Friday 25 October 2019

3. Alice in Wonderland - The Ditch

'I would like to see these scribes,' Alice said to Mr Comings-and-Goings, 'where are they?'
'I sent them to the House,' Mr Comings-and-Goings replied eagerly.
'Let's go,' said Alice.

Together they scurried down a straight, wide road till they got to an old, tired palace full of corridors and uniformed servants. 
'We go into the gallery,' said Mr Comings-and-Goings. 'I sit up here so that I can signal to Johnson what he has to say.'
'Doesn't he know himself?' Alice asked.
'Of course not,' said Mr Comings-and-Goings contemptuously. 

The moment he opened the door into the gallery, Alice heard and felt a great roar and babble of voices. She looked down and saw hundreds of people all talking at the same time, waving bits of paper, standing up and sitting down, snorting and snoring, sneering and jeering, slapping and clapping. Some were making sheep noises, others pointed and performed exaggerated nodding movements. Others shook their heads and smacked the palms of their hands on to their faces. Yet more made repeated appeals to the ceiling or beyond to the heavens. 

Alice looked more closely and she saw the sneery cat Mogg, who was stretched out along one of the benches waving a paw in a languid sort of a way. Nearby was Johnson the dog who was shouting even louder than everyone else. 
She caught him saying, 'And I would suggest to you, quo quis quint, quis quo.'
The brought huge roars of approval from the people behind him.

'Why are they doing all that...all that...?' Alice's voice petered out as she tried to think of a word to describe what she was looking at.
'Don't you think it's marvellous?' Mr Comings-and-Goings said, with his eyes gleaming.
'No,' said Alice, 'not really.'
'Oh well,' he said, 'you wouldn't understand. The worse it gets in here, the more Johnson can say that he's saving us.'
Alice was still puzzled.
'We keep saying it's a "zombie parliament",' Mr Comings-and-Goings shouted over the top of the noise, 'and my dog Johnson is going to save the country from the zombie. It's marvellous,' and he clapped his hands together like an excited child.
'Can we go now?' Alice said, 'I thought we were going to meet the scribes.'
'Well actually,' Mr Comings-and-Goings said, 'one or two of them are just sitting further down the line from us, but most of them are waiting in the Lobby for me to give them some Anonymous Sauce,' and he pointed down to the big Anonymous Sauce bottle in his bag.

As they got up to leave, Alice heard amidst the din a louder shout from one side of the House shouting, 'The Ditch! The Ditch!'

'Why are they saying that?' Alice asked.
'Oh  you don't want to know that,' said Mr Comings-and-Goings.
'But I do,' Alice said in her usual curious way. 

When they reached the Lobby, the scribes rushed up to Mr Comings-and-Goings like eager chickens clustering round a farmer at feeding time. He responded by handing them the Anonymous Sauce and they soon drank it up, apart from one who, like the group in the House, kept saying, 'The Ditch! The Ditch!'

Alice went over to her. 
'Excuse me,' Alice said, 'what is this ditch? Where is it?'
'Aha,' said the woman, 'it's actually not a ditch. I mean, it's a ditch that is both a ditch and not a ditch at the same time.'
'Can we go there?' said Alice.
'In a way, yes, and in a way, not.'

The woman led Alice out of the House and very soon they got to a sort of a drain or gutter.
The woman pointed at it.
'Is that the ditch?' Alice asked.
'It's "a" ditch,' the woman replied.
'I see,' said Alice which in all truth wasn't true. 
'When might it be "the" ditch, then?' Alice asked again.
'October 31st 2019,' said the woman very clearly.
Alice looked closely at it.
'What will happen then?' she asked.
'Johnson is going to come along, lie down in it and die.'
'Oh,' said Alice suddenly feeling sad for Johnson. 
'No, no, no, no need to sound sad,' said the woman, 'it's never going to be a ditch. It never was.'
Alice really was confused now.

Just then, a bunch of the scribes rushed past, with Anonymous Sauce round their mouths, shouting 'Zombie parliament! Zombie parliament!'
Alice watched them.
'Don't they want to know about the ditch?' she said.
'Not any more,' the woman said, 'the ditch was yesterday.'

Alice stood and wondered. The ditch was going to be October 31st but it was also yesterday. 

How very, very confusing, she thought.