is to dedicate a facility that will help us push back the boundaries of the unknown - Homesea is know an Antarctic Research Station!
I think that, even if I say so myself, it is another one of my brilliant ideas!
I have renamed it Domesea and will soon be offering package holidays to this unique destination!
Though high levels of physical exertion or fitness are not required, this is certainly not a passive destination. Remote, pristine and still little visited, Antarctica by its very nature means that people will experience a hands-on exploration with a group of curious, energetic, like-minded fellow passengers, led by veteran lecturer (Noddy Ninety) on expeditions that bring this incredible environment within reach.
But do not fear, these holidays won't all be about dry scientific stuff. They will still include all the paraphernalia of a traditional seaside vacation, but unaffected by vagaries of the weather!- by virtue of the protective dome.
There will be sunbathing and sandcastle building on the beach, Punch and Judy Shows and Cream Teas (available at Chez Oncle)
Beaver Hateman is absolutely furious. "I would never have left if I knew that Fat Dictator was going to work out some way of making money out of the place! I urge all listeners to boycott this vile enterprise!" he declared on Badfort Radio last night.
Last night we left Homesea - now a frozen village forever destined to be part of the Antarctic wastes.
Cowgill landed the helicopter, for the last time, on my tower and whisked Beaver, Hitmouse, the Old Monkey and I back to Homeward.
I must say that my brother Rudolph has made an excellent job of organising the traditional Christmas celebrations at Homeward - despite the inclement economic climate.
As usual, the big tree stood outside Homeward.
We all gathered around the tree to celebrate the season, and our safe return.
We sang all the usual Christmas songs, Noddy Ninety did his famous rendition of "On a Bitter Winter's Night".
To commemorate my return we also sang that great paean to Homeward:
"I was walking one day in the streets of the city When I thought of my home so far, far away. Oh, why am I here in this place! What a pity! When I could be home at the close of the day."
Now the chorus all together!" I said, waving my trunk to keep time:
"Homeward, Homeward, there in the sunset, Waiting for me with each window aglow. Homeward, Homeward, there in the twilight Waiting for me who has so far to go!"
Several of the party, relieved at my return, were sobbing.
At which point Beaver interrupted. "Don't you think that line 'Waiting for me with each window aglow' is a bit over the top - when you consider how many bloomin' towers you own!"
We chose to ignore this acid comment.
For the most part, The Badfort Crowd had all been most well behaved.
I remarked to the Old Monkey how I felt that our experiences on Homesea had proved to be a salutary lesson for Beaver Hateman. I felt that he clearly understood, now, that rather than exercising one-elephant rule over Homeward for my own self-aggrandisement I carry the burden from a sense of civic duty.
It was then that we heard a raucous tune drift across the winter landscape.
"Welcome home to great big Unc. Home he comes, and brings his trunk. Blow the whistle, beat the drum!
So far, for the Badfort Crowd, the song seemed quite polite. But then Beaver began to sing the insulting end of the verse. "When Bully is here things start to hum! Yah! Yah! You and all your doped half-wits! Soon we'll blow you all to nits!"
"You were saying, Sir?" said the Old Monkey pointedly.
Yes, well it seems that there is little chance to an end of my conflict with Beaver in the New Year.
At least Rob Bourassa, the Badfort Crowd's resident guitar player gave us a fine rendition of "Christmas Time is Here"
Beyond the farthest point inhabited by man, Homesea is still moving South.
Deep down below the surface of the sea, the current bearing against the bottom of the floating village is driving us towards the long Antarctic night.
The albatrosses have deserted the churchyard, and as the ice floes have thickened around the quaysides the penguins have taken over.
They are the most sedate visitors that Homesea has known on its travels - toddling up and down the cobbled streets in their neat black and white suits and peering with polite interest into the bow windows, still showing notices like 'Home made Homesea fudge'.
They even pop in, occasionally, to my tea shop - where I feed them sardine sandwiches.
The snow is piling higher and higher over the cobbles and against the old brick walls - a snow that will never melt.
The streets and houses are becoming encased in solid ice.
At last, frozen immovably into the great southern ice-cap, Homesea has reached the end of its journey.
This evening Beaver, Hitmouse, the Old Monkey and I sat by the quay and watched the mysterious Southern Lights play across the sky.
It was a magnificent sight to behold.
"Well, Beaver, time to go home - don't you think?" I remarked as we watched in awe.
"I suppose so Unc, not much point in being the boss of this ice-bound dump!" muttered Beaver in reply.
"What an ungrateful bunch those villagers were. When I think of all the effort I put into running this place - and then they just all upped and left!" he moaned.
I replied "Well, Beaver, I do believe you are beginning to learn the truth of leadership. It is a thankless burden that one has to carry - the responsibilities are great..."
"Can it Unc!...so we getting an invite to your Xmas bash, or what!" retorted Beaver.
Beaver has been furious - most of his followers have deserted him. Fed up with the freezing cold weather they have jumped ship, picking up lifts from passing cargo vessels heading back to Badfort.
Even the last of the old families of Homesea have disappeared, unable to live in their freezing homes.
Even Captain Walrus have pleaded prior Christmas engagements and have gone back to Homeward.
And, so much for the remaining pirates claims to have turned over a new leaf.
They have been inviting there friends to stay in the empty houses.
Allsorts of disreputable looking people have been turning up in various sea-going vessels. Smugglers of one kind and another have been using Homesea as their headquarters. And worse than smugglers. It was like the old times for Homesea - the very old times.
Being the only remaining people who started out on the long journey from the coast of Homeward, Beaver, Hitmouse, the Old Monkey and I have formed a uneasy truce.
One moonless night we strolled up Mermaid Street together surveying the sad state of affairs the village had descended into.
A babble of oaths and arguments came from the Mermaid Inn, then the sounds of tables being overturned and glasses breaking. A bottle came hurtling through one of the windows and splintered on the cobbles. Then a man came running out followed by a figure with a knife that gleamed in the lamplight.
There was a woman's voice wailing a strange eastern chant from Elder House, and a rattle of dice from the opium den now located in Mermaid Cottage.
"Honestly," declared Beaver "this is the kind of behaviour that gives anarchism a bad name!"
"I'm not even getting my cut - it should be 20% of all proceeds at least!" he added.
