After another lengthy sojourn at the Beti George Clinic, this time claiming it was 'flu, Sali Malu Cachu is back.
Sir Ephraim Jams gazed down at the ancient market town nestling in its historic landscape. There across the river was the Tallahassee Fried Chlorinated Chicken Shack, temporarily closed while the company said it was "re-evaluating its distribution operations". Close by was Poundstretcher, while a short distance away he could make out a building housing Kash-for-Gold and a new branch of the Rees-Mogg Brexit Bookies betting chain emblazoned with its catchy slogan "Everyone's a winner!"
It had been such a pleasure to welcome the Right Honourable Andrea Loathsome to the star-studded opening ceremony the other week. The local economy was indeed booming, and it was all thanks to his vision, Sir Ephraim mused modestly.
At that moment the Chief's attention was drawn to movement below the window of the Executive Suite as old Mudge, the caretaker, prepared to hoist the Union Flag to mark the birthday of Her Royal Highness Princess Trixie Tinkerbelle, the spouse of HRH the Duke of Luton who was now 37th in line to the throne.
With a surge of pride, Sir Ephraim recalled his last conversation with Camilla when she had come down for an overnight stay at the royal couple's beautifully restored 26-bedroom cottage.
"I've got to hand it to you, Eph," she had said between gulps of gin, "you know how to keep these local savages in order. Keep your nose clean, and I will have a quiet word with you-know-who. I can see you sitting on the red benches".
A peerage! Lord Jams of Century Wharf....Just imagine! He might soon be dispensing his wisdom before the gilded throne at the beating heart of British Government. All he had to do was hold the ship steady for a little longer.
Sir Ephraim's reverie was interrupted by a discreet cough. It was Mrs Hughes Jones, the housekeeper.
"The staff are waiting for you in the Chippings Room", she announced.
Sir Ephraim strode into the panelled room dominated by a massive portrait of Dame Muriel swathed in ermine and wearing some very impressive chains of office.
Wasting no time on pleasantries, Sir Ephraim was straight down to business.
"We have only one item on the agenda today, namely the symbolic but nevertheless vitally important question of municipal protocol and flag flying".
"You will recall that questions were recently asked by some of our newer members less experienced in policy matters about raising a multi-coloured banner from the roofs of our offices. I am pleased to inform you that I personally approved a policy to deal with such matters a couple of years ago after we received an avalanche of requests from various pressure groups. It is with regret that I must inform you that acceding to such requests is out of the question. Unless of course you decide otherwise."
"The policy itself is based on a very clear protocol issued by the Home Office at the time when the Prime Minister herself occupied that great Office of State".
"The decision before you is therefore whether to disregard the firm instructions of the Home Office itself and open open the floodgates to a torrent of demands to fly the flags of extremist organisations, or to hold firm and respect the wishes of their Royal Highnesses who made their views clear to me on their last visit to Mudpie".
"It's Myddfai, Sir", ventured one of the assembled worthies.
"Exactly. Mudpie, just as I said", snapped Sir Ephraim testily.
"May I be so bold as to ask permission to see the requests you have received", asked Mr Mole.
Sir Ephraim brandished a thick file of papers. "Unfortunately that will not be possible because of commercial sensitivity, which as you will be aware is a delegated area of policy, but rest assured I do not think you would want to be seen to be allowing the Trelech Taliban Association, the Abergorlech Sex Workers Collective or the Laugharne Leather Club to promote their, cough, interests from our property. And you can bet that if we did, we'd be getting demands from Ffred Ffransis and his troublemakers next".
A lugubrious voice boomed from the far end of the table. It was Boris Karloff, or possible Edmund Jeffries. Sir Ephraim was never quite sure which.
"I recently had the colours of the rainbow explained to me", he began. "Red means, um, passion I think, while indigo has something to do with hope. Or it maybe it's the other way round".
Sir Ephraim cut him short. "Very interesting I'm sure, but we must now move to a vote. On the one hand you may decide to ignore the wishes of their Royal Highnesses and the advice given by the Home Secretary. You are indeed free to open the floodgates to all manner of fanatics and pressure groups, accepting the very negative publicity that would go with the flying of Islamist symbols and Tafod y Ddraig. You may on the other hand decide to heed the words of Dame Muriel herself who warned that members who listened to the clamour of public opinion were weak and spineless. It is entirely up to you."
The assembled worthies shifted uncomfortably in their seats.
"All those in favour of standing firm, raise your hands now."
Sir Ephraim looked pleased. "Unanimous! Good day to you all. Mrs Hughes Jones, kindly show them out."
Before Sir Ephraim could move, the door burst open and an unshaven man sweating profusely in an ill-fitting grey suit stumbled in. The suit jacket was festooned with badges and ribbons. "Nia for Nukes!", "M4 Relief Road Now!", "Say NO! to M4 Relief Road" screamed some of the badges.
It was "our Rob", as he was known to the dog walkers of Llanerch Fields.
"Sorry I'm late. I over-, um I mean the um, err, ah, I had a flat tyre. Yes that was it. A flat tyre. Did I miss anything?"
"Mr Karloff will fill you in", snarled the chief before sweeping from the room.
A couple of days had passed and Sir Ephraim was to be found in his office, poring over a detailed map of the new Dame Muriel Wellness Village and Spa. There was the site of the planned Robbie Savage Hotel, next to the Golding Sachs Health Investment Center. Over there was the site of the enormous new Buba Clinic, while here was the Harley Street Specialist Arena.
It was all very exciting, but Sir Ephraim's pencil hovered over the words "Dame Muriel".
Name recognition and branding were key, he mused, and to be brutally frank "Dame Muriel" lacked that international je-ne-sais-quoi. Sir Ephraim crossed out the name of his old friend and wrote the words "HRH Princess Camilla".
That was much better, he thought. He could tell Dame Muriel that if the wellness village thing took off, the international airport she had longed for would finally be built where Trimsaran now stood, and it would of course be known as "Dame Muriel International" in her honour. That way everyone would be happy, he smiled.
Sir Ephraim's train of thought was interrupted by a knock on the door. It was Mrs Hughes Jones, the loyal housekeeper.
"Mr Mole wishes to see you, and he says it's very urgent", she announced.
"Very well, show him in", said a visibly annoyed Sir Ephraim.
Mr Mole entered, clearly distressed.
"What is it man? Speak up!"
"They're all up in arms over the flag business, Sir. They're spitting feathers in Cardiff Bay, there's a petition and demonstrations are planned. The BBC is sniffing around, and Shippo has been asking a lot of awkward questions. Not to mention the reptiles at the Herald. Leanne is furious."
"I see. So having made this mess, what do you intend to do about it?" Sir Ephraim was clearly not pleased at the turn of events.
Mr Mole did an impersonation of a goldfish before pulling himself together. "I have read the policy, Sir, and it says that I am allowed to make an executive decision. We have no choice but to fly the Rainbow Flag!"
"Act in haste, repent at leisure, Mr Mole. Any hopes you may have entertained of an MBE have now been dashed, and for some of us this may represent an even graver setback. You may leave now".
Mr Mole retreated rapidly, and as he did so he heard the sound of a gilt pencil being snapped.