Part One

It was a fine Spring morning at Homeward, so Uncle and the Old Monkey had decided to sit by the moat for their breakfast. Uncle sat over his bucket of cocoa in a rather despondent mood. By his side were a huge bunch of his favourite bananas, specially imported by the Old Monkey from Hum-Hum province, but even these had failed to cheer him up.

The truth is that he was rather tired of all the duties involved with the running of his great castle. After his great triumph over Beaver Hateman, when he and his Badfort cronies had attempted to steal the contents of the Treasury, Uncle had hoped to be able to enjoy some piece and quiet. Instead, news got around of his heroic deed and, as usual, the inhabitants of Homeward had demanded celebrations. Uncle could not help feeling that the many praises that were heaped upon him sounded hollow. The High Commissioner of Slingum Territory had come with a song especially composed by Zeelongfingo and performed by a troupe of performing seals. He somewhat suspected there motives, however, when one of them told the Old Monkey that they had heard all about Uncle's vast fisheries beneath Blue Sea Tower. Uncle was beginning to feel that all these celebrations were becoming an excuse for a big jamboree at his expense.

Oh, it had been splendid, but it also had taken a lot of organising. Admittedly, the Old Monkey performed most of the administration - with the aid of Goodman. Even so, Uncle had grown weary of being presented each day with the list of events he would be expected to attend. Truth be told, it had all become a bit boring.

“Do we really have to go to the Art Gallery today?” sighed Uncle.
“Well as you know, Sir, Waldovision Smeare has been working on a lovely picture of you lassoing Beaver Hateman in the Treasury. There are a lot of important people coming - I think that they are hoping for a donation towards the Smeare extension.” said the Old Monkey reproachfully.

The Old Monkey reminded him of that as long as the inhabitants of Homeward saw him as their friend and protector the rents would continue coming in. “Otherwise, things could descend into anarchy again.” he said “There might be brawling and disorder - as there was when Wizard Blenkinsop owned the Castle….” But before he could say any more Uncle let out another deep sigh “Oh no!.. It's the Anniversary coming up isn't it?”
he moaned. “That means another round of tedious celebrations!”

Every year celebrations are held at Homeward to commemorate the day Uncle took over Homeward from Wizard Blenkinsop. Although the Wizard had created many of the mysterious towers of Homeward (some so obscure and impenetrable that they have never been fully explored) he had always been far to busy with his magic making to actually get involved with the day to day organisation of his vast domain. He had been most impressed with the go-getting young elephant's plans for the place and, to be honest, he is quite greedy. So he was glad to get rid of the responsibilities and make a tidy sum out of the exchange.

The celebrations involve a re-enactment of the ceremony where the Wizard handed over the 'Crown of Homeward' to Uncle, the wearer of which is then bestowed the 'Great Key of Homeward'. They also include a mock battle between people dressed as Uncle and his followers and The Badfort Crowd - another re-enactment, of they first fight between the two groups, which happened on the very first day of Uncle's ownership. The fight had ensued after the Old Monkey had discovered Beaver and his crowd demolishing parts of Homeward in order to reuse the material in the construction of Badfort.

The thought of more celebrations left Uncle feeling even more despondent.
At that point Goodman rushed up hoping to cheer up his master. “Oh, Sir,” he said “ Some excellent news, I am sure it will cheer you up, feedback from the focus group, some most interesting comments I'm sure you will agree, if you don't mind me offering an opinion I -”
“Goodman,” said Uncle, “stop wittering, let's hear what the dwarves have to say for themselves!”
The Old Monkey had recently started running focus groups in order to gauge the opinions of the inhabitants of Homeward. These focus groups had proved very popular with the dwarves. They are called focus groups because all the participants get to answer cleverly crafted questions written by the Old Monkey and at the same time have their eyes tested and are given a free pair of spectacles if they cannot focus on and read out aloud a special chart. That's why they are called focus groups.

This is the special chart:

“Well,” started Goodman, “as usual they all said that they love to hear of your deeds and that you make them feel so glad -” Uncle interrupted testily, “They always say that - exactly that! - Still I suppose it shows they do all love me,” he said blushing slightly.

