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  • Lord Copper

Alice in Blunderland

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Alice shook her head as she woke up. She glanced towards the window, then at the clock on her bedside table. Then she looked again; the clock said it was six thirty, but the sky outside the window was bright blue, and the sun streamed in. Strange. When she had gone to bed, it had been dark, mid-winter; but this looked more like summer. Her head felt a bit fuzzy, to tell the truth, and she did wonder if she should have swallowed the contents of the bottle marked “Drink Me” that she’d found just before going to bed. She reached out and switched on the radio. The voice sounded very serious: “The news is that the result of the referendum yesterday is that we will be leaving the European Wonderland.” Alice shook her head again – what on earth were they talking about? What referendum? Actually, what was a referendum? And how could we be leaving the European Wonderland? We’d always been part of it – at least, for much longer than Alice had been alive.

Alice wasn’t the kind of girl to hang around. Quickly, she washed and dressed, then – no time for breakfast until she knew what was going on – she stepped out of her front door into the street. It was thronged with people, unusually for such an early hour. She looked around for someone she knew, and glimpsed the long ears of the March Hare through the crowd. She ran after him.

“Hey,” she called to him, “what’s going on?”

“Hello, Alice. Well, we’ve just got the result of the referendum, and we’re going to stop being part of the European Wonderland and just go back to being our own little Wonderland. Isn’t it exciting!”

“What do you mean? What is a referendum?” wailed Alice. “I don’t understand. I went to sleep at New Year, and now apparently it’s summer and everything’s changed.”

The Hare looked wisely at her. “Ah,” he said, “a referendum is when the people in the Wonderland government tell all the ordinary people they have to vote to decide something.”

“What – like an election?”

“Mmm, a little bit, but in a referendum it’s just one question they ask, and whatever the answer, they have to do what they are told.”

Alice pondered that for a moment. It sounded quite sensible. After all, she backed herself rather than any government of politicians to make the right decision. Then she thought a bit more. “But how do the people know enough information to make a decision? Surely that’s why we have representative government – so that they can be informed and make sensible decisions on our behalf. We can’t be asked about everything, every five minutes – that’s why we pay them.”

“Ah,” said the Hare, wisely, “you don’t understand, Alice, you’re just a little girl.” Unwise to speak like that to Alice; he winced as she smacked him hard across the face. “Smarter than you,” she said. “Go on, without the insults this time.”

“Well, this is the clever bit. So that people knew how to vote, each side of the politicians told us all how dreadful it was going to be if the other side won. It sounded quite exciting, in some ways. We were going to have a visit from four important men on horses, one side said, if the others won – they are called war, famine, plague and death, I seem to recall. Probably nice chaps, if you get to know them. But then the others said we would be invaded by hordes sweeping from the east, if the first lot won. Not sure why they were all supposed to be coming here, but still. So it was really clear to everybody what they should choose.”

Alice just looked at him for a moment, shaking her head. “That’s clear, is it? Everybody knew what was going to happen?”

“Oh, yes. Unambiguously clear: death and destruction from one side, and death and destruction from the other. That’s what they both said about each other. Totally clear. Perfectly logical, coherent presentation of facts.”

“That’s stupid,” said Alice. “Why would anybody vote for death and destruction?”

“Oh, Alice, you really don’t understand. Of course nobody would vote for death and destruction. That’s obvious. They voted against it. You vote against the side whose death and destruction you don’t like. You don’t vote for it. It’s perfectly straightforward choice: you don’t like the death and destruction picture being presented by one side, you vote against it by voting for the other side. Or vice versa,” he concluded, looking smug.

“But they’re offering the same. It’s madness,” wailed Alice. She turned away. Out of the corner of her eye, she caught a glimpse of Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Now, Alice knew that however much they threatened it, the boys never actually had a battle. But there they were, rolling around on the ground, hitting out at each other. Alice moved closer, until she could hear them. 

“I’m going to be leader,” grunted one (she could never tell which was which, if she was honest). 

“No, I am. It was my campaign. You only came in after I’d already started. It’s got to be me. You can be my Chancellor.”

“Shan’t. I’m going to be the leader. I’m going to bash you until you agree.”

Sighing, Alice walked on. The street grew quieter, and she saw a scraggy old man with a grey beard and a silly peaked cap digging at his garden. As she approached, she could hear him muttering: “I’ve got a mandate. I’ve got a mandate. The party members love me and I’ve got a mandate. I’m staying here. I’m not going away.”

“Hello,” said Alice, “who are you? I know most of the movers and shakers in Wonderland, but I don’t recognise you.”

The man looked at her, with scary staring eyes. “I’m the red queen,” he said. “I’m the red queen, and I’ve got a mandate and I’m not going anywhere.”

Alice was puzzled. It was a while since she had seen the red queen, but she didn’t remember her looking like this. Then she heard a whispering noise, and looked round. A phalanx was approaching, a gang of very serious-looking people, in the middle of whom was a woman of severe aspect with ferocious haircut holding a strange white jacket from which dangled leather straps. 

“OK,” she whispered to the others, “if we creep up on him, we can slip this on him and have him out of here in no time. Don’t spook him as we get nearer, though, we can’t tell what he might do.”

Alice turned away, and sat down on the verge at the side of the road. 

“Pinch me,” she said, “somebody pinch me. I don’t like this dream. I want to wake up. I don’t want a choice of death and destruction or death and destruction; I don’t want crazy old men bundled up and taken away, I don’t want Tweedledum and Tweedledee fighting. I want Wonderland to be how it’s always been.”

Just then, emerging from behind his smile, she saw the Cheshire Cat. “Oh Alice,” he said, “you are awake. This is the real world, this isn’t the dream.”

The clamour behind her got louder and louder and the skies grew dark. Alice put her head in her hands and wept. What was happening? Wonderland was in chaos, and all her friends seemed to have turned strange. Just then, the Mad Hatter came up and put his arm round her. 

“Come along, Alice,” he said, with a kindly smile, “let’s leave them all to it for the moment and have a little tea party. They’ll calm down and see sense eventually. You’ll see.”

“Oh, I hope so,” cried Alice, “I hope so. I don’t like what they’ve done.”

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