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Subject :    Calendar Girls and Bosnian Slivovitz

Dear Dessie,

They said you shot off after the Syria vote in the direction of Manston airfield – another Crab Air flight to darkest Africa and more dishing out of our pounds sterling, I assume?  All the media coverage was of J.Bercow spending nine hours in the Chair without a pee.  Two hundred years ago the Chair had curtains and a commode, and it is rumoured that one Speaker received ladies of the night during boring debates – their equivalent of EU legislation!

Brother Fallon was spitting tin tacks at some leak from the MOD about the lack of local levies for the ground war in Syria.  Reminds me of the old wartime joke of someone in Whitehall stopping an officer and asking: “Which side’s the War Office on?”.  Answer: “Ours I hope!”

The floods in Cumbria appear to have caught the Environment Agency short and left Rory of Arabia – local MP and general dogsbody at DEFRA – bluffing gamely to the media.  His boss, the Trussette, phoned Lady Mary for advice on what she was to wear when having a photo opportunity in the flood water.  Lady M said: “No designer wellies, macks or bonnets, and as little make up as possible”.  Advice ignored, as you might guess.

You are fortunate to be overseas and missing the round of Christmas Parties and forced jollity.  You may not have seen the toe-curling cards sent by some of our colleagues – photos of themselves or their families: quite inappropriate.  I think you will enjoy mine – sent without Lady M’s knowledge or approval – of our jack russells standing on a pile of dead rats in the snow with the Parish Church behind and the sentiment “Peace on Earth, and Good Will to All Reptiles”.

Our Labour friends are still in the depths of despair and refuse to believe that Comrade Corbyn is here for the duration.  He attended the “Stop the War” Festive dinner and fundraiser at Ali Baba‘s Turkish restaurant full of Bolsheviks, Trots and other lefties.  Menu: prune juice and nut cutlets – with a finale of all the comrades singing the “Internationale”.

Soames and I rather like that gutsy new Labour MP Jess Phillips, who has had the round objects to say she would be prepared to knife Comrade Corbyn in the front.  Whenever Soames sees her in the Palace he shouts out: “Magnificent woman, what a trooperette”.

Mentioning women reminds me of Lady Mary’s scoop of persuading colleagues to pose for a “Calendar Girls and Boys” publicity stunt to raise money for distressed parliamentarians.  It was shot in great secrecy here in the Palace on a Sunday morning – the reptiles would have paid a fortune to see our scantily clad colleagues doing the business.  I recommend Claire Perry in the Speaker’s Chair (September) and Anna Soubry with nothing but Standing Orders to cover her fundamentals (March).  As Soames opined, she is the Helen Mirren of the Cabinet.  The boys were represented by, amongst others, Johnny Mercer with the Mace and Dr Dan with his chest mat on full display.  Soames ordered six dozen calendars and was handing them out in  White’s to much appreciation – members have a wide variety of tastes.

You were lucky to miss our Parliamentary Christmas Dinner in Stranger’s on Monday evening.  Like an all ranks smoker, with Soames, Sir Simon Burns and yours truly having bagged a table in the corner along with Karen Bradley, Nusrat Ghani and Victoria Atkins.  Highlights – or perhaps low lights –  of the evening were the jeroboams of Bosnian Plum slivovitz provided by Colonel Bob: the Chetniks used them in an anti-armour role.  Result – many colleagues tired and emotional, with Colonel Bob comatose under the Christmas tree.  The Whips acted as waiters, like officers with the men on Christmas Day: Kris Hopkins managed to drop a tureen of soup over the Chancellor; Mike Penning as Father Christmas (he got a black eye from Amber Rudd when he asked her to sit on his knee); and finally Christmas carols led by Dr Coffey on a karaoke machine.  At this point Soames and I did a leopard crawl to the exit accompanied by the Prime Minister.

I decided to give the Christmas Panto a miss this year as I still remember with horror last year’s adaption of “Puss in Boots” and all the cross-dressing our colleagues indulged in.  I’m told this year it was “Peter Pan” with John Hayes as Captain Hook.

Soames, Sir Simon and I were deputed to attend yesterday’s Conservative Women’s MPs Breakfast Club, held once a month in the Boothroyd Room and chaired by Nicky Morgan, our very own Joyce Grenfell.  We were greeted by the sight of about 30 of our female colleagues in what appeared to be an outstation of the Commons hair salon.  Anna Soubry in curlers and swearing like a trooper at Bill Cash on the tellie.  Andrea Jenkyns painting her toe nails and Mims Davies trimming her eye lashes.  Soames and I shuddered, as we are excused that particular pleasure at home – unlike Sir Simon who in his best Leslie Phillip’s voice said “Why hello, ding-dong”.  What I endure for the Party!

I understand that yesterday evening Boris Johnson held a Christmas Party at that “must be seen” club “Marks”, patronised by D Cameron.  Stiffie – embossed with “2015” and an invite to all members of that intake.  Must have cost many a rupee, and rumours round the Whitehall bazaars was that the management of London Heathrow were the sponsors. Talk about an unsubtle leadership canvass – and all spoilt by the Old Bill raiding the place at midnight with the Vice and Drug Squads to the fore and Alsatians sniffing every orifice in sight.  Reptiles doorstepped Mrs May about the incident, who said with a dead pan face that she knew nothing about it – police operational decision, and she hoped it hadn’t spoilt the Mayor’s evening, ho, ho, ho.

We are at home over the Festive Season, and I intend taking refuge in the annex with a supply of amber fluid, several boxed sets of old war films and the dogs.  Soames is in wildest Norfolk on environmental duties whilst Sir Simon is out with the homeless in Essex – or perhaps he is homeless in Essex?  No matter.

Can we meet for a New Year Drink at “The Fallen Milk Maid” at Winchfield?

Yours till the end of leave,