Montwælda President, who are you?
Twice in one year, I find my self asking the same question. We have a new President, but who are they? When I reached out to the Presidents office for an interview, I was relieved to find the journey to meet the new president would be much shorter. I hopped on the underground, over to New Mako and round the Circumnavigation Clockwise route to the tippy top of New Mako Island. Within 30 minutes from home I was stood outside the Little Mako Bridge Station looking across the bridge with 60mph winds and bracing -15°C temperatures and wondering why I didn’t just drive here.
There are no buses, or trains to Little Mako Island, a bridge on the New Mako Ring Road built in the 1930s was deliberately build too low, blocking access to buses over the bridge to little Mako. So I walked the 200 meters over the bridge, exposed to blisteringly cold winds, sea spray and snow. Little Mako Town is a place like no other in Izaakia, it is the second oldest settlement in Izaakian Keyli, and following the great fire of 1768 in New Mako the only place in Izaakia that has a significant number of early Izaakian architecture from the 17th and Early 18th centuries.
Little Mako town is dominated by a 17th century star fort, and the old town is quaint and rustic. This is where our new president lives, in a historic 17th century townhouse near the centre of Little Mako Town. As I knock on an old oak door, I hear a voice behind me in the street and it says “He’s not in.”
I turn around and it’s President Walter Rombold with a big grin, and in his hand he has a paper Jim Nortons bag and a cup holder of 4 hot drinks. Curiously, he seems to have ditched the security team. I introduce myself as the door opens behind me and a rather flustered looking police officer looks relieved as he says,
“Mr President, we thought we’d lost you, god forbid you get hurt on my watch”.
The president replied, “I won’t tell anyone if you don’t” and winks at the guard before handing him a Jim Nortons cup of coffee.
It’s quite a first impression, he’s cheeky, confident and quite charming. He invited me in and we entered the drawing room, which had a roaring wood fire I was more than happy to see after my bracing walk. He offered me a hot cup of Jim Nortons Hot Cocoa, a Cruffin, and a couple of Jimbits.
He tells me he’s just going to be two seconds, he needs to drop off a Chai Latte for his partner and then we can begin our interview. As I’m sat there waiting, I can’t help but notice his book collection on the shelves, there’s an impressively broad mix of books, everything from a first edition of “A Theory of Evolution”, to a well thumbed “A Fools Guide to Engineering” and “101 Jokes for Dads”.
He comes back, and we start our interview.
Mr President, thank you for having me in your lovely home, have you lived here long?
“No I’ve always been the same length” he jokes, “Yeah, we’ve been here 10 or 11 years now, it used to be my grandparents home, gods rest their souls. It’s been in the family since 1634 when it was built, this downstairs area used to be the store for the old smoke house out back. Historically, most of the family have either been fishermen, or fish smokers, I guess I’m the first one to majorly rebel from the family business. Anyway, the smoke house moved to a new facility across town to cope with increased demand and ever higher standards at the turn of the millennium, so we turned this into a proper town house. I must show you what we did with the old smoke house later”
Ah, that’s very interesting, so you’re from a founding family here in keyli?
“We Rombolds like to say, we were the first Montacians to fish Montacia, the first Montacians to fish Hai Men and the first Izaakians to fish Izaakians. I’m sure none of those claims are true, but we won’t have been far off”.
So what was life like growing up here on Little Mako?
“Well, we weren’t that well off as a family, we were generally just about managing growing up. I grew up in a terrace just by the docks, dad was a fisherman and mum worked in the shop that used to be here. It wasn’t until the 1990s when fish stocks started to rebound following quota limits that the family started to be a bit successful. I have 3 brothers, 2 sisters, as you can imagine it was quite chaotic but good fun. Days out used to involve taking dads fishing vessel out to the outer islands of the Mako Archipelago, and quite often being boarded by Marine Protection Officers who were making sure we hadn’t been fishing inside the Marine Park. In many ways it was quite idyllic.”
You mentioned your 5 siblings, what do they do for a living, are they all as successful as yourself?
“Oh they’re far more successful, one sister is a Barrister in Izaakston the other is a chef, she owns the restaurant on the corner, you may have seen it on the way in “The Little Fisherman”. My brothers all work in the family business, one runs the smoke house, one runs shop, and the other runs the fleet, which sounds grand but is only 5 vessels.”
So what did you do after school, and how did you first get into politics?
“After school I went to University, at the New Mako University and studied Marine Science, with a year abroad at Ohayo Institute of Marine Science and Engineering in Keanu and Hurley. After that I got a job at the Department of Fisheries, which is conveniently just over the bridge on the mainland” (I noted he refers to new mako as the mainland and not Keyli) “From there I worked my way up to be a senior civil servant and after 20 years at the department, I thought I’d try and use the connections i’d made in the liberal government of the time to try and earn a seat in parliament to make a larger impact. This was in 2004, and we lost, and I didn’t get a seat. It was the year Ernest Le Rogue stormed into power with a huge landslide.
After that I took a job at the family firm, which was still struggling after the economic crash of 2002 just after it had borrowed money to expand across town. We just about managed to avoid bankruptcy, and by 2009 the company was back on its feet, and I stood for election, winning this time.”
During your time in parliament you’ve been quite vocally in favour of stricter fishing quotas and ocean conservation, is that not like a Turkey voting for Christmas?
