The marchers smashed their way through the redoubt, scattered the carnival-clad defenders and pressed on along Cable Street. If that bunch of buffoons was typical of what they were up against, today was going to be a doddle. But a few hundred yards down the road, after swatting aside several small groups of desperate surrealists throwing bread rolls from doorways and bedroom windows, the front ranks of the Nationalist column were staring into the gaping mouth of Hell. Ahead smoke curled and flames crackled. The dark mass of the barricade loomed above them. Shadowy wraith-like figures scurried across the crimson haze. A roar of defiance from the defenders filled the air and curdled the blood. A crazed harridan, bare arms stretched skywards in supplication, screeching like a harpy, wrapped in a Spanish Republican flag, topped the barrier and glared down at them with a look that could drain resolve and open bowels.
Stationed somewhat less prominently, Boz was also on the barricade, waiting for the exact moment to signal to Phoebles and the Kronstadt artillery. He was proudly wearing his best telnyashka under a flamboyantly multicoloured bum-freezer jacket and his little navy blue Kronstadt sailor hat was perched on his head. He felt that he looked pretty awesome.
A lone bugle signalled ‘Turn Out’ and Boz waved a black and white chequered flag. Down below, an infamously outspoken motoring correspondent strutted at the head of the advancing column, wearing a union jack Stetson and waving a large flag of St George. When the first salvo of bombs hit he was floored by a wobbly, water-filled condom and stepped on by a Royal Marine Trombonist. A wavy, jiggling line of helmeted riot police rushed forward, making chuff-chuff train noises, and formed a defensive barrier between the fallen and the looming presence of the barricade, they banged their shields in time to each other and shouted a deep throated, tuneful ‘Whoa-whoooooooo, whooooooooa-ha!
There was a short, aching hiatus that seemed to last forever and strained at its seams with expectation – then pandemonium erupted. There was yelling and screaming and clattering and clashing. Everyone opened up with every weapon they had, at anything they could see. Firing short accurate bursts with the X Ranger 1075 from the Town Hall roof Ginsbergbear was having a telling effect on the Nationalists, but down below in the thick of the mêlée water was flying everywhere, there was the steady pop, pop, pop of Burp® guns and flour and water were combining into a dreadful paste. The riot police shield wall parted briefly as the Old Harrovian Forlorn Hope led by the moustachioed Mad Jack Belvoir (Bart) of the 3rd (King’s Own) Hussars, in full dress uniform and expertly wielding the finest quality plastic light sabre that Hamley’s could supply, stormed the steepest, tallest face of the barricade. Phoebles aimed a steady stream of ping-pong balls at Mad Jack and succeeded in knocking his Busby from the balding young aristocrat’s head. Zapatista grenadiers rained a devastating shower of water, flour and dough upon the attackers. The assault waivered, halted and was turned; a bedraggled Mad Jack and his decimated band of heroes limping from the battle, drooped like wet washing across the clothes line of defeat, and fell to the rear. Some tear gas had been deployed in the early stages of the conflict, and many of the defenders had donned bandanas across nose and mouth, but the gas had clung to the fog, refusing to spread and lingering close to the ground in intense isolated pockets. Hurling their bombs over the heads of the front line combatants the Kronstadt sailors could have no idea of the havoc they wrought, so at regular intervals Boz gave them a reassuring thumbs up from his vantage point on the defences.
For the moment the Women’s Institute Anarcha-Feminists were manning (a term to which Boz was sure they would object) the field hospitals, but they were armed to the teeth and eager to join the fray on the flimsiest of excuses. The ubiquitous tea urns had been set up on a conveniently located trestle table by two pacifist Quakers and a Jewish transvestite named Manny who had not wanted to endanger her expensively manicured nails in battle. Strong, sweet and vital refreshment was already steaming in stoneware pint mugs ready for a squad of volunteer urchins to distribute amongst the defenders. They also serve who only serve the tea.