Monday, 31 May 2010

Shopping for Others, Wedding Nights and Internet Stalkers

In the evening, I decide I want to be a teenager again. They have so much more fun, despite the superficial angst. It's not just the constant sex and the taut bodies, but the things they think of to do - and have the nerve to actually carry out.

Josh and his mates tag along with Max and I when we go food shopping. I do wonder at this sudden and uncharacteristic interest in participating in such a mundane task, but soon all becomes clear. It turns out that the boys are intent upon "Shopping for Others."

Max and I watch in disbelief as they spend an hour or so happily putting things into the shopping trolleys of complete strangers when the latter aren't looking. We don't know what to do with ourselves when an elderly spinster heads for the checkouts with twenty packets of condoms and some Durex Play gel in hers, and a butch body-builder type looks puzzled at finding lipstick, eye shadow and tampons amidst his other purchases.

The most stressful moment comes when I notice a large leg of pork being covertly added to the contents of a trolley belonging to a hijab-clad middle-aged woman, at which point Max decides enough is enough and calls a halt. I think he secretly enjoys the whole experience as much as me, though...

Much later, I get another email from Johnny International Director of a Global Oil Company Hunter. He's been away, globetrotting across Eastern Europe again.

Johnny says he hates hotel rooms, and wonders whether I do too. I've only ever stayed in a posh hotel once and that was on my wedding night - when my Dad accompanied Max and I upstairs to our room after the reception, and waltzed inside when we carelessly opened the door a little too wide.

Then he proceeded to order blithely from room service while asking our advice on how to "manage Dinah and her tantrums". Max and I finally got rid of him at 3:00am, so we weren't even earning gold stars on our wedding night. I probably should have seen that as a portent.

The next morning was no better. At 9:00am, Max's brother Richard turned up, uninvited, to announce that we needed to hurry up and go down to the bar, as the whole Bennett family were on their way to the hotel to have a drink with us. Then Richard ate my pre-ordered breakfast-in-bed while I struggled to get dressed in the relative privacy of the bathroom.

It's not as if I even get to stay in decent hotels because of work. At *conference, we're lucky to get booked into a broom cupboard so I have no experience of the high-life at all, which does rather lessen any sympathy I might feel for Johnny.

To make matters worse, he also wants to know what I look like now, and whether I still have "that amazing hair and those incredible legs." I doubt it, but am more worried by the fact that I still can't even remember who he is, while he seems to recall me in microscopic detail.

I hope he's not some crazed internet stalker or - worse - a constituent playing mind games. That'd be just my luck. Where the hell have I put my old diaries?

*conference - the Labour Party Conference/Bunfight/Scene of Some of The Boss's worst social faux-pas.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

A Five-Star Romance.

The weather's getting warmer, so now we have to listen to Annoying Ellen's sex life on a regular basis. She must be pretending she's enjoying it. I've never heard anyone make so much noise in my life.

I thought one of her toyboys was killing her the first time she did it. Now I think she's doing it to get attention, as she seems to have pushed her bed in front of the window, which she makes a point of opening before she entertains.

I'm hoping it's a coincidence, but Max seems to be spending a long time in the garden in the evenings, watering the plants - or so he says. He comes back inside with a stupid, dreamy look on his face. Men are such suckers. Why can't Ellen just die - preferably in silence?

Mind you, the whole thing does remind me about the gold stars, so I have a very early night in the hope that this will persuade Max that we should earn another one. I probably shouldn't have mentioned the stars at all, though, as Max is unamused, and assumed that I am awarding marks for sexual performance. by the whole business of the stars, as he thinks I must be awarding marks for sexual performance.

He's unconvinced by my claim that it is a valid sociological study, which will be of great value to any of those market researchers who assess how often the nation is having sex. And by my claim that I merely wanted to ensure that Josh wouldn't know what the stars referred to if he ever consulted the family diary.

Max just rolls his eyes, emits an unfeasibly loud sigh, then turns his back on me and starts snoring almost immediately. So no stars are earned tonight for any reason.

I sleep fitfully for an hour before waking up in a panic. Now I know who Ellen reminds me of - a blonde James Blunt! It's been bugging me for weeks, but now I'm even more worried. If Max fancies Ellen, and Ellen looks exactly like a man, does this mean that Max is gay, and is that why we have no sex? Oh my God.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

The Worst Thing To Say To Your Wife Before Going Out & Other More Public Relationship Problems

I do wish The Boss wouldn't phone me on Saturdays. Or, at least, not ten times and not to say the same thing on every occasion. even if he is enjoying the David Laws story rather too much. I'm too busy worrying about the night out Max has planned, even if it is my fault for complaining that we never do anything.

Now he tells me that we're going to meet his colleagues at a bar which coincidentally happens to be Josh's favourite drinking place. This is not promising, as it means that all the women there will be significantly younger than me, if not under-age; and there'll be acres of highly-toned flesh scattered with strategically-placed piercings.

As a result, I have no idea of the dress code, so I ask Max's advice.

"What do you think I should wear?"

"Oh, anything, darling. You always look nice."

This feels like shorthand for I can't be bothered to think about it, and is no help whatsoever. I try on one outfit - too dated. Another causes mutton and lamb to spring to mind. My knees seem to have become baggy overnight. The next option is too low-cut. When did my chest develop wrinkles? It's as if someone stopped working on the Forth Bridge for a week or so, and the whole thing just imploded.

Eventually, all my clothes are in a heap on the bed, and we are already late. I cobble together a combination designed primarily for invisibility, and then slap on my make-up.

Never experiment when you're under pressure. I decide to try out a sample sachet of foundation I found in one of Connie's magazines, which causes hundreds of new wrinkles to erupt. I wash it off again.

Connie phones, Dad phones, and Mum phones. One eye is still without make-up, and it's almost 9:30pm.

"How does this look?" I ask Max. He doesn't move his eyes from the television.

"Fine, darling." Oh, honestly! I have a large gin.

Then Max looks at his watch, says "Christ!" and rushes upstairs, shouting "What do you think I should wear?"

I am still sulking at his use of fine, so say, "Anything will do - you always look nice."

