After picking up Beaver Hateman and his crew we made our way home.
They spent the whole time whingeing about the rotten time they had spent stranded in space and eating all our cucumber sandwiches.
I felt I had to point out to Beaver that he had attempted to leave the Old Monkey adrift in space. and that if they had not drunk all their fuel they would never have got into that predicament.
As usual he attempted to blame it all on me - arguing that if I did not insist on having autocratic control of the moon, along with all my other capitalist assets, then he would not have had to try to wrest it back for the people.
Hogwash! I say!
The argument was gently simmering when Cowgill pointed up into the star studded moon sky. "Look! a flying saucer!" he cried.
He was right. Above us was a spinning disc - making its way towards the Homeward Moonbase.
"All haste, Cowgill - I suspect that trouble is afoot!" I commanded.
As we approached home a dwarf suddenly popped up from a crater.
"Oh Sir, thank goodness you are back - we have been invaded by giant pepperpot aliens!" he sobbed.
We finally managed to get him to calm down and tell us his story. "They are unstoppable and have taken over the moonbase, Sir. They plan to use it as their headquarters for the invasion of earth! Any resistance is quashed by a burst of their pepper guns. I have been sneezing for hours, Sir, and only managed to escape by sneaking into some ducting and down into the tunnels." he explained.
Beaver piped up "Don't worry Unc, them pepperpots will rue the day they took us on!"
He had a plan - and I must admit it was rather a good one.
Let me make it quite clear from the outset, despite reports in the Badfort media, I had nothing to do with the theft of a bike owned by a Mister David Cameron.
This is clearly another attempt by the Badfort Crowd to besmirch my good name by alluding to an incident from my youth. I hasten to add that I have never stolen a bicycle - merely borrowed one. An unfortunate affair, which resulted in a poorly made machine collapsing under my weight.
It is true that descriptions of the thief appear to match mine - but I suspect that this is another example of the Badfort Crowd using disguise to besmirch my good name.
Anyway, I could hardly be on the moon and stealing bicycles from Tesco's car park at the same time. I think one has to admit I have the perfect alibi.
I am becoming to feel sorry, even, for that miserable Hitmouse. At first he was crowing about how Mister Hateman would soon teach us a lesson and drive us off the moon - now he just wanders around weeping and moaning about the fate of his leader.
I suppose we will have to give him a lift home, despite the fact that he was prepared to leave the Old Monkey stranded on a meteorite. In fact the Old Monkey has been his main advocate - arguing that for Hitmouse the revolution is over, with their leader lost in space the Badfort Crowd will have to take up normal employment.
I am actually beginning to miss that awful Beaver - life will become quite boring without him.
I have already become somewhat tired of my visit to the moon. The dwarfs have insisted on showing me around all their mining operations - but, honestly, once you have seen one moon mine you have seen them all.
The dwarfs like being underground but I am beginning to miss the wind on my face.
My joy at returning to the moon was unconfined; I started the speech, I had prepared, for the welcoming committee of dwarfs on Homeward Moonbase..
“Gratification,” I said, “is a poor word to express my feelings at this moment. I am afloat on a sea of foaming joy and delight! For the time being, I will say little, but on many a long moon evening I shall expound to you with suitable words my feelings at this extraordinary event !... for seldom in the history of elephants…”
“Oi…what about the workers!” interrupted a rather insalubrious dwarf who was clearly somewhat unstable on his feet. The Old Monkey was right – they had clearly been partaking of that noxious brew Black Tom. How had they got hold of that stuff on the moon?
“I have, of course, brought gifts for you all.” I attempted to shout above the general hubbub, “Hams, Koolvat, bananas, and a bag of specially minted gold commemorative coins for each and everyone one of you!”
At this there was a loud cheer and a chorus of “for he’s a jolly good elephant”
I was most gratified, but concerned to find all the dwarfs in such an inebriated state.
I soon had an explanation – Cloutman strong-armed his way through the crowd holding aloft – Hitmouse!
It turns out that he failed to rendezvous the escape pod with Beaver’s rocket and had crash-landed on the moon. Cloutman had discovered him plotting with two mischievous dwarfs. Apparently, they had built an illicit still on the Moonbase and had been brewing up large quantities of Black Tom for Beaver Hateman.
Due to a mix up in the pipework the evil brew had found its way into the base’s water supply.
Hitmouse was unrepentant – “You wait till Beaver gets here – he’s gonna be furious if you touch our Black Tom!”
