Life in the War Zone
Our resident military expert, Simon Hedges, files a special report from the war zone.
I am not afraid. With the breadknife tied on to the end of my cricket bat, I am fully prepared for combat. I have now spent three nights here on the border, braced for a full invasion, and last night they finally came, completely ignoring the “Keep Out Private Property.” signs. They know that they have entered the grounds of Hedges Hall, and they simply do not care.
I creep out from my tree house bunker and scan the scene with night vision binoculars. It’s kids from the village mainly, drinking and smoking on the sofa I left there three years ago. It was an attempt to create a romantic woodland glade where me and my then girlfriend, Persephone Wallets-Ivory, could put on Shakespeare plays and sell hog roast sandwiches for £12. That sofa is now a ruin, covered in mould, piss and cheap cider from the Greatly-Cum-Nutting village shop.
“Get in some nice IPAs and lose the White Lighting,” I tell Brian and Sue, who have been running the shop 7 days a week for 30 years, “it’s really destroying the character of my romantic woodland glade.” But these vultures only ever think about themselves. I bet you anything that Brian and Sue are down there now, living the high life on my land, using all the money I give them for The Times and Bounty Trios. Perhaps next time I’m in their shop I will be a little light fingered, give the scumbags a little taste of what they’ve given me. Bursting in with my cricket bat knife, casually knocking over a few soup cans at first, softening them up a bit. Brian and Sue that is, not the soup cans, which will probably be fine. I’ll raise the bat-knife when I get to the counter.
The look on their faces! “This is a carve up!” I’ll announce. “Don’t try any funny stuff, and don’t be a hero, Sue. Your morning karate lessons mean fuck all when you’re faced with a weapon such as this.” Sue will gently try to correct me at this point, like a meek little worm.
“Sorry, Simon, but it’s actually tai chi, and it’s very relaxing, perhaps you should try it sometime.”
“Shut the fuck up Sue, I don’t care what it’s called. And don’t bother phoning the cops, my dad knows the chief of police.”
“D-d-d-don’t speak to my wife life that Simon!” Brian will mumble.
At this point things will really get ugly. “Brian, if you don’t fill up my bag this instant with Bounty Trios – not the dark chocolate ones- I will slice up your head like a cloud soft batch of tiger loaf. Do I make myself clear?”
“Erm, you don’t have a bag.”
“Just stuff it in my pockets then, geez.”
There are shouts from below, breaking me out of my reverie.
“Hey, old man Hedges has put more of his signs up.”
“The really old one or the normally old one.”
“The normally old one, Steve is it?”
“Who, Wiggy? Yeah, I think he’s called Steve.”
Ignorant little thugs.
“Let’s set fire to the sofa.”
A sudden grip of nostalgia takes me back to the summer of 2019. Me and Persephone shopping for furniture. Our plan for a theatrical woodland glade is happening, really happening. We have the atmospheric fairy lights, the Shepherd’s Huts have been designed, the treehouse bunker has been built as a safe retreat in case the intense pressure of the second referendum marches and Led By Donkeys art stunts causes society to collapse. Persephone ushers me over to a very tasteful settee in a stunning and sleek midnight blue
“What do you reckon, babe? We could have a cover made so the weather doesn’t wreck it, or just wheel it into the hog roast stand if we make it big enough.”
“I love it Perse. Shall we?”
We collapse on the sofa in a giggling heap. Persephone gives a yelp of delight as we sink into its glorious comfort. It’s a three-seater, and a generous one at that.
“Let’s get it Perse. This will be our front seat, our royal box. We’ll hire out the Royal Shakespeare Company for exclusive performances. We’ll get the entire village here. I’ll show them. Uncle Simon’s giving you some culture, you vapid bores!”
My nostrils are assaulted with something pungent. The vandals have made an impromptu flamethrower with a can of Lynx deodorant and a cigarette lighter. It is barely scorching the damp fabric. Before too long they give up and leave.
The rain starts to fall, and I crawl back into my treehouse shelter, shivering, too cold to get any rest. When I climb down from the tree in the morning, I can still smell the fumes of my lightly sizzled sofa and the sickly burnt perfume of Lynx Java. I brush off some cigarette ash from the cushions, lay down on the sofa, and fall asleep.