Pub quiz stalwarts, House of Cards, had competed in the Leith quiz league every one of the last four years. The team was made up of Jamie Saxton, a modern studies teacher at Leith Academy; Shona Godman, a caseworker at the local MSP's constituency office; Peter Ford, a chef at the John Dory fish restaurant; and Sandra Clark, a primary school teacher at Trinity Academy. Here they were in the Anchor Bar on Monday 23 August 2021, four years to the day since Big Ben had gone silent.
The Anchor had been busy earlier that night for the quiz and they hadn't been at their best. They had stayed on determined to witness the return of the 'Bongs' of Big Ben on the ITN News at Ten
. They had been recalling that night four years ago. They had won the quiz against the Old Pier Inn, and as they celebrated, the news came on the TV. There had been a world solar eclipse and comedian Jerry Lewis had died – oh yes, and Big Ben had bonged its last till 2021. Peter had said: 'It will be longer than that. These projects never come in on time.' He had been wrong.
London's iconic Big Ben, the bell inside the Houses of Parliament clock tower, was being silenced for four years due to conservation work. The Elizabeth Tower, which houses the Great Clock and Big Ben was in urgent need of renovation. That night four years ago they had decided to each write down two predicted news headlines for the night the 'Bongs' returned. Two rounds of drinks later, and after some very serious concentration, the papers were gathered in and sealed in a big brown envelope and given into Jamie's safekeeping till the appropriate time. That time was now – tonight.
A round of drinks was bought and Jamie brought out their sheets of paper. Peter managed to spill his pint over them but some kitchen towel was able to save the day. Shona, the appointed newsreader for the night, gathered them up, shuffled them around and began to read them out. It had all started out as a bit of fun, but it soon became clear that some very serious thought had gone into at least some of the predictions. To add dramatic effect, the group shouted 'Bong' in unison before each headline.
... Rebel militia are destabilising the governments in the Baltic States, allegedly funded by President Putin. Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, all members of the EU and Nato, are pleading for help.
Nods of approval for that one.
... The Chinese government is still reeling from a protectionist trade war with the Trump administration that has seen huge tariffs slapped on Chinese products.
A few murmured expletives aimed Trump's way.
... Spain is demanding very hefty payments towards the post-Brexit health costs of the 70,000 retired Brits who have settled under that nation's sunny skies.
Bong... ITV announce
Love Island to be shown four times a year.
Was there just a hint of a blush from Jamie as this was read out?
... The E Scooter is set to take over from the car as the vehicle of choice in our major cities following the liberalisation of right of way laws in UK last year.
Bong... In Scotland, Hibs have won the Premier title for the second year running. The flag was unfurled at Easter Road by celebrity backer Sir Andy Murray.
'Okay, that one is a bit far fetched,' Sandra admitted.
... A new study has revealed slow broadband speeds in many areas of the UK. 'Especially in parts of Scotland,' commented an aggrieved SNP spokesperson.
'Are there any other kind?' Peter smirked.
Bong... US heads towards the postponed presidential election following Trump's allegations of potential electoral fraud last year, and the country is uniting behind the slogan of Democrat candidate, Obama – 'Yes she can!'
'Wow! That was all quite impressive,' Shona said. 'Match that lot ITN. I wonder what they'll lead on?'
As 10pm arrived, the House of Cards members fell silent straining to hear the news over the noise of pub chatter.
Bong... Welcome to News at Ten. Here is the news for Monday 23 August. Tonight, Big Ben strikes out again live after four years of silence.
Alastair Osborne is a retired local government officer and Labour party activist who lives in South Ayrshire