Plague: a Martian sends a postcard home

February 12, 2021 1 Comment

My dearest brothers and sisters

Five years have passed since I wrote to you about my last visit to Earth.  You will remember that I ended my report by counselling you not to send me on a third mission to that hapless planet, or at least to that insignificant part of it known as the United Kingdom.

For my part I have taken my own advice and kept clear of the place.  Unfortunately, on returning home after being too richly entertained by our Venusian friends, I made an incautious satnav error and found myself out of my intended course.  I was forced to abandon my craft in the sea off the wild west coast of the region known as West Britain or ‘Wales’.  Fished from the water, I was taken to a place called Penally, and sent to live in an old army camp

The humans living there were refugees and other destitute people from foreign lands who had thrown themselves on the mercy of the Britons.  I heard before that these Britons had once been famous for their compassion and hospitality to strangers.  But in Penally we were treated as dangerous outlaws, guarded by barbed wire and crowded together in bare dormitories, with barely a tap or water closet between us.  A bought mob of people stood outside and mocked us.  The authority responsible for this place is called the Home Office, but it was anything but a home.  They called us ‘illicit asylum-seekers’.  I do not think they intended it as a warm term.

Luckily, I succeeded in escaping from this bastille.  I found my way to Abertawe, a city of sanctuary, and the home of my old friend Mr Darren Wegen.  Once I had washed the interplanetary dust from my body, I asked Darren why his fellow-Britons had become so filled with mistrust and dislike of other peoples.  It took him some minutes to collect his thoughts and serve me an explanation.

He told me that the Britons are obsessed with plagues.  They once suffered terribly from a pestilence called the Black Plague, and many of them have long harboured a suspicion of black people, especially those trying to make landing on their shores.  The Secretary in the Home Office, has an pretty way of dealing with refugees attempting to cross what the English call the English Channel: she requires an Admiral with the lofty title of Clandestine Channel Threat Commander to patrol the waters, capture boats carrying refugees, and send them packing to whence they came.

It is not only refugees from over the seas that the Britons have taken against.  Their country once belonged to a Syndicate of nations by the name of the ‘European Union’.  But in a fit of hot temper the people determined to quit this alliance.  You will recall I forecast that Mr Cameron, in ordering a plebiscite on the subject, had ‘unsheathed a sword just as capable of biting him as of despatching his many enemies’.  So it proved.  Since this uncoupling, which they call ‘Brexit’, the Britons have ostracised  more than a million troublesome ‘Europeans’.  Many noble citizens blamed these rogues for stealing the rightful emoluments of the Natives.  Though they now discover, Darren informed me, that few among the Natives are willing to pick the fruit and vegetables in the fields, where they lie a-rotting.

After the plebiscite, Mr Cameron, I should tell you, was expelled from his London mansion, and now lives as a wandering tinker in a squalid caravan.  He is reduced to scribbling books to avoid destitution.  His friend Mr Osborne, also removed from his position, has perforce become a humble banker’s clerk.

The hero acclaimed for ridding the country of this plague of Europeans is the Mr Boris of whom I wrote in my last communication.  I asked to learn more of Darren about this singular character.  Like Mr Cameron, Mr Boris came from too decayed a family to be tutored privately, and was obliged to attend a common public school.  He first came to the notice of the public in the person of Mr Blobby, a rotund, pink-bodied personage with a fixed smile, known for causing mirth among children.  Mr Blobby was a trouble-maker, with an inclination to Anarchism, and his tag was ‘Lord of Misrule’.  This was the by-name later adopted by Mr Boris, after he had walked to London to seek his fortune, found the streets paved with gold, and become Mayor of London.  He soon entered the Britons’ parliament, and was installed in the Cabinet, which I suppose to be a carpentry box reserved for the most wooden-headed of Statesmen.

Since his career as Mr Blobby, Mr Boris has ever been the People’s Darling.  When he became Chief Minister in 2019, he called for a Universal Ballot, and succeeded in gaining unbridled power, on account of the primitive form of democracy to which the Britons subject themselves.  He claimed – he is a frequent coiner of counterfeit phrases – that only he could ‘get Brexit done’.  However, by the time he had executed this difficult design, which had defeated his predecessor Mrs Maybe, the land had been struck by yet another plague, a virulent infection imported from the Orient named Coronavirus or Covid.

