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BRENTFORD AND BEYOND

It was joy, joy, happy joy.

Happy, happy joy.

A big fat smiley sun rose up above the rooftops and beamed down its blessings onto the borough known as Brentford.

In the memorial park, the flowers awoke in their well-tended beds, yawned open their petals and grinned at the sky. Sparrows chorused in their treetop roosts, fussed at their feathers and made their plans for the day ahead. A milk float bumbled up the Baling Road and stopped before the Flying Swan. Where Mr Melchizedec, cap upon his red-faced head, placed two pints of the finest gold-top onto the well-worn step. He tousled the head of a snoozing tomcat, returned to his float upon unfashionable footwear, whistled a tune of his own composing and continued on his way.

It was good to be alive upon such a day as this and Mr Melchizedec knew it.

Others knew it too. Others who chose to stir from their cosy beds, throw wide their curtains and gaze out upon such a day.

Such a day was a Monday, the third of Rune in the year 2022. And it was a very good day indeed.

It was a very good day for at least three reasons. Firstly because the sun was shining, which always made for a very good day.

Secondly because it was the first Monday in, the month, which, under the new administration, made it a bank holiday. All first Mondays in the month were now bank holidays. And thirdly, because this was Brentford, where it is always very good to be, no matter the day or the weather.

The folk of Brentford were happy folk. They had always been happy folk. And, if left alone to be it, they would no doubt always be happy folk.

Not that being left alone was an easy thing to be. The world that lay beyond the great triangle that enclosed the borough – a triangle formed from the Great West Road, the ancient River Thames and the Grand Union Canal – had a tendency to encroach at times. Fads and fashions tried, mostly without success, to elbow their wicked ways within. The good folk of the borough were ever alert. Ever vigilant. Ever prepared to defend what was theirs. Because what was theirs, was special.

It didn't look much, Brentford. Just rows of terraced Victorian houses, a single outcrop of flat blocks, some shops and pubs and thises and thats and whatnots. It simply seemed suburbia. But it wasn't. It was more and it was special.

How special? Why special? Ah.

There was a magic here. A magic that was hard to put a name to, hard to quantify and pin down. But it was there, in the brickwork and the slates, the paving slabs and cobblestones. It slept and it dreamed, but its dreams reached out to the folk who lived there and touched their lives and made them glad.

Beyond the great triangle was another world apart. Here things moved at speeds that troubled the glad Brentonians. Here was technology and change. Ever change. And change can be a thing to fear. For change for the sake of change alone, is rarely change for the good.

So to speak.

And change in that big wide world beyond had been quite plenteous of late. And how this change had come about and what it would mean to the folk of the borough has much to do with the telling of our tale and so should best be touched upon here.

So let us touch upon it.


Beyond the boundaries of Brentford there now existed a world peopled by folk with sprained ankles, grazed knees and skinned elbows. Folk who walked upon strange shoes. Folk who tottered and oft-times fell. Folk who avoided high winds and low bridges. Folk who had taken to speaking a language that consisted of just forty words.

But folk who, like their Brentford cousins, were happy.

Why?

Well. It happened in this fashion. And fashion is surely the word.

For it came to pass in the year 2020, that the British voting public declared that enough was enough was enough.

Fed up with more years of government misrule and mismanagement than Black Rod could shake her ornamental stick at, Britain's voters agreed that at the forthcoming general election they would withhold their vote in a people's protest. And so they did.

The high muck-a-mucks of Westminster, caught with their well-tailored Jekylls [1] truly round their veiny ankle regions, were thrown into a state of dire confusion. There was no precedent for this sort of anarchic behaviour. There should have been a law against it. There definitely would be in the future. But as this wasn't the future, this was now, they didn't know what to do. Someone had to run the country. Someone had to be Prime Minister. Someone.

But who?

