[The story so far… Ed Balls is determined to ‘squash’ his rival Ed Milliband; Boris Johnson’s Latvian Nanny is on the trail of the Black Rabbit; Art Garfunkel and Elton John have been plagiarising Alain de Botton’s Tweets; and Rod Lidl has been given an anonymous tip-off regarding the whereabouts of elusive poet Grayson Ellis …]
At the precise moment that art students Josie Pringle and Willo Foxglove are boarding the National Express coach from Ludlow Moor Park to London Victoria, notorious hack Rod Lidl is tramping in hysterically unsuitable clothes across the wilds of Shropshire, under the shadow of Titterstone Clee. He carries a Tesco Bag-for-Life and a length of rope. Noseybonk hulks in the dark clouds and sees all.
Cursing like a rigger, Lidl pores and paws at a rumpled Ordnance Survey map as he hikes. There seems to be no trace of man in this cursed wilderness. But then, ahead, it appears. Lidl fags up to the well and peers into the black depths. “Oi!” he shouts. “Anyone down there?”
His scratchy voice rattles in the chamber. Silence. And then a weak reply.
“Hello?” says elusive poet Grayson Ellis, from the sludgy bottom.
The Diary of Josie Pringle, aged 19
Wednesday December 8 2010
Spent all morning on the National Express with W. We’re off to protest! Goodness, London is an eternity from Ludlow by bus, in every sense. W played mostly on her iPhone, texting Archy, her latest sort-of-boyf. W has lots of sort-of-boyfs, well she is so beautiful even with the short hair. Chic. Gosh just her name is beautiful – Willo Foxglove! – no wonder they all worship her, even the Profs. Especially them. And of course she has them all dancing to her tune.
The bus ride was lovely if you put your mind to it. The frosty trees, standing, spreading; how calm, how fresh, the white fields like a cold bath; what a plunge; what a lark; oh how like the time that… oops! There I go all Virginia Woolf again. W can’t stand Virginia, says she’s the worst kind of bourgeoisie. Well I suppose W is right as usual but I fear I’m not ready to give her up just yet. Perhaps that’s part of my education. Of course, Mrs Dalloway lived in Westminster, what fun to think we’ll soon be there, fighting for a just cause!
W is always right, it seems. She never thinks anything is beyond her means. She is a true Artist in a way that I’m not. Of course, technically I can draw things accurately and so on, but W is a real Ideas artist, which is why the Profs quite rightly praise her work, even if it has to be explained a bit. Gosh how flattered I was – how thrilled! – when Willo Foxglove wanted to be my friend! I’ve learnt so much from her.
It was W who turned me on to politics of course. Gave me a copy of The Little Mauve Book, fixed me with her super-stare and absolutely demanded that I read it. The Shoreditch Manifesto – Towards a More Median World by Polly Townbee. I’ve read most of it and I can see it’s terribly important and true of course. At least, I read the introduction by Townbee’s acolyte Cathy Devine, in which she explains that by playing competitive school sports we hark back ideologically and nostalgically to Empire and a movement culture of hierarchical male leadership. Well I detested netball at school so three cheers for all that!
When we got to London W led the way on the Tube. Gosh how I love all those names, Baker Street, Leicester Square…like Monopoly! I’m not sure that W really took us the quickest route to Goodge Street, but she was in such a Determined Willo Mode that I didn’t dare to argue, and anyway I enjoyed just going around on the trains and riding up and down the escalators, seeing all the different faces. Must remember we’re here to protest though… serious business, not sight-seeing!
Anyway sort-of-boyf Archy and his student pals live in a humungous old building called Engelbert Mansions, right near Tottenham Court Road. Bloomsbury is so near; Soho too, one really feels one is at the centre of things here! ‘Fraid I didn’t see much of W this afternoon, she was away with Archy, whose dad is in an old rock band or something from the last century. So admirable – he could just be horribly rich and not care, but he’s does care, so deeply! Good looking too, though he’s done something strange to his hair since W showed me the picture on her iPhone. All shaved at one side, so he looks like one of those odd women you see at Glastonbury and the like. W said he was fed up with looking like a sexless teen vampire from Twilight etc etc, but I thought his fringe used to be lovely.
One of the students in the flat is called Ann. She has the same hair as Archy. V serious and talks a lot; v keen on protesting. Luckily I’m a good listener and I didn’t really mind that W left me all night so she could stay in Archy’s room. I could see he was whispering her a v serious speech about how tomorrow was a Big Day and this could be his last night on earth, you never knew with these brutal fascist police. Think I’d have been too boring to go with all that but W is her own person and maybe the difference between us is that she does say ‘yes’ a lot more.
Of course, I know it’s right to be an Idealist and have principles, even if it’s sometimes hard to see how they’d actually make sense in real life. Better that than to just give up and be a selfish amoral Tory, not caring about anything except protecting your money. Well anyway, Ann eventually went off to her room so here I am on the sofa with you, dear Diary. Tomorrow is the day of the protest – so excited!
Down, down tumbles Rod’s rope, down into the well.
Grayson, enfeebled and reeking but poetically intact, grasps it with both hands. “Thank God,” he cries, as he attempts to ascend. “Ready, pull!”