This is rapidly revealed to be untrue. Max puts on everything he owns that is not dirty, which results in a strange, multi-seasonal mix of linen, denim, and wool - all in varying and un-complementary shades of washed-out black and navy.

It takes him a further ten minutes to find his shoes under a pile of smelly laundry. By now. it's 10:30pm, and I decide to lie on the couch and watch television instead. I suspect my partying days are over.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Where Are The Unions When You Need Them?

God, I'm depressed. Not only is it Friday, which means The Boss is here almost all day for his surgery and a seemingly-endless series of largely pointless meetings; but I have just worked out that, if I am one of the lowest-paid members of staff on the whole HOC* payroll, than that must mean that Greg is being paid more than me.

He's half my age, and a f*ckwit - a loveable one, admittedly, but I still have to open all his supposedly-finished letters when he's not looking and vet them before I take them to the post.

This is a precautionary measure, brought in after last year's debacle when Greg libelled the LibDem councillor, and then gave the poor man's home address to our most violent constituent. And yet Greg is worth more than me? I think I may have to go on strike.

I'm a little reluctant to risk direct action, given that there is a recession on - but that doesn't seem to be stopping the BA staff and Unite, so I phone Martin, and ask him if the union will support me with a mass walk-out if I do strike for a decent wage.

The answer's not exactly good news. While he'll apparently be behind me "100% in spirit," Martin asks if I realise that the union has no authority over individual MPs as they are, in effect, all separate small businesses? I say that I have obviously been had under the Trades Descriptions Act, and ask him exactly what I've been paying my subs all these years for.

He seems oddly reluctant to answer this question and, when he says that, as The Boss is a left-wing socialist, I surely don't need the union to persuade him to do the right thing anyway, I admit defeat. Honestly - how can a union rep be so bloody naive?

The only highlight of the day is another email from Johnny Hunter, even though he sounds very unimpressed with my job. So am I at the moment, but I would like him to pretend that my working life is slightly more significant in the scheme of things.

I suppose working for an MP isn't ever likely to sound very impressive to an International Director of a Global Oil Company - I do like that phrase, hence the capital letters. Johnny probably has hundreds of MPs in his pocket, metaphorically-speaking of course.

It's just a shame that The Boss is unlikely to be powerful enough to merit being one of them, otherwise maybe Johnny might be able to use his influence to get me a pay-rise. After all, it doesn't exactly look as if the union's going to be any bloody help.

*HOC - House of Commons.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Too Much Information & Various Medical Emergencies

I have cheered up slightly. One of the girls in Primark tells me that they don't get staff discount as the clothes are so cheap already.

However, my good mood doesn't last too long, as The Boss is still in a rage at reports that Tony Blair refused to intercede during the attempts to form a Labour/LibDem coalition, apparently on the grounds that Labour needed to be in opposition.

So now Andrew's ranting about "bloody Blair" instead of "that idiot Gordy" and, when I tell him that I am surprised that he hadn't already been privy to this information - given that he's been opposing his own party since 1997 - he doesn't find it at all funny. I really think he's lost his sense of humour recently.

Things don't get any better in the afternoon, either. Greg throws a dart at The Boss's picture (displayed on the dartboard hidden in the archive cupboard) and it misfires, so I have to take him to A&E.

Now he has an eye-patch and sang Gabrielle songs in the car all the way home. My ears feel as if they're bleeding. Greg's even worse than Miss Chambers when he really gets going.

In the evening, Max also seems to be losing his sense of humour - unless this is just the effect I'm having on all men since my birthday? He gets very fed up when I end up spending hours trying to cope with all the phone calls from my family. Sometimes I think they're worse than the usual suspects.

"I had to go to the doctor today," says Dad.

"Good God, what's the matter?"

You can say this to Dad. You never, ever, say it to Mum unless you have nothing to do for the rest of your life. Dad never goes to the doctor. He had a big, sharp piece of bone floating around in his arm for years after a fall at work - until he was given a medical at which the doctor decided it needed an immediate operation.

"Well, I had an erection when I woke up - "

"Way too much information," I say.

Does Dad ever stop talking about sex? He must be the only pensioner on the planet who is so obsessed by the subject.

"Well, your father's all man," he says. I make a vomiting noise and he continues, "and anyway, it was all bent."

"What?" I say. I really should know better.

"Bent. My pe - "

"Yeah, okay. Do we have to go into this?" I say, increasingly desperate.

"Just listen now, Molly. This is interesting, especially as you work in politics."

Well, this is going to be interesting - how the hell is Dad going to find a political angle to a bent willy? And why on earth did this get him to a doctor on the same day, unlike any of the genuine emergencies he's ignored in the past?

Of course, I soon realise that I shouldn't have mentioned geometry:

"Well, the angle it was at made my penis look foreshortened," says Dad, as if that explains everything. Which it probably does.

"So what's wrong with you?" I say. (Might as well get the whole thing over and done with at once.)

"Peroni's Disease. That's what Bill Clinton had, so I'm not too worried now. It obviously doesn't affect performance."

On that pseudo-political note, Dad rings off, while I wonder why a bent willy would be named after a fizzy beer. I look it up online and, having discovered that it's spelt Peyronie's Disease, am hoping that that will be the last I hear of Dad's bent appendage, but no chance. It's one of those evenings.

"Have you spoken to Dad?" screams Dinah down the phone. "Disgusting! He's disgusting. You'll never guess what he's just told me - "

"Yes, Dinah, I know - he's already phoned me," I say. "So you really don't have to - "

"But don't you think he's disgusting?" she shrieks.

Honestly, I may as well not have said anything at all. Nothing stops Dinah when she's in full flow.

"We should bloody well report him to someone. Ringing up your daughters and telling them about your bent willy! Don't you think we should report him for child abuse or something?"

"Dinah," I say, lighting yet another cigarette, "Has it occurred to you that both you and I are technically middle-aged? I don't think child abuse would apply."

"Middle-aged?" she yells, and slams the phone down.

I make a cup of tea, and then Max makes room for me on the sofa with an obvious sigh of relief. The phone rings again.

"My buttock's terribly painful," says Mum, apropos a greeting.

