THE GUIDES 1. NIPPER THE DOG

IINTELLIGENCE DEPARTMENT

The Intelligence Department file on Guide Nipper The Dog.

It is essential when selecting a guide to assist with missions into the past that they lived within a short distance of the focal point and conduit of the brief, the Corn Exchange Clock in Bristol, the only clock in the world displaying a past time. It is also necessary to ensure that the guide, when used by The History Maintenance Commission, isn’t compromised and every endeavour is made to keep the guide on the correct path history has set for their own experience with fame or notoriety.

NIPPER THE DOG

One of the world’s most famous dogs and definitely the mutt associated with selling the most records was born in Bristol in 1884. Nipper lived with Mark Barraud at the Prince’s Theatre on Park Row, Clifton where his owner was the artistic director.

DISTANCE ONE MILE FROM THE CORN EXCHANGE CLOCK

At the end of performances they often took bows together or, in Nipper’s case, bow-wows. The Prince’s Theatre was famed for its unique version of the panto which entailed Nipper taking to the stage and doing an impression of an out of breath Italian dog. He also acquired the habit of nipping at the heels of the theatre patrons from which he derived his name, although some of the fastidious audience members were more concerned that they would derive rabies. So the little terrier was a minor celebrity long before he was posthumously catapulted into global stardom.

In 1887, Mark Barraud died and his brother in London, Francis, took possession of Nipper. He found the dog pined for his former showbiz life. Thus, Nipper was overjoyed when his new master informed him that he was going to find him a lead part; sadly, this transpired to be simply a clasp. Francis discovered that Nipper needed a lot of attention, which he found difficult to provide as he endeavoured to carve out a career for himself as an artist. However, he found that the dog was fascinated by a recording he had made of his voice. Nipper would sit for hours in front of the gramophone speaker listening to Francis’s disembodied voice and wondering why it no longer reeked of alcohol. By this means Francis was able to concentrate upon his work and occupy his faithful companion at the same time.

As time passed, Francis extended the project and produced recordings of his voice asking Nipper to do the washing up, put the bins out and give the lounge a thorough dusting. He further added recordings encouraging his pet to do tricks. He must’ve been quite proficient at them as Nipper applied to join The Magic Circle in 1892.

Everything went well until the contented terrier died in 1895. Four years later, in a moment of reflection, Francis painted a picture of Nipper listening to his voice through the gramophone speaker. The image he created would become iconic. It didn’t strike the artist straight away, it wasn’t until it fell off his wall a week later while he was sitting directly beneath it that it did that.

Over the years visitors to Barraud’s studio commented upon the picture and the wish that their own dogs could be absorbed as the late Nipper appeared to be. This gave Barraud an idea. In 1903 he formed a company to produce mass recordings of his voice to enable dogs to be pacified. He called them His Master’s Voice and reproduced the painting of Nipper on the disc. The records were an intant hit and Fetch My Festive Slippers was the runaway Xmas Number One that year.

By 1904, Francis Barraud was so wealthy he was able to hang up his brush. But his riches came at great personal cost for it was soon evident that most of the world’s canine population considered him to be their master. This meant:

  1. He was barred from visiting China in case he gave a ‘Jump’ command and all the dogs there did so at the same time causing earthquakes and tsunamis.
  2. He was barred from entering newsagents for fear their entire stock would be reduced to shreds in an instant.
  3. Slipper manufacturers refused to issue him with a guarantee.
  4. He was barred from ever throwing a ball. This was particularly hard on his daughter as he had just booked The Albert Hall to celebrate her graduation.
  5. The Chancellor of the Exchequer barred him from making amplified speeches at Dog Shelters in case it caused a run on the pound.

Concerns were expressed that when Barraud died the site of his grave would become a mecca for millions of pining dogs, a bad combination with all the buried bones there. To allay fears, he announced that he would be cremated instead. His friends thought this a bad idea because he was still alive. Barraud took little notice of them because none of them were his best friend…he had about 150 million of those!

*It will be important when using this guide for operatives in the field to ensure that at no time does he find His Master’s Voice at any time prior to the depiction in the painting four years after his death. He must be kept away from anything that might cause him to sit there and contemplate whether or not he is listening to His Master’s Voice as this could provide Francis Barraud, upon hearing the anecdote, with a different scene for his later painting one where Nipper is sat in front of a broom cupboard, for instance, where his then owner, Mark Barraud, has accidentally locked himself in. The painting would then fail to have the same resonance.

PIGEON SPOTTED BY OBSERVER CORPS COULD SPELL DOOM FOR MILLIONS

OBSERVATION CORPS

We have been informed that the owner of the original photograph of The Old Carthusians in 1881, the year they won the prestigious soccer tournament called The FA Cup, has noticed a pigeon appear on the bench to the right of the photograph over the left shoulder of Sir Joseph Vintcent Junior. This avian intruder does not appear on any reproductions of the original, yet, as can be observed from the copy of that picture we are using here.

The descendants of one of the players, the name of whom is being withheld for reasons that should be apparent, have been advised to keep this startling fact to themselves and not reveal the picture to anyone else presently as the potential for causing widespread alarm in the community is huge and could be detrimental to The History Maintenance Commission attempts to rectify any damage to the past caused by this wanton breach of time-travelling protocol.