"So are you in agreement that something needs to be done? are you prepared to serve under me in the Homesea Guard?" I asked him.
Beaver looked dubious.
"I'll let you wear an officers cap?" I offered.
Beaver beamed "Right you are Unc - lead the way. Lets get at 'em!"
There was soon a running battle up and down the cobbled streets, in and out of the hidden passages and alleyways, over the jumbled roofs and even from cellar to cellar of the oldest houses.
One after another, amid cries and curses in several languages, the vessels of the smugglers and pirates put to sea, and quiet returned to the streets of the village.
"Excellent, kicking up Unc!" cried Beaver.
"I must admit you were very handy with the cudgel, Beaver" I replied.
"Well aimed skewers, Mister Hitmouse!" said the Old Monkey.
"Yeah, I've had a lot of practise," sniggered Hitmouse "must say, those monkey martial arts is pretty impressive." he added more respectfully.
"So, the village is ours, again!" declared Beaver and Hitmouse.
"Yes, ours again!" the Old Monkey and I added in unison.
Beaver and Hitmouse looked askance at us. "Yeah, but don't forget I'm the boss. I was democritically elected by the people of Homesea!" said Beaver.
The Old Monkey and I looked around the deserted streets.
It is a good job that Captain Walrus has not deserted us. "Don't worry, Sir, I would never leave a sinking ship!" he declared. Whilst I am not keen on the analogy of a sinking ship it is true that the village is in a parlous state. I have had to ration the customers in my tea shop to not more than one cream bun a day.
Captain Walrus keeps watch from the church tower day and night. It was he that spotted the iceberg approaching the village.
"Iceberg Ahoy!" he shouted and rang the church bells as warning.
It scraped alongside the railway line severely damaging the level crossing and the platform of the railway station. Noddy Ninety was distraught. "What will the railway company say!" he sobbed "They left me in charge and look whats happened!".
I pointed out to him that as no trains could travel to Homesea anymore they were hardly likely to care much. To appease him, however, I organised a repair crew to try and make good the mess.
The Old Monkey and I decided to have our picture taken with the iceberg, on the viewing platform at Strand Quay, as a souvenir.
It was quite exhilarating - for a brief moment I felt like the King of the World.
The Old Monkey and I then went back to open up the teashop. A strange groaning and shuffling could be heard coming from the refrigerator. I swung open the the heavy door and a horrible sight met my gaze.
There, feebly propped against the wall was the wretched dwarf Hitmouse. He was completely blue and looked pretty ill. At his feet stood a bag stuffed full of tins and glass jars.
"This is abominable. I'll have no thieves lurking in my fridge!" I cried.
We put him him by the hot pipes to thaw.
"You rotten bunch of butchers!" shivered Hitmouse, between chattering teeth. "Freezing, a h-honest citizen to d-death!"
"Extraordinary!" I remarked to the Old Monkey "Even when iced-up Hitmouse can spit venom!"
"You came to steal," I told him "The door of the refrigerator is self-closing and shut you in, as you deserved! You only have your own greed to blame for your predicament!"
"I was not stealing! I had orders to keep an eye on you from Mister Hateman. He knows that you are just using this teashop as a front for organising dissent. You're up to no good and don't think we don't know it. I just popped in here in order to eavesdrop on your plans for a coup d'état!" screamed Hitmouse.
"We were talking about a recipe for a cup tart not a coup d'état you fool! - Beaver is just obsessed with power and plots against him!" I declared "and the bare fact is that no one cares who is in charge anymore!"
I then picked up the sack that had been at Hitmouse's feet.
"Stingo Steak, Juba Jelly, Whooshmeat and Mince Pies - I am deeply shocked. Juba Jelly alone is £1 17s 6d a quarter-pound tin. You were not spying you were stealing! Begone you revolting food-snatcher!" I shouted.
"Food hoarder!" screamed Hitmouse as he ran away leaving a trail of skewers behind.
The Old Monkey and I consoled ourselves with a slap-up meal of turkey, roast potatoes and parsnips washed down with a fine Madeira.
It is getting colder and colder. The village is drifting further and further south.
Food is getting short as boats no longer stop and drop of supplies, because we have been declared an 'unsafe country'.
Luckily, Cowgill is making regular runs, with comestibles for my tea shop, by helicopter.
Although there are few villagers left, the teashop is always crowded as they huddle around the wood stove to get warm. The Old Monkey and I are run off our feet, everyday, serving them with winter comfort foods.
But I am feeling disconsolate, I let out such a deep sigh that everyone in the shop turned to look at me. "Well, how would you feel?" I declared "the greatest entrepreneur in the world reduced to running a teashop!"
It has made me rather homesick, for normally at this time of year I would be making preparations for the Great Homeward Christmas Eve Party. I feel that I cannot leave, however, until the village is out of the clutches of Beaver Hateman.
Christmas Island has an administrative body which basically governs the island, of which the head Administrator and his wife are known in some circles as the King and Queen.
Chief amongst the old ladies of Church Square is Miss Fitzbuller, and it turns out that forty years ago she went to school with the Queen of Christmas Island.
They have been having a good old chinwag about hockey teams, school chums, the old times and looking at old faded photographs.
It did not surprise me when she told me that she and the other ladies of Church Square had decided that they would stay on the island. The climate is delightful, there are strong young men to do things and she tells me that they intend to celebrate Christmas Day everyday from now on.
It does, of course, mean that there is no longer anyone to run the teashops. So the Old Monkey and I have decided to rename one of them Chez Oncle and run it ourselves.
We are doing a brisk trade - the remaining old Homesears, and the pirates in particular, do really like a nice cream tea.
Beaver Hateman still insists that he is in charge, but as I keep reminding him - of what does he think he is in charge?
It seems to me that Homesea could drift forever, about the oceans of the world, no longer serving any useful purpose in his hands.
The Barclay brothers may feel that they have troubles on the Island of Sark, but they are as nothing compared to the state that the island village of Homesea has got itself into.
The tourist trade has collapsed, Beaver's Casino is bust, and all the offshore companies that located on Homesea, as a tax haven, have withdrawn their funds.
It seems that due to the invasion of the pirates the United Nations have declared Homesea to be an unstable state.
I decided the time had come to confront Beaver Hateman.
A meeting was arranged at the Town Hall to discuss the future of the village.
