Just had a call from my mate Sidney. Sid is a diamond, not easily rattled. He’s not what you’d call a choirboy – wide as the Sargasso Sea, on golfing terms with several chief constables, and has a troupe of what he calls ‘boys and girls’ to whom he can turn in times of trouble. But there was a quaver in Sid’s voice tonight that I’d not heard before. ‘What’s going on, Dave?’ he said. ‘I’ve had these weird people at the door.’
I reminded him it was Halloween.
‘Yes, yes,’ he said, ‘I know that. Had theses nurses round in Jeremy Hunt masks trying to shake me down for the price of a new MRI scanner. And then along comes three Recep Tayyip Erdogans, so they said. If I paid them, they’d set fire to a journalist for me. I said shouldn’t that be for Bonfire Night? But they’re only Asil’s boys from the kebab house, and they don’t understand traditions or politics.’
I sucked my teeth.
‘Second thoughts, Dave, maybe they do.’
Sid seems to have been visited next by a shambling man with a mop on his head. ‘Said he was on his way to learn bricklaying, like Winston Churchill, and could I stand him the price of a trowel.’
‘Last of the almost normals is a geezer in a check suit with a porkpie hat. Wasn’t sure if he was meant to be the ventriloquist or the dummy. Then I get him bang to rights. You’re David Davis, I tell him, and he goes off looking like I’d popped his balloon, like in Brussels, you know, crestfallen.’
But it was the others who came later who spooked him, Sid told me.
‘I was just settling down to a nice glass of Barolo, when along comes this cove with fangs, frothing blood at the mouth and swearing like a chef. Who was he supposed to be? “I’m not supposed to be anyone,” he says, “I am Paul Dacre.”’
Had Sid got any foreign blood? Now Sid had a French granny who was a dancer, and he is proud of her, and told Dacre so.
‘So Dacre only goes and scratches a cross on my front door, and buggers off in his Bentley or some such.’
‘Next thing is there’s these six geezers out the front carrying a coffin. They say nothing. I clock five of them right off. There’s Farage and Redwood – you know, him that got warmed up from the freezer – and that Rees-Mogg creature with a witch’s broom up his arse. Then there’s two wrapped in cloaks with stilettos, the knife sort, not the shoes. But I could make out their faces: Bannon and Assange. I know them off the news. The last one I’d never seen before, but he was in charge, no question. Farage says, all fawning like, “This is Mr Robert Mercer,” and I swear the temperature dropped 10 degrees, just like that. Not a man with a reflection in a mirror.’
Had Sid seen inside the coffin?
‘Britannia,’ he said. ‘Couldn’t mistake her: helmet, shield, toasting fork, big frock.’
I had thought it might have been Mrs May. Sid told me I was being previous.
‘She comes floating down the road after them, Theresa, looking like your proper grey lady, wringing her hands and wailing, “Line by line, line by line.” And the scariest thing, Dave? It was the way the coffin bearers laughed. It went through me, that laugh. Chilling.’