“I have no intention of allowing that foul liquor to remain on the moon – I shall confiscate the lot !” I replied.
This morning the moon gradually filled the cockpit window.
Its stark beauty is incredible. We have been pulled in the tail of the meteorite and will now land precisely on time, 40 years to the day since we first landed on the moon.
I have my speech all planned – in which I will thank the dwarfs for their sterling efforts over the years and wax lyrical on the indomitable spirit of the citizens of Homeward.
This evening we broadcast an eve of landing message back home, in which I reminded the audience of Homeward of the importance of being the first to have landed on the moon and the great achievements we have made on it since that date.
Later, I looked out at the earth and the heavens revolving around it in sublime harmony - the music of the spheres. A serene order, just like that which I have created for the inhabitants of Homeward. But there are always those who wish to sound a discordant note.
I have been listening to a series of plays by one of my fans Mister Frank Cottrell Boyce. Full marks for effort - he is not as good as the great Sir Ernest Wiseman - but who is? (although, somewhat immodestly, I have to say that there our those who have remarked on how I reach those peaks with my own plays)
The series is called 'One Chord Wonders'and they are about those dreadful days when 'punk' music was popular. Indeed, Beaver Hateman claims to have invented the genre.
My 'Crystal Jubilee' celebrations of 1977 (the anniversary of my purchase of Homeward) were ruined by his antics. I had decided to hold a garden party on the lawns of Homeward.
Just as the band struck up 'Hail to Uncle' a discordant racket drowned out the band. Beaver was holding an open-air punk concert as (he claimed) an anti-dote to my self- congratulory back-slapping.
Dreadful - all screeching guitars, spiky hair, and the wearing of plastic bin bags. Beaver kept screaming 'Anarchy in Homeward".
I knew then that educated people would never again be able to face the universe with any of their previous serenity and certitude.
Later, over dinner in the mess, we imagined what life would had been like if Beaver had got to the moon first? Goodness knows how he would have squandered its resources in pursuit of the high life?
The Badfort Republic of the Moon? The Dwarfs would partying all the time on Black Tom !!!
Cowgill has had a brilliant idea that means we may still be able to beat Beaver to the Moon.
He has calculated the trajectory of the meteorite that is running alongside us. It is bound for the moon!
At the moment we are travelling at the same speed but the meteorite will soon outstrip us as gravitational forces pull it in.
Cowgill has calculated that by switching the anti-gravitational forces of the cyclotronic particles so that they absorb the pull of the meteorite we can hitch a high speed ride on the back of it!
We had a mighty feast in the Mess to celebrate - Ham, Cakes, and Koolvat. More good news came from home - the second volume of my biography has been published. You can purchase a copy here - I think you will find it an edifying read.
After dinner I looked back at the earth, like a blue jewel in the midst of a vast emptiness marked by luminous celestial bodies, and felt an overwhelming sense of universal connectedness. I even felt sorry for Beaver knowing how cross he would feel being beaten by me, again. Only for a moment, mind you.
Cowgill has calculated that Professor Hismouth had us on the wrong course for the last four days.
Not all is lost, however, we managed to rescue the Old Monkey from the meteorite. Diggory Stigneev was exceptionally brave and, using his mining skills, was able to secure our rocket to the meteorite and form a safe route for my trusted servant to return by.
I feel extremely guilty now that I ever mistrusted the dwarf. He is clearly, a remarkable fellow.
As we sat around the officers mess the communication scanner crackled into life.
"It's a transmission from the escape pod!" cried Cowgill.
A picture sprang into life on the monitor.
It was Professor Hismouth swigging from a bottle of Black Tom!
“Hi Unc! Guess who?” he said, proceeding to remove his spectacles and moustache revealing…..Hitmouse!
“Yep, you old tyrant! You’re done for now. We beat you! The Moon is ours…and we’ll soon have the red flag of Badfort flying over it. Don’t try landing on the moon because you will have a reception committee. Over and out!”
We all felt downcast…until Cowgill piped up.
“I think there may yet be a way to get there first!” he said.
We are attempting to rescue the Old Monkey. Due to Diggory Stigneev’s sabotage my old friend is spinning off into the void of space.
Luckily, Professor Hismouth has come up with co-ordinates of his trajectory that will enable us to intersect with the Old Monkey and pick him up.
It means that there is no way now that we can get to the moon before Beaver or in time for the 40th Anniversary of our last visit. But all of this is as nothing compared to the joy of being reunited with my most faithful companion.
