Still no camera, still taking on the WordPress challenge….
“Are they up?”
“Yes, sir,” said Sir Jonas. “They are indeed up.”
The Grand Old Duke of York lifted his spyglass and stared proudly at ten thousand men, crowded together at the top of a quite a small hill.
“They look very impressive from afar, don’t they?”
They look like a bunch of pillocks on a hillock, thought Sir Jonas, his second-in-command. Aloud he said “they do indeed, sire”. The Grand Old Duke of York lowered his spyglass and Sir Jonas knew, from bitter, bitter experience, what was coming next.
“Jolly good,” said the Duke of York. “March them down again.”
The War of the Roses had reached a lull, because of winter. Both the red roses pinned to the doublets of the Lancasters and the white roses of the House of York had withered to something resembling sprigs of shamrock. Therefore war had been suspended until next May lest people end up being killed by their own side, because of course that would be so much worse than being killed by the other.
The Grand Old Duke of York was determined to keep his men fighting fit, as the saying goes. This was not easy. Press-ups in ground trodden upon by ten thousand men could lead to drowning, so the Duke had decided upon marching his men up and down the nearby hill instead. The only person to profit from this was Thomas, who fixed the soles of the men’s boots. He now had a thriving business called Thomas & Sons, which had “Cobblers to the Duke of York” upon its coat of arms.
Sir Jonas shouted the order, and the men tried to turn on the small hilltop. This looked like a bunch of people trying to perform the Birdie Song in a telephone box, but eventually the troop began its trip from far to near. When the sound of twenty-thousand foot-sore feet signalled that the men were now near the Duke emerged from his tent.
“Are they down?” he asked, as though ten thousand man just yards away were invisible to him. Perhaps they were, you don’t become a Duke by paying any heed to lower classes.
“Yes, sire, they are down,” said Sir Jonas patiently.
“March them back up,” said the Duke, and retreated back into his tent, where a serving wench was, I suppose, serving him.
This went on and on day after day, trudgery days of sheer drudgery. The men grew restless, and then insolent. Some took to crawling up the hill, to test the theory that an army marches on his stomach. Others rolled down the downward journey, then stood up and staggered about dizzily, to the mirth of their mates.
One day a heavy fall of hailstones upon his tent sounded to the Duke like feet arriving. He peered from his tent, at the lone figure of Sir Jonas.
“They’re not down,” he said in confusion.
“No, sire,” said Sir Jonas.
“Then are they up?”
Sir Jonas looked up the hill. They were only halfway up.
“I think it’s fair to say, sire,” he said, “that they are neither up nor down.”
“I see. Well when they get – which way are they going now?”
I haven’t a bloody clue at this stage, thought Sir Jonas. “Down,” he said.
“Well, when they get here, march them back up,” said the Grand Old Duke of York.
Just then an equerry (I think, unless that’s a type of horse) approached carrying a parchment. “This message arrived via pigeon, sire,” he said. The Duke looked at it.
“I say,” he said, accurately. “It’s from a new group calling themselves The Hillwalkers’ Association. They want me to be their Honorary President. You should join too, Jonas, it sounds like fun.”
That night Sir Jonas deserted. He made his way to the nearest port, caught a ship, and joined the army of King William of Orange.
He knew nothing about him or his cause. He had simply heard that Holland was very flat.