I in Cowley Printworks bonding yard today with Don Campbell to have instructive chat with Capo Oaten about matters of Family discipline.
"Signor Oaten" say the Don, "Much as I appreciate you sending me your new pamphlet, 'Co-operation - we're fucked on our own', I feel, following much inconvenient speculation, that it is important you experience my response, not so much intellectually, but in a very physical way."
"That very kind Don Campbell", he say "But I'm sure a Centre for Um briefing note would be sufficient, there really is no need to have my limbs bound with leather hoops and attached to four horses."
"I'm sure you're used to it." comment the Don "However this isn't just about you, I feel this demonstration will be instructive for your colleagues as well," he point to gaggle of senior Family members from the Family Shadow Committee watching from the balcony, "and I do appreciate your strong desire to be as helpful as possible to your colleagues in your twilight months as Capo of our Winchester Rifles faction. Liberali, please gag the Capo, so he might fully appreciate the lesson without too much distraction."
This I do.
"Eccellente, thank-you... we shall proceed."
"Signor Oaten you will observe, attached to you left-hand side are two old carthorses. For the purposes of this demonstration they represent the Labouristi, I shall call them Prescott and Straw. On your right we have two slightly old former racehorses, a little past their prime, but still deluded enough to think they're still capable of winning the Grand National, let's call them Ancram and Clarke, they represent the Conservatori. You Signor Oaten, represent me, struggling with the weighty decisions of running the Family and our relations with others."
"For the first demonstration let's say, following the next big turf war, that the Labouristi are the strongest Family... Knuckles please excite Prescott..."
Knuckles smashes an egg on Prescott's flank, and the horse moves forward slightly. Signor Oaten groans in appreciation.
"But wait maybe the Conservatori are the strongest... Signor Laws, if you could kindly encourage Clarke..."
Signor Laws holds up a blue flag with yellow stars on it that make Clarke greatly interested in moving forward. Signor Oaten really not sounding happy.
"You see it really can be quite a painful decision as to who to co-operate with." say the Don. "And if you make your preferences known in advance... gentleman please demonstrate"
Knuckles and Laws give Ancram and Straw a modest pat on the hind quarters. Ancram start trying to bite Clarke, which excite him even more. Straw promptly reverse and sit on Signor Oaten's foot.
I could be wrong, but I not sure at this point whether Signor Oaten in pain or enjoying himself. He funny paisan.
"But wait" say the Don, "There's more. You may be wondering why there is a pile of oats tied in a bag around your nether-regions?"
Signor Oaten trying to nod quite vigorously.
"This bag represents the Family's values. When the Family's values are under threat from the pull of power from old nags in Labouristi and Conservatori, then you have another worry... Signora Teather, if you could please let Greaves illustrate the point."
The Signori untie a small grey Shetland pony from his post. The pony seem confused, wheezy and slightly incontinent, however he still recognise where values lie under threat, and what to do about it, and make like a much younger animal straight to the heart of the problem. Signor Oaten's eyes seem to be bulging quite a lot as he struggles in the ropes, against the attention of Greaves.
"And if the old guard are not quite getting through to you, then you might find your freedom to decide constrained in other ways... Signor Graham, if you would please demonstrate the power of the Family Conference." A large angry man, who I recognise as one of the Family's most feared enforcers , and is wearing a rucksack full of rocks, walk slowly over to Oaten and promptly sit on his chest. What follow is not pretty sound.
"Thank-you gentleman, I think we will let Signor Oaten contemplate my thoughts on his pamphlet for a further ten minutes or so and then given the horses some proper exercise..."
"Capo in the gallery, I hope this session has been instructive, and I do of course look forward to welcoming any of your thoughts on our relations with the other Families in future, should you be so minded to write them down. It is now though, I regret, time for my afternoon nap... good day gentleman."
With that he walk upstairs to ponder the great matters of Family business unimpeded by helpful colleagues.
Greaves has widdled on Signor Oaten's trousers and Prescott is trying to butt Knuckles with his head. It is lovely pastoral scene that remind me of old family farm in Sicily at harvest time. I drift peacefully into daydreaming as the Capo file slowly back into Printworks to consider the Don's wise demonstration of the burden of leadership.