Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Bunions, HobNobs And Fatmobiles, Or How Vicky Discovers The Joy Of Helping Others.

God, there are riots and revolutions going on all over the place, but here at work, it's Groundhog Day. Or a parallel universe.

"There's an enormously fat man on a mobility scooter stuck in the corridor outside the lift," says Vicky, when she finally turns up at about 10:00am.

Greg and I look at each other, then both say,

"Mr Franklin."

"I don't know who he is," says Vicky, "but someone needs to go and rescue him. He's already knocked over the Weeping Fig."

"So why didn't you help him?" says Greg. "While you were in the vicinity, as it were?"

"He looked really grumpy," says Vicky. "And he was a bit smelly, too."

God knows why anyone who objects to either of those traits would want to work for an MP, but Vicky obviously doesn't see it as a reasonable hazard of the job. Which is how Greg and I find ourselves trying to manoeuvre a thirty-five-stone man and his fatmobile within a very confined space.

Not only is Mr Franklin no help whatsoever, but he also refuses to tell us how he managed to get through the security doors and into the lift without anyone noticing, and demands answers to questions about Coalition policies while we struggle to turn him around.

After he's covered bankers' bonuses and VAT, he starts on the NHS. It'll be the Ambulance Service next, probably when Greg and I have to be carted off by paramedics after collapsing with exhaustion.

"What are these reforms going to mean for my wife's foot operation?" he says. "I suppose they're bound to be an improvement, seeing as your lot did nothing to speed things up."

"Oh, I don't think that's true," says Greg, jerking the scooter rather viciously.

"Ow," I say, as Mr Franklin's shopping bag falls off the handlebar and lands on my foot.

"Watch out, you idiots!" says Mr F. "My HobNobs'll be nothing but crumbs by the time you two have finished."

Greg looks as if he can't think of anything he'd like better than to crush Mr Franklin's metaphorical HobNobs - if he could find them amidst all the extraneous flesh - so I have to step in before things get completely out of hand.

"Well, has your wife been back to see her GP, as I suggested?" I ask. "I did explain that she needed to tell him if her feet had got worse, because it's usually what's written in the GP's letter of referral that signals to the hospital how urgent a patient's case is."

"Saw the doc at the end of last week," says Mr Franklin. "He said he'd see what he can do - but he told me he's going to write to your boss, as well. He didn't look very happy, so he's probably going to give you a bollocking for doing bugger all to help."

"Um, I'm sure that's not true," I say. "Because we have done something. We wrote to the hospital about your wife's bunions ages ago, if you remember? And the Consultant's reply suggested that your wife see her GP again so that any changes to her condition could be assessed. Which was why I advised you to tell her that."

"Humph," says Mr Franklin. "All you lot do is pass the buck, isn't it? My Rose's feet are giving her gyp, and now her bloody cooking's suffering too."

Greg and I look at each other for a moment, but neither of us can think of a relevant response. Or not one's that's politically-correct, anyway - so Greg settles for crossing and uncrossing his eyes while grimacing instead.

"Was that everything you wanted to talk about, then, Mr F?" he says as, with a burst of energy born of sheer desperation, we finally manage to turn the scooter around so that it's facing the lift. He doesn't wait for Mr Franklin to answer before he says:

"Yes? Oh, good. Bye, bye, then."

He gives the back of Mr Franklin's seat a congratulatory slap while I press the button to summon the lift. Then we both leg it down the corridor as fast as we're capable of moving - which isn't very fast at all, as we're both completely knackered, and one of us is gasping for breath. I must give up bloody smoking.

We've almost made it to the end when the lift goes ping, and a plaintive sound assails us:

"Hang on, you two - what do I do when I get to the ground floor? You meeting me there in case I get stuck again?"

Greg turns round, and says,

"Oh, no - don't worry. There'll be a nice girl with long brown hair coming down in a minute. Just tell her we said that she'd been sent to help you. She's much stronger than she looks."

I raise my eyebrows, but Greg just taps his nose and winks. Then, as soon as we walk back into the office, he rushes over to his desk, and hides all of today's newspapers in the bottom drawer.

"Where the hell have the papers got to?" he says, rather louder than necessary.

Vicky and I both shrug, at which point Greg blames the disappearance on someone from the Party offices, and asks Vicky to go and buy some more.

"It's an emergency, so if you could do it straightaway, that'd be great," he says, as he puts a ten pound note into her hand. "A constituent said there was a big piece about Andrew in one of them, but I'm not sure which."

"Ooh, lovely," says Vicky, for whom the word gullible occasionally seems to have been created. "Maybe there'll even be a photograph!"

"Stranger things have happened," says Greg, as Vicky heads for the stairs and her date with destiny.

She doesn't come back for a very long time and, when she does, the look on her face suggests that this is yet another of Greg's good ideas that I'm going to regret going along with. Especially when she discovers that there isn't even a single quote from The Boss in any of today's editions.

How can she still not have realised that that's something to be very, very grateful for - unlike the opportunity to get up close and personal with a certain biscuit-loving constituent who's rather challenged on the personal hygiene front?

Who appears not to realise how lucky he is that he doesn't need to set himself on fire in order to make his voice heard. Unlike some poor buggers.

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