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Chapter One of "The Churchill Memorandum" by Sean Gabb

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  • Sean Gabb
    http://www.seangabb.co.uk/?q=node/515 The Churchill Memorandum by Sean Gabb [Suppose Hitler had died in 1939. No Second World War. No takeover of England by
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 22, 2010
      http://www.seangabb.co.uk/?q=node/515
      The Churchill Memorandum
      by Sean Gabb

      [Suppose Hitler had died in 1939. No Second World War. No takeover of
      England by the Left. No descent into the gutter. Forward to 1959. England
      is still England. The Queen is on her throne. The pound is worth a pound.
      All is right with the world – or with that quarter of it lucky enough to
      repose under an English heaven....]



      Chapter One

      “Of course,” he said, dropping his voice so it could be heard only half
      way down the queue, “the Americans have never changed over. They still
      call today March 6th1959. Their custom is to put the month before the day.
      It makes good sense, as the month is more significant than the day.” As if
      looking for support, the old bore pointed up at the calendar that hung
      just beside the concrete statue of the President. It was a wasted gesture.
      The departures hall of Anslinger International may have its excellences.
      If so, these didn’t extend to its calendar. Through dust-covered glass, it
      was still showing a date from January.

      “Next!” the check-in clerk snapped. The New York accent is never friendly.
      New York bureaucrats, I’d long since found, go out of their way not to
      sound friendly. Somebody muttered, from a few places behind me, about the
      interminable wait. We shuffled forward another eighteen inches. One of my
      coloured porters strained with his box. Since the others didn’t think it
      worth the effort of moving theirs, he scraped it an inch or so across the
      uneven floor, then went back to sitting on it. I took a new standing
      position as I came to my own halt. It didn’t do to scratch in public. Even
      so, my left buttock was itching again like mad. Had I been bitten by
      something? I wondered. I’d been told you might pick up some nasty things
      in America.

      “Mind you,” the bore struck up again beside me, “the computer chappies go
      one step further. They put the year in front of it all. They write today
      as ‘59-03-06’. That lets them put dates into a numbered list where they
      follow each other in fully logical sequence—most significant number first.
      Just before I retired in ‘56, we had a new computer fitted in Calcutta.
      The Marconi people had shipped it out in pieces for fitting together in
      situ. Big thing, it was—needed its own building, you know.” He took out
      his pocket handkerchief and, holding it in his left hand, blew his nose
      hard enough to start an echo round the cavernous dump where we’d all been
      shivering half the afternoon. I was one place from the check-in desk, and
      I saw the clerk look up disapprovingly from her inspection of yet another
      exit visa. Unimpressed—or perhaps unaware—the bore sniffed loudly and
      rearranged the very large and very white moustaches that covered his very
      large and very red face.

      “I did ask the boy in charge,” he went on, “what would happen when the
      century number changed—what would he do when ’00 came after ’99? Gave me a
      fishy look, the little blighter, and muttered something that boiled down
      to ‘sufficient unto the day’.” He chuckled. Would he drift into
      recollections of his Indian days?

      I could have kicked myself. Buttonholed—and even before check in—by the
      voyage bore is bad enough. Buttonholed by a bore who’d served in India was
      surely as bad as things could get. Unless I was to spend the next three
      days locked in my cabin, all my thoughts of a pleasant flight home were
      looking decidedly iffy. I looked again at his tie to see if it gave any
      indication of what he’d been doing before he retired. But the nearest
      fluorescent lighting was on the blink, and I couldn’t see the details of
      its pattern.

      There was a loud crash behind us. Fifty bored, impatient faces turned to
      see who’d got the double doors unlocked that led back out into one of the
      less ghastly areas of New York. It was whole squad of Republican Guards.
      In their regulation fedoras and trench coats, they paused at the entrance
      and looked round. Most carried hand guns. A couple had sawn-off shot guns.
      One of them pointed in my direction and held up a folded sheet of paper.
      Coming at a brisk march, they set out across the fifty yards that
      separated us.

      I fought to keep a blank face. Even so, I could feel my guts turn to
      vinegar. Forget voyage bores. Things had just gone horribly to the worse.
      And this wouldn’t be the end of it. For what it might be worth, I put a
      hand up to reach for my passport.

      “Hands out of pockets, dear boy,” the bore breathed into my neck. His
      voice had a soft urgency wholly different from his calendar monologue. He
      was right. I’d been here long enough to know the drill. Trying to control
      their trembling, I stretched out my fingers and pressed my hands against
      the fabric of my trousers. Looking neither to right nor left, on the men
      came through the now silent hall. I thought of the permit I’d bribed out
      of the Repository Office in Chicago. Would it mean anything against these
      people? I prepared to clear my throat, and tried for an easy smile.

