OPINION: In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it: it was a hobbit- hole, and that means comfort and dairy farming and a nuclear-free policy.
The hobbit who lived in this hole was the Peeyem, or chief hobbit. One day his secretary came to visit him. They ate a light lunch of whitebait and oysters and a dairy cow and then they sat back with their pipes but didn't light them because of the in-hole smoking ban.
"Peeyem," said the secretary, "we think you should go on a journey."
The Peeyem dropped his pipe in horror. "A journey," he exclaimed.
"Well, more of a long, slimy crawl," said the secretary. "We want you to go to the Holy Wood."
"The Holy Wood!" exclaimed the Peeyem, picking up his pipe in order to drop it again in horror, "the home of the dreaded Moguls?"
"Yes," said the secretary.
"The Moguls who manufacture trash and fantasy to exploit the most primitive urges."
"Yes," said the secretary. "Because exploiting primitive urges has given the Moguls lots of golden treasure. Your job is to get them to come and spend that treasure here in Hobbiton, not only so that we get rich but also to encourage boneheads to visit Hobbiton in the fatuous hope of getting a bit of glamour by proxy. It'll be very good for the economy and if you succeed it will make you popular."
"I think it's demeaning and mercenary and unworthy and wrong," said the Peeyem.
"Yes," said the secretary. "And here's your travelling bag. It's full of bribes."
With a sigh as deep as a hobbit's hole the Peeyem took the bag and set off on his long slimy crawl. Many hours did he travel through the Lounge of Koru and after many adventures he arrived at the fabled region of the Holy Wood, where he marvelled at the glittering towers that stretched to the sky from their foundations of solid hokum. People were queuing outside one of the towers.
"Excuse me," said the Peeyem. "Does anyone know where I can find some Moguls? I've come on a long slimy crawl to bribe them, you see."
"Wait your turn, shortie," growled the very black man at the back of the queue.
"But I'm the important Peeyem of Hobbiton," said the Peeyem, placing his dignity on the pavement and standing on it to look taller.
"And I'm the president for life of a small African country," said the very black man. "And that bloke there with the empty wallet and the threadbare suit is the chairman of the European Union, and that's the Moldovan Cultural Attache, and shall I go on?"
"I'll wait my turn," said the Peeyem.
When his turn came he found the Mogul enthroned on a chair of polished crassness.
"Sit," said the Mogul.
The Peeyem sat.
"Stand," said the Mogul.
The Peeyem stood.
"Beg," said the Mogul.
"I'll have you know," said the Peeyem, "that I'm the Peeyem of an independent sovereign nation and that if you continue to treat me in this manner I shall report you to your president who is a personal friend."
The Mogul reached wearily into his pocket, brought his hand to the desk and slowly unfurled his fingers. In his palm stood a little White House. "Do I need to say any more?" he asked.
The Peeyem was silent.
"Right," said the Mogul stashing the White House back in his pocket, "show me your bribes."
"Tax credits," said the Peeyem, rootling through his bag, "a hard-working labour force with unions I can crush, an insulting minimum wage, some shares in our Mighty River, a . . ."
"Boring," said the Mogul, plugging his yawn with a cigar the size of a submarine. "Where was it you said you were from?"
"The proudly independent nation of Hobbiton," said the Peeyem.
"Fee fie foh fum," exclaimed the Mogul, suddenly animated. "Hobbiton eh? Come here, little man."
He grabbed the Peeyem by the beard and hauled him across the desk.
"Take this golden platter," he said, "and bring it back to me within two moons bearing the head of a 20-stone German. Then we'll talk business."
"Yes, Mr Mogul, sir," stammered the Peeyem.
And with the platter under his arm the Peeyem of the proudly independent nation of Hobbiton set off on the long road home.
- The Press