“It seems counter intuitive doesn’t it? But no, if you look at the data, the stricter the controls the better the fish stocks, the safer it is to fish them and the better it for the ecosystem. At the end of the day, I hope our oceans are well stocked for future generations of Rombold fishers”
During the Le Rogue attempted counter-coup, and the stand off between Empress Astrid in parliament and the Le Rogue Mercenaries you had quite a following of your activities on social media. Could you tell us a little more about that?
“Well, we were effectively blocked in parliament by the mercenary and royalist forces, so I thought we best make the most of it. We were there for two days, with not much to do, most of the other staff had evacuated, and admittedly I’d underestimated the situation and stayed, but we had a fully functional bar. So with my aides we added a bit of joy to proceedings, including the first known game of beer pong in the chamber, and I think the nation enjoyed the frivolousness in what was otherwise pretty dark times”.
Since then, you’ve been a government backbencher until only May last year, and since then you’ve been Environment Minister, Home Secretary and now President a pretty spectacular rise. But let’s focus on October last year, you were the only cabinet minister to still be alive on that dreadful morning, what was that like?
“Yeah, as you can imagine it was a complete shock to the system. I missed the retreat because I was in Little Mako General Hospital welcoming my first grandchild that night, it was such a joyous occasion. I got to bed around 1am, and then at around 4am I heard two military helicopters flying really low and land in the square up the street. Less than a minute later there’s a repeated loud banging on my door, I’m there in my PJs, half asleep and open the door, 2 dozen armed military men storm in and search the house top to bottom. I’m there half dazed wondering if I’ve done anything wrong and the captain of the men invites me to take a seat, and he broke the news. It was like being hit by a freight train, I don’t think I heard anything after that, I was in a trance, the next thing I truly remember clearly I was fully dressed sat in front of Admiral FitzHerbert who was asking me for support in declaring martial law.
I don’t think I can truly describe the emotion of that night, to go to sleep happy at welcoming a new family member, and to wake up with your world completely changed, your friends and colleagues all dead, your country in chaos and the possibility of a new attack on Izaakia, potentially nuclear very much on the cards. It’s a night I will never forget. And by the way, they called my new granddaughter Stella.”
Since then, you’ve served under 4 presidents since becoming a minister, what did you think of them?
“Let’s start with Admiral FitzHerbert, a true titan of Izaakia, at the time of the assassination of President Blanc he had just been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and was planning to retire and take treatment to prolong his life. But he did his duty to his country whilst incredibly ill, and not a single person knew of his illness, he never missed a step, and always kept up with events. He truly is one of the greatest modern Izaakians, when I heard of his death I was sad, but also glad he’d lived to guide us through those tough times.
Another great Izaakian was President Blanc, she may have only been in power for two years, but she will go down in history as perhaps our most consequential leader. She took a shattered nation and glued the pieces back together, not only that, she gave us a certain swagger and self confidence.
We of course have President Storm, done an admirable job. But I guess she decided it just wasn’t for her. It takes a great deal of courage and self knowledge to do something so brave and public.
The less we say about president pervert the better.”
One day in the distant future, when you look back on your presidency, what would you like to be remembered for?
“Blimey, I’ve barely been in the job for a few weeks and you’re already imagining me out of a job. In all seriousness though, I would like my legacy to be a cleaner Izaakia, a richer Izaakia and most importantly I would like my leadership to be known as extremely boring and stable.”
You mentioned a cleaner and richer Izaakia, what are your main policy goals over the next parliament?
“Domestically, I’d like to overhaul the education system, put a lot more emphasis on technical skills and qualifications and put it on an equal footing with academics. I’d also like to seriously expand our thriving science and research industry especially building that connection between our scientists and our industrial base.
Abroad, my main focus is on building relations with our regional partners, and integrating them better into our economy. I think we also have an important role to play in development, and breaking interstate dependencies, particularly ones that are exploitative.”
**To close the interview, just going to ask a few quick-fire questions. **
What’s your favourite dish?
“Don’t tell my fishy family, but I’m a sucker for Spicy Hai Men Style Beef Noodles, topped off with a dessert of New Mako Mess”.
What are your favourite pass times?
“I love fishing, unsurprisingly perhaps. But I also love classic automobiles and motor bikes, you can see the old smoke house in the back, I’ve got a couple classics in the man shed. I also like to ride bikes and swim to keep me a bit in shape.”
What’s your favourite drink?
“Hot Chocolate, or if we’re going alcoholic a good Little Mako Pilsner”.
And finally, perhaps most importantly, what’s your favourite sport and team?
“Oh, this feels like a trick question, but Ice Hockey and the Little Mako Cubs”
Before I left, he showed me around his modest classic car selection, he seemed to prefer not the grand old classics, but the humble working man’s classics. He offered me a lift to the station, and where I was expecting a staff member in a large SUV I was surprised to find the President was going to take me across to New Mako in a small classic Tuk Tuk van that his family used to own for their fish shop.
Through my career, I have met many Presidents, Monarchs, Prime Ministers and Dictators, both Izaakian and foreign. But I’ve never met a leader so grounded in reality, he gives off an impression of having no pretences and seeming to genuinely be enthusiastic about people and solving issues. It’ll be fascinating to see how this new leader develops.