Captain Midnight here with greetings for the Birthday Boy.
When Himself says ‘Sit’ I usually give the matter some thought and then, like any self-respecting canine, I make up my own mind. It’s great fun: He stands there, arms crossed, while I decide what I’m going to do, then he shouts a bit and goes red in the face when I slope off into the garden.
Occasionally I do go along with what he likes to call the Voice of Command, just to see the look of surprise on his face. I can generally wheedle a treat out of him when I do this. If I had opposable thumbs, I could open the packet myself and then there’d be no need to feign obedience.
Last week Himself had a ‘big’ birthday so I agreed to sit properly for my portrait to be painted. It was a present from his daughter and it was a secret until the very last moment. He laughed when he unwrapped it, so I gave him a stern look. He apologised and told me he’d been thinking about something else that had tickled his funny bone.
I said that neither of us was getting any younger and that he should be happy to be having a birthday at all. He rather took the wind out of my sails when he replied that he was looking forward to us growing old together, so I jumped on his lap and gave both his ears a birthday lick.
Anyway, this fine portrait of me in dress uniform now occupies pride of place in his study. I’m hoping he’ll eventually bequeath it to my old regiment –The Royal Bark-Shires – so they can hang it in the Officer’s Mess alongside the pictures of my old mates Fearless Freddie Foxhound and Brigadier Bertie (The Bonecruncher) Basset.
‘The Tuck Shop is in trouble,’ declared Bob Cherry, the prematurely bald, dome-headed saviour of the Remove to the assembled members of the Fourth Form Common Room
‘It can’t go on,’ Frank Nugent chimed in.
‘You are quite right,’ said Hurree Jamset Ram Singh. ‘Our traditional post-colonial fare of iced buns and lardy cake is facing unfair competition from massive unrestricted imports of delicious cheap French patisserie.’
‘Oooh. Buns. Cake. Patisserie,’ groaned Billy Bunter in a corner of the room.
‘What shall we do?’ asked Frank.
‘Well,’ said Bob. ‘It’s tricky, because – technically – we don’t actually own the Tuck Shop.’
‘Who does?’ asked Hurree.
‘The whole school,’ said Bob. ‘It belongs to everyone. Everyone has to decide what to do.’
‘That’s ridiculous,’ said Frank. ‘Dayboys and Newbugs are much too stupid to have any idea what to do about something as serious as this.’
‘You’re right of course, old chum,’ said Bob. ‘That’s why we have a thing called Democracy. It means that us members of the Common Room get to interpret the will of the school so that Dayboys and Newbugs don’t actually get their hands on any more of the good stuff than we can help.’
‘Crikey,’ said Hurree. ‘What a beezer arrangement. I’m glad we get to make the real decisions.’
‘Not you, Hurree,’ chorused Bob and Frank. ‘You’re just here because your people are good at sums and to give us a spurious sense of inclusivity. But you are right about one thing: it is a beezer arrangement.’
‘Excellent,’ said the athletically inclined but less than intellectually gifted Frank, ‘and are we for or against delicious cheap French patisserie?’
‘For and against,’ said Bob Cherry. ‘For, in the sense that it’s jolly good to eat and that you and I should be able to have as much of it as we want. Against, in the sense that we’ve been telling the Dayboys and Newbugs for years that iced buns and lardy cake are much better for them.’
‘Oooh. Buns. Cake. Patisserie,’ groaned Bunter again. ‘What’s a chap to do?’
‘What indeed?’ Bob Cherry mused.
‘I can see the problem,’ said Hurree. ‘But can’t Democracy help us find a way through? If we put the matter to a vote of the whole school, it’s bound to be a close run thing and then we can decide what the result means.’
‘Spot on, my perspicacious foreign friend,’ said Bob. ‘Now all we need is someone to be the public face of our campaign. It can’t be me because the school would suspect my motives. I’m more of a backroom boy; the power behind the throne. It can’t be Frank because he has trouble tying his own shoelaces. And it can’t be Hurree because… well it obviously can’t be Hurree…”
‘Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres,’ mumbled Bunter, apropos of nothing.
‘That’s it!’ whooped Bob Cherry. ‘It has to be you Bunter. They’ll have no idea what you’re talking about. They’ll just assume it’s what they want to hear. It’s the ultimate in plausible deniability. I never thought I’d say this: Bunter you’re a genius!’
‘Per ardua ad astra,’ Bunter gurned, delightedly.
‘Are we agreed?’ asked Bob Cherry.
‘Bunter… Bunter… Bunter…’ chanted the whole Common Room, drumming their desks.
‘Hurrah,’ yelled Frank Nugent above the din. ‘We’re all behind you, Bunter.’
When the cacophany died down, Bob Cherry handed the keys of the Tuck Shop to Billy Bunter, the tousle-haired Owl of the Remove ‘Have you anything to say to us, Great Leader?’
Bunter beamed triumphantly and plunged the keys deep into a trouser pocket whilst rubbing his belly through his bulging waistcoat. ‘Veni… Vidi… Vici…’
To be continued…
Next week’s episode: Sic transit gloria mundi or Spaffed up against the wall