Christ! Both parents obsessed by their rear ends. It's all too much. Or possibly too little.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

The Gap Between Rich And Poor, Or The Difference Between Me And Johnny Hunter's Wife

I'm almost too depressed to write. Primark has no vacancies. And all that discount out of the window as well! So it looks as if I'm stuck with The Boss for the foreseeable future, or at least until IPSA's cuts cost me my job.

To make things worse, Mr Beales writes in with yet another problem - the third one in the last ten days. One of his clients won't pay for her wedding photographs, and he encloses copies. I'm not surprised the poor woman won't pay: a number of the guests are headless, including the groom.

I am surprised by one new development, however - Greg and I have always thought that Mr Beales was a school photographer. He seemed well-suited for this, in that he most closely resembles a paedophile or, at best, a serial killer. (Greg says that all paedophiles are easily identified by the double bar across the bridge of their metal-framed glasses.)

Anyway, whatever he is, I really can't be bothered with Mr Beales today, so I just dump his letter and photos into the otherwise-empty filing tray marked, Show to the Boss.

In the evening, I get another email from Johnny Hunter. A long one. His tone is very friendly, if a little boastful. He's only an International Director for a global oil company! Married, with two children - much younger than mine, which is presumably why he and his wife have managed to have rather more impressive careers than I have.

Johnny goes on to say that it is "the help" that enables him and his wife to keep flying across the globe with their demanding jobs, by ensuring that their children are well-cared for at the same time. He also says that he can't afford to downsize to spend more time with his family as "you know what school fees are like."

I am a gutless hypocrite. I do not say in my reply that of course I do not know, because I am politically (and financially) opposed to private schools; work for a Labour MP, and have put both my kids through the wringer of the state school system because it teaches them important life skills. (Well, that's what Max and I always tell our posh friends anyway - we don't mention Josh's gang lord credentials.)

No, in response to Johnny, I just wimp out and sympathise with his difficulty, as if I understand it all too well. What on earth is wrong with me? I have about as much idea of what his life is like, as he probably has of mine. And I bet his wife doesn't shop in Primark.

I still can't remember what he looks like, but am hoping he was that nice one with the dark hair and really blue eyes who used to catch the school bus with me. I must check whether he wears glasses, though. You can't be too careful in this day and age.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Not Enough Money For Dealing With Nutters

Why, why, why don't I work at Westminster? Everyone there is spending today basking in the excitement of the State Opening of Parliament. Meanwhile it's Groundhog Day here in the provinces.

All the usual suspects phone first thing, including Miss Chambers. We need noise limiters like they have in call centres, because that woman is slowly but surely wrecking my hearing.

Now she thinks her next-door neighbours are stealing her electricity. She wants them arrested, and if she doesn't get what she wants, she'll scream and scream 'til she makes herself sick. Or me deaf - whichever happens first.

While she works up to full volume, I put the phone down on the desk and go and make a cuppa - but when I get back from the kitchen, I can hear she's still screaming, so I go out for a cigarette.

Even after that, she's still at it when I stick my head back into my office, so I go to the loo. When I've finally run out of places to go and things to do, I resort to blocking the sound by listening to my iPod.

This works a treat until Greg comes in from the outside office, removes one of my headphones, and says,

'For Christ's sake, is that Miss C? Can't you get her off the phone? I can hear her at my bloody desk and she's doing my head in.'

'Oh, sorry,' I say.

There's nothing for it, but the final solution, then. I approach the handset - with extreme caution - and pick it up, while holding it well away from me. I start making whistling and chirping noises, followed by banging the phone on the desk a few times too, for good measure.

Then I put the mouthpiece carefully to my lips whilst swivelling the earpiece away from my ear.

'Hello? Hello? Miss Chambers? I can't hear you.' (This is a complete lie as the whole building can hear the damned woman by now. No wonder most agencies have banned her from phoning them.)

Miss C hits supersonic. It's time.

"Oh, this phone's not working. We've been cut off.'

I slam the phone down and switch it to answer-phone, quickly, before she rings back. There is a loud chorus of "Barking!" from all the surrounding offices, then applause.

I wish, not for the first time, that I had a nice little job at Tesco. Maybe I could get a job there? At least then I might meet some people during the working day who weren't certifiable. I decide to take an early lunchbreak and find out. It is nearly 11:00am, after all.

After discovering that Tesco don't need any new employees, I spend far too much in Primark, as usual. I often wonder if it might be an idea to buy fewer clothes at a higher price, but always rule this out pretty quickly. Miss Chambers equals daily stress, which equals the need for immediate retail therapy - so shopping anywhere other than Primark would bankrupt me. Maybe I could get a job in Primark?

I am cheered by this prospect until I return to my desk, to find twenty-eight messages on the answer-phone. I was only gone for an hour, for God's sake! Nineteen are from Miss Chambers, becoming ever more glass-shattering with each one.

The other nine are from The Boss, who wants to know if there's anything we need to speak to him about. There isn't, as always. I make a mental note to find him something safe and uncontroversial to do for the rest of the day, before he gets bored and starts giving opinions to the Press on anything they ask.

Today's shaping up to be a double Primark day - I wonder how much they pay? It can't actually be much less than I earn. I phone the union and ask how my earnings compare to shop work.

'Well, as you're one of the very lowest-paid employees on the House of Commons payroll, Molly, I'd get that Primark application in pronto,' says Martin, brightly.

One of the lowest paid? Lowest paid? In the whole House of Commons? That place is full of cleaners and catering staff, many imported from the Philippines, and I'm the lowest paid? For putting up with the likes of Miss Chambers all day?

I am collecting a Primark application form on my way home, if they're still open. I have a degree and specialist training and I am too damned good to be working for an MP.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Anti-Social Behaviour All Over The Place.

In the morning, I represent The Boss at a public meeting to reassure constituents that the powers-that-be are tackling anti-social behaviour - as opposed to simply wringing their hands and despairing. Greg gets there before me and sends me a text:

'Molly, you're late. Meet me downstairs. I will be staring intently at the circus of freaks, losers, the mad, the bad and the weak who pay our wages.'

