The Heart Of England, painted white, its entrance crowned by the Flag of St George, is what you would expect from the Northern Headquarters of England's Protectors, the self styled defenders of national culture and heritage, in the face of, according to their website, an insidious black poison eating at the heart of a vulnerable nation. The men in black at the door, wearing sunglasses and black leather gloves, only served to enhance the impression that this was not a threshold to be crossed easily. But Ron Chaney, darling of the far right and one of the few right-wing activists to have embraced modern social media, felt as much at home there as behind the keyboard of his PC. He was there to answer a summons from party leader Rick Tiffin, long time friend and political idol. He exchanged nods with the over-stern doormen and then, as he entered, faltered for a moment, disorientated by the change in appearance from pub warmth to the formal coolness of what, to all intents and purposes, was a court room: a table draped with the loyal flag, one chair in front of it and Rick Tiffin sat behind, ready to judge, flanked by sentinels wearing the party uniform of black leather bomber jacket and matching gloves. “Sit down Ron, thanks for coming, we need to talk”,
ordered Rick, not unfriendly, but not with the usual warmth for his old school friend and most loyal follower.
“What’s up Rick?”, he replied, anxious but not frightened, despite the grim guards at Rick's shoulders. Ron knew the appearance of menace was part of the image, part of the brand that backed up their policies with a healthy dose of fear.
“It’s this 'logging' stuff.....what?....oh, right, Blogging then. It seems very popular. You've done a good job making some of our policies seem quite reasonable, common sense almost.
" It’s this other one I don’t follow, this Twitter thing…"
"It's not me..." Ron interrupted. Now he understood. For months he'd been dogged by apparently malicious tweets by an anonymous Tweeter using his name. The offender seemed intent on undermining his reputation. Ron continued,
"Someone is obviously impersonating me to get to us, and I must say it looks like it's working, looking at all this fuss."
“Yes I was told that’s what you would say, but it does sound like you Ron, I mean, we go back a long way, and well…”
“It’s not me, what can I say?” The juke box suddenly burst into life with a deep reggae beat, the previously taciturn minders stifled giggles as a Caribbean voice burst into song.
“Get that off, for God’s sake” snapped Ron, “It’s not funny…”
Rick nodded to the man on his right and the music stopped abruptly.
“Quite right, don’t want any of that Caribbean nonsense, that’s the sort of thing that's confusing so many of the youth…”
Exasperated Ron, continued,
“No Rick, they’re taking the piss, it’s the song”
“It’s the title…’It Wasn’t Me, by Shaggy”
“Oh, I see, let’s get on shall we, now about this Twitt thing…”
“Twitter and it’s not me, right? Some bastard is out to ruin my reputation, and I mean to say, some of those gay tweets are creating a really bad impression...." "...for God's sake keep your voice down..." Spat Rick suddenly, "....what? It's not on, here's me trying to do the right thing - no Gays etc.. And some half assed comunist bastard dressed up as an electronic me puts out Tweets like
'Off to Studz for a lad's night' or 'Reading latest edition of ManLove - it’s hot!’ Rick leant forward urgently, grabbed Ron by the lapels and yanked him roughly across the table, meeting him face to face, he hissed in Ron's ear,
“No, keep your mouth shut. Some of these men have been in prison…”
“You don’t mean…”
“You know exactly what I mean. Male companionship: we were at school together, you remember, the rough and tumble. Why do you think we didn’t come out against that cowboy film,' Breakbeat Mountain', or whatever it was?..
“Come out?...surely not…”
“No, not like that, we still don't like any of that queer stuff. I just mean that it’s part of the whole thing: Men. Together. Do I need to spell it out? We're not animals”
“No, ok, why am I here then?” Rick sat up in his seat and addressed the whole room,
“What is our rule about membership, gentlemen?”
A chorus of deep voices responded
“White, English and Proud!”
“And?... don’t forget subsection 2.3”
There was some mumbling as men more used to talking with their fists stumbled clumsily with the additional words.
“Err….and any of the other Celtic or Anglo-Saxon true-blooded thingies…”
Rick beamed with pride
“That’s right, and that’s what we want to talk to you about Ron. The thing is, when this started we had to investigate, you understand, so we’ve had some of the lads do a bit of digging…literally.” Ron shifted uneasily, his mind running through the list of unusual activities that could have come to light. Rick held a sheet of paper in each hand for Ron to see, then in a voice like a conjourer about to reveal a rabbit said,
“In my left hand is a list of these, what are they called? Tweets. In my right is a list of the contents of your wheelie bin for the last few weeks?”
“What?!” Ron was aghast “You can’t be serious, you’ve been through my bins? Rick! After all we’ve been through over the years.”
