"On your journey across the wilderness from the desert to the well you have strayed upon the motorway to Hell" (Chris Rea)
1. Bulgaria's last rites
2. The Moral Bankruptcy of Wimbledon
3. The Power Struggle
Chapter 1. (Bulgaria's last rites)
It was Great Uncle Jeremy Bernard Cribbins Bulgaria's wish, recorded in his last will and testament, to be buried on Wimbledon common, with his Womble ancestors. His unmarked grave is near the top of Jerry's Hill, from where he had often admired the earth and its bounty without having to worry about blasted humans and all the shenanigans they inevitably bring with them.
One night in 2018, in a shady grove haunted by few domesticated creatures the Wombles, in their many, gathered to bury their patriarch and with him, unbeknownst to them, a whole way of life, much of their history, all of their past, and the last barriers to a wonderful future.
"We are gathered here today to celebrate the life of a wizard among Wombles, a veritable maestro of the muddy paths. When our Great Uncle Bulgaria wasn't sitting back absorbing every vital scrap of information about the human world around us from his latest copy of the Times, even in times when he knew he had to take it all with a pinch of salt because Rupert Murdoch owned it and it was nothing more than a twisted instrument of U.S. imperialism -"
"Get on with it Wellington," moaned Tobermory, not too pleased to have to be so far from his bed on such a cold and dark night, and feeling little patience for Wellington's ceaseless socio-political commentary, particularly on such a grave occasion.
"When he wasn't reading the paper, he was out walking about the common, enjoining himself with the beauty of nature. And as I said, we are here to celebrate the life of our great genius. We bury him now so that he may complete his mastery of cleansing this common of the litter and turmoil the humans bring to it by decomposing within it, becoming part of it, and attacking the problem from within."
At this point Wellington noticed that Tobermory's eyes were betraying a furious rage which could erupt at any moment, so he hurriedly concluded the eulogy.
"Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, we hereby commit our Great Uncle to the earth. Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere, Heav'n did a recompense as largely send: He gave to Mis'ry all he had, a tear, He gain'd from Heav'n ('twas all he wish'd) a friend."
They buried him and returned to the warmth of the burrow to drink tea, eat crumpets and tell stories of the old days, whilst Tobermory snored in a rocking chair in the corner.
"I liked the extract from Gray's Elegy," Madam Cholet said to Wellington. "Tobermory is a bit of a dinosaur sometimes. You must be patient with him. Great Uncle Bulgaria always was. Now get some sleep everyone. Tomorrow is another day. Tidying to do as usual."
"Actually," said Wellington, "tomorrow we will read Great Uncle Bulgaria's Will."
"Jumping jam tarts," said Orinoco. "Did he leave lots of things to us? Is he secretly rich? Come on Wellington. I bet you know. What's in his will?"
"You'll all find that out tomorrow," said Wellington. "In the meantime enjoy the night and then get some rest. You're in for a big surprise. That's all I can say."
Chapter 2. (The Moral Bankruptcy of Wimbledon)
"Wimbledon Common has become a horse toilet for the rich and a dog toilet for the insecure," opened the Last Will and Testament of Great Uncle Bulgaria.
"And the humans of Wimbledon have lurched further and further to the right, alienating themselves from vast community-conscious humans almost as civilised as Wombles all over England's capital. The Wimbledonians and their fellow travellers even call other areas of London by the racist term "Londonistan" due to not only the more welcoming mentality of people in some such areas but also the flood of migration caused by men like Tony Blair, one of the only Labour leaders to enjoy the privilege of Wimbledon's backing in an election.
"Meanwhile these humans are harming their own friends, families and neighbours and driving forwards a system of ecocide and genocide in the name of naked greed. It is a very dangerous time for minority groups, such as the Wombles. Our only safety, perhaps for generations to come, will be under the protection of the man I was named after, Jeremy Bernard Corbyn. You will go to Hampstead Heath and set up a new burrow there. You will dismantle the Wimbledon Burrow completely and leave it to the wild to deal with the humans and their captive quadrupeds. And when you are settled in Hampstead you will go to Jeremy Corbyn and assist him and hope that he will one day succeed or help others succeed so that even Wimbledon becomes like the Wombles again, rather than the terrifying alternative outcome, in which the most anti-Womble humans continue to rampage and consume this wonderful land and no doubt many others, until there are no safe spaces for Wombles left in the West and we have to migrate and join our cousin Wombles in the BRICS political space."
The will said nothing about who would lead the Wombles, how they would go about this, or anything else. For it was the golden rule understood by any being similar to or actually a Womble - that the way forwards is something you individually find from within. It was up to the Wombles themselves to work out the details. Bulgaria had laid down the advice, very precisely, and left them with no doubt at all about what he wished them to do now that he was dead.
Chapter 3. (The Power Struggle)
Many communities of organised creatures experience a thing we know to be called "a power struggle", in which various parties brutally struggle, sparing no expense of anyone else's welfare, to claw their way to power. Whereas the Wombles were more like something from the most lucid dreams of Karl Marx and, instead of having a struggle to see who would take power, the Wombles in fact had a struggle to see who wouldn't take power.
"As you are, with all due respect, the oldest living Womble, Madam Cholet, I can't see any other appropriate head of the burrow besides you," said Tobermory, coughing between parts of his sentence, for old age had been harsh to the Wombles' oldest builder.
"No, no, no, no, no," said Madam Cholet. "It is not right for the leader of the burrow to be a woman."
"You've got to get with the times," said Tobermory. "It's sexist for the Womble leader to always have to be male. I don't think we should keep up these sexist traditions."
"That's not true," said Madam Cholet, perspicaciously. "You're just lazy. You just don't want to do it."
"Okay, okay, fine, I'm lazy, that's why I want you to be the leader. But if I'm lazy what kind of a leader would I be? Anyway, Wellington's always saying that it's sexist. You can't just have male leaders all the time."
"Nonsense," Madam Cholet replied. "You don't agree with anything Wellington says, you're just quoting him opportunistically to try and wriggle out of your duty, which is to lead this burrow."
"I think Wellington should do it," said Tobermory finally. "He's a male, which satisfies your requirement. He's one of the oldest Wombles. He's extremely intelligent and on top of everything else he's a feminist so nobody can argue that we are continuing to run a patriarchy."
"No, no, no, no, no," said Wellington. "I absolutely refuse to just be appointed leader of anyone. Two Wombles or two hundred, I don't care. We have to have an election. It's the only way to go about this, we'll have to have candidates and an election."