It's Christmas time in the small northern town of Bassethwaite, and this year promises to be a festive season to remember. The Bassetshire Museum is throwing open its doors for a seasonal sleepover, with young and old alike bringing along their sleeping-bags and pillows to spend the night in the museum's dusty galleries. Would you prefer to sleep under the skeleton of Bassetosaurus batrachia, or in the Egyptian mummy room? And, of course, we expect a visit from everyone's favourite cheerful bearded gentleman, bringing a whole new meaning to the concept of 'grotto'. Whether you've been naughty or nice – he'll have something for you in his sack. Find out what on Saturday afternoon!
Our beloved local landmark and repository of antiquated goodies is throwing open its doors this Christmas, with a fabulous sleepover party for all the town’s children. Youngsters will be able to choose which of the museum’s galleries they’d like to spend the night in – maybe the Egyptian Room, or the Dinosaur Gallery? – and will be given a beautiful gift by a jolly bearded gentleman clad in red. And all free of charge!
When asked whether this unprecedented populist gesture was in any way linked to the museum trust’s current desperate scrabble for public funding, general manager Taylor Mackintosh was quite definite. “Not at all – this is just a great opportunity for us to further strengthen our already wonderful bonds with the local Bassethwaite community. The Museum firmly believes that children are our future: teach them well, and let them lead the way.”
Your fearless Bugle recently tried to track down the people behind local business success story Crispy Calamari Ltd, which operates fishing vessels in international waters off the coast of North America, but found itself flailing blindly in a cloud of impenetrable darkness (much like the ink of the company’s celebrated product).
All we know for sure is that the owners are from Bassethwaite, and that they are making rather a good thing financially of their venture in this under-exploited fishery area – although questions have been raised about the environmental impact on local wildlife, by local young hothead hippy Ollie Liver.
We at the Bugle feel that the public ought to be told more about this shadowy operation – but maybe it doesn’t matter, when the calamari are so deliciously deliciously crispy?
Yes, you read it aright – a Tinseltown film crew has descended on our sleepy town, and is making a movie about one of Bassethwaite’s finest hours. In Enigma Vacations, pouting beauty Roberta Vincent – who rose to fame as Princess Catherine in Night Watch – stars as a young American tourist in 1943 Britain who stumbles across the secret code-cracking installation based at Basset Hall. The boffins are baffled, with a massive bottleneck in their message tubes, but fortunately Roberta’s character has brought with her a pet ferret, who clears the blockage and saves the day.
The Bugle was sadly unable to interview the busy Roberta, but we had the privilege of meeting ‘Rusty’, the ferret actor playing the role in question – who actually is the pet of Roberta’s stepsister and assistant Katie Jones. Later in the movie, there’s an exciting scene where Rusty bites a Nazi spy in a very sensitive location [the stationery cupboard – Innuendo Ed.]. “Rusty really enjoyed that!” smiled the shy but charming Katie. “Ferrets aren’t very well known as pets in the US, but my family originally came from round these parts, so maybe I’ve got them in the blood!”
Veterans’ groups have cast doubt on the film’s version of events, claiming that no American tourists (or American ferrets) were actually involved in the historical codebreaking effort of Basset Hall, and that a significant military operation is being trivialized by the Enigma Vacations screenwriters. But we at the Bugle know – and we think cinemagoers will too – that if the addition of Roberta Vincent and her spirited furry sidekick is wrong, then we don’t want to be right.
The Bassetshire Constabulary have issued another warning against teenage vigilantism. “Bands of youngsters rushing around the place trying to ‘solve crimes’ frankly do more harm than good,” blasted Detective Chief Inspector Harris yesterday. “They interfere with the duties of legitimate law enforcement agencies, and achieve nothing apart from getting under the feet of police officers.”
Cynics might wonder if the police are actually more worried about the potential embarrassment of being out-detected by crime-busting youngsters. But your law-abiding Bugle has never been a cynic.
DCI Harris ended with a stern warning. “Can it be a coincidence that our beloved town suffers from the blight of organized criminal gang activity, and also from these gangs of out-of-control young hooligans causing trouble? Great oaks from little acorns grow – think about it!”