Before discussions could even begin, Beaver and I began arguing.
"You fat dictator!," cried Beaver "We all know what you want - a return to feudalism where lord high and mighty elephant bosses everyone around and rakes in the money!"
"You're a right one to talk!" I declared "Trying to buy off the villagers with no rent or taxes - whilst you fleece them in your casino, destroying the sleepy charm of the village with your modernist ideas!"
"Hypocrite!" retorted Beaver "What about you with your giant big tower, with the heliport on top, and driving all over the place in your steaming great traction engine!"
"So what's your next big plan to build a socialist utopia for you and your gang?" I spluttered.
"There ain't no need to ask sarky questions!" blustered Beaver.
"Well, we shall see what the people want, when the villagers are all here we shall..." I began, before being interrupted by the Old Monkey.
"Ahem, excuse me, Sir, but they are." he said
"Are what?" I said impatiently.
"They are all here." he murmured.
Beaver and I looked around the hall.
There were a small number of pirates (those that had decided that a life of crime was no longer for them), the old ladies of Church Square, and a few of the real Homesears, descendants of the families who had lived there since the village had been the haunt of fierce seamen and wild marsh-dwellers.
"Is this it? is this all that remains of Homesea's population?" I murmured.
"Afraid so, Sir" said the Old Monkey.
"We're supposed to build a glorious people's republic with this shower?" sobbed Beaver.
"Fraid so, Boss" said Hitmouse.
"You'll have to speak up, young men," said an old lady in the front row "I'm afraid we are a little hard of hearing."
The pirates are furious over the desertion of Captain Wilson.
Long John Splinter has been literally hopping mad. He has been stomping around the village on his peg leg moaning about "That lily livered scum of an over-educated toff!"
It was time to put the second stage of my plan into action. Today, the Old Monkey and I went to dig in the piece of waste ground by the Railway Station.
We put on a great act of trying to do this surreptitiously, whilst making sure that we dropped our picks and spades a number of times and made as much noise as possible.
Just as I had hoped, Long John Splinter and his gang were soon on our tail. We made a big show of of our digging, and discovery of a small wooden casket. We then 'sneaked' away to the Toby Jug Tea Rooms on Mermaid Street, and indulged in a secretive conversation as we perused the contents of the casket - a parchment map.
Long John Splinter and his gang burst in and surrounded us.
Pointing to the blunderbus stuffed in his belt he cried "Hand over that document you scurvy knave or I'll blow you to kingdom come!"
"Oh no!" I cried "Forsooth we has been discovered in our trickery!"
"Aha!" shouted Splinter "So, just as I suspected, a treasure map!...and you sought to keep it hidden from us - a flagrant breach of the pirate code! Share and share alike and no secrets kept from the company."
"Oh no! Don't tell me you are going to maroon me here on this godforsaken floating island" I sobbed. I gave a fine performance, I believe, up to the standard that has so often been praised, by the cognoscenti, in Homeward theatrical productions.
"I'm afraid so - your piratical days are over, Black Uncle. Whats more, you are now officially black listed from the Royal Registry of Pirates!" screamed a red-faced Splinter.
At this I burst into tears. This is easy, I used the old actors trick of concealing a raw onion up my sleeve.
Splinter bade me a scornful farewell and ordered his crew to prepare for sail.
By the afternoon they were gone. Unfortunately, a number of the villagers, who were not happy unless they were making money, or getting famous, decided to leave with them.
"Well done, Lucy!" I declared "Those writing lessons with Benskin have certainly paid off. Your draughtsmanship is exemplary - a most convincing map. Well done, Old Monkey too. Ingenious, the way you aged it with the tea and by burning the edges."
"They'll be furious when they discover they have been duped, won't they Sir?" asked the Old Monkey.
"Yes, and I feel sorry for anyone in the vicinity of Splinter when he vents his fury - but we'll be long gone by then!" I replied.
We decided that we had to let Beaver and his gang out of the jail. But not before exacting a promise that all charges against me would be dropped.
"Well," said Beaver "I suppose that you are expecting thanks from us, Unc!"
"I was merely doing my civic duty, if you wish to express your gratitude with a small token..." I began before Beaver interrupted.
"Humbug! we were ready for a fight! we could have taken on those pirates, easily, if they had not surprised us, but as usual you did all you could to avoid fisticuffs..."
He droned on like this for some time - I could not help but notice, however, the doubtful looks on his comrades faces every time he mentioned how ready they were to engage in combat with the fiercesome pirates.
It has been an eventful few days here at Homesea or, as it has been renamed by Long John Splinter, Pirasea.
The pirates are in jubilant mood, having found the treasure stolen from them by the Mayor of Homesea, Admiral Poindexter.
All that is except Captain Wilson. I came upon him sitting despondently on a bench in the village square.
"You seem an educated elephant," he remarked "Did they recruit you at University too?"
"Well, I do have a B.A." I replied.
"A B.A.? Splendid! I do rather wish I had finished my education..."he murmured "but, you know what it was like in those days, the tutors were always on the look out for likely lads to join the piracy service. That's how Splinter found me. It was the time of the new romantics - I was always getting the mickey taken out of me for my mode of dress and Splinter knew just the right things to say to encourage me...'ridicule is nothing to be scared of' he used to say...'throw your safety overboard and join our pirate nation'. Before I really knew what was happening I found myself the dandy pirate who everyone was too scared to mention. Stand and deliver your money or your life! I would cry and none of my old University chums wanted anything to do with me."
"If you don't mind me mentioning it, I have noticed that your eyepatch seems to move from one eye to the other and sometimes you seem to have two good legs!" I remarked.
"Oh, thats Splinter - he insists on the traditional pirate accoutrements. There is nothing wrong with my eyes and its awfully painful, I can tell you, to have to bend your leg up and strap on a peg leg. He wanted me to chop off my hand and have a claw stuck on but I drew the line at that! He was quite cross about it!" replied Wilson.
"Sometimes, I do find all this piracy nonsense a bit noisy and well, to put it bluntly, a bit impolite. I wonder sometimes what kind of life I would have had if I had finished my degree in Sociology. But every time I mention it, Splinter ridicules me. " he said sadly.
"To be honest, Wilson, I don't think that you are really cut out for the pirate life," I said "It does not seem to suit your temperament. It's never too late you know - there would always be a place for you at my University in Homeward" I said in an encouraging voice.
