Competition - Win a bottle of champagne

No 3605 Set by John Crick

Now the hereditary peers no longer have to turn up to the House of Lords, what are they going to do with themselves? We asked you to commemorate their freedom by, say, an interview at a Job Centre, a letter of reference to their new employer or even dialogue from a counselling session as they come to terms with their loss.

Report by Ms de Meaner

Most of you took one of the examples offered above, but a few thought for themselves, notably Nick MacKinnon's imaginative suggestion of a new business venture for the peers with time on their hands. D A Prince went slightly literal on me and came up with an actual commemorative idea. However, as it was very funny, she was allowed into the winners' box. Hon menshes to Jerry Ring for his "To whom it may concern" letter about Viscount Godolphin Chewings-Fescue ("Any man who can make a ham radio out of some wire and two coconuts has to be an asset to some organisation in the modern world") and Basil Ransome-Davies for Lord Berque ("His wide social experience qualifies him to mix with all classes of society, from ghillies to butlers, as well as with the titled"). The winners get £15; the bottle goes to Nick MacKinnon.

Finally, I apologise for not reporting on a letter I received some time ago from one of the comp's most frequent winners, Will Bellenger. I plead lack of space. Will wrote in to point out that he's now entered the New Statesman comp for an unbroken three zillion times (or some such number). He has clearly been impatiently awaiting my felicitations. Well done, sir!

The Royal Mint in association with House of Lords plc is proud to be able to present to you The Hereditary Commemorative Semen Collection. This is the vital fluid that has kept Great Britain great since 1066 and includes some of the most successful genes ever to be offered to the public. Each month we will send you a 5 fl oz sample that has been naturally extracted from the last hereditary members of the legislature. Each sample is tastefully displayed in a gold-effect straw that can be stored in any *** marked freezer as a heritage heirloom that your family will treasure always. (Please note that your semen collection will last for one month in the icebox of a domestic refrigerator and that the de luxe series includes a table-top cryogenic display cabinet in teak or walnut veneer.) We anticipate that many collectors will want to make active use of this precious resource, and each straw comes with a vellum-look certificate of primogeniture and monogrammed plastic turkey baster. Simply complete the monthly direct debit form for £49.95 (standard) or £59.95 (de luxe, specify teak or walnut) and we will despatch the Cecil straw on five-day approval and include the Russell straw absolutely free.

Nick MacKinnon

The 3rd Baron Topham was a member of our most illustrious establishment for over 60 years (his father, great-grandfather, great-great-grandfather and great-great-great-grandfather having preceded him). He held the position of Assistant Defender of the Woolsack, Lord Provider of the House Larder and Assistant Keeper of the Keys to the Cross Benches. He was also for a short time a Hereditary Garden Gnome Provider to our great House, and was perchance a great believer in the rights of cockroaches and other members of the Order of Blattaria. I came to know him in 1938, a time of much greater social cohesion and more deferential government. He's numerate (jolly great at the old expenses) and extremely diligent (he personally inserted 2,456 amendments to the Dissolution Bill, 2,398 of which related to punctuation and other solecisms). He took to computers like a duke to water and knows his Singers from his Oranges, or is that Pear PCs? He believes in his Queen, his country, the village of Greater Topham and the indissoluble rights of Binkies. I often heard said he was wholly eccentric, but I can assure you no saner peer trod the boards of our House. He's peerless in all respects. Where was I? Yes, the 3rd Baron Topham was a member of our illustrious place for over 80 years (his mother, grandmother, great . . .

John O'Byrne

Dear Ms Emin,

HM Government intends to commission an artwork/installation to commemorate the passing of the hereditary peers from the House of Lords. Although I do not know your work personally, you have been suggested as an artist capable of dealing with issues of bodily flux, change, transience, human existence, oblivion, dissolution, waste and irrelevance, allied to an immediately recognisable context, and I am instructed to approach you with our proposal. In line with government image, we require something shiny, short-term, popular, liked by the Sun - and will provide perspex covering as necessary to prevent damage/weathering/decay. Current legislation precludes the utilisation of actual body parts, so you will have to represent the "hereditaries" symbolically - fur (fire-proofed), dead animals (subject to hygiene regulations) and emptied bottles are some of the images arising out of my department's "brainstorming" today, but you will be free to interpret the subject as you see fit, as long as you do not take a linear view of history or over-glamorise what may to many be a dubious past. Transgressive irony may be employed in moderation, but not neurotic realism, despite Mr Saatchi's endorsement of this product. Not more than six metres high. Please send detailed sketches. Signed: Permanent Secretary, Dept of Arts and Culture.

D A Prince

No 3608 Set by Tony Black

We'd like some patently implausible etymologies (eg, Caveat: originally a kind of primitive safety helmet worn by troglodytes to protect their heads from low ceilings; hence a warning.) Max 200 words and in by 9 December.


This article first appeared in the 29 November 1999 issue of the New Statesman, An explosion of puffery