The Story so far:
George Moonbat, investigative journalist and erstwhile green activist, is made to see the folly of his ways by his Guardian colleagues, whose efforts to subvert the environmental movement by ridiculing it from within finally seem to be paying off.
He falls under the spell of MI5 operative James Delingpole and agrees to undertake a mysterious, perilous covert operation in the Amazon, for which he is to be trained by the bewitching Miranda.
They began training straight away. Miranda led him into the wildest, most remote recesses of the Welsh Borders, where they spent two weeks hiking and camping, living off the land. Miranda lit fires and built shelters from granite boulders and branches, while George foraged for mushrooms, berries and watercress.
In the evening, while George was skewering acorns for a nut roast kebab, Miranda would creep off into the undergrowth and return triumphantly with a couple of strangled rabbits. Then, by the light of their waterproof cooking stove, she filled him in on her work for Delingpole’s Green Brigade at MI5, while George pored over her well-thumbed “Watermelons”, trying to come to terms with his newfound enlightenment..
They clambered up every crag and mounted every mynydd, living an ecological idyll. George felt elated; never had his carbon footprint been so light. (Not that he gave a toss about that, now that all had been revealed by the bewitching Miranda). They bathed in mountain streams, and dried themselves in the brief intervals between downpours by running naked and shivering through the gorse. Once they spotted other human beings, a climate camp being run by Little Jack Horner the Welsh cognitive psychologist, who was instructing Megan Bronwen Gwen Gwynedd Olwen Myfanwy and the others in the mysteries of climate chaos and weather weirding.
George and Miranda, feeling no need for company other than their own, skirted the camp and proceeded up Huhne’s Dike and over Connie’s Cwm, from where they could see Davey’s Gorge rising in the distance.
As they gazed in wonder at the sodden grey landscape, the muffled thrum of incessant pelting rain was interrupted by another sound, that of a car engine. An iimmaculately preserved Eighth Army jeep was approaching up the mountain track. A lithe figure in a camouflage jacket bounded out. It was Delingpole. George stood to attention, resisting the urge to salute.
“Hi George, Randy darling”.
Delingpole cast a critical eye over George’s lean muscular frame, hardened by the incessant demands made on it by Miranda’s training.
“There’s a little addition to your programme. Tom Huntingdon’s holidaying on his estate in Shropshire, just over the border, enjoying a little paragliding along Lovelock Edge. He’s invited you along. We think you should go. It’ll do you good, and you might learn something useful.”
Early next morning they set off for Tom Huntingdon’s estate. They were met by Tom, Vanessa, and Bob the barking palaeopiezometrist, together with a caravanserai of SUVs carrying equipment and a horde of hangers-on.
Soon, George and Tom were strapped into the complex harnesses which attached them to the paragliders.
“Navigating is easy” explained Tom. You simply pull here to turn left, here to go right, swing yourself back like so to rise , and pull here to descend”.
George looked doubtful. “What if it all goes wrong and I have to make a crash landing?”
“Not a chance old boy “ said Tom heartily. If you do feel you’re in danger, you wait till you’re a few dozen feet above ground, then then you give a tug on the slingo here, and that releases your houghton, and Bob’s your uncle”.
Bob barked at the mention of his name, and tried to lick George’s genitals.
George fumbled with the different cords and toggles, trying to memorise Tom’s instructions.
“Whatever you do, don’t pull on the durkin,” warned Tom.
“Why? What’ll happen?”
“Your trousers’ll fall down.” Tom roared with laughter and slapped George on the back. “Come on. Vanessa’s waiting to launch us”.
A few minutes later they were aloft, floating side by side in the gentle updraft that swept them along Lovelock Edge.
“Whatever you do” Tom shouted across “Don’t get above the scarp. There’s turbulence at the summit, and you can lose control. Look!”
George looked to where Tom was pointing, over the rise. On the other side of the scarp, the top of a majestic blade suddenly rose and fell.
