dawn singers at that very moment sweeping the garden in search of the first meal of the day? Well, have you thought about the problem of the worm? Have you ever, even if just for one second, considered that there is more to life than a big happy dawn singalong with the birds? When, may I ask, did you last climb a tree? Were you one of those boys who would roll up a magazine – I think you know what type of magazine I mean – and stuff it in some hole high up in the trunk – for safekeeping? Or were you a nice boy? [He laughs.] Which is to be admired more: the red coat of the huntsman who clambers up the tree after the fox he has been chasing has rather unsportingly found safety on a branch, the man sweating and breathless as he strikes at the fox with his riding crop; or the red coat of the fox, utterly exhausted after his two-hour ordeal, with tongue lolling and heart at bursting point as he clings to the branch above the baying, frenzied pack below? Well, whose red coat is the more handsome, I ask, the man’s or the fox’s?
[He appears to fall sleep for a while, but in fact is just thinking.]
Are you one of those people who serve junk food to their guests? Beans on toast, for instance, for your wife’s father, an acknowledged bon vivant and connoisseur? Served with a cup of pop – fizzy pop at that – to wash it down: this for an expert wine lover? And what about that old standby, the pot noodle? Shouldn’t your wife, on her way to the delivery room and about to give birth, expect that her parents, he the big bon vivant connoisseur wine lover, she educated at a Swiss finishing school for young ladies and therefore as an older lady still accustomed to life’s finest things, will be treated like royalty by her husband, fed the finest, the tastiest, the most wholesome of foods? But instead, is it not the case that you, with your wife in no state to interfere with the domestic arrangements for the visit of her parents, think it fitting to serve this sophisticated couple, your beloved parents-in-law, with noodles
in a plastic pot and a mug of fizzy pop? Have they travelled two thousand miles from their retirement villa on the Mediterranean for this – for slop? Have you ever been, or do you ever intend to be, a cheat at cards, scrabble, chess, draughts, dominoes, the dogs, the horses, or life? Are you, or are you related to, or are you perhaps just acquainted with, the bookie who takes bets from the simple, the deranged and the startled, not to mention the blind, the deaf and the comatose, on Red Rum to win the Grand National and Shergar to win the Derby, decades after both horses have died? And not just a few pennies – the odds given by this fraudster I’m asking you about were excellent: a million to one for Red Rum, two million to one for Shergar – but entire bank accounts, life savings, sums put aside for a rainy day, the whole lot, the bookie’s clients left destitute, the deaf and the blind as well as the deranged and the desperate, all cleared out for good?