The meeting is ghastly. It's impossible to answer hostile questions realistically while being constrained by political correctness, let alone while also having to contend with Greg's increasingly demented texts. He just sits there with his mobile underneath the table, typing away furiously while wearing a wholly-angelic expression. I do wish he wouldn't do that.

I'm driven to my own version of anti-social behaviour when I have to sneak out for a cigarette, like the crowd of teenagers hanging around outside. I end up chatting to them - hug a hoodie, as Dave Blancmange Face would say! They aren't too happy about recent calls to ban smokers from outside pubs, and want to know why drunks aren't to be banned as well.

They've got a point, now I come to think of it. Smokers don't go around beating people up on their way home from a night's smoking, or vomit all over the pavements. So that's decided it - I'm definitely not giving up, just because a hypocritical Government containing people like The Boss told me to. (Especially when he's only just stopped smoking a pipe, anyway.)

Talking of The Boss, Greg swears he saw him on yesterday's TV footage of the SWP's raid on the BA Unite talks. Oh God - will Andrew never learn? He's just bored - and still in a mood because he's always fancied himself as a stalking horse candidate for the Party leadership, but isn't needed now that there are so many real candidates popping out of the woodwork.

Mind you, I may not have to put up with The Boss much longer if IPSA* don't get a grip and we all end up losing our jobs, thanks to the cuts in the Staffing Allowance. I just hope that Andrew decides that the girls at Westminster are dispensable, rather than Greg and I.

We're the ones who keep the constituents happy, after all. God knows why an MP doomed to sit forever on the back-benches needs a researcher in Parliament to write his speeches, however pretty she is. He has more than enough to say for himself without anyone else encouraging him.

Maybe he'll be a bit quieter in future, though. Carlotta says that a sign has been put up at the HOC* today, instructing MPs not to abuse IPSA's staff. Greg persuades her to email us a photo of it, and then scrawls, "or your own employees either," underneath.

When I lock up after work, I notice that he's pinned the adulterated notice in a prominent position above my desk. Very funny. I add, "says Greg" to the bottom of the page, just in case The Boss ever decides to read it. You can't be too careful when your job may be on the line.

*IPSA - Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, set up in the wake of the expenses scandal, with the sole purpose of making unnecessary work for MPs, according to The Boss.
*HOC - as before: House of Commons.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Friends Reunited, Nights of Passion and Genetics

Some excitement at last! Friends Reunited send me an email saying that someone is trying to contact me. I went onto the site before Christmas, but was so depressed by how successful all my classmates had become that I didn't try and contact anyone, in case they thought I was a beggar.

Anyway, it turns out to be someone called Johnny Hunter, who seems to remember that we had a night of passion behind the Science Block after the Fifth Year disco. I send a brief reply in the hope that it won't be too obvious that I can't remember who the hell he is.

I forget to tell Max about it, as he and Sam have been to the pub for a 'quickie' before lunch, and are incapable of intelligent conversation by mid-afternoon. I leave them to their alcohol-induced naps and walk into town for a wander around the shops.

I am going to keep a record of how often Max and I have sex, so I buy a packet of gold stars from Ryman. When I get home, I stick one on the calendar, and put the rest in the kitchen drawer.

Later, Mum phones with an health update. She's getting Ted to tow her around the house on a tea-tray now, as her buttock hurts if she walks. I really hope it's not hereditary.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

University of Life and Other Irritations

Sam arrives first thing to stay the weekend. We haven't seen him since my ghastly birthday party, and of course Max hasn't phoned him at all since.

How can you call someone your best friend when you never bother to contact them? That doesn't stop Max acting as if he's delighted to see Sam, and slapping him on the shoulder in that weirdly repressed male way.

I reckon Sam only puts up with Max's neglect because he still hasn't got a girlfriend. Now he's joined an internet-dating site and wants me to check his profile for its woman-appeal.

It's hilarious. He's claiming to be a non-smoker (!); a moderate drinker (only true if compared to Annoying Ellen), and he's put University in the education section. In response to my raised eyebrow, he mutters, "University of Life."

His photo is terrible too - he looks like a middle-aged woman with a really bad haircut. Why do so many middle-aged men insist on growing their hair? Thank God Max wouldn't dare - I'd wield the scissors while he slept if necessary.

For some unaccountable reason, Sam's also swathed in a scarf that could almost be one of those hideous pashmina things that everyone but me seems to be wearing. (Everyone female and of my age, that is.)  In the About Me section, he's written a load of pseudo-sensitive stuff that completely belies the fact that he's about as unreconstructed as you can get.

I'm still trying to find a subtle way to tell him that his profile and photo are rubbish, and that he's doomed to permanent bachelorhood, when he announces that fifteen women have already contacted him in the three days since he registered. Fifteen! Why do I find that so depressing? (And am I a middle-aged woman since my bloody birthday?)

In the evening, Dinah calls to say that she thinks Dad's taken up internet dating. She says he seems to be sending emails very late at night and sounds "suspiciously cheerful." She says it's either that, or he's becoming obsessed with online porn. Why is everyone else having sex except me - even if only virtually?

It's not as if Max and I lead exciting lives - not like Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper, who've got three kids and self-satisfied smirks. Greg and I once looked up Yvette's CVs in Dods*, and we couldn't see how she'd managed to fit all her qualifications and experience into such a short time, let alone all those kids.

Oh well, I suppose they say power is an aphrodisiac - though I'm pretty sure that's not what all these women see in Sam. Maybe they just want to borrow his pashmina?

* Dods: Dods Parliamentary Companion. Invaluable reference book for those involved in politics. Unfortunately, it's annual, and so expensive that most constituency offices are using copies that are terribly out of date. Ours dates from 1997, when The Boss was first elected, and was only too happy to pay for everything his staff needed to do a great job for the constituents. Like some of us, that original copy of Dods is looking pretty dog-eared now.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Why I Hate Fridays

Today's really not a good day at work, even though Greg is highly-impressed with my achievements. First I manage to lose an arsonist in the lift and then I collect a bomber on the stairs.

It all starts when I go downstairs to collect the arsonist for his surgery appointment, only to find him in a wheelchair, apparently due to a recent arson attack that went wrong.

He has a posse of carers with him, which leaves no room for me in the lift, so I give strict instructions that the group should go up to the third floor and wait for me there.

