Palmerston of the F.O.

larry-and-palmerston“Aunty Stella and her gang of cats are going down to raise a Revolutionary Insurrectionary Territorial Militia for the defence of the Jurassic Coast. We can’t leave the mainland undefended; this Jersey thing might just be a diversion. The Hampshire Light Horse are mobilising and I’ve had an e-mail to say the Snake Pass Zapatistas are moving west to secure the Manchester Ship Canal.” Barrymore was sitting in mock formality before Larry’s ginormous desk whilst he idly picked tuna from between his teeth. “The Limehouse Irregulars and Brick Lane Zapatistas have assumed responsibility for the docks so we should be OK at home. The rest is down to Bozzy’s counter invasion fleet. Oh, yes… There is however an uncorroborated report that the US Navy Sixth Fleet has been observed leaving the Mediterranean.”

“That can’t be good.”

Larry’s phone rang.

“Switchboard here. I have a call from Humphrey.” Humphrey had been the incumbent mouser at Number 10 some time prior to Larry’s arrival. Following his sudden disappearance and rumours of assassination he was found to have retired to a recently modernised, twelve bedroom, thatched cottage in Chipping Norton.

“Put him through.”

“Larry? It’s Humph here. Look, I was down the Chequers the other night, having a few bevvies and a fish supper, catching up with some old mates from Downing Street. All the talk was about Palmerston of the FO. I thought you should know he’s concocting some sort of leadership challenge.”

Barrymore had been listening in.

“I’ll send the PC next door to collect Palmerston.” The policeman, whose arduous duty was to stand outside the door of No10 looking stern, had been retained by Larry, though the post was, in this age of liberty, predominantly ceremonial.

“Bugger! As if I don’t have enough on my plate. Well, thanks Humphrey. I’ll have to pop over to your local some time. If this job gets any more stressful I’ll be considering retirement myself.” Larry had no sooner rung off than…

“Evenin’ all. ‘Ere ‘e is, sir.” P.C.69 had coughed politely before speaking.

Palmerston, as ever, wore his Colonial Officers’ tropical uniform, complete with Marlborough helmet and Generals’ swan’s feather plumes. The hat was askew and the overall effect tempered by the fact that the tuxedo cat was dangling by his scruffed neck from the copper’s densely muscled hand.

“A leadership challenge? Now? Really?” Larry asked. Palmerston continued to dangle.

“This Jersey affair should be handled by the Foreign Office. You are exceeding your authority. We have…” Palmerstone began, only to be cut short by Larry.

“I can’t exceed my authority, I have no authority. Neither do you. Let me explain. Outside, now!”

When Larry returned to his office he was carrying his union jack bow tie, the elastic had snapped, dusting the street grime from his second best suit and pulling a paw through his ruffled fur.

“He’ll be back. But it’ll be a while before he can blow his nose without it smarting.”

Barrymore experienced a Machiavellian moment.

“Why don’t you make him Governor General of Jersey? We could parachute him in. All the indications are that we are going to fail big-time out there. Let him cop the blame.”

“I know it makes sense. But I’m a cat and we’re all notoriously possessive. This is my disaster. It has my urine all over it and no jumped up Battersea foundling in a daft hat is going to take it from me. He’s going to have to find his own colonial war.”

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