But Lidl is inexperienced in the art of well-rescue. Instead of securing the rope to a solid object, he has tied it fast around his waist, and with Grayson halfway up he is already slipslithering in his brown loafers.
“Holy tits!” bellows Lidl and with that he is gone, down into the hole and crashing with a terrible squelch onto Grayson and the accumulated pit-filth.
For some while they lie gasping and groaning in an unholy heap.
“You idiot,” remarks Grayson, at length.
“I’ve brought some sandwiches,” says Rod.
Thursday December 9 2010
It was already getting dark when we all got up and had breakfast – if you can call it breakfast at 4pm! W took charge in the kitchen as usual, froddled us some eggs while Archy and Ann finished off the placards. There was ‘F*** fees’ and ‘Hang Cameron’ and ‘Nick is a Dick’. I took the one saying ‘Education should be free’, then it was off to Westminster! (Funny, W let Archy take charge of directions this time… he and Ann move so fast and confidently in the stations – true Londoners, they don’t even need the map. We provincial types have to scamper to keep up. Not that W would ever admit to being one of those!). It was awfully cold so Ann and Archy were all dressed up in hoodies and scarves. Silly provincial Josie didn’t think of that!
Gosh, Parliament Square is so beautiful at night! All lit up. Westminster and Big Ben. No wonder Mrs Dalloway adored it so. Of course, had to remember that inside the Commons the fascist MPs were at that moment trampling on democracy and the poor by voting through a measure that will kill education in this country!
What a lot of students there were out; some looked quite old to be students but they were properly angry on our behalf! Well it was all such fun at first. Quite a lot of people were in fancy dress, masks and so on. I glimpsed one man who looked very strange, wearing what looked like a dinner jacket and a white mask with a huge nose. I tried pointing him out to W but she couldn’t see him.
We met our gang – the Townbeeists – by the statue of Churchill. It would be typically shallow and silly of me if I said I didn’t quite like the look of some of them. I think they’d had some substances. There was a lot of noise and shouting. I got jostled a fair bit but that’s what being on the cutting edge of politics is all about – ask E Pankhurst!
It was when we heard that the vote had been passed, so that we’d lost, that things went a bit funny, by which I mean people stopped laughing. I was all for saying “Oh well,” and going back into the warm but the others weren’t having it. I even made a foolish quip about it all only being in aid of graduates earning more than £21 thousand a year anyway, not the poor really, but W gave me such a look that I had to hastily cover it up with a sneezing fit.
Anyway somebody had started a bonfire and then it was all a bit of a blur as we were running after Archy and Ann and some of the other Townbeeists towards a lot of policemen. Everyone was shouting, W as loud as any of them, but then Ann and Archy started picking up some bricks and other bits that were lying around and throwing them at the policemen and then one policeman’s head was all bashed and bloody, and without his helmet he was a just young chap not a policeman; and suddenly after that I could see W wasn’t shouting any more, just standing still looking a bit stunned. Perhaps she was thinking about Steve, one of her very first sort-of-boyfs from her village. He became a policeman and W didn’t want to see him after that.
And then the strange man in the dinner jacket and the horrible white big nosed mask was there, all grinning, and somehow he gave Archy a long stick, and Archy said ‘Come on, let’s go poke some fascist toffs in the ribs’. But if you ask me it’s Archy that’s a bit of a toff and W and I didn’t follow him that time.
Instead I gave W a hug and we walked away from it all and the crowds and the shouting until we found a Tube station and this time she let me lead the way on the Tube back to Engelbert Mansions. One of Archy’s flatmates who wasn’t on the protest let us in and made us a nice cup of tea.
W is asleep on the sofa right now, dear Diary, and I’m on the floor. Archy and Ann still aren’t back yet but I don’t think W will want to go in with Archy tonight. I wouldn’t be surprised if we head off back to Ludlow before they all wake up and perhaps we might not see them again. I’m not sure politics is really for W and me though of course we will still support the students and share their Ideals.
But I can’t say I’m sorry I came. It’s been an experience and I think it’s brought W and me closer together. Maybe we know who we are a bit better now. Well goodnight, dear Diary. Am so sleepy; it’s been such a short day and yet such a long one.
At the precise moment that art students Willo Foxglove and Josie Pringle are boarding the 09:15 National Express coach from London Victoria to Ludlow, notorious hack Rod Lidl is squinting at his phone at the bottom of a well in the shadow of Titterstone Clee, willing T-Mobile to provide him with a signal.
“It’s no good,” he sighs.
“Thanks for bringing the sandwiches,” says Grayson. Now that the initial rage and vileness is out the way, they are getting on better than might be expected. “I’ve been living on one square of Kendal Mint Cake a day for what seems like an eternity.”
“You seem in reasonable spirits for a man who’s been stuck in a well for weeks. What’s kept you going?” says Lidl, slipping into his interview mode.
“Poetry. I think I’ve composed the most perfect post-war poem in the English language.”
“Let’s hear it then.”
“I can’t tell it to you. Not yet.”
“Anyway, tell me. What’s going on in the outside world, Rod? What’s the news from the last month? I’ve never been bothered about the trivia of so-called ‘current affairs’ but even for an elusive poet like me this isolation has been ridiculous.”
Lidl ponders. “Um, rumour is that Shane Warne is banging Liz Hurley.”
“Piss off,” says Grayson.