Then I run like a lunatic up the six half-flights of stairs. (Note to self: reconsider recent decision not to give up smoking. Anti-Nanny State rebellion is all very well, but being unable to breathe isn't.)

I get to the top (eventually) and wait for the lift to arrive. The light shows that it is on the second floor - oh, and going down. So where are they? I run around the third floor seeking the wheeled arsonist, but there's no sign of him. so it's back to the lift. Oh, hell - now the basement light is on.

I run back down six flights of stairs - God, my breathing's getting worse - but there's still no sign of the twisted fire-starter anywhere, or of his posse. There's nothing for it but to start running back upstairs again, but then I'm stopped on the second-floor landing by man brandishing a Tesco carrier bag and demanding to know where the MP's office is.

"Why?" I ask. Such stunning presence of mind.

"Because I've got a bomb here for the lying bastard," comes the reply.

The bomber is at least eighty and seems pretty shaky, so I direct him politely in the wrong direction, (towards the ground floor and the security doors that some f*ckwit obviously let him through earlier), then run up the remaining three flights and back into the office.

"Phone the Police!" I gasp at Greg. "Arsonist in the basement and bomber on the stairs."

To his credit, Greg merely raises his eyebrows before picking up the phone and dialling. I collapse in a chair, while The Boss continues to talk to someone on his mobile about his reasons for deciding not to stand for the Labour Party leadership. I don't think he listens to a word I say.

Half an hour later, a Police Constable brings me a very irritated arsonist and team, all of whom have apparently been lost in the underground car park for the last forty-five minutes. The Boss agrees to write to the manager of the arsonist's bail hostel to query the decision to refuse to allow smoking in the bedrooms.

Having been captured by the same Police Constable a short while later - he wasn't really built for speed - the ageing bomber accepts a cup of tea and sympathy, and is finally escorted off the premises, being allowed to keep his Tesco bag into the bargain. (Six tins of catfood and a packet of custard creams.)

Then The Boss says, "Nice to be back to normal, eh, Molly?" and goes off for his newly-arranged working lunch with the political editor of The Northwick Press, who doubles as the paper's restaurant critic. Does Andrew ever notice anything?

I try to tell Max all about it when I get home but, although he makes noises in all the right places and waits for me to finish, he then says what a bad day he's had with an enormously fat customer and a collapsing sofa.

It occurs to me that there are people in the world who are having intelligent conversations about philosophy, or semiotics, or feminism  - right this minute. Why is it that I'm not one of them? I'm sure I was intended to be.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Families for Dummies

Good God. When I was watching Tv last night, there was a clip of Ed Balls before he got contact lenses. He was unrecognisable. Maybe I should get some?

I wonder how many other candidates there'll be for the Leadership by the end of the week, all pretending that they're part of one big happy family and will support whoever wins. I like Andy Burnham's eyelashes, but I'm not sure they qualify him to lead the Party.

Not that I'll get a vote anyway since I refused to renew my membership over the stupid Iraq dossier debacle. When I wrote to Millbank to express my disgust, I received a Direct Debit form in response, telling me that this was the most effective way to pay.

In the same envelope was a flyer describing the new policy of "listening." Obviously this does not include reading letters from disgruntled constituency staff - or even the general public, hence the election result.

Talking of happy families, the Press keep bemoaning the death of the extended family, but what they don't say is that it's just become over-extended due to divorce, so that people like me have to spend all their time phoning various parental figures.

You feel guilty for not phoning them, then you phone one and immediately feel guilty that you haven't phoned the other. Before you know it, that's the whole evening gone. I sometimes think it would be much easier to be an orphan. Then that makes me feel guilty too.

When your job involves spending all day taking calls from a collection of often-abusive nutcases and whingers, you don't perceive having a "nice long chat on the phone" in your leisure time as a good thing, no matter who it's with. However, today's been a bit quieter than usual - mainly due to a cunning plan I cooked up with Marie-Louise, The Boss's Diary Secretary.

She's crammed his diary chock-full of (largely pointless) meetings for the rest of this week. So Greg and I get a much-needed break from Andrew's phone calls today. We're all sick to death of listening to him moaning about why it is that no-one has approached him to stand for the leadership.

So, by the time I get home from work, I am less horrified by the sight of a phone than usual, so I decide I'd better call Mum and capitalise on this rare state of affairs. Then I remember it's Dad's turn, so I try him first.

"I went to B&Q today," he says. "Never going there again on a Thursday. Bloody awful."

"Why?' I say, somewhat bemused.

"Full of bloody wrinklies," he says. He is seventy-five, for God's sake.

After he has explained to me exactly what is wrong with the country - and asked me a hundred incomprehensible questions about the apparent foibles of his new computer - I finally manage to get him off the phone. One hour and forty-five minutes exactly.

I need three consecutive cigarettes before I can handle phoning Mum. She is unavailable - something to do with the painful buttock - so Ted chats to me for 5 minutes exactly and that's it. Result!

It's only 10:45pm. If I put off calling Stepmother Mark I until tomorrow night, I might catch the end of Question Time and be able to vent the day's aggression by shouting at the TV.

Best-laid plans and all that. I miss QT, when Dad phones back with "a quick computer question." Two hours later, I go onto Amazon and buy a copy of PCs for Dummies. I arrange for it to be sent directly to Dad, labelled: a gift from a well-wisher.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

A Parallel Universe?

Today is barely distinguishable from yesterday other than some higher-than-average fallout from BBC Parliament. PMQs* is the worst.

Constituents never seem to understand that I can't actually be watching it on TV - and thus able to discuss it with them as it happens - while I'm working and answering the phone. We can't even watch TV in the office anyway, since The Boss forgot to pay the cable bill and we got cut off. He was lucky he didn't end up in court.

Greg's still uncharacteristically quiet, which is far more worrying than when he isn't; and so is The Boss, who is lying low in Westminster with his mobile thankfully turned off.

He's in trouble as he hasn't replaced his pager since the last one met its fate at the bottom of the Thames, during that phase when he was trying to avoid the Whips after colluding with the then-opposition during a backbench rebellion.

