Kristoph came from a long day in the Panopticon to Valentins, where he was meeting his wife and his mother and father. He was pleasantly surprised to find that Lord and Lady Reidluum had already joined the party. Jarod Reidluum had proved a useful ally in the proceedings this afternoon and he was glad of the opportunity to thank him outside of the Citadel itself.

“Ravenswode’s proposals were absurd,” Reidluum said. “Any right-minded Councillor would have dismissed them out of hand.”

“Oh dear,” Marion sighed. “I was hoping we wouldn’t have to talk about politics.” The senior Lord de Lœngbærrow agreed with her. As an Oldblood of high repute he was not indifferent to such things, but he would much prefer to discuss the declensions of the moon in the summer months if he could possibly find anyone who would listen to that subject.

“We’ll give them ten minutes,” Aineytta conceded diplomatically. “Then they must change the subject. Dare we inquire what Lord Ravenswode’s proposal was?”

“The core of the thing was his ban on marriage contracts made outside of Gallifrey. We all know where THAT came from.”

Everyone laughed. They knew very well why Lord Ravenswode felt it necessary to dissolve such arrangements. Not formalising his marriage to his ‘foreign’ lady had cost him dearly. But they also knew why it was quite impossible to make such a law.

“He then attempted to re-invoke a long defunct edict banning any form of marriage with non-Gallifreyans,” Jarod added, avoiding Marion’s gaze deliberately. “The Lord High President abstained from the vote, of course, but Lord Ravenswode is so unpopular most of the Councillors voted against him automatically, anyway.”

“That was followed by a Private Councillor’s Bill to ban any form of culture that isn’t wholly Gallifreyan. We would have no entertainment except the four Great Sagas in either book, play or operatic form. In fact, I’m not entirely sure about opera, since the concept originated on other worlds. Even lacrosse, for which his own family are proud to hold perpetual trophies, came from offworld many generations ago. Vid transmission would have to be banned, even for political broadcasts. There wouldn’t be anything left.”

“He never REALLY had any hope of getting a measure like that passed, did he?” Marion asked. She didn’t find it quite as amusing as everybody else had done. The proposals seemed too much of a personal attack on her as the most prominent ‘offworlder’ in Gallifreyan society and the one responsible for introducing several foreign ideas into her social group.

As if illustrating the point, one of the waiters brought a pot of Earl Grey tea to their table. All of the ladies had a cup with a slice of lemon. So did Kristoph and his father. Lord Reidluum had coffee, because citrus fruits irritated his stomach not because of any issue about foreign drinks.

“Earl Grey is usually drunk with lemon,” Marion explained. “But even without it there is a citrus flavour from the oil extracted from the rind of the Bergamont orange. You really should avoid it, Jarod. But when you visit our home, do try the English Breakfast with milk.”

Jarod promised he would do that.

“You have set a trend, of course, Marion” Aineytta said. “Valentins was the first to serve imported teas because of you. Now the Conservatory and all of the smaller luncheon cafes have stocks of it.”

“I still buy my own when I’m in Liverpool,” Marion confirmed. “It was the one thing I needed when I first came to Gallifrey – to make me feel at home under a new sky where everything was so different.”

The subject of tea took an abrupt and unwelcome turn when Lord Arpexia approached their table, his elegantly and traditionally dressed wife on his arm. He looked at the cups everyone but Jarod Reidluum had in front of them and then congratulated him on resisting such an unGallifreyan beverage.

“It is nothing to do with that,” Jarod assured him. “Simply my old intolerance of citrus. I used to get quite ill when I was at school because of it. I was once accused of deliberately eating moonfruit at breakfast in order to avoid the dreaded Theory of Temporal Dynamics in the first period.”

The ladies smiled at his reminiscence, even Lady Arpexia, but her husband was not amused.

“Oldbloods disgracing the name of Gallifrey!” he spluttered. “You of all people, De Lœngbærrow.” He addressed the Elder Lord de Lœngbærrow first, then turned to Kristoph. “If you can’t set an example as Lord High President, perhaps it is time you resigned your position and let it be filled by a man with traditional values.”

“Arpexia, you are verging on insubordinate,” Kristoph answered. “I AM Lord High President, after all. Criticism of me is criticism of the Office itself. Kindly restrain yourself from any such public breach of etiquette in future.”

Arpexia had no reply to that. He moved on, demanding to be shown to his usual table. His wife hung back as he got into an argument with the maitre-D – somebody he COULD criticise – about the fact that he had no reservation and his usual table was already taken.

“We were meant to be dining at the Conservatory,” Lady Arpexia explained. “But he refused to eat there tonight. They are having a ‘Hagolian Night’.”

She moved on quickly to try to mollify her husband. Mia Reidluum looked puzzled and asked what a ‘Hagolian Night’ was.

“It’s just a style of cooking,” Marion answered her. “From Hagolia. It’s actually quite similar to Italian cuisine on Earth, except they use a kind of curd derived from a nut to make the pasta rather than wheat. I quite like it.”

“It’s probably a good thing you didn’t say that in front of Lord Arpexia,” Aineytta told her daughter-in-law. “He would have thought you a very bad influence on us all – your foreign ways contaminating our traditional values in the gourmet kitchen!”

“It has nothing to do with me,” Marion protested. “The head chef at the Conservatory is ambitious. He took a course in offworld cooking techniques so that he could present different menus.”