I was busy searching the blackness of space when Cowgill rushed into the cockpit “Look Sir, alongside us…it’s the Old Monkey! Riding on a meteorite!”
I was overjoyed…but perplexed…Professor Hismouth had said there were no meteorites in this area…clearly the dwarf had been telling the truth?
Then, Cloutman brought news. “I’m afraid the dwarf is drunk, he found a stash of Black Tom hidden in the storage hold."
Black Tom? Where could that have come from?
As I puzzled over this, Goodman and A.B.Fox appeared. “Bad news, I am afraid Sir, we had the wrong man. I had my suspicions, the clues were just all too obvious – they all pointed to the dwarf. But I never bought the idea that the Professor was suffering from space sickness. He was obviously under the influence. I told Goodman to watch him and sure enough he saw him guzzling from a bottle of Black Tom.”
"Where is he now!" I demanded.
“I am afraid he seems to used the escape pod to leave us, Sir” said Cowgill pointing out of the rear viewing window.
There was no time to ponder over our mistakes – of immediate importance was the rescue of the Old Monkey.
Yesterday, disaster struck. We discovered that Beaver Hateman intended to beat us to the moon, Diggory Stigneev had wrecked our navigation equipment sending us off course, and had then pushed the Old Monkey out into space!
As soon as the dwarf re-entered the spaceship we clapped him in irons. Not surprisingly, he attempted to deny his actions. He claimed that he had not touched the navigation equipment even when we presented him with the evidence of his own pickaxe being used to sabotage it.
When questioned about the Old Monkey he made up some unlikely story of sighting a meteorite whose gravitational pull had dragged my faithful friend away. “He weren’t wearing his magnetic boots, you see? – they keep you anchored to the ship - I told him he should be wearing them for safety, but he says monkeys like to swing about!” argued Diggory.
“He is lying” squeaked up Professor Hismouth “there are no meteorites in this region of space – I suggest that you lock him up in the storage hold, whilst I work out a plan to rescue your friend.”
I thanked the Professor for his assistance, whilst Cloutman dragged the protesting dwarf away. Clearly, he had been bought off by Beaver Hateman.
My immediate concern is to rescue the Old Monkey before his air runs out.
Despite the speed of his Black Tom powered rocket we believed that we were far enough ahead to be still in with a chance of getting there first.
The ignominy of having our anniversary celebrations being marred by Beaver’s victory was too much to bear thinking about.
Then, Professor Hismouth declared that there was a fault in his navigation device – he calculated that we were already drifting off course.
He felt that it was also clear that sabotage had taken place. The extending gears on the telescope element had been deliberately jammed. The only way that this could be fixed was for a volunteer to take a spacewalk and carry out repairs. This would be very a difficult and hazardous operation as the gears were contained within a confined space.
“I’ll do it, Sir, I’m small, it’ll be easy for me and I have always wanted to do a space walk!” piped up the Old Monkey.
I was most impressed that the dwarf, Diggory Stigneev, volunteered that, as he was short of stature as well, he would be happy to accompany the OId Monkey as his partner. I thought this very brave of him and began to regret my earlier suspicions of him as the saboteur.
The Old Monkey and the dwarf went into the airlock and were soon on the exterior of the rocket hard at work carrying out the repairs.
At this point, A.B.Fox came rushing into the cockpit. He informed me that he had discovered the dwarf’s pickaxe hidden in the navigation room. It had clearly recently been used and the residues of paint on it matched those on the gears of the telescope. So, my suspicions were confirmed…and the Old Monkey was alone in space with the saboteur!
Before we could alert him to the danger we heard a cry from the Old Monkey. I looked out to see him spinning off into space!
A year after we first landed on the moon, the dwarfs had some unexpected visitors.
Some astronauts turned up from America. The dwarfs felt it best to hide from them.By that time they had excavated quite far under the surface and the Helium 3 mining was going rather well, the last thing they wanted was claim jumpers musselling in on the act.
Homeward law gives the right to mine to the first one to discover the mineral deposit and begin mining it but, quite rightly, the dwarfs were concerned that the moon could become like some Wild West boom town.
Over the next few years the place was like Homeward Junction - these astronauts kept on turning up, making a right old mess and joy-riding in their moon buggies.
They left behind allsorts of junk - the aforementioned buggies, flags, spacesuits, boots, photographs and various technological paraphernalia.