I can't get over Dave "Blancmange-Face" Cameron - Connie's description - being the one to propose action to reduce the gap in public sector pay between the highest and lowest! Am I living in a parallel universe where it's the Tories who care about the gap between rich and poor? I still can't believe the gap actually widened under a Labour government.

I'm always ranting about that to The Boss, but when I referred to Tawney's Equality the other day, he looked at me with a completely blank expression before nodding wisely and making no comment, just like he does in surgeries when he has absolutely no idea what a constituent is talking about. I keep forgetting that I'm the one who studied Politics at university.

The worry doesn't end when I leave work, as I have to go for smear test on my way home. How on earth are you supposed to make conversation in a casual, relaxed way with your knees apart and your bits on display?

The nurse asks me whether I've noticed anything unusual, so I think I'd better mention the blood last time Max and I had sex. I suppose I could just have mentioned the sex, but it doesn't occur to me at the time.

Then she asks, "How often has this happened?" and I say, "Once," which is a dual-purpose answer as I'm not quite sure whether she's referring to the blood or the sex. You can't work for a politician for ten years without learning the value of the dual-purpose answer. She says, "Oh" in a meaningful way and then says I should be referred to the gynaecologist. Marvellous.

When I eventually get home, I'm still so distracted that I put a pack of sanitary towels in the fridge and forget to be cross with Josh, the nascent gang lord. I even wave to Annoying Ellen by accident so that'll just encourage her and, before you know it, she'll be popping round again to "borrow a corkscrew" while preening and posing for Max's benefit.

How an alcoholic can manage without a corkscrew of their own, God only knows. I quite fancy a gin myself, but Max looks disapproving when I suggest it. He's still on the keep-fit mission he began the day after my party. I can't say I've noticed any difference so far.

*PMQs - for the uninitiated, this stands for Prime Minister's Questions.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Amputations, Victim Culture and Gang Warfare

Our phones don't stop ringing all day today, so I still don't get a chance to find out what Greg's planning. It pains me to admit it, but one of the legacies of 13 years of a Labour Government seems to have been a huge increase in victim culture. Honestly, the amount of complaining I hear today from people with minor problems is incredible.

First thing in the morning, Mr Franklin phones to tell me that it's my job to get him his emergency benefit payment "asap," as he's going on holiday tomorrow and needs to buy his holiday wardrobe. He takes the opportunity to remind me several times that he is "severely disabled."

I can't remember the last time Max and I could afford a holiday, but it must be more than ten years ago. And yet here's Mr Franklin off on yet another bloody jaunt. I wouldn't mind so much, but the only thing wrong with him is that he's hugely fat.

When I've finally got rid of Mr F by agreeing to phone the Benefits Agency this afternoon and plead his case for emergency funds to buy a collection of outsized Hawaiian shirts, the lovely Mr Bradley phones.

He starts by apologising profusely for "bothering" his MP, but wonders if there is anything we can do to help him as he's getting nowhere by himself. It turns out, after he had his leg amputated months ago, the hospital forgot to arrange ambulance transport to take him to his follow-up appointments. Which means that he still hasn't been able to get his prosthetic leg fitted.

"It's not all bad," he says. "The grandchildren love it when I fall over, but it is making caring for my wife  a little tricky."

Mrs Bradley has severe Alzheimers, and yet Mr B sounds embarrassed to have to ask for help! Sometimes I think the world is going mad.

The Boss isn't suffering from any such reluctance to complain today, though. He's phoning every few minutes to moan about everything: having to sit on the "wrong" side of the House; John Bercow still being Speaker, and the fact that he hasn't managed to persuade the Commons authorities to move his office out of Portcullis House, and back into the HOC* itself.

He's even complaining that the girls in the London office take up too much room and that their legs get in his way. As far as I can remember, it was primarily the length (and shape) of their legs that persuaded him to employ them in the first place, so I don't exactly have much sympathy with his point of view. Now it seems as if he'd like them to get their legs amputated to avoid causing him further inconvenience.

When I tell him that I think he's lucky that his office hasn't been moved into a broom cupboard, given the election result, he just says,

"Well, that's where that bloody idiot Gordy's new office should be."

Then he adds that he has a cunning plan to disrupt the work of the Coalition. When he explains that this involves nothing more than giving disorientated new MPs misleading directions to the Commons Chamber, I congratulate him on his maturity and he hangs up on me.

It seems that The Boss isn't the only one causing trouble today, though. At lunchtime, I get a call from Josh's tutor, saying that Josh is to be in detention this afternoon for "leaving class mid-lesson for no reason, and being obstreperous when told off."

When I get home from work, I demand an explanation from Josh. He informs me that the teacher is a "f*ckwit who doesn't understand the meaning of the word emergency."

Apparently, Josh "had no choice" but to rush out of the classroom, due to his having suddenly noticed the words, Josh Bennett is gay, written in large letters on the wall outside the window. He obviously considers this slight on his heterosexuality to have more than justified his impromptu exit, and is incredulous than anyone should have objected.

"When I'd painted it out, I went straight back to class, anyway," he says. Painted it out? Am I raising a  member of the underclass? Why would Josh even possess a can of spray-paint, let along keep one in his rucksack for so-called emergencies?

On this evidence, my son could be a vandal, or involved in a gang war, so I ask Max to deal with Josh. His attempt at parental discipline seems to involve no more than laughing and then patting Josh on the shoulder. As a result, things are rather frosty between us until Max falls asleep on the sofa.

Just before bed, Greg sends me an email containing a link to an old article about the cost of air-lifting an extremely obese man from his home, to enable him to attend a hospital appointment. Greg says:

"This'll be Mr Franklin next, Molly - and we taxpayers will be the ones paying for it!"

Oh, good God. Are Greg and I becoming fascists, or worse, Tories? It's all very worrying.

*HOC: House of Commons, for those of you lucky enough not to be involved in the world of UK politics.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Calendar Girls

Monday morning, oh joy. God knows why the public think working for an MP is glamorous.

When I arrive at work, I'm greeted by the sight of an hideous new office-calendar bearing the logo: Andrew Sinclair MP: Working Hard for Hardworking People. It features The Boss grinning inanely in front of a block of flats in Easemount.

