"Remember! Remember! Empire Day! The 24th of May! Remember! Remember! Empire Day! The 24th of May!"
The loud, clear voice on the tannoy continued its message to anyone within earshot of the Union-Flag-draped Mini as it made its slow progress along the street where Jemima's school was.
In Mrs. McCluskey's classroom Year 7 were preparing their play to celebrate Scott of the Antarctic (written by Mrs. McCluskey, of course, and with her favourite pupils playing Scott and Captain Oates).
In the Main Hall the music teacher was getting the Senior Choir and the Junior and Senior Choirs together for the first joint rehearsal of their Empire Day concert.
In the Senior Common Room the sixth-formers were changing the display to one on William Wilberforce and how he had got rid of slavery and how this had been a triumph for the British parliamentary system.
In the Art Room Year 9 were putting biscuit glaze on their sculptures of grateful smiling Canadians, Australians and Indians, all wearing or holding a Union Flag.
In the Floor 3 stock cupboard something rather different was going on. Jeremy, Jemima's brother, was hugging a blond Year 10 boy. They had fallen in love a few weeks ago. They knew it was wrong. Society had told them that from a young age and they knew what the penalty was. Still somehow it didn't feel wrong, whatever society told them. It felt right. Each felt like a whole person when the other was there; each felt a longing as soon as the other was out of his sight. They laughed together at things that no-one else would find funny; they also had serious discussions about their feelings about life, the universe and everything. Somehow neither had actually said the words "I love you" or acknowledged what was happening to them. That would be against all their programming. But they both knew what was happening somewhere beneath their confused adolescent emotions.
"What are you doing for Empire Day?" asked Marty.
"Standin' here, talkin' to you," laughed Jem.
"Er, duh... I mean how about this evening?"
"Mum's giving me and Jem some money to go down the National Milk Bar."
Marty was always confused by the fact that Jeremy and Jemima called each other "Jem" but he just smiled affectionately.
"Are you doin' anythin'?" Jeremy asked.
"No, nothing special. I don't suppose..."
"Yes, why don't you come along," said Jem. "Jem won't mind."
"Well, if Jem doesn't mind and..." he tapped Jeremy's nose "...Jem doesn't mind, I'd love to have an Empire Day evening with Jem and Jem at the National Milk Bar."
They looked deep into each others' eyes. And it wasn't chip butties and chocolate sponge with custard washed down with whole milk they were thinking of either.
The door came flying open.
"Hello, Jeremy. Hello, Marty," said Crispin with that awful politeness which always presages something terrible.
"Unfortunately this evening's Empire Day dinner's going to have to be postponed until another year. I should think the food will be nice at the Pink Tower, though. Do carry on enjoying... whatever it is you boys were doing in the Floor 3 stock cupboard. It must have been terribly, terribly important - you've been in here such a long time. Oh, well - toodle pip, boys."
And Crispin went straight to the headmaster with his taped evidence of Jem's and Marty's erring ways.
* * * * * * * * * * *
When William I had built the Tower of London in the 11th century it had probably never struck him that one of its units would one day be painted pink, be quite comfortable and house teenage boys who'd fallen in love with other teenage boys. But that was the use to which the Pink Tower had been put. As falling in love with others of the same gender was classified as a mental disease, the surroundings were quite gentle compared to the inside of some of the other buildings. However confinement was confinement and nobody got to leave the building for one year minimum, and then only if you got your Certificate of Re-Orientation. A strict but kindly American-accented woman of Caribbean origins, Miss Smithers, ran the institute. Any money she made from bribes and the like she faithfully passed on to the minister in charge. Up until recently that had been a Tory MP who was almost certainly gay himself. However, he was an MP: his job was to make laws, not obey them. Since the election nobody quite knew who ran the Pink Tower so she'd keep an money that came her way until the Whig administration sorted it out.
"Jem, I'd like to welcome you to the Pink Tower. Marty, I'd like to welcome you to the Pink Tower."
She shook hands with each boy in turn. Marty started to cry.
"I'm sorry if you find it scary - it's really not," said Miss Smithers gently, "we're here to make your stay comfortable and to make sure you profit from your experience here. That way you learn, right?"
He nodded his head miserably.
"Now, I know this isn't how you planned on celebrating Empire Day but we're going to make this as fun as we can. Normally you'd be in solitary at this time of day but it's May 24th. Let tomorrow bring whatever problems it has - we're all gonna party."
And she threw the best Empire Day Party the Pink Tower had ever seen.
Two hours later each boy was in his own cell, where he'd remain for the next fourteen hours.
Jem had been the defiant one and Marty the crying one that first evening. That had been noted down and put on file. Marty was the more needy of the two. Miss Smithers could make sure she gave him the attention he needed and persuade him to leave the older boy who'd obviously corrupted him.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Lord Ashdown's speech was particularly long that day. He talked of Germany and of the fact that it had concealed weapons of mass destruction and of the fact that just because you couldn't see something it didn't mean it wasn't there and of how the Beni Ha Aretz terrorists so often had German surnames and blah blah blah. This went on for four hours. Black Rod seemed to have been given the day off. Everyone took advantage of the situation to snore, play cards, check their e-mails, smoke, drink and fart loudly.
"And this government is resolved to reverse the age-old discrimination against same-sex relationships," said Lord Ashdown hurriedly. No-one had noticed. Good - then no-one to object. He continued talking about the Germans and how you couldn't trust the Kaiser. He nodded briefly to Black Rod who had just entered. Black Rod resumed his usual job of bopping people on the head with his staff if they snored or farted or were otherwise inattentive or disruptive.
At the end the PM was sweeping out of the room when Lord Redwood stopped him.
"Excuse me did you say same-sex affairs will be tolerated?" he asked.
Lord Ashdown reached into his ridiculously large coat and produced a bottle of Alfred Gratien.
"I'm sorry, PM, that doesn't quite cut it with me. You've gone too far this time."
The Prime Minister reached into his coat again and produced the biggest stash of tobacco anyone in Parliament has ever seen.
"Of course, Prime Minister," said Lord Redwood, taking both items, "the Whig administration can rely on my support in this matter."
Lord Ashdown nodded slightly and walked on.
* * * * * * * * * * *
The Pink Tower was nearly empty. Only Marty remained.
"Why do you stay, Marty, when everyone else escaped? You know the law's going to change next week," asked Miss Smithers.
"Because you haven't given me permission to leave," answered Marty. "And because the law hasn't changed yet. I'm very good at obeying."
"And you're worried about what your parents will say when you get out?"
He nodded and looked at his feet.
Miss Smithers smiled and put on a CD of waltz music. She poured two glasses of white wine, one for each of them. They drank, they listened to music and she taught Marty to Charleston and to Foxtrot. He turned out to be quite a good dancer.
Miss Smithers, who was about to be made unemployed and had no skills useful to the new world, danced with Marty, who was afraid of his parents' disapproval, in the empty, echoing tower.
"Let tomorrow bring whatever problems it has - we're all gonna party."