I'm very proud that this website now offers more free content than at any time in our seventeen-year history. But we also provide some premium content especially for those who've signed up to be Mark Steyn Club members, and I'm delighted to say Tales for Our Time has become one of our most popular features over the last three years - and that this latest audio adventure, by a less eminent author than is our custom, is likewise proving popular. Terry Sautter, a Steyn Club member from South Carolina, writes of last night's episode:
Enjoying The Prisoner of Windsor every morning at breakfast. Sir Roger is terrifically written and voiced. 'The veneer of civilisation is very thin,' he said. Indeed, we see that every time we dare to look at the news.
Thank you, Terry. The wokesters think that everything just progresses in one direction and never goes backwards. But in all kinds of places in recent times "the veneer of civilization" has proved extremely thin, and easily shattered.
And, on that note, welcome to Part Fifteen of my contemporary inversion of Anthony Hope's classic The Prisoner of Zenda. In tonight's episode, for Rudy Elphberg the good news is that he has his own prime ministerial jet; the bad news is that it's flying him to Brussels for a Euro-summit:
"The presidents of the European Commission, European Council, etc, are at the podium seated alphabetically according to each president's title in his preferred first language. Below them the national heads of government are at a horseshoe table seated alphabetically counter-clockwise according to each member state's name in its own language, per the Conferences of the Presidencies (Revised Seating Plan) Directive. As an 'External Zone Representative Granted Conditional Audience' you are seated at the open end of the horseshoe, between the first and last of the alphabetical member states â€“ Belgium and Finland."
Even by Euro-standards, that didn't sound right. "How can Finland be alphabetically last? What happened to member states G to Z?"
"As I said, it's alphabetical according to each member state's name in its own language. Sverige â€“ Sweden â€“ is last, but as they're the incoming member of the presidential troika they're seated on the wing of the presidium of presidents."
"Yes, but Finland in Finnish is 'Finland'."
"Nein. Finland is the Swedish name for Finland. The Finnish name for Finland is 'Suomi'. So they are seated as 'Suomi/Finland'."
"I don't believe a word of it! You're telling me that the Swedish name for Finland sounds more Finnish than the Finnish name for Finland? It's an obvious trap! Why are they next to me? Why aren't they seated as Finland/Suomi?"
"You're beginning to jabber; people are staring!" hissed Fritz. "Maybe they didn't want to sit next to the EspaÃ±a delegation. I don't know, I'm only a Euro-mp." He again removed my fingers from his lapels. "You're worrying too much about this..."
If you've a friend who's a fan of classic fiction and you want to give him or her a birthday present with a difference, we hope you'll consider a one-year gift membership in The Mark Steyn Club. The lucky recipient will enjoy full access to our back catalogue of audio adventures and video poems - Conrad and Conan Doyle, Kipling and Kafka, and all the rest - which should keep you going until both the virus and the violence peter out, or at least until the Year Zero crowd has had all the books banned. For more details, see here.
Through lockdown and looting, our nightly audio adventure goes on, so do join me back here tomorrow for The Prisoner of Windsor Part Sixteen.