Among the many charms of the Peter Simple column which was written for so long by the late Michael Wharton were the numerous entities and institutions which existed by columnar fiat. Despite its luddism, the column had a space program, of which the columnar space vehicle, Don Carlos and the Holy Alliance III, was the pride and joy. Here are but two instances in which the operations of the vehicle were revealed.
The British space probe, Beagle 2, now insolently speeding towards Mars, carries a fragment of a pop song and some fatuous art work by Damien Hirst, equally vile symbols of degenerate popular culture. Is there a chance that it will encounter our own columnar space vehicle, Don Carlos and the Holy Alliance III, now motoring on a tour of the solar system?
If it does, our august machine, programmed to avoid the swarm of vulgar objects now buzzing tastelessly about the heavens, will give no sign of recognition other than a slight increase of freezing hauteur. It will leave Beagle 2 to its banausic task of probing and burrowing into the surface of the Red Planet in its futile search for microbes and soda water.
Then away to the remote depths of space, for a weekend in the realm of the satellites of Pluto, discovered by our space vehicle on a previous expedition. There, on those delightful little worlds, a hereditary caste of noblemen spend their leisure hunting, fishing and, in the evenings, in their commodious hunting lodges, discuss such questions as the possibility of life, improbably near the sun, on our own unimaginably distant earth.
Not content with scattering malodorous rubbish all over the solar system (our solar system, incidentally), American scientists have fired a missile at a defenceless comet just to see what it is made of.
Is there to be no end to this senseless rage of curiosity? If our columnar space vehicle, Don Carlos and the Holy Alliance III, should ever find itself motoring in the neighbourhood of one of these senseless acts of aggression, it has orders to take appropriate action, the exact nature of which will be quite a surprise.