Today we look at two noted Bassethwaite residents – one current, and one very much former.
Don Green is a recent ornament to our town – the celebrated conspiracy novelist really needs no introduction, hasn’t everyone and their dog read The El Greco Enigma? And Don’s other books, Saints and Sinners, Analogue Encampment, and Reception Desk, have been just as popular. We don’t suppose Don will find any esoteric and secretive material for his next book here in sleepy old Bassethwaite, though!
Dr Herbert Rotwang is fortunately no longer our neighbour. This notorious mad scientist is still actively sought by police – it’s rumoured that failure to catch him was responsible for ending the career of former Detective Chief Inspector Seymour, now working as Security Manager at Bassetshire Museum. Rotwang’s crimes include, but are not limited to: fatally explosive jam-filled treats; hallucinogenic breakfast cereal; grinding up dead bodies to make NatriNute; stealing a flying saucer; and replacing honest workers with obedient robots. Let’s hope that, if he’s still up to his crazily inventive tricks, it’s somewhere far away from Bassethwaite!
Cast your mind back to the Summer of Love – for some of us, it feels like just yesterday! But enough decades have passed since the Bassetstock music festival that it now merits its own display in the Bassetshire Museum, as part of our local history – a particularly hairy and smelly part, but surely to be celebrated rather than forgotten.
In fact, some brave souls are calling for a repeat event – Bassetstock II, as it might be called – on a far larger scale. That would rule out Worthless Farm as a venue, which was only just big enough for the original event. More likely is that Bassetstock II would take place on the Basset estate, currently administered by the Bassethwaite Borough Council (in the absence of any heir to the line of the Lords of Basset). The likelihood is that any such event would be a sizeable money-spinner for the landholder – but who would begrudge a bob or two in the celebration of Bassethwaite’s great musical legacy? Taylor Mackintosh, daughter of Joanie Mackintosh who hosted the original event, seems to be the prime mover.
Believe it or not, some of the musical titans who played at the original event are still living in our local area. Psychedelic band Dreaming of Lava, described by Lester Bangs in Rolling Stone magazine as “wigged-out space cadets on a mission to mental oblivion”, even provided one of our Councillors, Alex Thompson. Apparently Alex has moved on from those hazy crazy days, and is all respectable now! (Although: persistent rumours about mental illness, delusion and worse have occasionally surfaced around Alex and fellow band-members Annie Robins and Dave Carling. But these can probably be discounted.)
The Bugle joins the whole of Bassethwaite in welcoming delegations from our two twin towns, Wuo Long and Neutronogorsk – and those from our transatlantic cousins in Bassetwich, who are also considering twinning with us. In such small ways are amity and joy spread between the nations and peoples of this ever-changing world in which we live in.
Wuo Long is a small island in China, just off the coast. Famed for its cuisine and rich folkloric traditions, it has in recent years become an important manufacturing centre, the source of many of the bargain-priced consumer goods that brightly throng our shops, particularly at this time of year. Who among us doesn’t have a toy bearing the ‘Happy Premium Child Company’ logo somewhere at home? From Wuo Long we welcome the Minister of Culture, Lee King, and assistant Wei Ting.
Neutronogorsk, formerly known as Factory Town No.23, is a town built around a power station in the depths of Siberia. Its people are hardy, stubborn, and possessed of an immense capacity for alcohol. Older readers might remember the ‘grudge’ football match during which one of their team kicked a Bassethwaite Town player in the shin with a poisoned boot spike. How we laughed! From Neutronogorsk we welcome their museum manager Professor Kura Torovska, and assistant Sasha Ilyatkin.
Bassetwich is a former fishing town in New England, settled originally back in the seventeenth century by people fleeing Bassethwaite in the hope of a better life. Whether they found it or not, who can say, but it seems that most of the settlers pushed further inland fairly swiftly, leaving Bassetwich to a hard core of closely-linked families who still make up the bulk of the populace today. Be that as it may, though, clearly our two towns have a great deal in common and to share, and we can all only benefit from this cultural exchange. We heartily welcome Mayor Evan Owens, and assistant Jay Marsh.
