Thursday, 16 September 2010

A Tale of Two Cities

We sat around the campfire listening intently as the old man regaled us with events of almost 20 years on this strange little island that was now, irrevocably split in two. Although set in the Carribean ocean somewhere between Haiti and the Bahamas it wasn’t a volcanic eruption nor a hurricane that had split the island in two. It was politics. We looked at him intrigued for how on earth could politics cause a watery divide to appear between the now two halves of a beautiful, almost tropical paradise? It seemed impossible that anything could blight the wonderful island of Heaven.
‘This island is still ruled by English law, as it had been since the 1700’s’, he started as we all craned forward to hear every word, ‘and it still is; both halves of it’ he smiled ruefully.
‘Back near the turn of the century there were terrible times back in Britain when the “Nannies” took over in power. Everybody thought that they would be the best thing since ‘sliced bread’ with their promises of ‘gold, frankincense & myrrh’ for those who wanted to work. The ousted government were shocked at their demise at the hands of the people, after all the “Steadies” had kept the country solvent, unemployment at a moderate rate and crime had actually diminished to an acceptable level; well that is if there is such a thing!
In came the “Nannies”, trumpets blaring, promises galore, the euphoria seemed never ending but things soon started to change and people became increasingly restless for what the people did not know, and the “Nannies!” had failed to inform them of, was that they were now backed by the all powerful medical industries-‘Pharma’-whose seemingly endless source of money virtually carried them into power at the last election. Sure the “Nannies” spent money like wildfire, created jobs for white collar workers and everything seemed on the up, but dark clouds were gathering as the sceptics looked on in dismay. What the rank and file did not know, for the media was capped as never before, was that hundreds of new laws were being sneaked through – all of them costing the people money in fines for the most innocuous of reasons!
Pharma meanwhile, were implementing their strategy as backers of the “Nannies”, through the “Nannies”. A smoking ban was brought in to supposedly protect the workers but it had far reaching effects that the “Nannies” had not even dreamt of No sooner had the smoking ban been implemented than Pharma started the same manipulative strategy on alcohol and drinking, with rumblings that the overweight would be next on their list. You see my friends (the old man paused to sip his beer) Pharma knew that if they could get their ‘quit smoking’ products into the market place they would earn £billions from sales to the ignorant and unknowing. They also knew that in promoting ‘quit smoking’, the government would also spend £billions as a thank you for getting them into power-perfect Win Win situation. The government even set up groups (quangos) to create the pretence that people were voting for all these restrictions, after all, public consultations were a name only. Government, especially the “Nannies” had their own way of producing the results they wanted from the ‘public’-except they no longer needed to ask the public!
Well naturally this smoking law was brought over to Heaven, which is rather bizarre as we grow tobacco plants here and export the leaves as soon as they are ready to go. Apart from tourism the tobacco growing industry here is the mainstay of our economy. How on earth could you have a smoking ban on a tobacco producing island? Of course the English government sent agents over here, armed with ‘no smoking’ signs that had to be displayed virtually everywhere anyone worked except in the fields! Even the ‘thunder-boxes’ at the top of each field had no smoking signs all over them. (The assembled all smiled with the old man at the very thought.)
It didn’t take long before open dissent began, Heaven wasn’t built on hard and fast rules such as this. Bar owners complained about losing custom as soon as the cooler nights came in and the casino was almost devoid of custom from the day the signs went up! Big Alf was not a happy bunny, his business had been killed off in one fell swoop but he was not a man to be deterred by some law imposed thousands of miles away. He went to the island king, Guy.Rumpole Hatsoffu, for advice. Worse still, with the island being 80% smokers the islanders no longer went to the bars at night-time so smoked more at home whilst drinking the local cheapo beer. This in turn begat other problems as family nights included the children partaking of the cheapo beers at an age when far too young to be interested in alcohol! The kids, not to be outdone by their elders also took to sampling the local tobacco produce! Even 8 year olds were trying their hand at rolling up cigarettes on the sly and many competitions were held away from the prying eyes of ever cautious parents. The local doctor was considerably concerned at this drastic downturn in the islands normally healthy standards, he had never treated so many youngsters that had suddenly developed the ability to fall foul of any virus or bug going. He was perplexed. He finally decided that he must consult with the king, although young, G.Rumpole was the man to talk to.
Rumpole was a wise old bird (for one so young). Educated in an English public school he returned to Heaven shortly after finishing so as to sit at his father’s side to learn that to which he was born to learn-to rule his people. His father, Obe Bailey Hatsoffu, was a tolerant man, a wise man who mainly kept his own counsel until providing judgement on island disputes. The one thing he had from all his subjects was complete respect, something he was adamant that his son should earn. Hence he sent Guy.Rumpole out to the tobacco plantations to learn how the people worked, lived, breathed; in other words a crash course in leadership! Obe died two years after his son’s return leaving and island in mourning and a new king of a mere 23 yrs of age.