You can't see the other block which got burnt out just before Christmas by our regular nutter, Steve Ellington, on the basis that, if he was going to have a miserable festive season, then so were all his neighbours.

Greg has Photo-shopped the picture to show a bevy of obese, naked women standing behind The Boss. They are also grinning inanely, and improve the photo no end. At least Andrew's gone back to the House today so I won't have to cope with him in the flesh. There's quite enough of that on the calendar.

Greg won't discuss what he got up to at the weekend, just says he's planning our next move. Our next move? It doesn't bear thinking about.

The first letter I open sets the tone for the day:

Dear Mr Sinclair,

I am writing to you because there is a serious problem on Broad Street. I walk down there every day to my job at Economyland, (a girl needs her pin-money, after all), and what should I see at the side of the road today but a dead rat! This is bad enough, but what I want to know, Mr Sinclair, is what would happen if, when I was walking past one day, the rat were to be struck by a car, be hurled up in the air, and then strike me in the face? Something needs to be done before this happens.

Thanks for all you do for hardworking people.

Yours etc
Pauline Harpenden (Miss)

Greg thinks it's funny. I despair - what the hell am I supposed to reply to that?

There are only three women in the Coalition Cabinet so far - apart from a Lord - and I bet they're only there to act as nursemaids to the men, who are probably all just like The Boss. He phones this afternoon to ask whether we need him for anything. We never do but, as usual, I pretend there's something I need his advice on.

Then he asks, "Am I for or against cycle helmets?"

Honestly, no wonder the country's in such a mess when MPs can't even remember where they stand on the simplest issue. Mind you, I bet the Tories and LibDems have no idea where they're supposed to stand on anything now, given all the horse-trading that's gone in over the last few days.

They're probably even more stressed than The Boss, who sounds a bit frazzled. I ask him what's the matter, though I don't really care since he blamed me for upsetting Mr Dougan.

"I'm thinking we may need to do something to tighten up security," he says.

"Oh good," I say. "Any particular reason?"

"Someone put dog shit through my letterbox on Saturday night."

"Oh, vital we do something about that, then," I say. I don't tell Greg - he'd be far too triumphant.

In the evening, the house feels funny without Connie, who went back to university this morning. I am left in testosterone hell, which I think must be contagious. I look closely in the mirror for the first time in days, and see hairs sprouting from my chin. God - now, I'm turning into the bearded lady.

I start plucking them out, but seem to grow another two for every one I remove, and I can't even see the damn things properly, despite the 25x magnifying mirror. I suppose I'll be able to work as a circus freak when Max notices them and leaves me.

Since Ellen's comments at my birthday party, he's taken to doing sit-ups every night - much to Josh's amusement. I think it'll take more than sit-ups, but wisely say nothing, as I am endeavouring to become an enigma.

Just before I go to bed, Mum phones to announce her latest affliction - something to do with a painful buttock. She certainly gives me one. I endure an hour of whingeing and then instruct Josh to shoot me if I ever become like my mother. He just raises an eyebrow meaningfully and returns to the important business of doing nothing.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

A Deadly Weapon

I wake to a text from Greg, which says,

"Molly - having provided a useful public service by cleaning the streets of dog mess, I am now being creative with Photoshop. There will be a treat for you in the morning."

Oh God, now what's he doing? And how many letterboxes did he post poo through?

I decide not to bother to find out, and instead spend the day doing the usual mundane household tasks. Then, by virtue of some shameless bribery, I force Josh and Connie to make their duty calls to the extended family.

When I hear Connie earnestly explaining oral sex to Aunty Edith - presumably unasked - I decide to see if I am able to tolerate gin again. Sometimes I think we should have Connie tested for Aspergers, but I'm not sure I'd really want to know the result.

I don't know if Max was listening to Connie, so it may be a coincidence but, when we finally fall into bed, we somehow find the energy for our bi-annual shag. It's very nice, and Max wonders aloud why we don't do it more often. I reply that it may have something to do with his love affair with the TV, to which he laughs as if I had been joking.

There's some blood on the sheets afterwards, though, and Max says,

"What's this? Have you got your period?"

"No," I say, while trying not to panic. "My hymen probably grew back."

He doesn't laugh, and all that restored closeness evaporates at one lash of my tongue. There must be a market somewhere for that kind of deadly weapon.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Another Computing Incompetent Joins the Ranks of Those Who Own Them, but Can't Use Them

Thank God it's the weekend. I really need a lie-in after yesterday's shenanigans, so of course Dad phones first thing.

After he's given me the usual lecture on immigration - I'm sure he thinks I'm the Home Secretary - he gets to the point. He's bought himself a PC on special offer at Comet, and is "planning on becoming a silver surfer." He says that, if Max and I can use a computer, it must be simple.

He phones a further 15 times, demanding to know why he can't send me an email. Each time I have to turn our computer on to try to replicate what it is he says that he is doing. We get nowhere and the whole day is wasted.

At 10.30pm I realise he can't send emails because he hasn't got an ISP. Bloody hell, now I have to try and explain to him what an ISP* is.

*For other computing incompetents like Dad, an ISP is an Internet Service Provider. If you don't have one, it's a bit like trying to use your phone when you haven't signed up with BT or another phone provider, i.e. futile.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Deja Vu and Raging Hypocrisy

Back to work and The Boss is still hanging around in the office. I wish he'd bugger off to Westminster and annoy the London staff for a change. Thanks to the election, he's been here constantly for the last month, using my computer and causing havoc. 

When I switch it on today, up comes a notification - 79 print jobs pending. He just can't seem to grasp that we connect to the Parliamentary system by remote access, stupid man. All you have to do is accept that there's often a delay between issuing a command and its implementation, but no - that's beyond his comprehension. He just keeps on clicking away - swearing furiously - until the system crashes, at which point he stomps off, leaving me to sort it out. And his is one of the brains we rely on to run the country!

Then Mr Dougan phones to demand an "emergency" appointment at today's constituency surgery. As he's moved, and is no longer one of Andrew's constituents, Greg has to refuse, and tell him to see his own MP instead. Greg didn't mention that, even if that wasn't the case, Mr D is a dangerous loony that we don't want anything more to do with.

