Miles Kington: The thwack of mortar rounds on the village green

The dog-dropping nuisance in the children's playground had been entirely eliminated since the death penalty was brought in
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The Independent Online

A bit of local news today, for a change, from the little village of Upton Marshlea, the only village in Britain which has a Taliban councillor. Asked how Mr Qatar Ali got elected, Mrs Daisy Baker, the secretary says: "Well, he said he had been involved in local politics back home in Afghanistan and he stood for election at a time when lots of councillors were standing down, and one is so grateful for anyone volunteering to get involved at all these days. I cannot say I agree with all Mr Ali's ideas, but he certainly enlivens the discussions..."

She has sent me a summary of one of their recent council meetings, and it seems to bear out what she says.

Colonel Peabody said he had been asked to report on the state of the children's playground, and could confirm that the dog- dropping nuisance had been entirely eliminated. This was entirely due to the death sentence which, at Mr Ali's insistence, had been brought in to deal with the owners of guilty dogs.

"And death to the dogs, too," said Mr Ali.

"Quite," said the Colonel.

He said that in fact no death sentence had yet been carried out. They had come near it with the persistent misbehaviour of Trixie, the vicar's wife's dog, but the death sentence levelled against Mrs Champlain had on appeal been commuted to a severe ticking off, which seemed to have done the trick without any loss of life.

He said the playground sub-committee had considered Mr Ali's proposal to introduce segregation into the playground, so that the boys played in one area, and girls in another, and did not mix at all, but they had decided it would be too expensive to duplicate all the playground equipment.

Mr Ali said there was no need to duplicate playground equipment. Girls needed no toys. What need was there for them to play? They should go to the playground to learn to sew and weave and tend goats.

Mention of goats reminded him, said Mr Anstruther, that the experiment of putting a flock of goats on the village green had been only partially successful, as although they had been a useful supply of milk, they had regularly attacked visitors. He thought that having wild animals on the green was sending out the wrong message to guests.

Mr Ali said that visitors to the village should be discouraged. They were American spies. They were in the pay of the infidel. If the goats failed to kill them, they should be mortared on sight.

Possibly, said Mr Anstruther, but it was also possible that they were bona fide visitors. Upton Marshlea was trying to promote itself as the village of flowers, and it would be discouraging for people who had come for an afternoon stroll to be attacked with goats and mortars. In any case, mortars were not a cheap item.

Mr Ali said he knew where you could get mortars cheap and no questions asked.

Mrs Daisy Baker said that that might well be so, but in fact they had no funds allocated for purchase of arms, licit or illicit.

Mr Ali said that Mrs Baker was a mere woman and had no right to speak at these meetings. Or even to be at these meetings. He would listen to Mr Baker, if there was a Mr Baker, but not to Mrs Baker, who should be severely beaten by her husband until she learnt respect and silence.

Mrs Baker said she would suggest it to her husband, as he was always up for a lark.

Mr Ali asked if any progress had been made with the idea of mounting a punitive expedition against the neighbouring village of Upton Bailey.

Colonel Peabody said that Mr Ali seemed obsessed with war.

Mr Ali said he was only trying to fit in with the ethos of Upton Marshlea, which had war memorials all over the place. Even in the church, there were old battle flags and heaven knows how many tablets to people who had died fighting. A small armed raid on Upton Bailey would be quite in keeping.

Mrs Baker said she would minute the suggestion.

There being no other business, the meeting adjourned.