The Bugle is still trying to make sense of the curious and disturbing events last night at the Bassetshire Museum. It seems that there was at least one break-in, possibly as many as three.
The Egyptian Room was targeted, with one of the Canopic jars containing mummified internal organs of obscure Tenth Dynasty pharaoh Nophru-Ka found smashed and empty. But it seems the daring thief, or thieves, also attacked overnight security guard Sean Ramsbottom, either in the stuffed animal gallery or in the room where the exhibit on the Bassetstock festival is displayed – accounts are unclear. What is clear is that Mr Ramsbottom is somewhat injured, but soldiering on with his duties – brave chap! And one of the guitars in the Bassetstock exhibit, which belonged to Dreaming of Lava guitarist Annie Robins, was broken in the fracas [think that’s the bit just above where the strings attach – Music Ed.].
Bassetshire Constabulary are “too busy” to start their investigation, according to a spokesperson, so for the moment the matter is in the hands of museum security manager Seymour. (Formerly, a detective chief inspector with the force, Seymour was dismissed in disgrace the year before last.) The Bugle hopes that Seymour can perform these duties with sense and restraint, having at last abandoned that tedious obsession with catching alleged mad scientist and master-criminal Dr Herbert Rotwang.
After the announcement of savage cuts in the funding with which Bassethwaite Borough Council supports the county museum, trustees admit they are in a difficult position. “We don’t want to start charging people to enter the museum – we don’t want to sell exhibits – and we don’t want to lay off staff. But something will have to give,” opined Lady Beatrice Goode, chair of the board of trustees. Alternatives include greater use of volunteer labour, and finding another source of funding: with that in mind, the trustees are particularly keen to recruit a new member to their number. But however it’s achieved, it will be painful and hard work.
Councillor Nicola Cable is in a particularly awkward spot, as her party is part of the ruling coalition so supported Mayor Evans’s cuts. But she is also one of the museum trustees who must implement them. “Serves her right,” claimed one member of the museum staff who wished to remain anonymous.
Rumours are rife of political infighting at Bassethwaite Borough Council. For so long the personal fief of Mayor Owen Evans, at the last election he was forced to go into coalition with the more liberal Nicola Cable and her party. The marriage has, to say the least, been rocky – and it is thought to be only the fear of losing power altogether that keeps these uneasy bedmates bound together. [That’s enough of that imagery – Taste Ed.]
And it’s not just the other parties that Mayor Evans has to fear. Persistent murmuring suggest that the support of junior Councillor Alex Thompson may be conditional on the Mayor’s continued good behaviour. And then there are the outside forces – Lady Beatrice Goode, former independent Councillor, who previously worked hard to expose Mayor Evans’s rogueries. And wild card the Honourable Pat Palgrave, who is thought to relish the idea of a ‘Clean the Stables’ role.
But Mayor Evans has ridden through plenty of storms before, and has always emerged with his nose clean, despite the best efforts of those who’ve sought to cast the first stone. “He may be a [expletive deleted], but at least he’s our [expletive deleted],” one disgruntled voter was heard to mutter. And with civic pride like that, how can Bassethwaite go wrong?
Because of the recent break-ins at the Museum, tonight’s Christmas party has been closed to children from the community, because it would not be possible to guarantee their health and safety. So says Taylor Mackintosh, general manager. “Of course, no-one is more disappointed than the Museum – apart from possibly Santa Claus! We really hope that whoever broke in last night feels very ashamed of themselves, when they realize that they’ve ruined Christmas for so many kiddies. And that they get caught, and brought to justice!”
Fortunately, though, the party will not be a complete washout. Bassethwaite Borough Council has decided to move the twin-town celebration into the Museum, so the catering arrangements don’t go to waste. It is hoped that there will be a visit from Hollywood star Roberta Vincent, who’s making her ‘movie’ nearby at old Basset Hall. So even though the only youngsters now present will be those waiting tables in the employ of local catering firm Cucina de Mama (who are providing the nibbles), the event should still go with a bang!
Premiere: Consequences 2011
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Last update: 29th October 2011