As a result, surgery is blissfully nutter-free and, when The Boss goes off for a meeting at the Council as soon as its finished, it looks as if the rest of the day is going to be quite peaceful.

Famous last words. I am just getting all my notes together and straightening the chairs when who should walk in but Mr Dougan!

"Where's your boss?" he says. "No more bloody excuses - I need to see him. Now."

"He isn't here," I say. "Surgery has finished and, anyway, you aren't a constituent any longer - so you need to see your own MP. As my colleague has already explained."

Rational argument is sometimes grossly overrated, and ineffective. When Mr D finally accepts that The Boss isn't in the building, he gets me by the throat and backs me against the wall - again. That's the third time he's done it this year.

I just have to stand very still, look calm and try to talk him down - not easy when you can hardly breathe - until Greg finally appears to see where I've got to, surprises Mr D and causes him to loosen his grip. I run out of the room and through the security doors, closely followed by Greg. We only just get the doors closed before Mr D starts banging on the glass and shouting.

Greg and I stagger upstairs to the office and both collapse at our desks. I don't know which of us is the more freaked out - but Greg's voice has definitely gone up a couple of octaves. Eventually I phone The Boss to tell him what Mr D has done, to which Andrew says,

"You must have said something to upset him."

Greg looks as if he's going to have an apoplectic fit when I report this back. He doesn't look any better when news comes through that the MP Stephen Timms has been stabbed during his constituency surgery this afternoon. Stephen's such a nice guy! I can't imagine him upsetting anyone. There but for the grace of God and all that.

It takes me ages to get home from work, as I have to walk sideways to make sure that Mr Dougan isn't sneaking up on me from behind. When I finally arrive, I try to explain to Max about what happened, but he interrupted to tell me all about a "bunk bed emergency" he had at work, and so I never get to finish my story.

I make myself a cup of very strong tea and am looking forward to watching the end of the Channel 4 News to find out how the great Con-Dem romance is going, when the phone starts ringing. It's Greg.

"Have you heard what that idiot Harriet Harman is saying about the Timms attack?" he says.

"No," I say. "What?"

"That MPs run terrible risks and that something has to be done to make them safer!"


"Yes, but what about us?" says Greg. He's really shrieking now. "It's ten years since a caseworker was killed by a constituent, but no-one did anything about that! We run the gauntlet of these loonies every day, get threatened, get assaulted, but that's all okay - because we're just the little people. Molly, we're dispensable!"

"It's worse than that, Greg," I say. "It's our fault we upset the nutters in the first place - according to The Boss."

There is a noise as if Greg is being strangled, and then the phone goes dead. I call him every half hour for the next two hours, but don't get any reply until eventually he sends me a text:

"Molly, I am so filled with hatred that I am dangerous. I am therefore getting drunk enough to post dog poo through the letterboxes of every mad constituent I can find on my way home from the pub. I may save the biggest piece for The Boss's house."

I've been trying to phone him ever since then, but he still won't answer.  Now it's nearly midnight and God knows what he's done. There have to be easier jobs than this.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

The Morning After the Night Before

Thank God I took today off as a holiday day, even though The Boss said he thought that that was self-indulgent and that the constituents needed me.

I said that, as the Con-Dem coalition was now running the country, I thought I could afford a day off, to which The Boss replied that all hands were needed on deck - at all times - for The Fightback. I'm just surprised he hasn't been approached by the new administration, given that he's voted with them so often in the past.

Anyway, at least I can lie around today doing a passable imitation of Max's mother, The Lounge Lizard. I am never drinking gin again.

Last night was as horrendous as predicted, and now Max is sulking because I didn't look surprised enough when I came home from work to find my birthday party in full swing. I refrain from pointing out that he had already told me about it, thus somewhat diminishing the element of surprise - but do mention that an astonished expression would be a lot easier to fake if I'd had Botox like annoying Ellen from next door.

Why the hell did Max have to invite her? Before I'd even downed my first gin, she'd already started swanning around announcing to all and sundry how much she loves sex, and how all she wants for her birthday is a man with a big you-know-what.

 Every man in the room immediately began to salivate at this bloody nonsense, presumably imagining his particular appendage as Ellen's saviour, while their wives became ever-more invisible and murderous. I have gone right off Ellen, and gin. Not to mention surprises.

When I realise that I've already forgotten my post-birthday no-smoking resolution, due to planning Ellen's murder (and possibly The Boss' too), I decide to pull myself together - so Connie and I go into town, where I take back all my birthday presents, as usual.

Maybe one year Max will buy me something I actually want, rather than whatever comes to hand in M&S on the day. I do keep Connie's present, though - Bridget Jones' Diary. It's bloody funny, but I really can't see what Bridget thinks married people have to be smug about.

On our way home, we go to the Topshop sale. I buy some clothes and feel quite cool and trendy - but then I get home and try everything on, only for Josh to look up from stalking everyone he knows on Facebook, and say,

"Mum - you do realise you didn't get any years back for your birthday?"

I smoke four cigarettes in a row, and turn all the mirrors to the wall. Max asks whether there's been a death in the house. I say, "Yes. My self-esteem," but he's already turned the TV on and isn't listening.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Maybe the hung Parliament didn't go far enough...

I'd quite like to have hung a few MPs, starting with The Boss. He's driving Greg and I nuts, moaning about being in opposition, and shouting about why "that idiot" Gordy didn't resign sooner to save the situation.

We can't see what difference it'll make, anyway - given that he's been voting against the Government at every opportunity for the last 13 years. We're just relieved we still have jobs (for what they're worth). Anyway, I have far too many other things to worry about with this damned "big" birthday coming up tonight.

I can't believe Max thought it would be a good idea to give me a "surprise" party. Or to tell me about it in advance. I'd prefer to start the next decade as I mean to go on, gradually deteriorating in front of the TV, and celebrating the official onset of the downhill trajectory by throwing away my 25x magnifying mirror, on the grounds that it has become dangerous to my mental health.

Now I shall have to try and render myself presentable and look cheerful instead, while avoiding too much facial expression to minimize the formation of new wrinkles. I just hope Max has had the sense not to invite anyone younger than me.....