The Observation Corps from initial soundings have reached the conclusion that this is a potential threat to the order of history of cataclysmic proportions. A strange foreboding of doom hangs about us, stifling the air with its heavy presence. The two excuses offered for the pigeon’s sudden appearance don’t cut the mustard. The first being that it’s a protest about the abundance of Soccer Clubs in the UK nicknamed after birds: The Seagulls, The Robins, The Owls, The Bantams, The Peacocks, The Bluebirds, The Magpies, The Eagles etc. But none are named after pigeons. The second explanation being that someone from the future has gone back in time to persuade Sir Joseph Vintcent Junior to become a pirate, but have only partially succeeded so instead of placing a parrot so it seems to be perched on his left shoulder Sir Joseph has positioned a pigeon as he wishes to be a homing pirate.

It is thus necessary to feed this intelligence we have become party to into The Omphalos so it can identify all possible risks and appropriate action then initiated to circumvent any threats to the status quo.

Our keen observers have also noted another anomaly. The Old Carthusians have won the FA Cup, however, the trophy doesn’t appear in the picture. But having consulted the owner of the original photograph it doesn’t present itself in any of its glory in there either. There were initial concerns that the person who famously stole that very FA Cup trophy from a Birmingham shop window after Aston Villa’s win in 1895 had been persuaded to pilfer the pot 14 years too early which would be bad for history but better for the perpetrator of the crime as the price of silver on the markets in 1881 was 17% higher.

However, the descendant of the player in whose possession the original photograph resides has provided us with a palpable reason for the first FA Cup’s omission from the depiction. It transpires that The Old Carthusians were the first sporting club that shunned any form of exhibitionism and it was considered that showing off the FA Cup would be an act of such gaudy braggadacio totally at odds with their humble ethics. Indeed, at The Old Carthusians AGM on December 14, 1881, it was decided that it would be easier still to convey their proud humility if they never won the blasted trophy again and goes some way to explain their two nil loss to The Royal Engineers a few days later that knocked them out of the 1881-82 FA Cup.

The Old Carthusians were trailblazers in the art of competitive subordination and many a club has since assumed their mantle in entering competitions with the intention of never winning them.

Presently, The Observation Corps of The History Maintenance Commission is concerned not with the absence of the first FA Cup trophy from the 1881 picture but the sudden appearance of a pigeon in the original when previously it wasn’t there. We commend this information to The Omphalos for further investigation.

OUR PORTAL INTO THE PAST: THE CORN EXCHANGE CLOCK

How do we manage to make contact with the past here at The History Maintenance Commission such as when we need to launch a hologram towards an historical figure at a pivotal stage in their development? Without giving too much away, for this could put many more past situations at risk of tampering from nefarious individuals Hell bent on causing mayhem, we use the clock at the Corn Exchange in Bristol, England as a conduit to book our passage into bygone eras. The clock is a unique timepiece as it’s the only one in the world publicly displaying a time from the past, for it has two second hands exhibiting the minutes past the hour, one has Greenwich Mean Time the standardised time for the whole of the UK, the other, ten minutes behind, shows the long redundant Bristol time.

Prior to 1837 cities throughout Britain had their own time, however the coming of the railways and regimented timetables meant the standardisation of time nationally was the best way forward to avoid confusion. Every city had to adopt London time.But many Bristolians took exception to losing their autonomy in the time department and set about the task of causing disruption in the hope of having Bristol Time, ten minutes behind GMT, restored. One tactic was for workers to deliberately turn up for work ten minutes late each day. Brad Holman of Old Market clocked in each morning fifty minutes late and was hailed a hero for doing the protesting of five men. He was also hailed a cab to take him home early because he got the sack.

Other protests included climbing up steeples and putting church clocks back to Bristol Time and also pinching the pocket-watches of gents employed in the city putting them back by ten minutes and then returning them to the pockets of their unsuspecting owners. This was bad news for Mr H. G. Ledbury of the Easton area of the city who had this done to him numerous times on his stroll to work one November morning in 1837. When he eventually checked his watch he almost died of shock because he discovered that he had not even been born yet!

Eventually, the protests died down, especially when the majority realised that following London Time meant they got their pay packets earlier. The only dissent thereafter came the way of the odd fellow who made a point of following 600 seconds to the rear of a bank security wagon, as in this manner they could be seen to be still ten minutes behind the capital.

Once the clock displaying a past time has been used as a conduit to facilitate our remedial strategies it becomes necessary to use a Bygone Guide anchored in the past as a means to conduct the operations from. These Bygone Guides are figures of historical or literary importance who lived within range of the Corn Exchange Clock, even prior to its construction. These Bygone Guides (historical forms of spirit guides) are: Samuel Plimsoll, Princess Caraboo, Nipper the Dog, Thomas Chatterton, Cary Grant, Dame Clara Butt, William Friese-Greene, Blackbeard the Pirate, W.G. Grace, John Cabot and Robert Southey. The History Maintenance Commission takes every precaution and care in ensuring that while the Bygone Guide is used as a sort of mobile vantage point on the past every endeavour is made to prevent any possibility of the guide finding their calling prematurely and thus disrupting the course of history. For instance,in the case of Nipper the Dog, the canine who became famous for his curiosity charged pose in front of a gramophone player speaker, every endeavour will be made to stop him from discovering His Master’s Voice prematurely while we avail ourselves of his services. As, for instance, if he heard the voice emanating from behind a locked toilet cubicle door asking Nipper to fetch some bog roll the resultant painting would no doubt have a detrimental impact on the music industry and the many stars promoted via Nipper’s image for a good century plus.

IF WARWICK THE KINGMAKER ENJOYED ASSEMBLING OTHER CHESS PIECES TOO

RESEARCH DEPARTMENT HMC MADISON AVENUE, NYC.

