Monday, 2 August 2010

The Necessity to Pass a Psychological Fitness Test Before Using the Phone.

God, the nutters are out in force today. Or on the phone, anyway. All the usual suspects call first thing - I think they store up all their bile over the weekend and are just bursting to vent it at someone by Monday morning. And I always seem to be the recipient of choice.

Miss Chambers is in full flood about her neighbours, who she still thinks are stealing her electricity. She claims they've rigged up some sort of Heath Robinson-style construction between her attic and theirs, and wants me to get the Police to take her seriously. This would be an impossible task, as she is completely barking mad.

Then Mr Beales phones. The conversation is the usual surreal experience, though this time it's not about his lousy photographs, which makes a change.

"Bloody speed cameras," he says, without preamble.

"Oh, yes?" I am bored already.

"I've been done for speeding!"

"And were you?" I stare out of the window and wonder what the hell I am doing with my life. "Speeding, I mean?"

"Well, yeah - but I wouldn't have been. That bloody policeman was hiding in a bush!"

Oh, for Godsake. I have absolutely no patience with people who complain about being caught speeding. As far as I'm concerned, it's simple - if you don't want to be caught, then don't bloody well do it.

"I should just pay the fine and have done with it, if I was you," I say. "Was that all?"

"No - of course it isn't all. He wasn't wearing his luminous jacket!"

"What's that got to do with it?" Now he's going to tell me that, if he'd seen the policeman, he'd have been able to slow down, and wouldn't have got a speeding ticket. I could make a living from predicting the future.

"Well, I wouldn't have hit him if I'd seen him, would I?" says Mr Beales, as if that was obvious.

At lunchtime, Johnny replies to the email I sent him after Max's stunt at the party. He's booked us rooms  - rooms, plural - at the Marriott County Hall for the week after next. Our dirty mid-week "weekend" suddenly seems a horribly real prospect, and I want to change my mind, until I recall Max moving in on Annoying Ellen's neck like a predatory, if semi-conscious, slug - at which point I reply,  saying only, "Send details and see you then."

I still can't decide where Max's offence rates on the scale of marital infidelity. How much does something count when you're so drunk that you probably don't know where your feet are, let alone whether you're married?

I don't have time to analyse the situation further, as the phones just won't stop ringing. Now everyone wants to know why they are personally paying for Ian Huntley to sue for damages, not to mention having to fund any payout he may eventually receive in compensation.

Of course, the daily PLP briefing* is no help on this. In fact, it's never any help on anything as far as I can tell. Not if you would actually like to be able to answer a constituent's question, rather than side-stepping it and boasting instead about the Party's achievements. I always assume the briefings are written by policy wonks in Millbank, and only with MPs and SpAds* in mind.

By the time I get home, I never want to answer a phone again - so of course, the landline rings as soon as Josh has let me into the house.

"Are you Bonjour Freight Shippers?" What is this man talking about?

"Um, no - "

"Well, this was the number I got from 1471. I checked the last caller after I got your answer-phone message, as your man forgot to leave a number."

"Er, sorry - who is speaking, please?" I have had enough of surrealism for one day, thank you very much.

"Mr O'Nyons."

"Well, I'm sorry, but I have no idea what you are talking about. There must be some mistake."

"No," says Mr O'Nyons, speaking very slowly as if I am a halfwit. "The man who left the message said that you had a large shipment of onions that you had been asked to deliver to me, and that you wanted to confirm my address. "

Oh, Christ. Onions. O'Nyons. Bloody hell, do I need this?

"I'm very sorry, but I have never heard of Bonjour Freight Shippers, and I can only assume that there must have been an error at the exchange." My MP's office voice does come in useful sometimes. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a family emergency to attend to."

I put the phone down, take a deep breath, and go upstairs. Josh is lying on his bed, laughing his head off.

"You are grounded," I say. "For the next ten years. And don't you dare touch that phone again while I am at work."

"You've got to admit it was funny, Mum," says Josh. "O'Nyons! What a muppet. Didn't mean to forget to put 141 in first, though."

I don't reply. I am married to a Botox Queen-snogger, I have Gary Glitter as a father, and I am raising a juvenile delinquent. I see nothing whatsoever to laugh about.

*SpAds - Special Advisors. Basically the same as me, but earning six times as much, and with better perks, and higher status. (And probably longer legs, too.)

*PLP briefings - daily email briefings from the Parliamentary Labour Party. Suffice to say that they are less than helpful to constituency caseworkers, as they provide "key messages" with which MPs and SpAds* can respond to media enquiries, but are little use in caseworkers' non-political role. We're expected to actually answer real questions! PLP briefings are also top secret - each page has the following warning attached: PLP briefings are the property of the Labour party. They are confidential and are for the use of registered members only. Any publishing or dissemination of PLP political briefing is prohibited and may be unlawful.


  1. As punishment send Josh round to Miss Chambers to teach her how to rig both her electric and gas meters! I'm quite sure Josh will already know how & be itching to put his knowledge into practice ;) BG

  2. Gawd! As much as Josh needs punishing, I wouldn't wish Miss Chambers on my worst enemy ;-)

  3. Send Josh to sort the meters & you'll probably never need worry about Miss Chambers again. Or her neighbours. Though, you might have to cough up for Josh to emigrate somewhere without an extradition treaty ;)

  4. I have to say initially it was a good read but time has proved that a dull mindless job is exactly that, not particularly interesting.

    No wonder most MPs maxed their expenses in town only to drag their rather large seats 'home', whatever that means in expense land, at the weekend, albeit reluctantly.

  5. Ouch! I am saddened, though not surprised, that some of you "in town" find life in the constituencies dull, though can't help feeling that it says something about attitudes to real life problems that dealing with them is considered a "mindless job."

    My own view is that, if policy-makers had more awareness of what the lives of people outside the Westminster village are really like, they might make better policy.

  6. Molly - Totally ignore the comment from 'anonymous'. He/she has a dull mindless brain.
    As you can tell from the overwhelming complementary replies to your posts, mid-wife crisis is a 'must read' every day.
    Thanks for the great entertainment.

  7. I'm still lovin' it Molly. Not all of us 'Anons' are so rude!

    ...and I agree with you about casework. Who would look after these people if we didn't? Although I am tempted not to put myself out too much for the nutter who lost his house during his divorce almost 25 years ago and blames my boss and me for it - and distributes flyers all round town saying so.

    My boss has only been an MP for 9 years and I've been here 8! But hey - you know what it's like.

  8. Thanks for the two comments above, guys! Made me feel much better. I started to wonder if I had offended someone who writes the PLP briefings, as I was less than complimentary about their usefulness to caseworkers ;-)

    Anon (the polite one!) - you're so right about the fact that casework is seen as beneath the notice of many people, (as evidenced by the comment, I guess) despite the fact that it IS a major part of an MPs role. I can't help feeling that if our usual suspects had better support from the mental health services, they wouldn't spend so much time contacting us. (Agree entirely about the nutter re the house/divorce, though - this business of them distributing flyers seems to be an annoying new trend!)