I started writing ‘Covid Capers’ to bring a bit of amusement to people (mainly myself) while Boris and Co proved what a world-beating country we are under his careful husbandry. Then it occurred to me pdq that husbandry was probably not a very apt word to bandy about in regard to Britain’s most famous marital disaster. He’s about to have another go soon if he’s to be believed. (Answers on a postcard, please.} Pity poor old Dildo, eh? It’s a dog’s life.
Anyway, the first Caper was a spoof of the life of Shakespeare that’s been sculling around inside my skull for years, on and off, It sees him as a junior hack on a paper let’s call Ye Globe, who has run off from Stratford to Fleet Street (an open sewer at the time, unlike now you understand) to get away from a local Stratford gel called Anne Hathaway. A rather pushy piece of business who has already had his ring upon her finger, so to speak.
I used to be a junior reporter myself, although none of the local lovelies would sink so low to even give me the time of day, so I felt Will Shagsper’s pain. (He was no great speller, young Will; perhaps it was a Midlands thing. He became Shakespeare later as the result of an early Elizabethan racist joke of the kind much loved by reporters, then as now). The way he fell into covering the love-contest dreamed up by King Lear was similar to the way I got my early stories.
Shakespeare, as well as being no speller, was also pretty shaky on anachronism. Although I’m the proud owner of a degree in drama from Manchester University I can’t remember the many and varied examples in his works, but suffice to say I had no hesitation in dreaming up some of my own. As a junior reporter, for example, he needed transport. I had only buses to get me around Portsea Island, and a lot of trouble getting back my expenses from the news editor, who disapproved of juniors who felt the need to eat and drink.
Will Shakespeare was luckier. He got a Norton Dominator, top of the range, and unlimited virtual gasoline. He also had the use of public telephones, all over the south of England. Otherwise, I can’t imagine how he would have interviewed all those famous and infamous men. Women too. Juliet, Desdemona, and of course dear Cordelia.
But after Covid Caper number one – Shakespeare, the Truth – things got a little darker in this country. ‘World beating,’ to the Prime Minister, obviously meant doubling up on everything, good or bad. How we English smirked as the others raced ahead of us. Under the tutelage of Boris and his murky little helper, we shot up the international league. Great Britain? Yes, yes, yes! Nobody is going to touch us!
And sadly, as so often, us British lapped it up. And I fell to wondering if Eton School might have had a hand in it. Read it up on Wikipedia and prepare to weep. It’s produced more prime ministers, and more world-beating weirdos, than all the other public schools put together. And all of them at a yearly entrance price that a family of five could live on very comfortably, year on year on year. Great, great men. David Cameron, who had a way with pigs, Nigel Farridge, who had a way with truth, Boris Johnson himself, who was President of Pop (look it up). And the Bullingdon Club.
It seems to me, although Lockdown may have made me jaded, that Britain (or let’s say England – one doesn’t want to be rude to our more stable neighbours) has pretty rapidly become the most corrupt democracy in the western world. I’ve sailed to the Isle of Man many times, but I sure as hell don’t qualify to live there. British Virgin Islands? I’m not a virgin, and probably never have been.
Britain stinks in the eyes of many, and it stinks of money. They say Putin’s going to buy it to retire to. He’d surely fit in well. Might even make a good prime minister.
So Eton, then. Where it all began. Where, in my fevered imagination, Horus de Peperpott Paste-Shippam (or something) met Gregor Goinn (not Coming, that might be libellous) and set out on a journey of corruption that the toffs of Eton might even recognise; and surely approve of…)
My friend Jean Hobson, an artist, volunteered to do a cover for me, and my son Matti pitched in with all the techie stuff. If I go to prison, they can come with me, for the company.
A fair few people have read it, and some think it really hits the spot. Others, like Matti’s mum for instance, think it’s too raw and vile to even want to finish it.
I’m not so sure. It was written in anger, and a sort of shame at being British at this moment in our island history. I really think that democracy is living on the edge, and not just here. Look around you, as the TV show used to say. Look at Trump, and Erdogan, and Putin, look at Poland, look at Israel. Need I go on?
Covid Capers was a nice idea, and I’m not planning to stop. Bill Shagsper’s off the Scotland as soon as I’ve got my quill pen sharpened up, and there’s more fun to be had, both sweet and bitter. They’re all pitched at the bottom end of Kindle pricing, and will appear in paperback as well.
One critic compared me with Swift, which was very nice of him. My favourite Swift novella is The Wonderful Wonder of Wonders, in which an arsehole comes to London town.
One thought on “An Eton Mess”
Hey Jan! I’m trying to get in touch via an old email address I have for you from back in 2012, but it bounced back. I emailed you to let you know that Wagstaffe was the book that turned me into a reader, and eventually led to me becoming a children’s author, and you were kind enough to write back.
Could you drop me a line when you get a chance? I have a possible opportunity to discuss…