“I think we should eat Hagolian next time they are having such a ‘night’,” Kristoph insisted. “I like it very much, and I am sure many other Gallifreyans do. Indeed, we ought to have restaurants that offer different cuisines. On Earth, it is possible to have five or six establishments in a row offering French, Italian, Indian, Chinese, Tai, all manner of foods for any taste, and nobody thinks they are watering down any culture. If anything, they are an enhancing experience.”

“I can’t imagine a Chinese take away opening in the Capitol, though,” Marion considered.

“If it did, Lord Arpexia would have a fit!” replied Aineytta who had eaten Chinese food several times when she had visited Liverpool with Marion. “He would be organising a boycott.”

Kristoph wasn’t laughing this time. He was talking to the Maitre-D who had finally seated Lord and Lady Arpexia and come to speak to his more amenable regular customer. He gave the Lord High President a piece of paper that he had folded into his pocket. Kristoph read it and his frown deepened.

“What do you intend to do?” he asked the Maitre-D.

“Nothing, sir, unless a directive comes from the Panopticon itself.”

“That won’t happen as long as I am a member of the Council,” Kristoph promised. You may assure all of your staff of that.”

“Thank you, my Lord,” the Maitre-D replied. He bowed deeply to the leader of the government of his world, and nodded politely to the rest of his dinner guests before moving on to attend to the latest couple wishing to be seated.

“What was that about?” Aineytta asked her son. “What is that piece of paper?”

“It is a leaflet proposing just the sort of boycott we were joking about. It demands that both the Conservatory AND Valentins stop putting foreign food and beverages on their menus.”

“It has really gone so far?” Marion asked. “Oh dear!”

Kristoph turned and waved imperceptibly to Lord Dúccesci who was waiting with his wife to be seated. Malika came closer.

“Don’t you usually dine at the Conservatory?” he asked. “Surely you’re not taking notice of this ‘boycott’?”

“Not at all,” Dúccesci answered. “We couldn’t get a seat there. The ‘Hagolian Night’ is so popular. Talitha is rather disappointed. She wanted to try it out.”

Kristoph laughed softly and let his friend and his wife go to their dinner table.

“We really ALL ought to take a trip to the Oribital Restaurant at Omicron Psi,” Marion suggested. “Or maybe just Lime Street in Liverpool on a warm Friday night. As Kristoph said already, there are so many choices of food to be had.”

“I agree,” Kristoph said. “We should make a party one evening. But that isn’t what concerns me. There seems to be a snowball beginning to roll downhill around here, and I don’t know where it will finally end up. First snide comments at the summer ball about unGallifreyan clothes, now unGallifreyan food. What next?”

“I don’t know, my dear,” Aineytta told him. “But you’ve had more than ten minutes on politics. Let us talk of other things over dinner.”

The men in their party did just that. The Elder Lord de Lœngbærrow even held their attention with his declensions of the moon during the dessert course.

When they were finished eating they got ready to cross the plaza to the Opera House. Marion and her mother-in-law put cashmere shawls around their shoulders since it was a warm night and no coats were necessary. Jarod lifted Mia into the wheelchair that she used to get around the city. It was no clunky, angular thing, but custom made by the finest craftsmen in the Capitol. The arm rests were mother of pearl and the footrest inlaid with silver while the cushioned seat and headrest were embroidered satin. It looked like a wheelchair that was ready to go to the opera. Jarod took hold of the handle and steered his wife safely through the restaurant and out into the night air.

“What is happening over there?” Marion asked when they were halfway across the quiet plaza and became aware of an unaccustomed noise ahead. “Why are so many people standing around?”

“More nonsense!” Kristoph exclaimed angrily. As they came towards the brightly lit front of the opera house, a young man wearing the colours of the Cerulean Chapter stepped towards their party. When he saw the Lord High President among them he tried to step back, but Kristoph stalled him and snatched the armful of leaflets he was carrying.

“Go home!” he ordered the young man. “And take any of your friends with you who have the sense to listen to advice. Anyone left hanging around in fifteen minutes time will be taken in by the Chancellery Guard.”

“He’s just a boy,” Mia whispered gently as the young protesters dispersed. “They’re all just boys.”

“So were the Hitler Youth,” Kristoph replied, though the reference was lost on his Gallifreyan friends. He looked at the leaflet and noted that it had the same fonts and colours used in the printing as those sent to the restaurants. It warned that the play being performed in the opera house was unGallifreyan.

“It is one of the Andromedan comedies,” he remarked. “If we had any good comedy writers we wouldn’t NEED to have translated works from offworld.”

He led his friends and family into the cool, ambient foyer of the opera house and accepted a complementary programme from the manager. Jarod lifted his wife out of the wheelchair which was safely ‘parked’ beside the wide staircase before they were escorted to the best box seats in the house to enjoy the play. Astorian chocolates and Venturan champagne, both imported from worlds that produced the very best of those consumables were provided for the Lord High President’s honoured guests. Kristoph and his father both asked for single malt whiskey that was imported from Earth at great cost just because it was known that the President liked that beverage.

“Some things are done better on other planets,” he said as he studied the amber liquid in the cut crystal glass that bore the hallmark of a fine glass-making province of an Alterian colony world. “We would be arrogant in the extreme if we thought Gallifrey was the best at everything.”

He let the whiskey sting the back of his throat as the curtain went up and the house lights went down and prepared to enjoy an amusing performance of some of the finest comedy in the galaxy.

But that snowball was not going to stop now it had started rolling, and he knew it.