"Homeward?" he said quizzically...then realisation dawned on him.
"You are the world famous entrepreneur Uncle!...you are not a pirate at all!"
"Yes, you are correct...I am afraid I have had to indulge in a small act of deception" I replied.
"Golly! well there you are see! look what education has done for you!" at this he jumped up and fired of his gun in excitement.
"I'm decided! I will take up your offer of a place at University and finish my degree!"
That night he, and a group of other pirates interested in pursuing further education, left in my yacht for Homeward.
Now, that just leaves Long John Splinter to deal with.
I was very sad, this week, to hear of the death of that great storyteller Oliver Postgate. I have always felt that if my life story were ever to be told in televisual form that it would have some common elements with the output of this wonderful man.
For, I would hope that my tales provide a lesson in morality for young children - although I have to say that I do consider the episode of The Clangers broadcast on the night of the second U.K. election in 1974 to be somewhat critical of those of us who have to carry the burden of leadership.
It would appear that the pirates, who have taken over the village, did not do so on a random whim.
It transpires that that have long planned an assault on Homesea and the fact that it had drifted into their home waters provided a fortuitous opportunity for revenge.
For, it has been revealed that the Mayor of Homesea, Admiral Poindexter, is not who he has claimed to be. Whilst giving the appearance of of being an upright citizen and ex-serviceman, he was in fact an ex-comrade-in-arms of the pirates - the infamous Captain Flint, the bloodthirstiest buccaneer that ever lived.
Furthermore, it seems that he tricked his fellows and ran off with all their treasure.
Beaver is absolutely furious and denounced the Mayor - "You just cannot trust anyone these days!" he proclaimed.
The pirates have been digging beneath the Town Hall - they have not found their treasure yet, but have discovered the cauldron full of gold coins that Beaver had hidden in one of the chimneys.
Now, Beaver is practically in tears - this trove represents all the proceeds of his casino operation.
"Robbed! we been robbed!" he wept "When are you going to do something about this you stupid fat elephant!"
Honestly, I do not see how he can blame me for his poor skills of concealment.
Beaver Hateman and the Badfort Crowd are locked up in jail and I have a very sore head today.
A band of pirates have taken over the village and are under the delusion that I am a member of their fraternity.
In order to maintain the illusion I have had to drink copious amounts of Black Tom with them.
They discovered the cache of casks of the noxious brew, and barrels of fine wines, that Beaver had hidden in the cellars of the Town Hall.
There has been a great pirate party in full swing ever since. Music flows like Black Tom and Black Tom flows like music. Like a great whirlpool of noise and brightness it has sucked in all the villagers. They have changed hats with the pirates and it is almost impossible, unless you look closely, to tell one from the other.
As you can see, if you click on the picture above, it is a wild party.
"Give us a song, Black Uncle!" cried Long John Splinter.
I wracked my brains to remember some tune from the many pirate films I had watched as a calf, and started to sing... "Fifteen men on a dead man's chest Yo ho ho and a bottle of Black Tom Drink and the devil had done for the rest Yo ho ho and a bottle of Black Tom. Beaver was fixed by Hitmouses's skewer Hitmouse brained with a marlinspike And Sigismund's throat was marked belike It had been gripped by fingers ten; And there they lay, all good dead men Like break o'day in a boozing ken. Yo ho ho and a bottle of Black Tom."
"Oh well done, Uncle, that was really rather good" said Captain Wilson.
The Old Monkey and I sneaked off to see Beaver by his cell window.
"I heard that song!" he screamed "Stop larkin' about and get us a supply of duck bombs, so that we can break out of here! We're going to give those pirates such a pasting..."
"Calm down!" I responded "This is a tricky situation, the villagers seem to rather like these piratical parties. We must attempt to seek a peaceful solution. Captain Wilson seems a jolly reasonable chap - I'm sure that he has just been led astray by that rogue Long John Splinter. This is where diplomacy and skills in negotiation, which I believe, I am blessed..."
"Shut up! you old humbug," interrupted Beaver "You're just enjoying the opportunity to show off again!"
Yesterday, Lucy the parrot came to visit me in my cell. She had flown all the way from Homeward on a very important matter of state. She had brought with her a legal document that I needed to sign - a proclamation enacting a reduction in purchase tax.
It will greatly reduce the coffers in my Treasury but I feel it is a necessary aid in the kick-starting of the Homeward economy.
She was extremely proud of the fact that she had written this herself. Not many parrots can write, and since she has started taking lessons from Benskin the writing master, she has become most proficient.
She was so excited to see me, however, that she flew up to me and accidentally scratched my eye. I have been having to wear an eye-patch whilst it heals.
We had a nice chat about the goings on back at Homeward and found ourselves still talking as the evening drew in.
Suddenly, there was a great commotion out in the village.
I looked out of my window and saw an extraordinary sight.
A band of pirates were running amok through the cobbled streets!
Lucy flew out to investigate and soon reported back.
"Its a band of brigands, Sir !, they came ashore at The Strand Quay and took the Badfort Crowd completely by surprise. They are taking control of the village by force!" she squawked.
All of a sudden the cell door was flung open and Beaver Hateman was frog marched in by two swarthy men dressed in the finery of piratical costumery.
They both sported wooden legs and eye patches - one brandished a cutlass and the other, much the eviler of the two, had a steel claw and a bottle of Black Tom in his pocket.
The nasty one proclaimed to his fellow "I vote we string em' all up by the yardarm, Cap'n Wilson, Sir!"
"Oh do you think we ought to, Splinter?...it seems a bit extreme..." said the other in a diffident voice.
"It is what we pirates do!" said the one called Splinter in a frustrated voice.
Then he spotted me.
"Look, my hearties - if it ain't one of our own!...incarcerated in here by these milksop village folk, I'll be bound!" he declared.
"Oi, who are you calling milksops!" shouted Beaver.
"Be quiet! or I'll blow you to smithereens!" screamed Splinter brandishing a pistol.
Beaver clearly decided that discretion was the better part of valour and kept schtum.
"Well Mister Elephant, today is your lucky day - your fellow seafaring brigands are here to release you. We always have a warm welcome for a new member of the gang!" said Splinter.
Clearly, wearing the eye patch and with Lucy on my shoulder, I had been mistaken for a fellow pirate!
