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  • David Mathews

Ultimum Fossa


Thank heavens for Sidney. If ever there was man with his feet on the ground, it’s Sid. I mention it because he was round yesterday with a suggestion.

‘What d’you think, Dave?’ he said, showing me a leafy photo.

I was at a bit of a loss. Sidney’s snapshot is not going to win any technical awards, and hard though I looked, I could not detect any flora or fauna rare enough to make it interesting.

Umming and ahhing for a moment, I took a neutral line, and asked Sid to talk me through it.

‘It’s a ditch – or, to be exact, the way into a ditch.’

Yes, and …

Sidney reminded me that Boris Johnson has avowed his possible need of a ditch this October. He would sooner be there – die there, indeed – than apply for an extension of Article 50, a matter looming large in his pending tray.

Mr Johnson’s peril has been much on Sidney’s mind. He feels that just as our politicians have a responsibility to us, we have a duty of care towards them, much as one might provide decent accommodation and a safe working environment for one’s butler or under-gardener. Sid’s opinion is that the country would be careless – and callous – if it were to permit Mr J to expire in some muddy depression. Why inflict further distress on his resigned family?

I was impressed by Sid’s big-heartedness, but before I could tell him so, he had a practical proposal, the point of his visit. As a get-out, he thought, his ditch did have potential in a less punishing fashion than the PM had envisaged.

‘In this ditch, he could just keep low for a while, couldn’t he, Dave, and let some other poor bugger go along with the Benn law. What d’you think?’

We worked on the details. A year in the ditch would suffice, after which the Daily Telegraph could commission him to write a column about life in ditches – ditch-water, weasels, water voles, badgers, that kind of thing. The market would follow. Ditches would become must-have real estate and a useful vehicle for money-laundering by the beneficiaries of Russian and Chinese state largesse.

Sidney considers that the ditch he has found could be made tolerable – dry-ish, sufficiently private for lady visitors and so on, with room for a typewriter and a ream or two of paper. Crucially, even though Sid and I know where it is, if Mr J did not harrumph too much, he would have a good chance of remaining undiscovered.

The entrance is nondescript, and thick vegetation provides excellent cover as well as a buffer against the wind. Schoolchildren pass along the nearby path, morning and evening, and the route is popular with cyclists, but only dogs pay the ditch any significant attention. They would be company from time to time.

Sidney and I stand ready to facilitate Mr Johnson’s transfer to his hideaway. We suggest the last train out of Paddington one night. Most of the passengers are too far gone to distinguish a politician from a pole dancer. Once in Bath, we have a secure back-route that avoids cameras, and we could have our man snug in his hidey-hole and relieved of his burdens in under 25 minutes.

Victuals should not be an issue. We propose a crowdfunding campaign, for surely this is a cause that will attract sufficient cash for a weekly shop at Lidl. Are you with us?


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