DOCUMENT

RESEARCH RESULTS IN RESPONSE TO THE QUESTION WHAT IF WARWICK THE KINGMAKER ENJOYED MAKING OTHER CHESS PIECES TOO?

THIS PART LOOKS INTO LIFE WITHOUT WARWICK THE KINGMAKER AND HOW THE NORTH OF ENGLAND WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN PACIFIED BY WARWICK PLACING EDWARD IV ON THE THRONE. THERE WOULD BE A PERPETUAL WAR OF THE ROSES AND OUR OMPHALOS COMPUTER PROGRAM HAS PRODUCED THE FOLLOWING TYPICAL TV SCHEDULE FOR A DAY’S VIEWING IN THE UK:

09:00 MOURNING TV

Today comes from St Oswald’s Church, Sowerby, North Yorkshire where the Reverend Victor Slankey leads the congregation in prayers to mourn the 40 Sowerby folk lost in the recent attack by Lancashire forces upon the Yorkshire Pudding Makers AGM at the Town Hall. Due to the nature of the attack and its chosen target figures are expected to further rise.

11:00 CRICKET

Live coverage from Old Trafford of the annual Roses match between Lancashire and Yorkshire. It will be interesting to see if this year the two captains elect to use a ball with a more prominent seam rather than the Mk II hand grenade favoured in recent contests. Being cricket viewers are advised that play might end early due to heavy rain of blows or bad fight.

16:45 BLUE PETERLOO

A crack troop of Yorkshire knights lay siege to a suburb of Manchester and cut off their supplies of fuel during the coldest January on record.

17:15 POYNTONLESS

Quiz in which contestants from Yorkshire devise ways in which to completely obliterate a town in Lancashire territory.

18:00 THE SIX O’CLOCK NEWSHOLME

Live updates from a Lancashire hamlet in the line of fire from forces representing the House of York.

18:55 WEATHER

Includes explanation of the new arrow symbols that no longer indicate wind direction but places where one is likely to come under fire from Lancastrian or Yorkist archers.

19:00 EMMERDALE

Fsmilies on a Yorkshire farm and surrounding residencies try hard to usurp their urban Lancashire counterparts in the national soap awards.

19:30 CORONATION STREET

The residents of a street in Lancashire commit a series of affairs, betrayals and murders among themselves as a ploy to make Yorkshire folk think they don’t need to ever attack them as they’re doing a pretty damn good job of destroying their own lives.

20:00 SPRINGWATCH

Secret cameras capture the cute antics of the natural inhabitants of Foxholes in Yorkshire and Dolphinholme in Lancashire as they hunker down in a new range of armour to protect them in the challenging new season ahead.

21:00 SINDERBY COME DANCING

Jion the celebrations in North Yorkshire as residents of Sinderby take to the streets in revelry to celebrate victory over the Lancastrians at the recent Battle of Blackpool.

22:00 MORECAMBE & RISE

Jesters and comedians representing these locations in Lancashire and Yorkshire battle it out on stage.

22:30 MATCH OF THE DAY

Rotherham v Oldham. Catch up on highlights as undercover cameras capture the work of arsonists planted in Yorkshire and Lancashire.

23:30 LATE FILM: CATTON – A HOT TIN ROOF

A soldier’s exploits as he tries to hawk a stolen corrugated roof around the streets of a Yorkshire village in an attempt to raise fighting funds for the white rose county.

WHAT IF ROBERT THE BRUCE SUFFERED FROM ARACHNOPHOBIA?

SECURITY DEPARTMENT of The History Maintenance Commission SUBMISSION to THE RESEARCH DEPARTMENT:

What if Robert The Bruce suffered from arachnophobia?

Fellow Commissioners

If Robert The Bruce becomes arachnophobic the legendary incident when the soon to be King of Scotland Robert The Bruce was on the run from English forces after defeat at the Battle of Methven in 1305 and took refuge in a barn, would never happen. For it was there that he famously watched a spider try to connect the web it was spinning between two rafters. Having failed twice the arachnid triumphed on the third attempt. This inspired The Bruce to not submit to the English and try yet again to win Scottish independence, it was at an opportune moment as he was seriously contemplating packing it all in and opening up a sports goods shop in Stirling. Fuelled by the spider’s tenacity he led Scottish forces to an historic win over the much larger English army at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 that all but confirmed an independent Scotland.

There’s also the very distinct possibility that without Robert The Bruce’s experience to call upon, the Scottish National Party leader would have given up after defeat in the first referendum as due to the progress made by modern architecture, wooden beams are rarely a feature of modern house design and that allied to her diligence with housekeeping somewhat reduce the capacity of a spider to operate unhindered and at the same time convey inspirational messages.’

Of far greater import appears to be the probability that with the Scottish king not cornering the market in deciphering mantras delivered by insect types this dubious field will be open to interpretation by various historical figures post 1305. For instance, Abraham Lincoln could have observed a moth and its attraction to sources of light in April 1865 and as a result decide not to attend Ford’s Theatre, Washington the following night in favour of making his way to see the Blackpool Illuminations, thus missing his assassination. While Herbert Jones, the jockey of Amner the horse owned by King George V, could view the actions of a flea on the night of June 3, 1913 and as a consequence decide that instead of mounting Amner the following afternoon and attempt to ride it to glory in the Epsom Derby he would jump on it instead, invite his family to do likewise then bite and generally cause a nuisance to the poor horse. Thus denying the suffragette Emily Davison the opportunity to put herself in the path of the galloping horse and provide the movement for women’s suffrage with its most famous martyr.

We humbly suggest The Research Department accept this case.

GUY FAWKES AGENT LETTERS RELEASED

RESEARCH DEPARTMENT of The History Maintenance Commission, NYC.