They even left behind a defecation collection device!
Honestly it is a disgrace! - you would not treat your own home like that, would you?
The poor old dwarfs had to give the place a good sweep to get rid of all the footprints and tracks that they had left and clear up all their rubbish.
We have not thrown the stuff away, however, just in case they decide to come back for it.
But I have now introduced penalties for littering so they will have to behave better in future or face an instant fine.
Cowgill and Professor Hismouth today showed me around the astronavigation room as I had expressed an interest in the intricacies of the skills involved.
The good ship 'Uncle' has its own sophisticated version of the sextant, an optical device used for centuries by sailors to measure angles between stars, the Sun and an Earth’s horizon.
The region of space we are traveling through, encompassed by the Moon’s orbit around Earth, is termed cislunar space. Finding a way across it is therefore called cislunar navigation. Apparently sighting on celestial objects is only one of a range of techniques that they bring to bear on the problem of guidance and navigation, skills that have had to be mastered to ensure that the 400,000 kilometres of space between Earth and the Moon are crossed in both directions accurately and safely. These skills required consummate finesse in the measurement of extremely subtle parameters, and mathematical competence to interpret the results correctly, as excessive errors could be utterly and lethally unforgiving.
I was somewhat surprised, therefore, that Professor Hismouth seemed somewhat inebriated!
Cowgill assures me that the Professor has explained to him that this is merely an undesirable physiological effect of space flight. His balance and orientation are disturbed, but this in no way effects his visual acuity or mental capacity.
Well, one hopes so - given the importance of his navigation tasks.
I must congratulate Cowgill, the good ship 'Uncle' is performing perfectly. The ship rotates every hour in order to equalise the temperature. If it did not the side facing the sun would become overheated and the shadowed side unbearably cold.
One of the great experiences that I am really looking forward to on the moon is a slap up meal.
The dwarfs have their own bubble encased farm on the moon. One of the extraordinary advantages of farming on the moon is that the additional solar energy and lack of gravity means that plants grow to unusual heights. The farmer, Butterskin Mute, helped set up the farm and has always said that it produces the best vegetables he has ever tasted.
Even under the cramped conditions of our journey, I like to maintain a sense of decorum and the attributes of a civilised society.
I therefore, insist that everyone dresses for dinner at the Captain's table in the officers' mess.
I think my suspicions that the dwarf, Diggory Stigneev, could be the saboteur are well founded. Tonight, at dinner, there was a heated argument when he espoused his opinions about the rights of the miners on the moon - which I felt compelled to disagree with.
I just hope that Beaver is not aware that we have already departed for the moon, his Black Tom powered rocket would be more than a match for the good ship 'Uncle' in speed.
As promised I shall now tell you a little about our history on the moon. The moon was claimed for Homeward, by the planting of a flag, forty years ago.
Mineral samples from the moon contained abundant quantities of helium 3, so we left a group of dwarfs there to set up a camp and carry out mining operations.
Helium 3 is deposited on the lunar surface by solar winds and is extracted from moon soil and rocks.
The moon contains 10 times more energy in the form of Helium 3 than all the fossil fuels on the earth, and just 25 tonnes of helium, which is transported back to us every two years, is enough to provide electricity for Homeward for one full year.
As you know, dwarfs are excellent at mining and subterranean extraction. The majority of our moonbase is underground but we do have have a number of solar farms above ground to power it.
The only problem is the fact that dwarfs can be quite lazy and unreliable. The tricky blighters are always trying to sneak into my oil tanks back home and help themselves to free fuel. Luckily, the man who guards it, Don Guzman, usually manages to catch them.
They are also partial to a drink or two, last New Year's Eve there was a bit of a fracas when some of them got hold of some Black Tom.
I know that we have a saboteur in our midst - so I am keeping a a careful eye on Diggory Stigneev, the dwarf in our crew.
The hour arrived. I watched the chronometer ticking off the seconds to launch time. Cowgill released the valve and the cyclotrons began to flow into the anti-gravity engines. A hum resonated throughout the hull as the engines vibrated. Then the ship rose smoothly up into the atmosphere. The pressure inside the cabin grew as we curved in a long arc through the stratosphere. At 140 miles altitude I ordered the engines to be cut and we found ourselves in a weightless environment. We were now in orbit around the earth. It is a beautiful sight - Areas of green and brown land are interspersed with large tracts of bright blue ocean.