"Ahem, ah yes my hearties, that is, er, shiver my timbers, its a pirates life for me!" I declared in what I hoped would pass as the correct piratical vernacular that I remembered from watching the B movies of my youth.
"Oh jolly good, it's always so nice to meet new fellows! - this is Long John Splinter, my second in command, so to speak, and my name is Captain Arthur Wilson. So very nice to meet you Mister?..." declared the meeker of the two.
"Black Uncle, er, be my name, and I will be most pleased to, er, join your gang" I replied.
"Black Uncle? - he's no bloomin' pirate..." whinged Beaver, but the Old Monkey gave him a kick and a meaningful look.
Realising the advantage of having, at least, one of us free, Beaver thought quickly and continued "er...no ordinary bloomin' pirate he is the most fearsome pirate elephant in the world, um, it took a whole army of us to subdue him and lock him up!"
"Oh, splendid, he sounds just the sort of chap we need...doesn't he Splinter?" said Wilson.
"If you say so, Sir," said Splinter in a dubious voice looking skyward "...another poncey educated prat" he mumbled to himself.
At that, they led me off to the tavern where I had to down a large quantity of Black Tom.
The village has suddenly sped up on its journey. We have become caught in the West Wind Drift, have rounded the Cape of Good Hope, and now find ourselves in the Indian Ocean.
As we drift through the tropical seas, the people who are left carry on a dream-like way of life - not caring where we are going or what is to become of us.
Tourists still bring in a bountiful revenue, as do the offshore registered companies, so the villagers are still wealthy. But they no longer seem interested in money - they are happy to sit watching the long blue ocean swell past giving the whole mass of the place a slow, sleepy, gentle rocking motion.
Only Beaver is still scheming away with money-making ventures.
The one thing that I have missed on our journey is bananas - I do like my bananas.
So, I was most pleased today when Beaver paid a visit to my cell with a big bunch of them.
"Thank you very much, Beaver, but why the despondent air?" I inquired of him.
"Them damn yellow fings - thats wot" he bellowed "You know its the Brits favrite fruit? I thought I would corner the market in the fings! make a killing. So I met up with some plantation workers and done a deal with them for some knock-off fruit. Only I found out I paid the same wot Tesco do!"
"Hmmm, I see - well look at it this way Beaver. For every £1 worth of the fruit, the retailer takes 40p, the international trading company gets 31p, the distributor gets 17p, the plantation owner 10p and the worker picking them 2p. By buying them direct from the workers you have just exponentially increased their wages. It is a huge publicity coup!" I replied.
"Cor, strike a light you're right, mate! Beaver Hateman - Hero of the Working Classes!, I can see the headline now!" marveled Beaver.
"So, how about releasing me - in return for that sage advice?" I asked him.
"You must be joking - after that kicking up you gave me?" laughed Beaver. "Not on you Nellie!".
I remarked that his attitude merely confirmed my belief that he had turned the village into a banana republic - but he did not seem to get the joke.
The Old Monkey came for another chat at my cell window, today.
Beaver Hateman is absolutely furious.
The village has drifted further and further from the island of Annobón and it has taken longer and longer for the canoes of the islanders to reach us.
Some of the villagers, realising that Homesea could drift forever about the oceans of the world, have grabbed the last chance to settle for a happy, sunny life on Annobón. For they have no interest in Beaver's obsessions with making money or 'improving' society.
"Deserters!" screamed Beaver when he discovered a number of the villagers had disappeared.
He took a boat and chased after them shouting through a megaphone "Ingrates! Come back at once ! - after all I have done for you, this is how you repay me!" he ranted, as they disappeared over the horizon.
I think he is finally beginning to understand the great burden that us leaders of men have to carry.
The village is slowly drifting by the island of Annobón. It is an extinct volcano characterised by a succession of beautiful valleys and steep mountains, covered with rich woods and luxuriant vegetation.
From what I can see, from my cell window, it looks a beautiful place.
The Old Monkey tells me all the goings on in the village through the bars of my window. He says the natives of the island come out in their canoes selling water and fresh provisions, of which Annobón offers an abundant supply.
Beaver tried to con them by persuading them to gamble the supplies in the Casino - but they were too canny for him. They soon realised that the games were fixed and took revenge by doubling the price of their goods. Beaver had a tantrum and told them they were a bunch of capitalists operating a monopoly.
He had no choice but to pay up, however.
The Old Monkey asked me if it was not, now, time for him to organise a an invasion of Homesea to take it back into my possession. I refused to countenance the proposal. I will stay in jail for as long as it takes for the villagers to realise the error of their ways and ask me, once more, to take charge of their destinies.
Annobón's name derives from Ano bom - the Portuguese for Good Year.
I would hardly describe this year as having been good. It has been frought with problems.
The Old Monkey informs me that Dearman has collapsed into administration. It was all too much for him - he simply fainted at the thought of having to reduce his prices. At this very moment he is laid up in bed being administered to by Nurse Gladys Emanuel. I'm not sure I feel that sorry for him - she's a pretty young thing.
I shall have to help him out, if I ever get back. Homeward would not be the same without his superb range of pick'n'mix - at only £30 per pound.
Beaver Hateman held a "Crossing the Line" ceremony, today, in an attempt to lift the despondency that has settled over the village following the decision by many to stay behind in Tarboosh.
It is an old naval tradition held on board ships as they cross the equator.
It involves the initiation of sailors, who have not crossed the line before, into the realm of Neptune - god of water and the sea in Roman mythology.
As the village approached the equator, Beaver dressed up as Neptune, wearing a white toga, a false beard, a crown and holding a gold trident and a conch shell.
I must say that, at first, it was all very amusing and the villagers joined in with gusto.
The initiation ceremony involved being doused with water from a hose - all good clean fun.
But, when it came to my turn, Beaver decided to add some additional rites - increasingly disgusting ordeals. These included wearing my clothing inside out and backwards; crawling on my hands and knees, being swatted with short lengths of firehose; being locked in stocks and pillories and pelted with mushy fruit and being locked in a water coffin of salt-water and bright green sea dye.
As I attempted to maintain my dignity and remain a good sport, Beaver laughed and shouted "All you have to do is say 'I'm a Washed-up Celebrity, Get me out of here!' - and we will stop the proceedings!"
