The latest new toy for our Norneverland politicians to play with is something called a “Phantom Budget”… It reminded me  of a story I wrote about  my childhood; that lost world of near-fantasy where anything was possible and imagination was everything.  So a phantom budget, then ? That is the latest proposal from the DUP. I have enough trouble getting my head around a real budget and now they’ve dug into the toybox and found a  ghostly mirage of a budget , hiding in some dark corner. This chimera of illusion is  apparently a shadowy wraith of an undead, illusionary  kind of budget that has found favour with Norneverland’s Secretary of State , Theresa Villiers. She’s seems to be grasping at any straw blowing in the wind.

Actually given the Emperor’s New Clothes version of politics and governance in Norneverland , that  idea sounds quite apt. A combination of Lilliputian and Alice’s  Wonderland and its mental mayhem. It was bound to drift into the land of mirages  and hallucinations like some kind of political acid-trip , sometime.

Hans Christian Anderson’s two mischievous weavers  promised the vain emperor that they could supply a  wonderful suit of clothes that  was invisible to those who were unfit for their positions or were stupid or incompetent.The two conmen supplied the magical invisible suit and the emperor deftly suited -up, preened before his mirror and walked stark-naked before his subjects whose own vanity made them see the  resplendent ,magical clothing . It was left to a child to observe and point out  that the emperor and everyone else was delusional and that their foolishness made them believe he wore a magical suit. The child cried out  “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!” ……………………………………………………………………………………….

The scrawled note, roughly attached to the broken board, boldly stated…..”The Phantom Cat strikes!!”. We saw the partly -silhouetted distant figure running through the turnip field, backlit by a near -dusk ,drowning sun. He was vigorously spanking his back pocket with his hand like the cowboys whipped their horses in the films we saw at the picture houses on Saturdays.He was by now too far away for us to see exactly who this” Phantom” actually was. There was only a flash of a bright orange jacket and then he was gone beyond the hedge.

Nobody would wear a bright orange jacket back then! You’d literally be a sitting target for other gangs. It was like waving a flag at the proverbial bull.

Where would you even buy such a thing in those days? In any case, all possible suspects would deny any knowledge of the events or the vandalism.We looked around at the destruction of our tree house. It had been rudimentary at best, but it was our “secret” gang- hut ; not much more than a platform in the tree above what we referred to as “the Bucking Bronco”, a huge fallen -down tree trunk which we used to sit astride while plotting incursions into “enemy” territory, or before setting out on adventures. Our secret base was now a scattered puzzle of broken boards and branches. Days of stealing oddments of little planks from the local sawmill, ferrying them through the hole in the fence , across the field , into the “park”and hauling them up into the tree . All that wasted. A ruin.

It wasn’t until later that year, ages of languor in that limitless desert of  summer’s time, while traversing that same field, that someone caught sight of a familiar orange flash sweeping backwards and forwards on a washing line in full flight . The bright flapping lining of the jacket exposing its secrets as it twisted hither and thither in the autumn breeze. The jacket’s owner, many years hence would go on to become a well- respected school teacher….his nefarious alter-ego possibly only a long -distant cloud of memory.

Norneverland …a land of perpetual childhood….


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