I wrote this sketch back in late February, when poor George had to endure his first downgrade. At the time I chose to mark the event with something else, but in the wake of Friday’s Fitch downgrade of UK sovereign debt, and no sign of a change of course, it seems somehow more appropriate now than it would have been then. And as ever, if you like what you read, please share, retweet, comment, use the buttons at the bottom of the page, and I’ll be eternally grateful.
A green field beside a picturesque village. There is a wagon, surrounded by curious villagers, and in front of the wagon sits a stool, and on top of the stool stands a man.
George Osborne (for it is he): Roll Up! Roll Up! You, sir, with the lop-sided face and the single tooth. Yes, sir, you. No, not the elderly gentleman beside you or the withered hag behind. Yes, that’s right, sir. I can work wonders with that face, sir. I can make you attractive to women. I can make people stare at you, but not in the way you’re used to them staring, oh no, sir, I can make them admire you and fall at your feet. Would you like to see?
A voice from the the distance: Oi! Osborne! I want a word with you.
GO: Push your way to the front, sir. You’ll be amazed.
The voice, now closer: Osborne! You charlatan, you!
The villagers have noticed the approaching stranger and part to let him through, still shouting. George affects to have heard not a thing.
GO: Now, this particular medicine is one I’m particularly proud of.
The stranger, a perfectly normal-looking fellow with plastic bags on his feet and not a single hair on his head: Osborne! You’ve sold me rubbish!
GO, now unable to ignore him: Come, sir. If we must quarrel, let us do so in private.
The stranger: Oh no, Osborne. Look at my head!
GO: It is a perfectly acceptable head.
The stranger: There’s no hair on it, Osborne!
GO: Yes, sir, that much is clear. Now here I have a medicine that will –
The stranger: I’ve taken enough of your medicine, Osborne. You said I’d have a full head of hair by Thursday and now it’s Friday and the little I had has fallen out! What have you given me?
GO, musing: clearly not a full head of hair
The stranger: That’s right, Osborne
GO: and that’s what I promised, is it?
The stranger: It is!
GO: well this is a pretty pickle, isn’t it?
The stranger: I should think so! A week’s housekeeping your medicine cost! The wife was apoplectic. I told her what you said, I says, he swore it’d make me more attractive to woman, I says, and you know what she says?
GO: no, please, do go on
The stranger: she doesn’t say a thing, Osborne, she just knees me in the Eds and marches out.
GO: oh dear.
The stranger: Yes. She’s gone to stay with her hag of a sister till I come to my senses. So now I’m on my own and there’s no money in the house and I can’t even manage the combover I used to have. I want my money back, Osborne!
GO, thinking: Oh no, sir. This is precisely what I said would happen. Look at you! You were encumbered with a wife and a hag of a sister-in-law and a few useless strands of hair. Why, even the fishwives in the next village wouldn’t have given you a second glance.
The villagers mutter and nod. The fishwives in the next village are notorious both for their hideousness and the ease with which they grant their favours.
GO, starting to get into his stride: And look at you now! Bald and shining and proud! Free as the wind! Unshackled, sir, by such petty concerns as a wife, or a few pence, or, indeed, hair. The beauties from the City will fall at your feet, sir.
The villagers mutter and gasp. The beauties from the City are known as being all-but-impossible to impress.
The stranger: Oh no, Osborne. Don’t try that line on me. I went to the City yesterday. Tried to strike up a conversation with one of the beauties. Set her dogs on me, she did, and I ‘ad to throw ’em me boots to get rid of ’em.
GO, looking at the stranger’s feet: Ah, yes, that explains the, anyway, where was I?
The stranger: I’ll tell you where you were, Osborne. You were giving me my money back, and an apology, and clearing out of this village before you sell any more of your mulch.
GO: So you’re not happy with your purchase, sir?
The stranger: No, Osborne, I am decidedly not happy with my purchase.
GO looks intently at the man’s head. You can almost hear the cogs turning in his brain.
GO: No, sir! I have a solution that will solve everything.
GO: Indeed I do. More, sir. Take some more. Three more bottles of the same medicine. Four, even. This little setback should only encourage you. Five more bottles, sir, and a head of hair will be yours.
The stranger: Really?
GO: Oh yes, sir. Nil Desperandum, sir. All will come to pass as George hath said it would. It will just take, well, a little longer than expected. And in the meantime, you don’t even need to worry about the combover.
The stranger: I’ll give it a try, Osborne.
If you liked this, take a look at some extracts from my soon-to-be-published novel Without Due Care here.