Now it has long been marvelled at, by those who take the trouble to marvel at such things, that the important and responsible post of Prime Minister does not seem to require any qualification whatsoever. You might have thought that it would at least be necessary to have an A level in political science, a working knowledge of finance and perhaps even one foreign language. But no. All you had to do to become Prime Minister was to be leader of the political party that the public voted into power. Not an easy thing in itself, granted, but hardly, really, the qualification to sit behind the big desk of power in Downing Street and run the country properly. There was no training scheme, no examination papers, you were just expected to sit down and get on with it. And so, when you'd well and truly fouled it up, because no-one had told you how to do it, because no-one else knew how to do it, you got voted out of power and some other unqualified individual got voted in.

So it was hardly surprising, really, that the British voting public finally got sick of all this and decided to give the polling booths a miss. The high muck-a-mucks, trews well down and all in a lather, feverishly checked the ballot boxes. Someone must have voted.

Party members must have voted. Dedicated believers in Democracy must have voted. Someone. Anyone.

Anyone?

Well, of course some had.

Some. A few. A very few. But the numbers were hardly substantial. A few hundred, no more than that. Well, party memberships had been falling off, subscription fees were high and benefits negligible. And educated believers in Democracy were hard to come by nowadays. But there had been some votes. So the high muck-a-mucks decreed that from these votes the new government must be chosen. It was a heroic decision.

And curiously, unlike many previous heroic decisions taken at Westminster, this one proved to be a good'n.

Reginald Arthur Doveston, independent candidate for Penge South, founder and only member of the World Holistic Footwear Alliance, was duly sworn in as Britain's latest Prime Minister.

Well, he had polled the most votes. Forty in all. Because he was a very nice man, Mr Doveston. People liked him and those who liked him couldn't bring themselves to withhold their votes.

And, at the end of the day, when it came right down to it, in a nutshell and things of that nature generally, he was probably the right man for the job.

Mr Doveston did have an A level in political science. He'd done it on a World Wide Web night-school course, along with home economics and macrame.

And, as a designer, manufacturer and supplier of holistic footwear to specialist shoe shops, he did have a working knowledge of finance. At least within the field of holistic footwear. And, as a Runie, which is to say a follower of the great twentieth-century Mystic, sword-swallower, and self-styled Most Amazing Man who ever lived, Hugo Rune, he did speak a second language.

Runese. The Universal Tongue. This was a language invented by Hugo Rune, in one of his many (and sadly abortive) attempts to bring about world peace.

Runese was, as might be said, and kindly said too, a 'basic language'. Consisting, as it did, of just forty words. But, as Rune had explained to those who were prepared to listen, 'No man needs any more than forty words to express an opinion, as long as he keeps it simple.' And, 'If a language consists of only nice words, then those who speak it are unlikely to say anything nasty, are they?'

And, for those who wish to count, these two statements add up to precisely forty words, although none of them is in Runese.

So, by the by and all that stuff, here was Mr Doveston, eminently qualified, some might even say overqualified, to take on the job of Prime Minister, and here were the muck-a-mucks giving him, if grudgingly, the big thumbs up.

So, what of the British voting public, you might ask? What did they make of this? Were they appalled? Did they take to the streets and burn down the shopping malls? Storm the Palace of Westminster? Tar and feather, throw ropes over beams, hang, draw and quarter and place severed heads onto high railings?

Well, no. Actually they didn't.

They might well have done and there was much pub talk regarding the doing thereof. But they didn't. Instead they cheered. They partied in the streets. They put up bunting and roasted pigs on spits. They glorified the name of Mr Doveston.

Why?

Well, because the British voting public were British, that's why. And believe it or believe it not, the British really do have a sense of fair play. They love to see the underdog have his day. And they love it when the little man beats the system. It's hard to explain just why they do, as hard to explain as just what the magic of Brentford really is, but they do, they really do.

It's a British thing. It's a tradition, or an old charter.

Or something.

Mr Doveston found himself sitting behind the desk of power and his feet inside the slippers of power, which few know of, or talk about.

The slippers of power were not to his personal taste, for reasons that will soon be made clear. But he would deal with them, as indeed he would deal with everything. Because Mr Doveston was a man with a plan, as all the world would soon come to know. If not necessarily to understand.

For one of the things that people particularly liked about Mr Doveston was that he was 'open'. He didn't keep any secrets. He told it as he saw it. He said what needed to be said.