WHAT IF GUY FAWKES WAS MADE TO FOLLOW THE FIREWORKS CODE?

As part of the research into Guy Fawkes the Omphalos programme speculates, as a matter of course with all subjects, the sort of correspondence Fawkes would have received had he engaged the services of a showbiz agent. Here is a selection:

1605, November 6.

Dear Guy,

Your stock has risen tremendously after your recent capture while trying to blow up Parliament. A masterstroke. Although had you succeeded several of my politician clients would’ve been on the rise too until eventually landing in the suburbs somewhere with a bump. On the back of this I have negotiated a great deal for you to blow up Parliament. This time it’s an inflatable model of the building made from beached whale skin. It will be a tremendous draw although you won’t be with the ladies for a while afterwards due to the effect of this exercise upon your breath. Plus your interrogators in The Tower are likely to torture you all the more as whenever you make an utterance they will sense that something fishy is going on.

Your Loving Agent

Blair Comet

November 8th, 1605.

Dear Guy,

Intelligence has reached me that you are being tortured on the rack at The Tower. Don’t despair Guy, this new aspect opens up a host of possibilities to, if you excuse this choice of word, expand your personal wealth and your wonderful agent is on the case. Already I have obtained a deal for you with a major clothes retailer to model outfits in their forthcoming Spring and Summer Catalogue 1606 that have been ruined by over mangling to the extent that the arms and legs are twice as long as they should be. This is to be called their Waste Not Want Not Range. I have also negotiated a deal for you to pick bananas in the Dominican Republic with a bonus triggered each time you hit a certain target which should be easy to accomplish as you have the advantage of just being able to stretch out an arm to locate a bunch rather than climb the trees themselves. So hang on in there Guy.

Your Obedient and Loyal Agent

Blair Comet

November 10th, 1605.

Dear Guy,

We have hastily produced a book based on your life. A lot of it has been taken from the secret transcripts of your torture that has been leaked to me for a price. There’s had to be a lot of padding involved. (I expect you wish your captors applied this to their implements of torture too.) So there are quite a few pages containing just your screams, exhortations to the Almighty and heartrending appeals to your torturers not to take up the offer of overtime they’ve been offered. I have even managed to get you a book signing session for December 18th at a store in Shoreditch. The beauty of this is in your new state you will be able to remain in your cell at the Tower and reach through the bars to Shoreditch.

Incidentally, Swan Vesta are going to use a picture of you on the rack in a massive poster campaign confessing to the fact that you wish you’d chosen Swan Vesta matches instead of the damp Bryant and May ones as you wouldn’t be in this mess then. All funds gratefully received.

Your Money Making Servant

Blair Comet

December 18th, 1605.

Dear Guy,

Had an offer from a quartet of theatre impresarios to cast you in adaptations of four traditional pantomimes those being Peter Bang, A Loud Din, Treason-Puss In Boots and Jack And The Blast-Stalk. I have signed you up to play in all four simultaneously. The fact you are set to be hung drawn and quartered will help tremendously in this objective.

Of course, if you win your appeal you will be free to select which pantomime takes your fancy, though we will be 75% down on the deal. I am not that confident of you overturning your conviction. The forensics test done in the immediate wake of your arrest to see if you had any explosives residue present on your fingers was pretty damning. The result that you had evidence of 93 barrels of gunpowder on your hands will be difficult to dismiss.

Your Festive Agent

Blair Comet

January 26th, 1606.

Dear Guy,

Just five days remain until you are hung drawn and quartered. If you speak nicely to them they might lance that boil on your backside while they’re at it. A friendly word of advice from your agent, you might get farther in life if you didn’t have such a short fuse….The exception being November 5th last year, of course, where had you had a much shorter fuse things would’ve been a whole lot different.

Thank you Guy for the recent signing over to my agency of your image rights. Already a mask is being designed to be ready for mass production to fit over effigies of you to be burned atop bonfires throughout the land on November 5th to the accompaniment of fireworks and mass revelry. Thank you for entrusting my agency with this sensitive issue and I trust you will consider my actions to be respectful to your life and legacy. Regarding the mask, could you please ensure your torturers aren’t applying the thumbscrew on the next visit of our artist. The wracked with pain look is difficult to convey in a mask and the lines of anguish cost extra to reproduce.

Your Caring Agent

Blair Comet

KNIGHTHOODS WOULD BE AVOIDED IN A WORLD WITHOUT KING ARTHUR Lakes Also Sourced For WMDs

RESEARCH DEPARTMENT of The History Maintenance Commission, NYC.

WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF IKEA WERE OUT OF ROUND TABLES WHEN KING ARTHUR ENQUIRED?

In a world devoid of King Arthur we could expect great people to hold back on their worthy deeds for fear of being awarded a knighthood and the tranquil lakes of Britain to become a hive of activity as a focal point for locating weapons of mass destruction. The findings of The Omphalos make for alarming reading and add considerable fuel to the drive to ensure that King Arthur isn’t ever waylaid from the path history has carved for him.

There can be no argument with the Omphalos’ conclusion that without King Arthur the sword would remain firmly embedded in the stone. By all accounts this was a fairly impressively sized rock too, hence the necessity to extract the blade from it for had it been unsubstantial a monarch could still wield the thing without encountering too much difficulty or unfair comment. We are talking so big that Richard III’s famous remark, attributed to him by William Shakespeare, ‘A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!’ at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, would have to now contain the additional instruction, ‘And a couple of sturdy elephants too, for to carry my ******* sword!’

