Cuthbert had been patron saint of England before George took over and King Freddie was anxious to find another job for his old friend. This wasn’t easy, because Cuthbert had been a disaster in everything he had tried. Freddie had even persuaded him to apply for the job of coaching the French National Jousting Team, pointing out that he could render England no greater service. However, wily old Pierre, king of nearly all of France, was too shrewd to be taken in by this ploy and declined the offer. So Freddie was left wondering what to do with his friend while continuing to suffer the help of Merlin the Whirlin and George.
‘You could appoint him minister for subsidence,’ said Merlin one day.
‘What’s subsidence?’ asked Freddie
‘It’s when the earth collapses and leaves a big hole,’ replied Merlin, who realised that the King’s education was a life-long, but largely unsuccessful, endeavour.
‘Do we have a problem with sub.. whatever?
‘You haven’t read my memorandum, then.’
‘The one I circulated after last week’s Crimes Against Humanity meeting of the Deep Hole Investigation Committee.’
‘Ah yes, I had it in my hand the other day in the monster menagerie but I gave it to the keeper to relight a flamed-out Irish Whatsit.’
‘You didn’t read it?’
‘Tell me what it said.’
‘It said we have a serious problem with subsidence,’ almost shouted an exasperated prime minister.
‘How can a hole in the ground be serious?’
‘It can if one of your castles falls into it!’
‘Have I lost one of my castles?’
‘Only half of one, but the rest could go at any minute.’
‘Half a castle,’ groaned Freddie, ‘that will cost a hundred bails of wool to rebuild.’
‘I wouldn’t bother.’
‘It would only fall in the hole again; you can’t build where there’s major subsidence.’
‘Then it really is serious,’ said a distraught monarch, ‘much too serious to entrust to Cuthbert. Do you think George could deal with it?’
‘George! He never bothers to repair his own castle; what do you think he can do?’
‘Why don’t you go down to Gloucestershire next armour-on week and ask him?’