Lord Ashton of Brixley studied the lines on the letter that now sat on his expensive oak desk, and looked at the blank piece of paper beside it, fountain pen in hand, poised to write a response. The gold tip nearly – nearly – pressed to the page, but restrained himself, remembering the sage advice his teacher back at the academy had given him – ‘never write in anger’.

It was hard advice to follow, especially as he read the letter again, feeling the anger swell in him even more, despite knowing the words to come.

Damn the arrogant Antyans, and damn their demands! They had no right, none whatsoever, to the sea lanes they coveted. They knew that, but still pressed anyway.

Ashton stood and moved his portly frame around his desk, and gazed at the bookcase. Behind tempered glass resided entire volumes of exquisite bound novels; some reminding him of his childhood, others were documents of wars and battles gone by – tactical and strategic masterpieces from his predecessors. In his reflection, he wished he had taken the time to maintain the physique of his younger days – he had been lean back then, but now, years of over-indulgence had caught up on him – his chin now had a chin of its own, and his face was permanently red from too many glasses of brandy.

My moustache needs a trimhe idly though to himself. His hair was rather in need of cutting too. Curly ginger locks were unbecoming of the Lord of the Eshurg Navy.

He wanted to open up the case and take a look at them – especially the ones about warfare. Oh how he wanted to stick a round of grape shot up Antyan arses…

Deep breath Antony, deep breath… he steadied himself, knowing full well her Majesty did not desire war. It was in everyone’s best interests to find a diplomatic resolution to the crisis.

Still, as he sat back down and read the letter a third time, his fury boiled. The gall, the nerve, of the Antyan government! They had never liked Eshurg or its stranglehold over the western sea trade routes, but Eshurg had worked hard to create and protect those routes, and spent the best part of a century developing good relations with the empires beyond the Crest Islands. Why should they give up any of that?

Illegal goods, weapons shipments, the undermining of Antyan reputations and status in the west… it was rubbish. Eshurg had never shipped weapons to anyone, let alone people with anti-Antyan sentiment (well, not that Lord Ashton knew of, at any rate). And he knew the Antyan ambassadors in that part of the world were not shy of undermining Eeshurg influence whenever they had the chance! Posturing was part of the game after all… but Eshurg had never sought to stifle Antyan activities; instead, they sought only to counter the more extravagant and outrageous claims. Like claims of illegal goods and weapons shipments. Claims Antyan officials were making more and more.

Hence their desire to demand more access to hard-won trade routes. Ashton wanted to write two very blunt words to the Antyan embassy, but he restrained himself. No, he decided. The Antyans will not manipulate their way into our trade routes, greedy dogs…

Chapter 2

Back to The Kingdoms of War

I know what you’re thinking. Why is a grown meerkat going to see Captain Underpants? Well, the answer, dear reader, is that seven year-old daughters want to see it, and mummy and daddy couldn’t take her to see Dunkirk, so we ended up seeing Captain Underpants instead.

I confess to fearing the worst from this movie. The trailers did nothing to impress me, but then, I’m not the target audience. Looking at it through the perspective of 8-12 year-olds who enjoy jokes about ‘Uranus’ ‘poopypants’ and various other toilet-related puns, it can be argued this was in fact quite an enjoyable film. It certainly kept my daughter amused!

The film revolves about the friendship of two characters whose names I have already forgotten, who create comics around their character of Captain Underpants, and when their friendship is threatened by a maniacal headteacher, they somehow hypnotise him and transform him into the titular character. Cue various preposterous scenarios. As I said, it’s aimed at a specific age group, and yet manages to be surreal enough in places to get chuckles out of adults too. It managed to be better than expected, but I wish I’d seen Dunkirk!

7/10

I’ve not seen this race, but I’ve seen the second corner incident between the Red Bull pair of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, so I thought I’d weigh in on that. Verstappen had initially made a good start and was hassling Hamilton’s Mercedes around the first corner. He got squeezed by the Ferraris and Mercedes’ and as a result Ricciardo was moving ahead of him on the approach to turn 2. Verstappen was too punchy, braking too late and locking up, smacking into Ricciardo and damaging the side pod, causing some kind of leak that ended Ricciardo’s race on the first lap. It wasn’t a deliberate move but Verstappen was desperate to keep ahead of his teammate and that desire manifested itself in the form of an error. Ricciardo was furious, and I would be intrigued by what words were exchanged after the race.

Beyond that incident, what happened?

Whereas last time around in Britain I was saying Mercedes and Hamilton had looked dominant, Ferrari bounced back with a vengeance in Budapest, with Sebastian Vettel taking pole and victory, with Kimi Raikkonen taking second. Even here, there was a manner of mild controversy. Vettel was suffering from handling problems and Raikkonen was quicker, but Ferrari bosses wanted Raikkonen to hold station and act as a buffer to the Mercedes pair behind them. This in turn put more pressure on Raikkonen, with first Bottas, then Hamilton, pushing at him.

Honourable Hamilton

Bottas had originally moved aside to let Hamilton have a crack at Raikkonen, but the Mercedes is not great at following other cars, and Hamilton just couldn’t mount an attack. He gave up third to Bottas at the final corner, honouring an agreement with his teammate, but was it the smart move? World championships have been decided by margins of three points or less on several occasions – and Hamilton just gave up three points. Time will be the judge of this.

Spare a thought for Fernando Alonso – the McLaren man took a highly credible sixth place and also ended up with the fastest lap – a reminder that the car has a strong design, just not an engine that does it justice.

Formula 1 now powers down for a month. We resume hostilities in Belgium.