It stands to reason, therefore, that nobody in their right mind would risk receiving a knighthood that involves having the monarch tap the recipient’s shoulders with their sword, for it would, in an Arthur less world, be attached to a two tonne chunk of rock that would require the whole of the King’s court and guard to haul it in the air just long enough for the ceremony to be completed. It would take the genius of Sir Isaac Newton with his Law of Gravity to figure that positioning oneself beneath a heavy elevated object was a perilous procedure with a one hundred percent chance of it ending badly for the poor sod between it and the ground it was attracted to. He would, of course, be just plain Isaac Newton as he would’ve sat upon his discovery rather than risk the acquisition of a knighthood and at the very least being maimed for life. In a similar vein, Christopher Wren, who would obtain a knighthood for his work on designing the rebuilding of London after the Great Fire of 1666, would, after his knighthood in 1673, totally redesign his crowning glory, St Paul’s Cathedral, completed in 1711, to make it look like Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, so that he would feel more at home with the large lump on his shoulder provided courtesy of his encounter with Charles II’s boulder entombed sword.

It stands to reason that potential knights would stop short of achieving greatness to avoid knighthoods. Humphrey Davy, for instance, inventor of the miner’s safety lamp, would simply leave these subterranean workers in the dark and just instruct them to feel around and dig at the face in front of them. Only if it says ‘Ouch!’ or emits puss should any alarm bells ring to the effect that the coal face isn’t being excavated. Similarly, Francis Chichester, who circumnavigated the world single-handed in his ketch Gipsy Moth IV in 1966-67, would simply set sail from Plymouth and then curtail his voyage in Le Havre, France, for fear that any further would risk him obtaining a knighthood.

Robert Peel would not endanger his life by forming the modern police force and risk the ultimate honour being bestowed upon him, instead he would send his designs for their blue uniforms to Chelsea Football Club and The Miami Marlins baseball franchise for their perusal.

Isaac Pitman, teacher of English Language and inventor of shorthand, a speedy writing system, would deliberately incorporate a stutter into his strokes to negate the advantages of his process.

Edward Elgar, composer of Pomp and Circumstance Marches and Enigma Variations would’ve felt compelled to cut the marches down to a stroll and steadfastly refuse to entertain any premise that Enigma could be played in more ways than one.

Edmund Hillary wouldn’t be the first man to climb Mount Everest. He would content himself by signing a petition to have an elevator installed, instead.

Humphry Davy would stop short of inventing a safety lamp for miners to use underground that would make him Sir Humphry Davy, instead he would invent a very unsafe lamp for miners to use above ground so that they felt no different when at work or in the home and would thus stop their incessant moaning.

Other potential knights would simply avoid being honoured by taking up occupations that are almost guaranteed not to be recognised with the reward of a gong. Jobs such as refuse collection operative, street cleaner, sewage worker or manager of Crewe Alexandria have been noticeably thin over the years in receiving honorific remuneration. Thus, the would be greats or notorious figures in British history would instead opt for knighthood free livelihoods such as Oswald Mosely, for instance, Britain’s most prominent fascist in the 1930’s, who would become a football league referee as it would enable him to still be known for wearing a black shirt and still be thought of as a bastard. Similar figures to take this route would be:

Joseph Paxton, the designer of The Crystal Palace, the huge iron and glass structure that housed the Great Exhibition of 1851, would become a window cleaner. However, he would keep the fact he could’ve constructed a building on the round with 294,000 panes of glass from his window cleaning boss in case it prejudiced him when it came to handing out Christmas bonuses to his staff.

Winston Churchill, Britain’s leader for the majority of World War II, would opt to become a boxing promoter so he could still employ his famous ‘We will fight them on the beaches’ speech, but set the bout at Madison Square Garden instead.

Walter Scott, Scotland’s great historical novelist, would become a dodgy used carriage salesman as if he could no longer put his efforts into Rob Roy he could at least rob his gullible fellow citizens in return for cack.

King Arthur’s sword Excalibur on one occasion killed 940 Saxon warriors. This qualifies it as a weapon of mass destruction and The Lady of the Lake, from whom he obtained it, as a sixth century major arms supplier. It therefore is not too unreasonable to suggest that in a world without King Arthur the lakes of the British Isles will be sourced for weapons of mass destruction on the understanding that nobody had yet tapped into this potential source of firearms. King Arthur himself, after all, must have got wind of this to have found himself lakeside negotiating with the lady who resided there for her catchment of arms. Which particular lake the lady frequents is, like a lot in Arthurian legend, rather ambiguous. It is difficult to pin her down, even more so considering that at the very least one would need decent scuba diving equipment and pegs that aren’t prone to rust.

As a consequence, British lakes in an Arthur-less world would not be the tranquil beauty spots associated with peace and creativity that they have become since King Arthur decommissioned them of their weaponry. Indeed, the likes of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robert Southey and William Wordsworth who collectively became known as ‘The Lake Poets’ for residing in the Lake District and composing verse inspired by the enchanting scenery they absorbed in there, would instead become known as ‘The Warmongering Poets’ and Wordsworth’s immortal line regarding his walking ‘as lonely as a cloud’ will take on a sinister significance in 1945 when pictures of the mushroom cloud over Hiroshima are released, prompting speculation that the poet had witnessed early tests into the viability of the atom bomb back in 1807 when he was based near the weapons arsenal known as Lake Windermere.

Fishing would no longer be Britain’s most popular participant sport owing to the massively increased cost of the necessary equipment. Rods, flies or bait and landing nets would all set the keen angler back the same amount, it would be the prohibitive outlay needed to acquire a mobile rocket launcher truck in case a short-range ballistic missile was hooked that would prove their undoing.