Whilst crawling through a large tub of rotting garbage I spotted the television cameras.
So, it was clear that this was just a means for the Badfort Crowd to humiliate and degrade me.
Beaver had crossed a line.
"Up with this I will not put!" I trumpeted and catching Beaver off guard I gave him a sound kicking up.
He flew over the church spire and landed with a great splash in the ocean.
Revenge is sweet.
I did get a rather nice certificate for enduring the ceremony. In the space where the name of the crossing vessel is written I rubbed out 'Badsea' and wrote in 'Homesea'
It looks very nice on my cell wall. Beaver has incarcerated me in the police station jail - I am accused of treason.
Yesterday, the day gradually grew hotter, and a particularly dry wind blew in from the desert. Towards the East the sky began to look yellowish, and the sun became dimmer. The people of Tarboosh muttered uneasily and shut themselves in their homes. The wind became stronger, and away over the desert a great wall of flying dust and blown sand appeared.
On to the waterfront raced the gigantic dust devil, a great spinning pillar of dust, sand and litter rising high into the air.
It was a sandstorm. The force of the wind was immense and the Badfort Crowd, with their faces wrapped in cloths, battled to tie the village to the shore with great mooring-ropes. But they drew taut as bowstrings, snapped, and flew back like elastic bands.
Soon a foaming stretch of sea began to open between the shore and the Strand Quay.
The coast of Africa drew farther and farther away.
We were adrift, again.
This has created a major problem for Beaver. For, a good percentage of the inhabitants of the village did not make it back to the village before the storm hit. Beaver, himself, had been luxuriating in a Turkish Bath at the time and only got home in the nick of time - jumping the yawning gap between the village and the beach dressed only in a small bathing towel that scarcely covered his modesty. I believe a number of papparazi pictures of him (with certain areas blacked out) can be seen in a publication called 'Heat' magazine.
Beaver announced that he would send out boats to bring them back to the village. But to his chagrin they returned empty. It seems that the villagers have taken to the climate and the laid back lifestyle of Tarboosh and have no desire to return.
Beaver decided to appear in another of his 'fireside chats" on the television this morning.
"People of Badsea, as you know our population is now somewhat depleted. This has created a number of fiscal problems - although the Casino is still bringing in a healthy revenue from tourists, takings are down. Therefore, although to date no one in Badsea has had to pay tax - apart from Uncle, I am forced to introduce Income Tax at a rate of 45%. But do not worry, this will only apply to the very wealthy - the money will be redistributed to the poor and needy!"
Of course, the problem is that everyone on Badsea is now very wealthy. Their incomes have soared from office rentals to offshore companies and selling geegaws to tourists. The villagers are not happy. They suspect that the poor and needy that Beaver refers to may, in fact, be the Badfort Crowd.
Bad news from Homeward, too.
My brother informs me that my Treasury is sorely depleted. The economic misfortunes around the world are now being felt at Homeward. The dwarfs are no longer spending money on wild extravagances such as steam radios and mutton.
I have decided to kick-start the economy by reducing rents from a farthing a week to a halfpenny a month.
Last night, Beaver and I were invited to a party - the launch of the Atlantis Palm Jumeirah hotel in Dubai.
Well, actually only Beaver was invited - due to his status as the leader of the newest offshore state. I, apparently, no longer count as a world leader because of my dispossessed position.
Beaver, in a surprisingly jovial mood, kindly brought me as his guest.
It was a lavish affair - even by my standards. There was a heady cocktail of sunshine and as much champagne and oysters as one could wish for. We partied away in the company of A-list stars and had a feast of 4,000 lobsters.
The nightingale from down under, Miss Kylie Minogue, performed and was, as usual, radiant.
Beaver and I decided to get some fresh air and take a ride around. We were appalled to discover a city of labour camps hidden away from the eyes of tourists. Migrant labourers lured into a life of squalor and exploitation.
"This is an absolute disgrace. This is no way to treat one's workers - if this is the price to pay for a life of luxury it is not worth paying!" I declared.
"To right, Unc - its a bloomin' disgrace. Lets show 'em a good time for a change - we'll take them to the party!" shouted Beaver.
For once, I heartily agreed with him.
In a long procession, we led them all to the party - Sultan Ahmed Bin Whassisname went puce with anger but there was not a lot he could do about it without provoking an international incident.
Beaver sidled up to him and whispered "I've got a duck bomb under my kaftan and I ain't afraid to use it - one false move and Badsea declares war on you."
It was wonderful to see the workers partying with all those celebrities - Robert de Niro, Janet Jackson, Wesley Snipes, Michael Jordan, Charlize Theron, Mischa Barton, Agyness Deyn, Sir Philip Green, Dame Shirley Bassey, Yasmin Le Bon, Jade Jagger, Lily Allen and Lindsay Lohan.
Mind you, I suspect that they thought they were all unrecognisable Bollywood stars.
I am heartened to see that a great trading friendship is developing between the villagers and the people of Tarboosh.
At first, it took a while for them to get used to the cultural differences in the shopping experience.
I noticed a desert tribesman, trying to buy a pair of shoes in Miss Botany's shoe shop, had some difficulty with our quaint ways. "It says four pounds on the ticket," Miss Botany was saying very loudly and clearly. "What's the use of saying you'll give me two?"
I must say, I had some difficulty at first, myself. I wished to purchase some rather nice carpets for the tower and the seller was dumbfounded when I just offered the price on the ticket. It seems that it is deemed discourteous not to indulge in the game of haggling and he was most put out that I made no effort. I soon got into the swing of things and by the end, although I had beaten him down to half the price, the merchant seemed most pleased. "Sire, you had me fooled - you truly are a great exponent of the barter!" he declared. "Well, I am a world renowned business tycoon" I admitted.
It seems that we may all have to get used to this form of trading in these recessionary times. The news from Homeward is not good. My brother says that it is a veritable blood bath on the highstreets. Last Christmas Cheapman was selling motorcycles for a halfpenny. This year, apparently, he is offering a two for one deal on them.
Poor old Dearman is in a state of great distress. He has very little business usually, anyway, because he steadily increases the price of goods every day. This year he has had to actually reduce them - his battered tin milk jugs are only £21 now. He used to do a roaring trade - selling broken rustic items, to gullible rich people enchanted by their 'retro' charm. But, with so many financial whizz kids out of work the discount shops are rising in popularity - and even the the formally wealthy have decided to shop at Cheapmans.