Before I go on, I know you will wish me to account for the effortless success of Mr Boris.  For there is little in his previous life, said Darren, that intimates his later good fortune.  His only discernible talent is an infrangible belief in his own greatness.  All else must be placed in the debit pan of the scales.  He once passed for a gazetteer or pressman on the Daily Courant, but his style seldom rose above mockery and lip-curling.  All agreed that his time as Secretary for the Colonies was low and inglorious.  As Chief Minister he violated the laws, and dealt out millions of pounds from the public exchequer to hob-nobbers and hearties of his acquaintance.  He is given to Grand Projects, and, before the fall of his friend Mr Trump, is said to have intended to have the isle of Britain towed across the Atlantic Sea and anchored off the coast of Massachusetts.  So extreme is his lack of continence that he cannot say exactly how many progeny he has seeded.  Though he is fond of scattering ill-remembered Latin phrases through his speeches, his sentences are barely articulate and seldom lucid.  Above all, his duplicity is proverbial.  No one expects him to tell the truth, and he will gainsay himself often and shamelessly.

I asked Darren why, if all this was true, Mr Boris remained so esteemed.  He was silent, and when he did open his lips he found speaking difficult.  ‘My dear Lemuel, the truth is that the more Mr Boris proves himself unworthy to be their leader, the more the people adore him.  They love his Panglossian cheer, and forget that it always proves without ground.  They disregard his lies, or do not even notice them.  When he splutters and stumbles in his speech, when he tousles his flaxen hair to resemble a wayward schoolboy, when he dons the white coat of a natural philosopher to spew yet more untruths, the people respond to him as they once did to Mr Blobby.  They listen wide-mouthed, they throw their arms around their sides and rub themselves, and they crow with merriment.’

Bur surely, I cut in, the good people of Britain have turned against this child-tyrant during the Covid plague?  Has the disease not laid waste to his country?

I noticed Darren sigh.  It was true, he told me, the government men had made every possible error in guarding their people against the new plague.  They began by praying that the disease would lay hold of the common herd, avowing that it was no more noxious than a common cold.  They were tardy in ordering the people to be shut away, one from another, to save the pestilence spilling itself wide.  They let the plague run amok in the almshouses of ancient citizens.  They failed to furnish the sanitoria with raiment to save their workers from harm.  They employed ignorant gougers and racketeers of their acquaintance, led by Madam Dido, a former queen of Carthage, to detect persons in connexion with those tainted by the disease – but in vain.  In summer they induced the populace to share tables in dining halls, thus letting the plague revive its poison.  They were again late in curbing the disease, driven by a superstition that their gods would be angry if sacred Christmas rituals went unperformed.  Within the year, over 114,000 of the people had perished of the pestilence, in the most distressing circumstances.  Of those who survived, the rich became richer and the poor became poorer – and many of them utterly destitute.

Darren sighed again, and fell into silence.  I asked why this Mr Boris, if he was responsible for the government’s actions, was able to remain a hegemon over all the Britons.  Darren shrugged his shoulders.  So far from scolding him and finding fault with him, he said, the people continue to praise him, being unable to conceive how any other leader might have been able to outshine him.

I asked, is there no party opposed to his rule?  There is rumoured to be a People’s Party, replied Darren, but its leader in England, a Mr Kier, so far from placing a check on Mr Boris, acts the role of a Steward or Major-domo to him, and is bereft of better ideas.  In North Britain Ms Sturgeon is hot in her hostility, and works to cleave her country away from England.  The people of West Britain also betray signs of restiveness.  But most of the English, Darren assured me, who are far more populous that the North and West Britons, slumber a deep sleep, while their masters run ariot and scoff at them behind their hands.

By this time my head was in my lap.  I was tempted to exclaim, ‘a plague on your house, Britons’, but I refrained.  I said a sad farewell to Darren, and in disguise – in case I was mistaken for a Coronavirus, or Mr Blobby – made my way to the centre of Abertawe.  I had no difficulty in finding all the raw materials I needed to build a new spacecraft, from the detritus I found in the many deserted factories and shops scattered over the city. 

Dear comrades, I shall be with you again soon.  I pray this will be my last visit to the unfortunate Britons for some time to come.

Your obedient servant,


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  1. David Jones says:

    Andrew, you’ve nailed it with this brilliant piece.

    I can’t understand how someone with such an expensive education can be so inarticulate.

    Max Hastings, when editor of the Daily Telegraph, described Boris as a “gold medal egomaniac”.

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