When photographic evidence of the Loch Ness Monster first appears in 1933 to at last add substance to the rumours of a prehistoric type monster being present in the Scottish lake, immediate thoughts will be engulfed by an overwhelming fear that it might well be armed with a Beretta AS90 Machine Gun too.

Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake in which a princess is turned into a swan will instead become viewed as a cautionary allegorical tale warning Britain as to the folly of allowing chemical weapons to be stored and sold from its water features.

WHAT IF IKEA WERE OUT OF ROUND TABLES WHEN KING ARTHUR VISITED?

SECURITY DEPARTMENT note to The RESEARCH DEPARTMENT of The History Maintenance Commission. 

We have formulated the question What if IKEA (or the fifth century equivalent hardware store) were out of round tables when King Arthur visited? Could you please research this and forthwith provide the information we have on King Arthur. We have taken into account that many historians are sceptical that King Arthur ever existed as there is no mention of his name in any surviving documents between 400-840 AD. Although this could simply be because Arthur took advantage of data protection rules prevalent during this period.

RESEARCH DEPARTMENT reply to request from SECURITY DEPARTMENT 

King Arthur Timeline

(Dates appearing with an asterix are approximate)

410 AD

The Romans leave Britain after nearly 370 years of occupation.

411

It’s estimated that 2.5 million Christmas cards in Britain have to be dumped due to the Romans leaving no forwarding address.

420*

The native Britons have to fight to defend their island from increasing raids from Saxon hoards. This isn’t to be confused with Samuel Peterson of Norfolk, England who in the 1970’s collected vast quantities of salt from one specific company which he then stored untouched in a series of warehouses in Great Yarmouth. He was the Saxon hoarder.

474*

On Christmas Day King Arthur is conceived at Tintagel by King Uther Pendragon and Queen Igerna, wife of Duke Gorlois of Cornwall. It is believed that Uther Pendragon missunderstood the message that two families could mix over the festive period during an outbreak of the plague.

475*

King Arthur is born to the high king of Britain, Uther Pendragon. Anything below that and he would’ve been called Low Art instead.

482*

After the death of his father, Arthur is hidden somewhere in the countryside to protect him from enemies of the Pendragons. He befriends the wizard Merlin which he considers a wise move in the power struggles that lie ahead. This would explain why Paul Daniels was never short of friends at school, although when it came to his birthday he always knew what card they had chosen.

489*

With leaderless Britain facing the threat of Saxon invasion, Merlin stages a contest to determine who shall be king. Whoever extracts the sword from the stone shall be pronounced the rightful monarch. Many great warriors attempt the feat but fail. The teenage Arthur steps forward and accomplishes the task with ease to prove his birthright and is pronounced King of Britain. (Extracting a sword from a stone is considered the 6th century version of a nigh on impossible task. Today’s equivalent would be trying to part a teenager from their smartphone.)

490*

King Arthur receives the magical sword Excalibur from The Lady of the Lake. When he arrives she holds it out of the water and offers it to him on condition that he promises to fulful any subsequent request that she makes. Arthur agrees but secretly wishes he had simply had the sword delivered rather than opting for Click and Collect.

498*

Arthur marries the young Princess Guinevere. He is slightly browned off by the amount of toasters the couple receive as wedding presents that burn the toast in the shape of a sword that then pops out from the stone shaped toaster.

500

To celebrate the half millennium Arthur establishes Britain’s capital at Camelot.

501*

Arthur visits his local hardware store and purchases a giant round table. He sits his most trusted knights around it. They all feel equal due to the shape of the table. For that reason the king is glad he didn’t order the long rectangular one with the circular drop down attachment at one end as they would then have felt like pricks. They pledge an oath to uphold a new chivalric code. Though several of the knights think the pledge should’ve been used on the table itself which is dull and lacking lustre.

503*

After repelling the Saxons in battle King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table march on Rome where he is crowned as the Western Emperor.

505*

Sir Lancelot becomes Arthur’s best knight. When she hears this, Guinevere is enraged as her husband had always told her that their honeymoon was his best night. This leads to disenchantment and Guinevere turns her attentions to the dashing Sir Lancelot.

508*

Guinevere finally catches up with Sir Lancelot after a cruciate ligament injury incapacitates his abilities to dash about. They make adulterous love in the same Tintagel hotel where Arthur was conceived. (The hotel proprietor was known to turn a blind eye to it.)

511-516*

King Arthur champions the Quest for the Holy Grail. This being the name given to the vessel that Jesus served wine from at The Last Supper. Although, when he originally bought it it was simply called The Argos Home Basics Drinks Dispenser. Over the next five years several Round Table knights embark on the quest and fail, including Sir Lancelot, until the virtuous, young knight Sir Gawain succeeds and brings the precious, sought after chalice to Britain for the first time.

518*

Arthur learns of Guinevere’s adultery with Sir Lancelot (the postcard she had sent from Tintagel saying ‘Glad you weren’t here’ had only just arrived). He banishes Sir Lancelot from the round table and orders that Guinevere be burned. His errant, fair-skinned wife realises this likely means she won’t be allowed to pack the Factor 50 for their forthcoming holiday to the coast of Brittany, so leaves him for Sir Lancelot.

519*

In the subsequent war between Sir Lancelot and King Arthur, Arthur’s son, Mordred, seizes the throne of Britain. What Arthur found particularly unforgivable was that the ungrateful bastard did it on Father’s Day too.

