The recent collapse of several hundred streets across the city may have left Chichester looking like a bombsite, but for one participant in the subsequent court case the incident was overshadowed by the sudden – albeit accidental – appearance of the television celebrity Julia Bradbury in his ‘workplace’.
Details of last month’s disaster in the West Sussex city emerged at the Supreme Court in London yesterday where construction company Cornish Mining Moles (CMM) was accused of destroying a quarter of Chichester through its penny pinching approach to tunnel building.
However, despite being subjected to an aggressive cross-examination by prosecutor Liam Fingerpointer, to the court’s astonishment a ‘low level’ CMM employee, Cornish-born tunnel engineer Walter Shufflebottom, ignored several attempts to get him to explain what happened, and chose instead to talk about his brief encounter with the glamorous TV presenter Julia Bradbury during the street collapse.
A LUCKY CATCH
“I couldn’t believe my luck when all the support beams collapsed and Ms Bradbury tumbled into my workplace,” Walter said.
“Although I couldn’t quite understand why the tunnel was collapsing, I couldn’t believe me luck either… Julia Bradbury!” he told the angry courtroom in his strong Cornish accent. “TV’s tottie, the Countryfile pin-up! tumbling into my hole covered in dirt and mud and stuff, worms in her hair, with slugs those skittering bugs’n all – well, I almost passed out, I did!”
When prosecutor Fingerpointer pressed Mr Shufflebottom about how on earth moles could bury a quarter of the historic city in dirt, Walter carried on regardless, “I was always a big fan of Ms Bradbury, she was the only reason me mates and me watched Watchdog. Cor blimey, she was fit in that, telling off all those naughty boys like a strict headmistress! And now she was in me hole, covered in lovely muck.”
As tensions grew in the courtroom, the prosecutor yelled, “CHICHESTER HAS COLLAPSED, MR SHUFFLEBOTTOM! STOP FANTASISING ABOUT JULIA BRADBURY, WILL YOU, AND TELL US WHAT HAPPENED, RIGHT NOW!”
“Well then, I was a bit older when she joined Countryfile, but still fancied her, you know,” Walter happily continued.
“she was the very best nature could offer, the sky and the moon and all that other soppy talk, y’know!”
“WHAT ABOUT YOUR NEGLECT, WALT, OR NOT DOING YOUR JOB WELL, WALT? BECAUSE OF YOU, CHICHESTER IS IN A RIGHT FILTHY MESS,” prosecutor Fingerpointer bellowed.
“I never thought it would happen but, after that programme she did for Sports Relief, I kinda went off ’er a bit, y’know. I mean the other stuff was alright, n’that, but The Wonder of Britain, Best Walks of Wherever, all that stuff, it just never did it for me, not like the Watchdog days – they were priceless,” Mr Shufflebottom replied.
TAKING THE BLAME
“MR SHUFFLEBOTTOM, THE COURT WILL HOLD YOU IN CONTEMPT IF YOU DO NOT ANSWER THESE VERY SERIOUS ALLEGATIONS!” interjected the judge loudly.
But Mr Shufflebottom, despite being stunned by the judge’s outburst, went on humbly to explain that the reason for the tunnelling was to ease congestion around the popular Chichester racecourse, only making a few more references to his favourite TV presenter’s leggy form.
During the eight-hour hearing, other moles were questioned, from corporate high fliers to sales reps, with everyone from CMM blaming everyone else. But it was a brave clerical assistant at CMM, Myrtle Bellylillie, who confessed after intense questioning.
“Due to the massive drop in the pound after the Brexit vote,” said Myrtle, “I was ordered to buy the support beams cheaply online from China! Or get sacked! When the stock arrived it looked just like real thing, honest! But as a quarter of Chichester now realises, it wasn’t really.”
Myrtle then broke down in tears, declaring, “What have I done?”
The courtroom was later told by industry expert Mr Francis Harper, author of The Burrowers’ Blues, that two types of load-bearing beams are generally used in tunnel development – the high load ‘HunkyDoryT100’ and the less-determined ‘SpindlyZ200’– and in this case the latter was used which is generally known throughout the trade for its slightly sulky attitude when asked to ‘hold stuff up’.
He went on to explain in great detail that although the SpindlyZ200 is the lesser of the two beams, it was not a bad beam – and Mr Harper suggested that most tradesmoles will tell you it “it’s alright – does the job dun-it”, but only for small tunnelling contracts under gardens and drives.
Mr Harper went on to exonerate Mr Shufflebottom from any wrong doing, stating that, “The two beams seem identical when working in low light, and Mr Shufflebottom could not have known he was working with sub-par material. The blame lies squarely at the well-polished and unremarkable shoes of the penny-pinching top brass at CMM Construction for choosing to save a few pounds, using the Brexit card as an excuse to buy cheap material online.”
At the end of the day, the court found CMM Construction guilty, ordered the company to pay a massive £10bn towards the rebuilding of Chichester.
Outside the court, QFT asked Walter Shufflebottom what he thought about the judgement. “No! I had no idea Julia Bradbury was born in Ireland. Do they have a Watchdog programme over there?”
Meanwhile, Ms Bradbury refuses to comment or acknowledge either the incident or the court proceedings, other than to state that she “wishes to forget the whole horrid experience” and is “STILL FINDING BITS OF MUD EVERYWHERE”. To Walter Shufflebottom’s delight!