Mr Doveston had prepared an electoral manifesto. All candidates do this before elections. It is not a tradition, or an old charter, or something. Mostly it's a load of old toot about all the wonderful things they'll do when they get into power. It's something that the leader of the opposition likes to take out every so often and wave across the despatch box at the Prime Minister and embarrass him with.

Not so Mr Doveston's manifesto. Mr Doveston intended to make good on his. His was a one hundred and eighty point plan, designed to restore the British Nation to its once proud greatness. Starting from the ground up.

It covered pretty much everything that such a manifesto could reasonably be expected to cover. Poverty, urban decay, environmental issues, the NHS, transportation, welfare, schools, world trade, the benefit system, all and sundry and much else besides. And it set out a strategy for putting things right. A strategy that worked from the ground up. It identified a single cause for all the nation's ills.

Its footwear.

Where previous governments had got it all wrong, Mr Doveston explained, was that they had not dealt with issues from the ground up. Which is to say, with the nation's feet and what the nation wore upon its feet. Mr Doveston knew all about these things. He had studied these things. These things were what Mr Doveston was all about.

And it is not an untruth to declare that to some extent these were things that Mr Doveston's guru, Hugo Rune, was also all about.

Rune had spent much of his fascinating life [2] in search of alternative energy. He pooh-poohed the internal combustion engine, described electricity as 'a passing and dangerous fad' and considered nuclear power 'unlikely to say the very least'. As for solar power, Rune turned his nose up and made pig-like gruntings. 'The planet Earth itself is the source of ultimate power,' Rune once declared to a party of Japanese students who were enjoying an open-topped bus tour around the borough of Brentford. 'It spins around and around and around, generating mighty forces that the man who has the know of it, might tap into and exploit.'

'Is this a magnetic force?' asked a Japanese student called Kevin. 'Likening the globe to a gigantic magneto, whereby a magnetic field is produced by the constant revolutions, taking in that two-thirds of the world's surface is covered by oceans, thereby creating the ideal conditions for magneto hydrodynamics, the saline fluid acting as a…'

But Hugo Rune cut him short with a blow to the skull from the stout stick he always carried. 'No,' said Rune. 'Nothing like that at all.'

Apparently it was all down to a substance called Runelium. An element which science had so far failed to identify, but Rune had.

Scientists had catalogued one hundred and five elements, ninety-three of which occurred naturally. Rune, with the aid of his X-ray vision and enhanced intuition, had identified the ninety-fourth. And named it, modestly, Runelium.

Rune described Runelium as 'sort of sticky with a spearminty smell'. It was there, all around, and if you looked very hard, you might just catch a glimpse of it. Rune declared it to be an untapped source of ultimate power that might be ultimately tapped into through the use of specially constructed Runelium-friendly holistic footwear. The plans for the construction of such footwear were made available to the public during the 1980s, priced at a mere lb4.99 including postage and packing, through mail order to a certain post-office box in Brentford. Cheques to be made payable to H. Rune, NEW AGE INDUSTRIES INC.

It was during these same 1980s that Mr Doveston, then a freckle-faced lad of nine summers only, had come across the advert for such footwear in the back of a Marvel comic. Next to one for Count Dante's course in the deadly art of Dimac.

History was already being made, although Mr Doveston was not to know it then.

So, returning to the present.

Years and years of work had gone into the Runelium-friendly footwear. Years and years of work put in by Mr Doveston, disciple to the Mystic and the Man (as Rune described himself upon his gilt-edged star-shaped calling cards).

And now the time was right. Mr Doveston was behind the desk of power. The nation could be told. The nation would respond. Great days lay ahead. There would be dancing in the street (quite careful dancing, given the height and complexity of some of the footwear), heavy petting in the back seats of Morris Minors and jumping for joy (again with care) the length and breadth of the country.

There would be the singing of songs too. New songs with catchy tunes and easily rememberable lyrics. Lyrics written in the new tongue of Runese. The Universal Tongue of Peace. And a few minor changes besides, such as allocating every first Monday in the month as a bank holiday and renaming the months of the year. Hence the month of Rune.

It would all be joy and joy and happy joy.

Happy happy joy.


And it was. It truly was.

Well, at least it was for a while.


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