520*

At a final battle, Arthur kills Mordred but is gravely wounded in the process. He is taken to Avalon to die, mainly because due to another flu epidemic there were no beds available at the Camelot Royal Infirmary. His sword Excalibur is cast away, a shame really as with a bit of polishing and sharpening it could’ve fetched a few quid.

1138

Geoffrey of Monmouth includes Arthur in his History of the Kings of Britain

1468

Thomas Mallory writes Le Morte d’Arthur from his cell in prison where he has been incarcerated for his part in a plot to overthrow Edward IV and for his deliberate use of French instead of English.

1807

A new code of ethics for the English Gentleman is shaped around the chivalric deeds of Arthurian romance.

1813

The English Gentleman is finally located and says that he isn’t interested but thanks anyway.

1832

The Lady of Shalott a poem based on Arthurian legend is written by Alfred Tennyson further establishing the chivalric code 19th century gentlemen are expected to live by, added to by his later verse The Idylls of the King.

1889

Mark Twain writes the popular comedy novel A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court.

It stands to reason that the acquisition of a round table was a pivotal point in the King Arthur narrative. The shape of this piece of furniture his knights gathered around promoted a feeling of togetherness and equality and this loyalty and general bonhomie created the winning atmosphere which enabled Saxons to be repelled, chivalry to be prevalent and Holy Grails to be sought and obtained. Until, of course, Sir Lancelot strayed from this circular inspired idyll to betray his king.

So what of the other alternatives to a round table that King Arthur could have chosen in the absence of his first preference. Here are some of those other possibilities and the consequent effect they would have had upon certain aspects of the Arthurian legend:

A Nest of Tables – Instead of seeking the Holy Grail the Knights would’ve been encouraged to look for worms to bring back to Camelot.

A Card Table – Sir Lancelot wouldn’t have become King Arthur’s most prominent knight as that distinction would befall Sir Bluffalot.

A Folding Table – This wouldn’t have inspired much confidence from potential financial investors.

A Side Table – More likely to attract comedians/court jesters than bona fide knights.

A Metal Table – It’s magnetic properties would’ve ensured that knights from all around were attracted to it, and once they’d attached themselves to it could unfortunately never leave it.

A Dining Table – Would’ve attracted the wrong sort of knight. Ones motivated by gluttony rather than engaging in heroic, chivalrous deeds. Camelot would’ve disparigingly become known as Cramalot instead.

A Bedside Table – Sir Lancelot would develop a complex in which he thought he was a lamp, because he kept being turned on by Guinevere.

A Coffee Table – At important meetings some of the knights would invariably be latte and make the proceedings a mochary.

A Water Table – If the wet stuff is on the cold side the Knights are more likely to obey a code of shivery instead.

A Football League Table – The Knights of the Football League Table will only be happy if they are five points clear at the top at Easter, anything less and they’d be asking Arthur to fall on his sword. Although, because Excalibur is a magic sword they could request it to fall on Arthur instead.

DONALD CAMPBELL SAVES WORLD FROM THE LADY WITH THE CLAMP.

REPORT FROM THE HOLOGRAM DEFENSE PROGRAM of The History Maintenance Commission, NYC.

6th Report Received From Donald Campbell

As I still had a fair bit of time left on the meter, i decided to return a month later in 1844 to Florence in my Bluebird-Proteus CN7 and make a very quick exit if she gave me one of her perishing looks. I found her in the village where she had borrowed the whippet. It was night and she was walking the main street with just her lamp for company. I was right to exhibit caution, she wanted me to turn tail and disappear pretty sharpish. But, astonishingly, not for the reasons I had thought.

‘Away with you,’ she said with a wave of her immaculately clean white gloved hands. ‘Have you not brought enough trouble to the doorsteps of these good people as well as my own?’ She purposefully extinguished her lamp so as to veil our encounter in darkness.

It emerged that The News of the World reporters had descended upon sleepy Hampshire and had written a bombshell of an article on the deluded villagers and their observations of fire-farting dragons that travel at breakneck speed on land and water and seem to exist on a diet of lean dogs that they chase but don’t consume. The slant of the story centred on the assumption that the villagers had been hallucinating on woodland fungi.

The Government intervened by quarantining the area to stop this hysteria spreading to adjacent hamlets until such a time as the malaise had passed. Florence Nightingale felt it incumbent upon her to nurse the afflicted until the restrictions were lifted as she felt responsible for their predicament having roped them in. I knew something of what it was like to have your mind not function to the maker’s specifications. At Utah, on the Salt Flats, an accident was waiting to happen. There was no sense of fear whatsoever, or reality, for that matter. It was basically caused by oxygen poisoning. Then came the frightful crash. Thankfully, I came out of it alive in more than a hundred years from now. I don’t want to experience that again, believe me.

‘The wheel-clamping is on hold for a while, I assume?’ I ventured to say.

‘Hush! she replied, looking carefully about her to ensure nobody else was watching. ‘I will not be able to pursue vehicle clamping at all from this juncture onwards. The authorities wish to brush this mess you’ve caused under the carpet. I’ve been ordered, once the conclusion of this honourable vigil is at an end, never to mention it or allude to it ever again. If I were to pursue a vocation in wheel-clamping that would unequivocally provide an allusion to the state of quarantine prevalent here at present, where everyone is ensnared. I shall have to adopt nursing as my calling and insist that when I visit the Lutherans at Kaiserswerth that that is my introduction to treating the sick and deprived. This episode in this village has to remain part of a closed book.’