      But it wasn’t me they were after. They stopped beside me. But it was the
      man right at the front of the queue they were surrounding.

      “Alan Greenspan?” their officer snarled. He unfolded his sheet of paper.
      It was covered in typewriting, and there was a photograph in its top right
      hand corner. “You are Alan Greenspan—enemy of the people!” The little Jew
      in front of me cowered backwards and got out a few words in the sort of
      English accent you hear in Hollywood films from the old days. The officer
      laughed unpleasantly and took up the British passport the clerk had been
      in the process of stamping. Holding it in his left hand, he rubbed one of
      the pages between the thumb and forefinger of his right. He sniffed at his
      fingers and held them out to show how blue they’d turned. “Take him down,”
      he said to one of his men. The man’s face took on a gloating look as he
      put a hand on the Jew’s collar.

      “I’m a British subject,” Greenspan squealed in an accent that now said he
      clearly wasn’t. He looked at me as if for confirmation. I forced myself
      not to step backwards, and looked steadily down at the floor. “You can’t
      touch me,” he cried again, desperation in his voice. “I’m a British
      subject.” A hard poke in the stomach sent him to his knees. The officer
      turned to face the flight representative who was hurrying over to protest.

      “He’s none of your concern,” he said in the cold voice of authority. “He’s
      not a British national.” He put a hand on the holster that bulged through
      his trench coat. The young representative opened his mouth to speak, but
      thought better of saying anything at all. It was now that Greenspan found
      his own proper voice.

      “Free Ayn Rand!” he shrilled quickly. “She’s been in solitary for a year
      now. They’re killing her with neglect.” He was taking in breath for
      another slogan. But a knee in his face sent him straight down on the
      floor. The officer snapped an order to his men. They pulled Greenspan to
      his feet and three of them began dragging him back towards the doors.
      “Restore the Constitution!” he managed to shout. “Anslinger’s a tyrant!”
      But that was it. With a last despairing wail of “A is A!” from Greenspan,
      the doors closed behind him and his keepers, leaving the rest of us in
      total silence.

      “I can smell a Jew at five yards,” the officer said, now looking directly
      at me. He smiled and flexed backwards, showing still more prominently the
      bulge of the metal in his pocket. “And I can smell subversion. You were
      beside him. You were with him?”

      I wanted to tell the man very smartly I’d never seen Greenspan before in
      my life. It was the truth. He’d pushed in front of me not half an hour
      before, and had been giving me funny, sideways looks ever since. I thought
      of claiming friends in high places. Instead of all this, though, I opened
      my mouth and found that I couldn’t even breathe out. The officer was
      looking triumphant. Already, I could fear, he was turning to give orders
      to more of his men. Before I could open my mouth and try for gibbering,
      the bore had an arm on my shoulder.

      “My dear fellow,” he said to the officer, “you’ll find this young man
      really is a British subject. He had nothing to do with your felon.” The
      officer’s face turned a kind of puce. I thought for a moment he’d pull out
      his gun and try some pistol whipping. But he controlled himself. He took
      the bore’s offered passport and looked long and closely at it, comparing
      face with photograph.

      “Stanhope,” he said at length to the bore, separating the syllables into
      Stan Hope, a slight emphasis on the second syllable. He twisted his thin
      face into an apology for a smile. “Reginald Stanhope. Do your friends in
      England call you Reggie?”

      “They call me Major Stanhope,” came the reply in a tone that avoided all
      hint of rebuke. The officer turned the pages of the passport.

      “Well, Major Stanhope,” he said, now mockingly, it says here you’re
      subject to Imperial immigration control. You sure don’t look like no
      nigger.”

      “British bred,” came the now breezy reply, “though born in Cyprus. The law
      is very strict, you know—doesn’t just apply to Her Majesty’s coloured
      subjects. One law for all and all that.” The officer continued looking at
      the much-stamped pages.

      “What was the purpose of your visit?” he asked with a lapse into the
      official. He pointed at the dense mass of previous visa stamps. “Is it
      family business?”

      “Not in so many words, dear boy,” Stanhope said with a wave. “But there’s
      a brotherhood among those of us who served in the War that’s very like
      blood.” I tried not to look at the black glove that covered the stillness
      of his right hand. He saw my attempt and laughed softly and held the hand
      up. “I got this on the fourth day at Paschendaele,” he said. “Jerry
      machine gun bullet—went in through the knuckles, lodged in the elbow.
      Whole lower arm had to come off in the end.” He waved the artificial limb
      and looked the officer in the face. “You might say I was lucky. Whatever
      the case, life goes on. You learn to get by with the other hand. I can’t
      complain.