“This time,” continued Goodman, “we asked them about the upcoming Anniversary celebrations - they all said how much they love the re-enactments, especially the fight. They also really like all the food and drink, and although they didn't mention it I am sure that they are all really grateful to you, Sir, for supplying it free of charge. I'm sure they meant to say how grateful they are -”
“Enough!” said Uncle gruffly “Gratitude is too much to expect I suppose! Is there anything they do not like about the celebrations?”
“Well, just a couple of minor points, Sir, not really worth going -”
“Spit it out man!” interrupted Uncle “Lets hear it!”
“They just wondered if you could cut your speech down a bit, Sir, and cut a few choruses of “Glorious Uncle” at the start, Sir” said Goodman very quickly.
Uncle's brow darkened. “Pah!” said Uncle, snorting furiously “ungrateful bunch of freeloaders!”. “Right, that's the last straw, if they think my speeches are too long and boring, then they won't have to put up with them any longer, the celebration is off!” he said smacking his trunk loudly on the table. Goodman burst into tears and the Old Monkey shook his head sadly.

That afternoon in the big front hall of Badfort a monster meeting was being held, presided over by Beaver Hateman. It was so packed that many of the Badfort Crowd were hanging from the rickety galleries around the hall straining to hear Beaver above the din. “Comrades, as you know our raid on the fat dictator's treasury was not the defeat that he imagines. My plans are nearing completion - ready for the celebrations of the anniversary of the pompous humbug's annexation of Homeward. This will be an anniversary that Bully will never forget!”. At this the Badfort Crowd stamped their feet and cried “Stinggoon! Stinggoon! STINGGOON!”

Suddenly Hitmouse came running in' “It's off! It's off! The old humbugs called the celebrations off!” he shouted above the din. “What!” cried Beaver, “When's that Dictator ever passed over a chance to show off?”. “I heard some dwarves talking about it - he says he's not going to throw a party for a bunch of ungrateful inhabitants who never pay their rent anyway!” said Hitmouse, “Looks like that's our plans scuppered then!” he added.

“Never say die lads, we just need to use a bit of that reverse cycleology, what I been reading about - come on Hootman we need to come up with a plan to get these celebrations back on!” cried Beaver.

That night, Uncle and his friends were having a subdued evening around the fire in the hall of Homeward. Nobody could quite believe the drastic decision that Uncle had taken that morning. Uncle was clearly feeling sorry for himself, as he had spent much of the evening recollecting his early days. In a low dreamy voice he intoned once more his life story “I was born in the jungle, to poor parents. Thrust out into the world with a mere halfpenny. With a start like that many expect me to have been a ruthless business tycoon - but no, no, I have built my fortune on the principle to do the other person and myself good at the same time. A farthing a week is all those dwarves pay - and how do they repay me - they say my speeches are boring while they eat and drink my food - that's how they repay me!”. Here Uncle drew out a handkerchief, and wiped a little moisture from his eyes.

In an attempt to lighten the mood Goodman turned on the radio, and cheerful music filled the air. Suddenly a burst of static drowned out the band. Everybody was appalled to hear the thin and squeaky voice of Hitmouse coming from the speakers.

HITMOUSE: This is Badfort Pirate Radio taking over your airwaves, lifting the lid on the goings on at Homeward. Investigative journalism at it's best -telling you the truth behind the lies of the Great Dictator. What's the latest gossip Mr Hateman?
HATEMAN: Well, as you know the old humbug has cancelled the forthcoming celebrations - claiming it's all down to the bad attitude of the dwarves. However, the truth is out there as they say.
HITMOUSE: Meaning?
HATEMAN: The old rascal is stony broke - that's what! He's been spinning a story about how he defeated our attempt to rob his treasury - but there were nowt there. I should know I was there!
HITMOUSE: That's quite an allegation, Mr Hateman.
HATEMAN: Mark my words, Homeward will be up for sale soon, probably sell it to some rich tycoon who'll triple the rents.
HITMOUSE: So you are saying he can't afford the celebrations?
HATEMAN: Can't afford em', too embarrassed to ave em' - 'spect he's sold the crown and the key of the castle already! And a good job too if you ask me…should be a day of mourning - worst day in the history of Homeward the day that old rogue took charge -”

“Turn it off!” said Uncle. “Right, that's it! - The Anniversary Celebration is back on!”

His followers all cheered - it would be a festive evening after all.

To be continued…