I was gestured away in uncompromising fashion with a brush of her hands like I was dirt set upon sullying them. The lady relit her lamp and resumed her rounds. I was able to appreciate irony when it slipped into gear. Florence Nightingale would now, thanks to the efforts of Team Bluebird, make her name treating wounded British soldiers in the Crimean War. Victims of the Ruskies. But really, I had set her on the path with her good old lamp a decade earlier, treating the Rustics!

Mission successful. It goes to show, quite frankly, that when the British make their minds up they can overcome all obstacles and achieve anything.

REPORT ENDS

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL SUPPLIED BY THE INTELLIGENCE DEPARTMENT HMC NYC

The History Maintenance Commission Intelligence Department have since discovered these new excerpts from the writings of Florence Nightingale that have only just appeared. They seem to make reference to Donald Campbell:

‘Rather ten times die in the surf, heralding the way to a new world, than stand idly on the shore.’ Cassandra (1852) * This appears to refer to Campbell’s death at Lake Coniston on January 4, 1967 and his contempt for his knockers.

‘It was an affair of the most critical importance to accomplish the journey in the least possible space of time.’ Letter to Hilary Bonham Carter (1845). * Pretty obvious where her drive for speed had emanated from.

‘When shall we see a life full of steady enthusiasm, walking straight to its aim, flying home, as that bird is now, against the wind,’ Cassandra (1852). *Nightingale makes allusion here to the impressive Bluebird machines and the bad luck they will attract in order to break records. Here citing the facing wind being against an attempt.

‘For do we ever utilize this heroism? Look how it lives upon itself and perished for lack of food.’ Cassandra (1852). *A clever reference here to Campbell’s critics and how, unlike his father, Donald never received a knighthood. The mention of ‘lack of food’ clearly remarks upon how Campbell perished on his second run at Lake Coniston having chosen not to refuel, as was the norm, between the attempts.

WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR LATEST: DOOMSDAY BOOKS MORE POPULAR WITHOUT HIM

The compliation of The Domesday Book.

HISTORY MAINTENANCE COMMISSION RESEARCH DEPARTMENT

REPORT

WHAT IF WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR FAILED TO GET THROUGH CUSTOMS ON HIS ARRIVAL IN ENGLAND IN 1066?

A world without William Duke of Normandy successfully conquering England would be an altogether more depressing place due to the fact Doomsday Books filled with fatalistic prophesies would dominate the publishing market their argument being that William’s commission of The Domesday Book between 1085-86, severely harmed future forays into this genre. For The Domesday Book, essentially a mammoth ledger of landholdings and resources in England, has to be one of the most boring tomes ever compiled, thus preventing any author wishing to use the name Domesday or Doomsday Book to describe their fatalistic prophecies is automatically stymied as they are all too aware the reading public associate the name with mind numbing tedium.

The Omphalos, the special computer programme devised by HMC CEO Professor Delphi, has arrived at the conclusion that without the existence of The Domesday Book stinking the place out, nearly every reader the world over would have at least one book in their personal library spelling doom and gloom for the prospects of mankind. The following example was provided which supposes an author who writes with authority about an asteroid on a collision course with our planet on October 30, 2068 at 16:53. After providing the scientific data and explanations for it the author describes why it will wipe out mankind and then gives a timetable, a sort of countdown to oblivion, that we could expect. The History Maintenance Commission then provides extracts from that timetable as a taste of the sort of depressing literature that would be commonplace in a world where William The Conqueror failed to get through customs on his arrival on English soil in 1066:

COUNTDOWN TO OBLIVION

8 Years To Go

Chutch services become all ticket affairs and it becomes easier to get one’s child into Eton than to get them into Sunday School.

7 Years To Go

Manchester United quit the Premier League in favour of joining the new Universe League and announce their intention to play all their matches away from home.

6 Years To Go

Careers Officers feel their sense of self worth is depreciating with every passing day.

5 Years To Go

Alzheimer’s is cured. The following day pleas are made to reinvent it.

4 Years To Go

Fortune Tellers reduce their prices.

3 Years To Go

Due to increased anxiety levels, twenty becomes the new forty.

2 Years To Go

Spiritualists increasingly being asked by people to contact the dead not just to reaquaint with those they left behind but also to seek their advice on the best accomodation to seek up there.

1 Year To Go

The ‘Rubble’ School of Architecture is in vogue as city planners look to the future.

11 Months To Go

Basks offer 1,000,000 percent interest to any investor willing to lock their savings away for a year.

8 Months To Go

Share prices involving Condom and Contraceptive Pill and Device Manufacturers plummet on the International Stock Exchange.

3 Months To Go

First life sentences handed down for non payment of Council Tax.

1 Month To Go

Callers to customer service departments are advised that their call will no longer be recorded for training purposes and warned that they could literally be spending the rest of their lives waiting to be connected to a human being.

1 Week To Go

BBC Asteroid Week commences.

4 Days To Go

Longest waiting list in NHS history reported for patients seeking hypnosis to send them back to a previous life and then keep them there.

Penultimate Day

Sydney Symphony Orchestra at The Royal Albert Hall, London 19:30 performing ‘The Last Night of the Poms’.

Final Day

Weather Forecast: After early morning mist clears will be a mild day with sunny periods, 17% chance of rain with soaring heat, hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis to follow later.

Mruder, Treason and Arson now dealt with by on the spot fines.

The latest edition of The Oxford English Dictionary is published. It no longer includes an entry for the word ‘Tomorrow’.

Supermarket ‘Reduced To Clear’ shelf now extended to include the whole store.

Lifetime guarantees provided on socks, tights and stockings.

For the first time in its 108 year history ITV’s Coronation Street concludes an episode with all loose ends nicely tied up.