Guy Rumpole listened intently as Big Alf laid out his plan to thwart the evil smoking ban that threatened the equanimity of the island.
Unbeknown to the casino owner the king had also entertained the island doctor some 24 hours previously and already he had a disturbing feeling the two visits may well be linked.
The island was longer than it was wide with tobacco plantations to the north and south and narrowed inwardly approximately 4/5ths of the way down-similar to a misshapen egg timer. Where it narrowed was also the lowest point of the island, which actually made Big Alf’s plan very simple to execute. G.Rumpole retired to deliberate the proposed plan of action. True, he was now king, supreme ruler of his people, but more importantly he was his people’s protector.
Work began exactly one week after the visits of Alf and the doctor. Guy Rumpole Hatsoffu had deliberated long and hard before coming to a decision. He had checked up on all the old island laws before confirming his decision to himself. He was very fortunate indeed that his father had seen fit to send him to England to forward his education for he had learned much about the way governments worked and the twists and turns used to get what they wanted. Indeed, he was the only man on the island with internet access which kept him up to speed with developments in England. More importantly he was able to keep up to speed with the detractors of the “Nannies” new regime.
He had tons of sand and cement flown into the islands airport plus numerous other necessary materials. The islands one mechanical digger was fully serviced and set to work along with half the tobacco planters from both plantations. He had already sent out a ‘royal command survey’ asking each household if they would rather live in a smoke free/alcohol free environment or remain as the island had been for centuries. As expected approximately 17.5% opted for the life of celibacy. They worked on the south side of the island. Those from the south that wished to continue as they had for time took their families to the northern side, houses were swapped, belongings exchanged and the work continued.
At the end of 3 months sweat and toil the work was almost completed. A concrete dam had been built on each side of the island with a giant trench sitting between. The agents, due to return to England soon had already been moved to the southern tip of the island so that they could complete their work of ensuring that smoke free laws were being observed. They were delighted to find that there was 100% compliance. They never noticed that no drinking went on either! Wondrous reports flowed back to England where the “Nannies” used every media outlet possible to exalt and promote the tremendous work and results achieved by the diligent Environmental Health Officers sent half way round the world.
The great day came. Crowds assembled either side of the great divide. The ‘agents’, safely ensconced 0n the northern shore of the now southern island watched with incredulity as the first dam was opened and millions of gallons of sea water charged along the new channel to smash into the dam on the other side of the island. It was designed, very cleverly, to crumble under the immense pressure thus water poured in from that side too. In a matter of seconds there was a deep channel some 50 feet wide between the two islands with no means of getting across on foot. A couple of muffled explosions saw the other dam slide into the raging waters. There was now a complete separation.
King Guy Rumpole Hatsoffu smiled contently as he saw his tiny nations flag raised on the southern island and then gave the signal for his own newly designed flag to be unfurled and hoisted aloft-without any sign of the Union Jack-but there were two half moons instead of one emblazoned upon it! He turned to his people and announced his welcome to the new island of “Second Heaven” where the people had chosen the path they wanted to follow. New government was already in place and messages had been sent to the British Prime Minister, Mr A.B.Liar that “Heaven” had survived tidal waters but that a new nation had emerged from the storm, totally independent from British rule that had been named “Second Heaven” in honour of the British Empire. It was added that if Mr Liar wished to reclaim his agents from “Heaven” it would be advisable to do so by boat as the airport was now resident in “Second Heaven”.
Within weeks Second Heaven returned to its former equable (Heaven) self as bars flourished, Big Alf’s casino saw a plethora of customers and the doctor mysteriously lost patients as quickly as he had accrued them. The new nation prospered as tourism flourished once more. There were boat trips once a day to Heaven to let people sample the almost monastic life led by the people left there. Industry had virtually died as the tobacco plantation had been mysteriously burned out-the day before the English ‘agents’ had been picked up by the Royal Navy. Fishing in the clear Carribean waters was the mainstay of the ‘Heaveners’ and their lifestyle was simple and impoverished. There was a general air of gloom about the place; no longer a place deserving the grandiose title of Heaven.
King G.Rumpole had survived his first test to be true to his people and he was justifiably pleased with himself. The cost? Enormous, but he knew that tourism alone would repay all that had been spent gaining freedom. He chortled as he switched his internet connection off that night. ‘Who needs “Nannies”’, he chuckled to himself, ‘stick the Nannies and their nanny state where the sun don’t shine! Second Heaven needs none of it’.

No comments:

Post a Comment