The Siege of Somerstown: Being a Portion of the Records of a General of the Fifth Hants Involuntary Air Rifles Concerning an Infantry Sortie on Behalf of the Crown and Portsmouth City Council’s Department of Colonial Warfare.
Having lost his master spy to assassination by scratch card, General Sir Eugene Nicks must lead the charge against the uppity indigenes of the savage and mysterious casbah known in the local lingo as Somerstown.
A little after dawn, as I was tracking mobility scooter movements on Playfair Road with my field glasses, some nervous nancy behind me cracked one off – a .22 bullet that is – from his Lee-Castle-Field mark III rifle.
‘In Peter Griffiths’ name hold your fire!’ I shouted over my shoulder.
‘Sorry sir,’ came the cretinous whine of a phrenologically subnormal Stamshawian.
‘Ah Private Kipling, I should have guessed,’ I said, wiping the sweat off the field glasses. ‘You think playing silly buggers like that will get a subaltern like you promoted to the rank of Subadar-Major, eh?’
‘No, sir. It’s just that I thought I saw one of ’em heathens with a blowpipe in that derelict chip shop to the north-north-east.’
‘Don’t be absurd, Kipling. That chip shop was flattened last week by a creeping barrage of our 4.7-inch Mordaunt-Drummond guns. You seeing things, man? Come down with the swamp ague again?’
‘Must be, sir. I’ll get Surgeon Conrad to give me one of his tonic water lobotomies.’
I turned to face Kipling and the others, and was instantly reminded what a wretched rabble they were. Egad! All of them lined up like that made one think of a domino rally, supposing one could dress dominoes up in Khaki drill and bandoliers, which one probably can’t. Soon, I feared, these Jonesmen – to use the colloquial phrase – would be collapsing as swiftly as dominoes.
The primary defect with the Jonesmen is that they’re about as battle-ready as a hamper full of butterflies… who have just signed up to the Quakers. More to the point, they’re irregular – and not just on account of having scoffed some dodgy bully beef at mess last night. These young Turks – and many of them are from Gosport – are barely out of short trousers when they stroll into the Terence Clarke Memorial JobCentre Plus Poorhouse and suddenly find themselves press-ganged into making the world safe for Donnaocracy. Indeed, the Civic-Colonial Governess herself is known to don a disguise and snoop around that very Poorhouse dropping shillings with her face on them into cans of Relentless energy elixir.
Now, you won’t find a fellow more devoted to star, crescent, crown and council than me, but I must confess that, at that moment, seditious thoughts crossed my mind. Under my breath, I cursed the name of our Civic-Colonial Governess for saddling me with the responsibility for these frail and effeminate dotards. I doubted whether the bow ties over at GHQ (Guildhall Quarters) had thought this whole show through. Of course, I appreciated the need to bring Somerstown under our suzerainty – I just didn’t think it worth risking these Jonesmen’s googlies – supposing they owned any – just so’s the Northendia Company could swoop in and build a new stockade, music hall, daguerreotype viewing marquee and yet another sodding Wetherspoon’s.
Unlike our other colonial possessions, Somerstown has little in the way of natural wealth, unless one counts the streets paved with flattened chewing gum. Further to this, its barbarian menfolk have been so weakened by the indecorous vice of online gambling – not to say the profane, ritualistic wearing of baseball caps – that they’re hardly worth enslaving.
As I grew more melancholy, I began to feel that any other corner of our empire would be a dossy wheeze compared to the thankless drudgery right here and now. I’d rather be doing missionary work in Baffins, policing the caravanserais of the Trans-Portsea Silk Cut Route or enforcing the crawling order in the Highland Road Kush. I’d even prefer to be negotiating the partition of Milton Common, and there’s a fiendish old business liable to turn tribe against tribe for generations to come!
I was snapped out of my maudlin trance by a thunderous sound overhead. GHQ had assured us of aerial support from Wing Commander Bastable and those magnificent men of the Royal Craneswater Blimp and Dirigible Corps – and here they were! A minute later we could hear the dreadnoughts in the harbour commence shelling the south face of St James’ Road Co-op.
‘Fix bayonets!’ I roared to the men. ‘And Kipling?’
‘When I shout ‘charge’ I expect you to jolly well charge, not keel over and wait for me to slap you out of shell-shock like the last time. Understood?’
‘Understood, General Nicks, sir.’
‘All right then, men. Chaaaaarge!’
Now I’ve never been a piker, a shirker or a poltroon, but something queer came over me that show. Barely had I gone orf over the top and raised the old .38 at some hoodie-clad headhunter dangling by his tail from a smashed-up bus stop, than everything had gone fuzzy round the edges of my eyes and…
…I had fallen into the black hole of unconsciousness.