Mac said that the poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, had posted a really amusing little poem recently. You may well have seen the ditty in your national newspaper, beginning with the words:
“Because the Badgers are moving the goalposts,
The Ferrets are bending the rules,
The Weasels are taking the hindmost,
The Otters are downing tools”
It continues quite charmingly through another eighteen animals, some twisting the facts, some losing the plot and some passing the blame. Sounds more and more familiar, every time he looks at it. It finishes with the Bustards. Well we all know who they are. Worth googling and reading more than once, although it turns out it’s inspired by this bedroom tax. Mac says he had no idea you could be taxed for having a bit of spare in the bedroom. Seems a little unnecessary as if any of the junior or indeed senior wives found out, taxidermy would be a more appropriate application. By the way, Mrs Carty is still resisting the offer of becoming a junior wife, muttering that it’s exactly the sort of thing an oily git would get up to. She thought he’d be trying to stop her driving next. Mac incidentally had just begun excavating the garden looking for sources of new energy, maybe a fracking well, but has decided to stop digging. Well there’s always a first time.
Apparently the original phrase about badgers and goalposts was conjured up by that Owen Paterson, the Walter Gabriel of the countryside, providing the nation with light comic relief. He seems to know a fair bit about horses, wearing leather and fox hunting, so perhaps he’s on to something with this theory on football pitches. He obviously fills one of those unique traditional roles within his own village. When Mac was playing for the likes of Hartsdown Athletic or Thanet Hotspur at grounds like Garlinge Rec, he had also often wondered whether someone was moving the goalposts, other than the groundsmen of course. See, he’s always been rather short-sighted and most teams encouraged him to play at the back. Not sure why, because at least one of his extended family is buried in the next grave to George Best. There’ll always be a celestial kick-around somewhere in the skies above Belfast and probably a pint or two of Guinness or perhaps Hobgoblin, to be topical. We draw the line at Bishop’s Finger. Peter Millsted, son of Mac’s eccentric Chatham House music teacher Harold, played for many years for Cheam Hockey Club and George would apparently slip in to drink quietly at their bar most weekends. Even when supposedly on the wagon. His in-laws lived just around the corner.
Harold Millsted belonged to the days before recycling and would roll his own with great ceremony, smoking the cigarettes down to the stub and then keeping all of the fag-ends. This he did religiously, keeping them in a small tobacco tin, probably Old Holborn, which was described as having a rich flavour with dark earthy notes. Very appropriate for a music master. Heaven knows what else he kept in his tin. He retired from the school shortly after a pompous new head arrived, who decided to ban the school song. Sadly most of the reprobates who meet quarterly in the Albion or up in town can still sing every damn word. “Here where the feet of Englishmen first trod the English soil, etc etc.”. Those were the days when there were lots of fuzzy-wuzzy’s and they didn’t like it up ’em. Now they would probably be claiming for the whiplash injuries. At the very next assembly, Harold apparently waited at the piano until the new head paused for breath, struck up the opening chords of the old battle hymn and the whole school joined in, marching in strong battalions on the foe, seemingly the new head. Wonderful man, Harold, but he left shortly after.
To get back to the original tale, fullbacks were in those days not encouraged to cross the halfway line, unless needing to go to the toilet or slip off for a crafty puff. Mac always tried to get into the opposing box at least twice every game, but it appears that his finishing was always thought to be one of the reasons why he was a full back. Corner flags were regularly struck and broken. He had always wondered whether it was nothing to do with his shooting at all, but rather that indeed someone up there was moving the goalposts. Now he’s convinced it could have been the badgers. However his friend Andrew, who fancies himself as an ecologist, claims that there are very few badgers in Garlinge or indeed Thanet and it is more likely to have been beavers. Well he should know I suppose. If you look at the rather strange lists of animals and birds in the original Hall by the Sea, it was often a very unusual menagerie, so maybe some of the beavers mated and stayed in the area. It’s legal now anyway. Mac seems to remember the Cinque Ports pub having its fair share of beaver, including the barmaids. Obviously close to the water and six inches below sea level. In hindsight it might well have been an important historical beaver dam.
The Dreamland project is a wonderful and interesting challenge. Do you try to recreate a slightly smaller version of the original amusement park, charming and nostalgic, or do you look to newer forms of entertainment with games and simulation that could extend its usage all year round? A Dreamland can be whatever you want it to be. Mac said he had been flicking through the Dreamland Trust posts. He was glad to see that the team contained people who understood the industry and had been up to Blackpool just recently to talk to the professionals. Mac actually ran a two day creative session there when Geoffrey Thompson was alive and if they spent some time with the delightful David Cam, the Company Secretary, they will at least have come back with a full joke book. The giant Merlin team are probably worth a call as well, as the boys running it came up through Tussauds and were good guys as well. Not all of the folk in the industry are good guys.
Huge opportunity though for local association and sponsorship. Transeuropa will obviously want ownership of any ‘Wipeout’ ride and perhaps the neighbouring anchor tenant, Tesco, would be interested in a ‘Freefall’ attraction, given their current sales performance. The council will want to be involved in any ‘Hall of Mirrors’, where you can elude any scrutiny for days on end, or perhaps an ‘Octopus’ ride. Plenty of spin there too. Not sure though if any of the political parties would want to co-operate in a ‘Tunnel of Love’, but they will all surely want to take their turn on “Muffin the Mule”, which is apparently one of the rides already purchased by the Trust. There’ll be quite a fight as to who gets to wear the ‘Mule’ costume. Suggestions please on a postcard for sponsorship of other rides like ‘The Black Hole’, ‘The Whip’ or an ‘Oblivion’. Mac is also fairly sure there used to be a large pirate ship in Dreamland which swung lengthways. Why not replace that with a large flying Tracey Emin bed? A Vagina Monologue Flume?
Mac says he used to know a fair amount about the visitor attraction business and saw most of the larger concerns at close hand, from the sublime to the ridiculous. Some wonderful people with great passion, but not easy getting it right or keeping the numbers up. There is some talk in the Dreamland archives that they may include a new menagerie in the restored park. That won’t be easy and may provoke some heated discussion. By the way, the original bills for the Hall by the Sea do claim amusingly that there was at least one badger on display in the cages. Mind you, whatever you decide about the involvement of animals, keep the Bustards well away. They just tend to break the bank and the evidence is often as black and white as the badgers. Mac thinks that Owen, ‘me old pal, me old beauty’, might well have shot the wrong species and he’s probably not alone in that view. Still, he’s glad you’ve won your court case. Just don’t let anyone move those goalposts.