Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Tolled Off

I'm so excited today! This is that Special Day in the Northumbrian year where the Custodian of the Empty Chest - Oswine, the Kingdom Debt Manager of the Tree/Liberationist Alliance Administration, entertains the politicos in the Witangemot with new plans for expenditure in the forthcoming year. All of the soothsayers are naturally in a high state of animation, the politicos are very jolly and rumbustious, and there's definitely a festive air about the Realm. In anticipation of the plans that Oswine was about to unfold, the settlements put up bunting yesterday, and the mead and ale houses are now doing a roaring trade; however I suspect that this isn't out of celebration, but rather anticipation, since the faithful imbibers of the Sacred Libation are expecting a further increase in the price of their favourite foaming tipple.

One of the measures that is going to be very popular with the long-suffering taxpayers of Northumbria is the selling of all the roads in the Kingdom to those who are privileged and sad enough to want to purchase them. The maintenance of noble King Alhfrith's highways has always been something of a burden on the taxpayer, since the continual passage of horses, donkeys and carts bearing wool, salt, vegetables and other merchandise takes its toll on the compressed earth, worn down into deep ruts by the cartwheels, hooves and the constant dragging of knuckles.

Of course, in more prosperous times, such expenditure would be a mere fleabite for the Administration du jour, but now that we're languishing in the Great Credit Catastrophe and Impending Bankruptcy of the beloved Holy Roman Empire (which is neither holy, Roman nor an empire), Sacred Groats are in short supply, and are being spent lavishly in negative quantities in a bid to confuse aspiring mathematicians. In view of this alarming state of affairs, it's been suggested by some nameless window-licking luminary that it might be a Good Idea to place the burden for the costly maintenance of the roads, streets and lanes of the Kingdom into private hands.

Anyone daft enough to make such a purchase will need to meet the cost of their road's upkeep by imposing a toll on the unsuspecting travellers, which will slow down traffic considerably as hapless wayfarers  fumble and forage around in their pockets or purses for that elusive - if not non-existent - Holy Groat. But I suspect that more time will be spent in the writing of IOUs, since there's no money around because the poor Moneylenders are sitting on it, and refusing to allow it out of the sight of their myopic and beady eyes.

This initiative will of course prove to be very popular with the travelling members of the Realm - particularly for those whose livelihoods depend upon the transportation of their goods and services each day - but this Cat believes they'll soon lose their initial enthusiasm. I forsee a new industry of ready-made IOUs and counterfeit groats especially for the purpose. But then, perhaps that's what this new, innovative measure is designed for. A black economy is better than none at all...

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