I must say there is nothing like a bit of shopping to improve ones mood and disposition.
I decide to purchase a splendid purple kaftan - when in Rome do as the Romans do, as they say. There is a particularly hot dry wind here, and it is good to wear something that allows the air to circulate. Beaver made some remark about me looking like Demis Roussos - whoever he is?
Even Beaver has relaxed a bit - he is hobnobbing with the Amir's at the camp of the local desert tribe. The silent old men of the village sit under the palm trees with the silent old men of the desert, watching goat races. They are most impressed by Beaver's riding skills.
Yesterday, I had a long after-dinner chat with my old friend Cornelius the Camel. We bantered about the old days but we were all aware of the elephant in the room - the metaphorical elephant, I mean. The subject that no one, in particular the Old Monkey, wanted to raise. I know that he wished to save my feelings but I could not stand the small talk any longer, I had to ask the question.
"How are things in Casablanca - is the old place still there?" I asked Cornelius.
"Yes, Sultan, Unc's Cafe Americain is still serving up the best coffee in all Morocco, but it is not the same without your exalted presence, Sire." he replied.
"Has she ever visited since..." I began...
"No Sir - Never" said Cornelius emphatically.
My mind wandered back to those distant, difficult days....
At one time, I resisted my destiny - I spurned the life of a world famous entrepreneur, because my heart was broken.
Instead I roamed the far flung corners of the earth, finally settling in Casablanca where I ran a small cafe. A cosy and intimate environment where friends could relax and linger, huddled on the many sofas, drinking a wide choice of coffee and other beverages. I should have patented the idea, I know. Two tourists from Seattle nicked it and now have hundreds of similar outlets around the world.
These were dark days. The lights were going out across Europe. The power workers were on strike. Beaver Hateman was on a tour of the world preaching revolution and fermenting industrial action.
One day a beautiful elephant came into the cafe. The Old Monkey was playing the piano.
"Hello Old Monkey" she said
"Hello Miss Maggie. I never expected to see you again." he replied
"It’s been a long time"
"Yes, ma’am. A lot of water under the bridge"
"Play some of the old songs, Old Monkey"
The Old Monkey began to play a number. He was nervous.
"When will he be back?"
"Not tonight. He went home. Leave him alone, Miss Maggie. You’re bad luck to him."
"Play it once, Old Monkey, for old time’s sake."
"I don’t know what you mean, Miss Maggie."
"Play it, Old Monkey. Play 'Nellie the Elephant'"
"Oh I can’t remember it, Miss Maggie. I’m a little rusty on it."
"I’ll hum it for you....Sing it, Old Monkey"
The Old Monkey began to sing
Nellie the Elephant packed her trunk And said goodbye to the circus Off she went with a trumpety-trump Trump, trump, trump
At this point I stormed in...
"Old Monkey, I thought I told you never to play…."I shouted, then stared in amazement. I tried to maintain my cool.
"Hello, Maggie." I said
"Hello, Unc." she replied "I wasn’t sure you were the same, Let’s see last time we met…"
"It was the G10 in Paris” I snapped back.
"How nice, you remembered. But of course, that was the day that Beaver led a violent demonstration against the Summit" she murmured.
"Not an easy day to forget. I remember every detail - Beaver and his gang wore sackcloth, you wore blue." I said sardonically.
"Yes. I have put that dress away. When the unions are smashed, I’ll wear it again." she countered.
I first met Maggie when we were both at University, I studying Politics, Philosophy and Economics and she Natural Sciences. I admired her and admit to finding her the most agreeable and attractive cow (female elephant) that I had ever met.
We met again in Paris at the G10. By then I was at Harvard and she had gone into politics - she had won a parliamentary seat in one of the jungle suburbs.
Our relationship blossomed, we were to go away together - but she just disappeared from my life. I later heard the she had married a successful business elephant called Denis.
"Are you here with Denis?" I inquired. "Yes, we are here for a golf tournament" she replied. Before we could talk anymore she was whisked away by one of her political aides.
That night, for the first and only time, I drank a barrel of Black Tom.
"Sir, are you not going to bed?" said the Old Monkey - clearly concerned at my condition.
"No. Of all the Koolvat joints in all the world, she walks into mine." I responded angrily.
Then Maggie walked in.
"So, here's the successful Minister for Education - I hear they are calling you the banana snatcher?" I jibed.
"Yes, but I can take it - what I can't take is being away from you" she whispered.
"It's a bit late for that! Why did you do it! Why did you leave me!" I cried as the emotions welled up in me.
"I'm sorry, it was a mistake...but can't you see?...once I found out about the bicycle stealing accusation I could not afford the risk. Exposure of the matter could have destroyed my career. A politician's spouse has to have a blameless record." she cried.
"I DID NOT STEAL A BICYCLE!" I shouted.
"Forgive me, I have been a fool, how could I have given you up for a career in politics?...I can't think straight anymore...you'll have to do the thinking for both of us...lets leave Casablanca, together, on the first flight out in the morning." she whimpered.
That night I wrestled with my conscious. Then the phone rang. It was Wizard Blenkinsop. He desperately needed my help - unless I were prepared to buy Homeward it would fall into the hands of Beaver Hateman.
The next morning I met Maggie at the airport.
Denis fell out of the taxi I had ordered for him.
"Last night we said a great many things. You said I was to do the thinking for both of us. Well, I’ve done a lot of it since then and it all adds up to one thing. You’re getting on that plane with Denis where you belong. The Gorillas are on strike again, the jungle is in trouble - I know, and you know, that you are the only one who can sort this madness out. You have to run for Prime Minister." I told her.
"If that plane leaves and you are not on it you’ll regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of your life. We’ll always have Paris. We did’nt have, we’d lost it, until you came to Casablanca.
I’ve got a job to do too. I have to go and buy Homeward. I must become a world famous tycoon. It doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little elephants don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.. Someday you’ll understand that.
Here’s looking at you, kid."
With that I waved her off.
Later that night I confided in The Old Monkey.
"I think it was probably for the best in the end....I'm not sure who would have worn the purple trousers in that relationship."