      “I sit on the Veterans’ Relief Board in London,” he said, pulling himself
      back to the main subject. “Not many Americans in the War, of course—came
      in too late for that. But they took quite a few casualties. All old men
      now, those still with us—some older than me. But American war pensions
      don’t buy much with all this inflation. We do what we can. You’d be
      surprised the difference a few shillings a week can make between want and
      dignity.”

      “They fought in England’s war,” the officer said with quiet contempt.
      “It’s only right that England should look after them now.” He gave
      Stanhope back his passport and now took mine. “Anthony Markham,” he said
      with the same division of syllables. “Born in Rei-gate, January 17th1930?”
      I nodded and managed a feeble smile. I wondered if Stanhope was laughing
      inwardly at the unconscious reversal of the dates. I could feel the sweat
      running down my back. “And the purpose of your visit?”

      “I’m an historian,” I said, trying and failing to match Stanhope’s easy
      assurance. “I’m researching a biography of Winston Churchill. You—you may
      have heard of him. He was half-American—his mother’s side. He left all his
      later papers to Harvard. I was out here to consult them. I—I…” The officer
      had lost interest, and I trailed off. Avoiding his face, I looked up at
      the statue of Anslinger. It had been cast in the early days when he was
      modelling himself on Mussolini, and there was still black paint on areas
      of the uniform. Somehow, the artists had got a smile on the man’s face. He
      was looking down at the little girl he held in his arms. She looked back
      adoringly. I tried to think of something flattering to say about my trip.

      Just then, though, the sound of a gunshot came though the doors. Stanhope
      raised his eyebrows. “Well, really!” someone said from far along the queue
      behind me. All about, there was a buzz of quiet outrage. I looked past the
      President’s statue, though the single sheet of plate glass that gave a
      view over the landing field and the huge body of the airship that quivered
      two hundred feet up in the breeze. The cabin was painted in the Imperial
      Airways colours, and had a Union Flag at each end.

      I felt a hard bump in my chest. It was the officer handing back my
      passport. Before I could gather any words for thanks, he and his men were
      already heading back for the doors.

      “Next,” the clerk grated. It was my turn. Still trembling, I put my
      passport on her desk and pulled out the paper copy of my exit visa. She
      ignored the documents and pointed at the five wooden boxes my coloureds
      were still attending. “There’s a forty pound weight limit for non-stowed
      luggage,” she said. I pointed at the handwritten amendment on my ticket.
      She waved it aside. “There’s a forty pound weight limit for non-stowed
      luggage,” she repeated in exactly the same tone. I stared up at the
      ceiling and tried to pull myself together.

      “I am a personal friend of the British Foreign Secretary, Harold
      Macmillan,” I said with an attempt at firmness. “These boxes contain
      papers for a project in which he has taken an interest.” She gave me the
      dead look that only officials in a down at heel police state can give.

      “There’s a forty pound weight limit for non-stowed luggage,” she replied,
      for all the world as if there were a gramophone record in place of her
      mind, and the needle had stuck in a groove. I smiled weakly. Normally, I’d
      have called the representative over and got him to explain things. Now, I
      was even willing to leave the boxes behind. For all they meant to me, the
      safety of that cabin hovering in the sky outside meant more.

      “If I might be so bold, Dr Markham,” Stanhope whispered conspiratorially
      from behind, “I would suggest the offer of a supplemental fare. £2 should
      do the trick.” I swallowed and reached into my pocket. There was obviously
      no point offering any of the thousand dollar bills that still bulked out
      the paper section. Instead, I took out one and two half sovereigns, and
      pushed them quietly across the desk. The clerk stared at them. She took up
      one of the smaller coins and bit into the gold. She covered all three
      coins with a sheet of paper. Without another word, she stamped my
      documents. Well she might. That must have been a month’s salary for her.

      “Next,” she cried. I glanced at my coloureds and pointed at the boxes.
      There were hours still to go till boarding. But I could at least get out
      of this bloody queue.

      To read more, buy a copy here:

      http://www.lulu.com/content/paperback-book/the-churchill-memorandum/9866039


      --
      Sean Gabb
      Director, The Libertarian Alliance (Carbon Positive since 1979)
      sean@... Tel: 07956 472 199
      Skype Username: seangabb

      http://www.libertarian.co.uk
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