Rick met his gaze,
“Hear me out. Nothing gets in the way of the blood of old England, you know that.”
“But I’m English through and through, you know that”
Rick looked down the list.
“OK, first the Tweets. Last week, here we go:
‘Oh goodie, Margarita time’, then ‘Lovely lunch: Lollo Rosso, Lambs Lettuce and Pesto Salad’
- doesn’t sound very English does it?”
The atmosphere in the room chilled, as the dark clothed men murmoured to each other.
“It - Wasn’t - Me” Ron picked out the words as if speaking to a child
“So you keep saying.” Rick turned to the second list,
“Let me read you some of the things we found in your wheelie bin” he ran his finger down the page and stopped, looking up again,
"Sainsbury’s Continental Salad. Cous Cous. Mango - for Gods sake Ron, they sell them in Packi shops!” Rick was shouting and
Ron looked at the floor, and then spoke.
“But Rick surely you can’t think that, what about everything else, Scots Porridge, Heinz soup ….”
“Heinz? Even that sounds German - could be worse, I suppose.
" I don’t know what to think. All I know is that you say it wasn’t you and in your bin is a lifestyle we don’t recognize…I mean look at this….Dry Sherry…”
“My old aunt came…”
“Crème Fraiche…” he looked up and addressed the room, “Does anyone know what that actually is?..”
The room was silent, except for Ron’s rapid breathing
“But Rick, all this, it doesn’t mean anything…”
Rick stood, towered over him and slammed his fist on the desk
“What it means is that we don’t know who you are anymore!”
Rick looked around the room once more, drawing a deep breath, he spoke calmly,
“What do we stand for...?”
“England Rick…” chorused the reply, but Rick was misty eyed and didn’t expect a response. He gazed out over distant green and pleasant lands, out beyond the inner city estate of the pub, beyond the poor white estates he relied on for followers and out to the public school of his youth where things were reliable and safe.
“We stand for our England. Our culture. A land where a man can earn a crust without risk of job being taken by the first dark skinned foreigner willing to do it cheaply; a land where a man can drink beer, go to a football match, have a fight…”
Rick started to jig from foot to foot, dancing to a rythmn no one else could hear, then he sang quietly almost to himself,
“I get knocked down, and I get up again, ain’t never going to see me down…”
Ron leant forwards, trying to speak to Rick, conspiratorially,
“But Rick, that song, that band….they were taking the piss…they are an anarchist band…Chumbawamba…”
But Rick wasn’t listening, his eyes now fixed and staring,
“…a land where men can be men; a land where women have babies and men have each other…”
He thrust his arms out, pointing left and right as he shouted,
“The Army! The Navy! The Scouts! Men! Our Men! And School! Yes good old school!”
And with that Ron looked up at the face he had known for twenty years or more. The years fell away and he no longer saw the sweat beading on Rick’s brow, nor the line of spittle forming on his lips as he raged. He saw his prefect; he saw the leader of the Oxford Paddington Club, he saw his guide and mentor and realised he had let him down. Ron crumpled and sobbed into his hands
“Oh Rick, I’m sorry. I’ve let you down so badly. I did eat the salad and drink the sherry. I’m so sorry, I like cocktails. Wahhhahhhahhh. " I DID THE TWEETS… "Wahahahah…” Relieved of his burden Ron suddenly felt very alone and very small. What he really wanted was his nanny: what he wanted was a hug. He didn’t notice that Rick had stopped talking and had joined him on his side of the table; but he did feel his strong arm around his shoulders and smelt the leather of his black jacket. The inconsistencies, the contradictions, even the nonsensical rules and policies all fell away. None of it mattered, this was where he belonged. The men around the room were rough and uneducated but each shared that common bond - not England or country, but belonging. These hard men were all different but it wasn't the differences that bound them together, it was the things they shared, the common bond, the working together. As tissues were passed around the room and eyes were dabbed, Rick spoke again, more quietly at first.
“Come on men, I think we’ve seen enough. We know what we should do, don’t we? We are going to be together. We are going out for a proper English Mens Night!” He started a chant and was joined in mass masculine chorus
“What do we want?”
When do we want it?”
“What do we want?”
“A great big scrap!”
When do want it now?”
“What do we want?”
“When do we want it?”
As the men marched arm in arm in a line from the pub towards the city, they joined in song, as women, children and weaker men crossed the road out of their path ahead,
“Vindaloo, Vindaloo, we all love Vindaloo…”
An asian shopkeeper anxiously pulled down the shutters as the group marched happily on, a from within the group a voice called,
"Bollocks, the shop's shutting early, I wanted some fags..."
"P'raps it's one of them religious festivals, never mind we'll rob that kid's fags at the bus stop..."
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