"Well, to be honest, Sir," said the Old Monkey "I always found her a bit shrill"
The village has once more come to rest on the mainland - specifically on the coast of North West Africa, the Kingdom of Tarboosh, and the inhabitants seemed none to pleased to see us.
This morning, as the shore loomed nearer and nearer, we could make out the details of square white-washed houses, domed mosques and tall minarets. Crowds of people poured on to the waterfront and even at a distance I could see the excited state that they were in.
Hateman was becoming more and more anxious. "What's up with this lot?...we better break out the duck bombs... it looks as if we're in for some trouble!" he shouted to his cohorts in the Badfort Crowd.
"Calm down, Beaver, you'll only make matters worse if you take precipitous action, lets see if we can find out what the trouble is first." I said, trying to defuse the situation.
This just made him more angry. "Listen, mate - if you remember you ain't in charge any more - I'm the boss now." he shouted.
The people of Tarboosh swarmed across the beach and into the cobbled streets. They all seemed very angry, the leaders shouting strings of angry words over and over again, to which the followers replied with harsh sounds in chorus. Here and there were banners with strange curly writing and one or two in English, saying things like: 'GO HOME BAD PEOPLE." and "DOWN WITH THE HATING INVADERS!"
"I think, Beaver, that there seems to have been some misunderstanding engendered by your renaming of the village as 'Badsea' and the fact you have an unfortunate surname" I explained to Beaver, who was getting more and more irate.
"Well, if its a fight they want, I'll show them the might of the glorious People's Republic!" he cried.
"Wait! I think I see a friendly face!" I declared - for in the crowd I had spotted none other than Cornelius the Camel, brother of my old trusted friend Claudius!
"Greetings, Sultan of Sultans." said Cornelius. The camels always speak in this way - it is highly embarrassing but what can one say?
I explained the misunderstanding that had occurred and asked him if it would be possible for him to assure the crowd of our good intentions.
"Do not worry, Sire, the knots of discord shall be swiftly cut through!" he replied.
He then jabbered away to the crowd for a bit and they suddenly looked at me in awe.
"Well that seems to have done the trick - what did you say to them?" I asked Cornelius.
"I merely explained that you have the brow of Solomon and are deeply versed in learning. Oh, and that you are very rich and a great patron. They beg you gather the silken tassels of their homage and request you look at some carpets, of the finest quality, that they feel sure you would wish to purchase" replied Cornelius.
"Most gratifying!" I answered.
This exchange sent Beaver into apoplexy. "Oi, Camel, tell em its me thats what is in charge here!" he screeched.
"You are a very noisy annoying man and they are not interested in what you have to say." snorted Cornelius.
The folk of the village and the folk of Tarboosh were soon exchanging goods and experiencing each others cultures. The Tarbooshi had their first experience of a traditional cream tea whilst the villagers had a go smoking hubble-bubble pipes, playing backgammon and drinking little cups of coffee.
As the village basks in the heat of the desert, only Beaver seems annoyed at the change in circumstances.
I see that Mister Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, has called on all the major countries to cut taxes to prevent the global economy sinking deeper into recession.
I was expecting a call from him asking me to attend the G20 Economic Summit. I felt sure that they would want to draw on my many years of expert opinion. No such call, however, was forthcoming.
Of course, Hateman has been a major ally and confidant of Mister Brown in his endeavours.
Beaver has been crowing about the success of his policies ""Good evening, friends, unlike other countries, hit by depression, Homesea is very much afloat - because here no one pays any taxes!" he declared on the television last night, during one of his 'fireside chats'.
Of course, that is only half the story. The village has gone gambling mad and Beaver is raking in the money at the Town Hall Casino.
He declared that today they would mark the great success of his fiscal stimulus by having a special parade for the needy children of Homesea.
Beaver Hateman has been playing the Pied Piper of Badsea, leading the children around the village playing his flute and singing "Hail, the Revolution!", a traditional Badfort protest song.
Like the Pied Piper, I am convinced he is leading them astray. It is not surprising that the children are needy - their parents spend the whole day at the roulette table.
"Look at the old miserable elephant," shouted Beaver as he strutted past me "I have just given a million to Children in Need, hope you have turned out your pockets!- have to do your bit don't you and, as you know only to well, the odd philanthropic gesture does wonders for the image don't it!"
I have, of course, made my usual donation. I did ask Sir Terry not to make a big deal out of it - but he insisted on waving my cheque about in front of the cameras. One does find the acclaim for ones generosity quite embarrassing. I really think it was a bit much, however, when he pulled out Beaver's cheque and said "and look here is another even bigger one from the old sackcloth saviour himself, Mister Beaver Hateman- Baron of Badsea !"
If only Sir Terry knew the source of those funds I am sure he would be outraged.
Beaver Hateman has confiscated my traction engine. He informed me that the people's commissariat had decided that it is 'environmentally unsound'.
He told me that I would now have to travel everywhere by bike.
"But don't worry you won't have to nick one, mate, cos out of the generosity of our hearts we are gonna lend you one!" laughed Beaver. A caustic reference to the incident in my youth when I had borrowed a bicycle without informing it's owner.
He then wheeled out a penny farthing!
It is a most uncomfortable ride. The only saving grace is that it has an awning. It is now very hot. The village is floating towards the coast of North Africa, and the villagers have taken to having a siesta in the afternoon or basking in the sunshine.
The creepers that used to struggle a few inches a year up the old brick walls have begun to spread over the eaves and clamber up the chimneys. The little cacti plants of the village allotment holders, that barely survived in their greenhouses, are now flowering and flourishing.
Given the parlous state the world is in at the moment I know that I should be giving more thought to rebuilding the structure of international finance, but no one seems to want to hear my views anymore - they are too busy being taken in by Beaver's rhetoric.
Quite frankly, although I feel somewhat guilty about it, I am rather enjoying these days in the sun without any responsibilities.
The only annoying factor, today, has been that Hitmouse has insisted on following me around everywhere inside a big balloon. Everywhere I went he would roll into view. He said that he was making sure that I was not trying to ferment unrest amongst the villagers.
I dealt with him. I accused him of being a champagne socialist, knowing how much the taunt would enrage him.
He did, indeed, become furious and immediately pulled out his skewers and threw them at me.
This, of course, resulted in the balloon becoming punctured. It flew off into the air taking Hitmouse with it. Hopefully, his ego will be as deflated as the balloon.