Cowgill and Professor Hismouth are taking readings through the naviscope to determine the optimum moment for our departure from orbit to begin the journey to the moon.
It has been calculated that our journey will take about two weeks. During this time I intend to describe the day-to-day events, and some history of the work that the dwarfs have been doing on the Moon during the last forty years.
For entertainment I have brought with me Jules Verne's From the Earth to the Moon and H.G.Wells The First Men in the Moon . I am not a great fan of Science Fiction - I much prefer factual science and I find writers of this material rather fanciful in their predictions of the future. It is, however, quite amusing to see how wrong they all were.
I must admit,though, that Mr Wells was extraordinarily prescient in his creation of the anti-gravity metal, Cavorite.
It is was not so far-fetched and is similar in principle to our own discovery - the cyclotron particle.
Launch date for our trip to the moon is set for Monday.
I have decided on the crew to accompany me to the moon.
The Old Monkey - of course, I could not go anywhere without my faithful Aide-de-camp.
Cowgill has to come - he is the only one who knows how to coax the best out of his rocket.
A.B.Fox, because I have no doubt that we will need his intellect and cunning.
We will also need brawn, although Cloutman and Gubbins are normally inseparable there is not room for both. So they drew lots - Cloutman won and so will act as our security.
The Old Monkey suggested it would be diplomatic to include a dwarf in our party, given that the dwarfs run the mining operations on the moon and make up the bulk of the populace of the Homeward Moonbase. I therefore selected an expert in excavations - Diggory Stigneev.
Cowgill insisted that we would need an astronomical expert, to aid with navigation. He suggested a world-renowned star-gazer that he had read about - Professor Patrick Hismouth.
A strange cove - but apparently well thought of in astronomical circles.
Finally, because of his constant nagging, I agreed that Goodman could come along as the ship's cat and mascot.
Today we all had to test our spacesuits under weightless conditions. These suits have been tailor made for us by Cowgill and he wanted to check that there were no design flaws or alterations needed before they face the final test - in space itself.
A problem arose with my suit, however. I had only had the suit on a few minutes before I had a strange fit of the giggles. I just could not stop laughing. Everyone looked at me as if I was quite mad and unfortunately at this very moment our preparations were being filmed by the Badgertown Broadcasting Corporation. It was all most undignified.
I, of course, immediately put an embargo on transmission of the material but somehow it got into the hands of Badfort TV. They have been running it constantly and making jokes about the moon being the right place for a lunatic despot.
Later that evening, Cowgill took me aside for a quiet word. It appears that the oxygen tank on my spacesuit had been substituted for a canister of laughing gas!
Clearly, there is a traitor and saboteur in our midst.
I shall keep this information between Cowgill and myself for the time being - I do not want to spread alarm amongst the crew. I shall be keeping a close eye on everyone from now on, however.
Cowgill has decided to bring forward the launch date of my rocket which we have christened 'Uncle' - in my honour.
The rocket is powered using the anti-gravity properties of cyclotronic particles. The existence of these particles was one of our first discoveries when we switched on the Large Elephant Collider (LEC).
This is housed in a large circular tunnel beneath Homeward and is 30 km in circumference. It is, of course, the biggest in the world and protons hurtle around it at near light speed. I am very proud of it and when it is switched off I like to ride around it in my traction engine. Great fun!
The only problem with using anti-gravity cyclotronic particles is that they are a bit slow to get warmed up. Cowgill has discovered that Beaver's rocket is powered by 'Black Tom' - highly inflammable and extremely powerful.
He thinks that we will need to steal a march on them - so we could be leaving any day now.
We decided that the only way to put a stop to 'The Uncle and Monkey' propaganda that has been polluting our airwaves was to mount a raid on Badfort TV. This we achieved - the puppeteers have seen the error of their ways, and are now going to work for the Badgertown Broadcasting Corporation. I have written some scripts myself, extolling the virtues of good citizenship. I am sure that it will be every bit as popular as that rowdy nonsense Beaver was responsible for.
As we were making our escape from Badfort, however, we were confronted by an even bigger example of Beaver's depravity.
We passed through a studio with a number of cameras pointing at a window - the view out concealed by blinds.
My curiosity got the better of me - why so many cameras pointing outwards?
The Old Monkey lifted the blinds to reveal an underground lair, concealing - a space rocket!
As you know, one of my New Year's resolutions had been to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of my first trip to the moon. We have been meticulously planning a return visit.
So, Beaver intends to ruin our plans by getting their first!