“My windfarm”, said Tom proudly. “There’s a hundred of the buggers over there. Every revolution is a thousand quid in my pocket.”
“Don’t they, er, endanger avian life?” George ventured.
“Not a chance.” Tom shouted back. “Birds are far too clever. Look. Go up a bit and you can see the whole row of them, churning out banknotes like a line of photocopiers”.
And he tugged on a cord that sent him swooping upwards. George watched anxiously as Tom swayed in the eddies of wind that rebounded from the top of the hill.
“Woops! Better be careful here. Don’t want to…”
But a sudden gust took him somersaulting over the crest of Lovelock Edge. “Woooah!!!!” Too late, Tom panicked and tugged on his durkin, sending his designer jeans round his ankles.
George missed the drama which ensued. He was too busy juggling with his slingo, managing to release the houghton in order to effect an emergency landing, and only too thankful to have avoided tugging on his durkin to notice Tom’s fate.
The small group on the ground below gazed up in horror as the hapless hedge fund manager, struggling to control both hanglider and trousers, careered into the path of the giant blade. It caught him neatly amidships, and with a faint “Bugger!” his torso plunged out of sight below, while his legs cartwheeled upwards, the pink frilly knickers slowly reddening in the glow of the afternoon sun.
The torso was never found. Only the lower half of a skeleton was recovered some weeks later, the bones picked clean by rabid badgers.
* * *
The funeral was a simple affair. It turned out that Tom Huntingdon had no friends, only employees, environmental advisers, and business associates, many of whom had now fled the country, or were helping the Fraud Squad with their enquiries into Tom’s tangled financial affairs.
Twenty four hours after the tragic accident, his chief accountant took a powder to South America, where he had interests in the export trade, and Vanessa disappeared Down Under with the Great Lobachevsky, the antipodean trickcyclist.
Tom’s business was revealed to be an empty shell, and the Huntingdon Foundation, with its myriad think tanks, Green NGOs and University departments dissolved like an ice floe under a rutting polar bear.
With the wind taken out of its sails and the lifeblood of Tom’s loot drained from its arteries, the Green Movement seemed to be rapidly turned brown and withering on the branch. Many an environmental correspondent feared having to go back to making the tea in the newsroom, and many an Oxford Professor of Ecological Ethics had nightmares of finding himself back in primary school arranging the nature table.
Apart from George and Miranda, most of those attending the funeral were bailiffs and plain clothes police officers. Old Briffa laid a wreath of withered larch branches, and Professor Phil made a short speech, saying it was good news that Tom was gone, since he’d been spared the sadness of the funeral. The ever faithful Bob, the barking palaeopiezometrist, bit a pallbearer and had to be put down.
George and Miranda stood hand in hand by the graveside. He threw the bouquet of wild flowers (gathered on Hampstead Heath that morning) on to the coffin and shovelled the first spadeful of earth over it. Then they turned and walked out of the churchyard in silence. Without a word, Miranda got into her Aston Martin which was parked at a discreet distance, and sped off (who knows where?) while George walked thoughtfully to the bus stop. He’d heard nothing from Delingpole since the tragedy. His passing dreams of service to his country in its moment of peril had faded in the harsh morning sun of our warming planet. He mounted a number 24 bus which would take him to the dreaming concrete spires of the Guardian’s office in King’s Cross, and the desk he shared with Damian and Leo.
He was looking forward to his new job, writing a Vegetarian Cookery Column for the Men’s Page. His recipe for Purslane Pie with Parsley Sauce and Sautéd Roquette would be a knock out.
“Eat your heart out, Booker”, he muttered to himself, as he mounted the bus.
* * *
At the same moment, at Heathrow airport, a man with dyed blond hair and dark glasses, wearing new designer jeans, and carrying an even newer false passport, stood in the queue for the flight to Rio.
He was travelling light, carrying only a battered briefcase. Inside it was a book to read on the plane (Michael Crichton’s “State of Fear”) a bulky dossier of legal papers, and a change of pink, frilly underwear.