There are those who believe the recent floods in Bafflesby may have a significance outside the town boundary. One of these is our own trainee reporter, Jason Wildgoose, who has put in many unpaid hours to investigate what he calls ‘the wider picture’. So let us lay aside our beloved Bafflesby connection awhile and allow this eager young beaver his own moment of dam-building up in the hills.
The owners of this publication, Offshaw & Gonn Holdings Inc, wish it to be known that they do not necessarily endorse any of the views expressed in this article.
I followed the turbulent waters of the River Baffle to its source in the Bareback Hills where the old hunting, shooting and fishing traditions are proving ever-more lucrative in the global leisure economy. Grouse-moor owner Lord Byrd-Schott was quick to contest claims that his practice of burning vegetation and digging drainage ditches had caused water to run off his land more quickly.
“If these climate-change crackpots had to run a business,” his lordship told me while cleaning a huge shotgun, “they’d go bust in no time. My clients are busy people with international perspectives. They don’t want to hang around in the pouring rain while the grouse play peekaboo in the bushes. And try bagging a brace of birds, young feller-me-lad, with your wellies stuck fast in a swamp. I don’t think so.”
His neighbour, landowner Sir Filbert de Fleece, can trace his family back to the Norman Conquest but there the trail goes cold. He was contemptuous about European proposals for planting forests on upland fells to retain rainwater.
“What these tree-huggers won’t understand,” he bleated into the mic on my new Smartphone, “is that my tenant farmers are wool-shearers, not wood-shepherds. The last thing we need in this country are boffins from Brussels coming over here and telling us what to do. Besides, we’ve not had trees up this way since the Middle Ages.”
I had a sudden thought. Surely such a staunch supporter of old country traditions would be interested in this short video-clip about a successful flood-prevention scheme in North Yorkshire?
Sir Filbert watched the film in silence but when I asked an apparently innocent question his stormy reaction, as this transcript of my recording shows, came as a complete surprise.
- So is it time to bring back the old skills, do you think?
- Listen, son, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks … or old tricks … er, old skills, I mean … well, new to him, that is … are you with me?
- You could teach him to fetch sticks … or plant them.
- What I want to know is who is going to pay for him … er, them to be re-trained? This isn’t just a walk in the woods, you know!
- It’s tree surgery, not brain surgery …
- Are you trying to be funny?
- Horticulture, not rocket science …
- Damn it all, you snotty little whelp, get off my land!
His meaning, so far as I could tell, was that no money could be made by mediaeval methods unless it came from the government. I obviously needed advice from the experts and when I got my breath back after running down the farm track, I dialled the next number on my list.
- Is that the environment agency?
- Er, yes …
- This is Jason Wildgoose from the Bafflesby Bugle. I was wondering if –
- We’re not making any press statements until the chairman comes back from the Seychelles.
- To whom am I speaking?
- This is Faschia Burble. How may I help?
- I’ve just watched a lovely little film about traditional approaches to flood prevention in North Yorkshire.
- Oh, the Pickering Pilot Scheme …
- Yes, I was wondering if you could comment.
- Well, we’re all for pilot schemes.
- Splendid … so is there any chance of this one being rolled out across the nation?
- Er … subject to rigorous independent scientific scrutiny … perhaps.
- Well, possibly.
- Only possibly?
- Have you any idea, Mr Mongoose, how much these science firms charge for their services?
- An arm and a leg?
- We’re still paying for them to finish finding out about bee collapse.
- And don’t get me started on genetically-modified crops!
- Between you and me, they’ve kicked that one into the long grass.
- Right … unnaturally long grass?
- I’m not competent to say anything about the science.
- It was a joke. I’m more interested in the floods.
- I wouldn’t call flooding a joke, sir. From what I’ve seen, the waters have risen to Biblical proportions. Are you a Bible reader, by any chance?
- Well, it’s not at the top of my reading list, but I –
- Which of us can know the why and wherefore of it, sir, much less the who and when?
- No need to apologise. We are all to blame at some point down the line. Though some more than others, in my humble opinion.
- Tell me more, tell me more!
- Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. I will say no more than this world is awash with heathen ways. Still, mum’s the word. No names, no pack-drill. And don’t rock a leaky boat.
- A wet bird never flies at night.
- No, wet …
- Oh, wet … yes, we can only pray it stops raining.
- Is that the official policy?
- Pray it stops raining?
- Er, well, we are waiting for the chairman to get back from the Seychelles.
- Perhaps he’ll bring the sun with him …
- I can’t comment on his travel arrangements. Is there anything else you need help with today?
- Everything, really, though I doubt whether you’d be much use.
- Thank you for your call. This answering service has been provided by Ear Line, a subsidiary of Offshaw & Gonn Holdings Inc. Goodbye.
Feeling a little dissociated, I needed to plant my feet on solid ground. First, however, I had to paddle a small dinghy through the waterlogged roads of Bafflesby Business Park in search of a company that would welcome new – or perhaps old – ways of improving flood protection.
In fine drizzle I shouted into several locked industrial premises and was eventually rewarded when an old man waded across a factory yard and regarded me warily through a padlocked gate. I pressed Record and prayed my Wi-Fi waterproofing was working.
- Flooded out, are you?
- Cleared out, mate, twelve month ago last Friday.
- Did you take note of advance weather warnings?
- You could say that. The holding company what took us over saw which way the wind were blowing, so to speak, and wound down the business.
- You went into liquidation?
- Haha, sir, that’s very droll under the circumstances! You could’ve cheered us up no end last year, when we was all give the elbow.
- You’re still working, though …
- I got took on by the security firm. It’s an offshoot of the holding company, as it happens. Wheels within wheels, you might say. It’s who you know, nowadays. Your face fits, you’re laughing.
- Holding company?
- Offshaw & Gonn.
- Goodness, they’re my employers!
- Join the club, sunshine. Turns out they own most of Bafflesby. First in line for any government flood compensation, of course, though they don’t pay no UK taxes. Last thing I heard, they was buying up grouse moors.
- Not much point asking my next question, then …
- Would you be happy to pay a business tax to fund new flood prevention meth –
At this point I dropped my Smartphone into the water. Turns out they’re not waterproof. Still, I won’t be needing it now that I’ve lost my job in Offshaw & Gonn’s latest economy drive. And at least now I can spend my unpaid days at home, out of the wet. Swings and roundabouts, as they say.
Offshaw & Gonn have decided to overlook the downbeat tone of this article because it features some useful examples of product placement. They have no comment to make on redundancy, blood sports, asset stripping, global warming, tax avoidance or indeed any other issue arising from its publication.