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“What’s it all about?” my wife asked me one evening, just before she fell asleep. I didn’t know, but I didn’t like to admit it, and I lay awake all night thinking about it. Nothing came to me, so the next morning I set about finding out. When I dropped my daughter off at Sandgate Primary School, I asked her teacher. He said he didn’t know, that was why he’d become a primary school teacher. So I called in on the Harvey Grammar School. The science teacher said it wasn’t on the syllabus this year; the English teacher muttered something about finding the answer in the works of Shakespeare. The music teacher didn’t hear the question, and the German teacher made me rephrase the question, but never told me the answer. The maths teacher gave me an answer, but I didn’t understand it. The way he laughed when he told me made me unwilling to ask for clarification.
I was late for work, but I couldn’t concentrate anyway. I didn’t like to ask my boss, as I had spent my career convincing him I knew everything. On the Internet I asked Google, but Google just gave me more questions, mostly relating to obscure American TV sites. DuckDuckGo wasn’t any better, and I had to make sure no one saw me looking at any of the sites it suggested. I e-mailed an old friend from University, but he had changed his e-mail address.
I wondered if age and experience would provide the answer. I asked my mum. She said, “Ask your dad.” My dad said, “Ask your mum.” I phoned up my father-in-law. He thought for a while, and then said “What was the question?”
I left work early and went to ask my local vicar at Holy Trinity on Sandgate Rd. She told me I’d find out eventually, but when pressed she admitted that No, she didn’t know the answer. The doctor checked my temperature, my heartbeat and my breathing and said I didn’t need to worry about things like that, because the stress would increase my blood pressure. At Chambers I got several opinions, none of them definitive. What do you expect from people in a pub at three in the afternoon? After a swift half I left them to argue among themselves. They didn’t notice that I’d left.
I phoned up Jeremy Clarkson from ITV’s ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?’. He said he would ask the audience. The audience said ‘D’.
I tried my local MP Damian Collins, who promised to ask questions in Parliament, but it might take some time. I phoned up the Prime Minister, whose press secretary said he would look into it when he wasn’t so busy with Brexit. I tried the Leader of the Opposition, who told me that if I voted for him in the next election everyone would get access to all the answers, and if I didn’t, the bogeyman would get me. I tried the Queen, but she wasn’t in. Her spokesman told me the Prime Minister usually dealt with that kind of thing.
I would have to try further afield, so I asked the President of France, who pretended he didn’t understand the question. When I tried asking in French, he swore at me in perfect English and hung up. The President of Russia was in Germany dealing with domestic politics; the German Chancellor was on holiday in France, and didn’t want to be disturbed. I went straight to the top of the European Parliament, but they told me I needed to fill in seven forms to be allowed to ask such a question. They would send the forms to me within twenty-eight days. I got through to the President of the European Commission by pretending to be the Deputy Prime Minister of Andorra, and he told me that he would set up a committee to look into the issue. I hung up when he started quizzing me on projected Andorran agricultural output.
It seemed clear that Europe didn’t have the required answers, so I tried America. The President of the USA asked me to define more clearly what I meant by ‘it’, and then told me that he had never seen any documents pertaining to the answers that I was seeking. I asked if anyone else there would know, and he stressed that he was all alone. He got a bit flustered. I suppose having to admit you don’t know the answer is difficult when you’re the most powerful man in the world. The only other person I could think of was Bill Gates, and he told me to look on the Internet. I thanked him and told him I would.
I couldn’t get through to the Canadians, but let’s face it, would anybody in Canada know the answer? I tried the Canadian embassy, but they threatened to have me arrested if I didn’t stop making prank phone-calls.
I phoned the Prime Minister of Australia who yelled, “Don’t you know what time it is?!” and hung up. I thought I’d better not try New Zealand.
I headed for the library, but it had closed due to a cut in hours. On my way home, I stopped off at the cinema, and watched a film called ‘All You Need To Know’, but it didn’t have the answers I was looking for. At the end I heard someone asking “What was that all about?” It was similar to my wife’s question, but I knew the answer to that one. At least I had found an answer to somebody’s question.
Back at home my wife commented that I was looking tired. I didn’t want to make her feel guilty, so I told her I had been working too hard. She suggested a day on our boat, and I thought it was a good idea. So the next day my wife, daughter and I headed towards Folkestone Harbour, and set sail. We sailed through the day, and at sunset in Hythe Bay, with the water peacefully lapping the boat, the stars just starting to appear in the sky, I pulled my family around me, one in each arm, and whispered to my wife: “This.”
With many thanks to A P L
Merry Xmas to you all from the Shepwayvox Team
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