Friday, 21 January 2011

Why One Should Always Expect The Unexpected.

You learn something new every day, don't you? But I certainly wasn't expecting it to be that.

The Boss comes into the office quite early, ready for an appointment with someone called Brian Sadler, whom Andrew says he hasn't seen for years.

"He's not a constituent, then?" I ask. "The name doesn't ring any bells with me."

"No, he's not," says Andrew. "Just a very old friend, who wants me to do him a favour. I'll see him in private when he arrives. All you need to do is show him in and then bugger off and leave us alone."

The trouble with Andrew is that he can't sit still for a second, and he can't wait for anything either. So when Brian isn't here on the dot of 09:30am, Andrew gets bored and rings the local paper to offer them an interview. About the EU and herbal medicines, or something of equal concern to the population of the Easemount estate, who form the paper's main readership. He never takes his audience into account.

Anyway, he's still chuntering away on the phone when Brian arrives, so I have no option but to make a coffee and offer Brian a seat in my office while he waits for The Boss to finish.

"So how's my old mate, Andrew, then?" he says. "Still full of hot air, I see."

"Hmm," I say.

Non-committal is always best - seeing as Brian's question could all too easily be a trap. Just because Andy Coulson's finally decided to resign doesn't mean it's now safe to make unguarded comments, after all.

I wouldn't put anything past anyone these days, which is probably a very sad reflection of the world view of most MPs' staff - with the exception of Vince Cable's, of course. Who'd do well to learn from the cynics amongst us when booking their boss' surgery appointments in future.

"You'd never think Andrew used to be a Tory, would you?" says Brian.

He smiles as he waits for my reaction, but I don't say anything, as I'm too incredulous for speech. I just sit there, staring at him with my mouth wide open. (I must stop doing that: I know it makes me look gormless.)

"Don't believe me?" he says.

I shake my head, as the door to the Oprah Room opens, and The Boss comes out.

"Molly doesn't believe what?" says Andrew.

"Just some of the things you got up to when we were at college, dear boy," says Brian.

Andrew looks at his so-called friend as if he'd like to strangle him, then pulls himself together and makes some half-arsed laughing noises, though they're not exactly convincing. Then he puts his arm round Brian's shoulder and almost drags him into the Oprah Room.

As soon as Andrew slams the door, I hustle Greg into the corridor to tell him what Brian said. Away from Vicky's big ears. (This is not a metaphor: you can see them whenever she does that hair-flicking thing.)

Annoyingly, Greg isn't half as surprised by Brian's revelation as he damn well should be, which takes all the fun out of passing it on. I sulk, until he explains why he hasn't fainted with shock, as I'd been assuming he would.

"Always suspected something like that," he says. "The Boss tries far too hard to be more left-wing than anyone else. It's that 'protests too much' thing that gives it away."

"I didn't think of that," I say. "Very Shakespearean. Since when did you get to be so smart?"

"Since half the women I go to bed with try to pull the same trick," he says. "The minute they start making a racket, I always know they're putting it on."

Ha - I knew that Ellen was pretending! I must find a way to drop this pearl of wisdom into a conversation with Max - just in case he's fallen for all the yelling she does whenever she entertains, or whatever she calls it. Especially when her bloody bedroom window's open.

Mind you, even Ellen doesn't do as much yelling as The Boss does when he's in a mood, which he certainly seems to be once Brian has left. He even shouts at me a couple of times in front of constituents during surgery. I'm not sure who is more uncomfortable about it: me or them.

Andrew carries on in this vein for the rest of the day - except when he's ignoring me instead - but both options are almost equally wearing. I'm pretty fed up by 5:00pm and still have no idea why he's behaving like this, so I decide to tackle him about it before I miss my chance.

It's not easy get him in private, though, because Vicky's never far from his side; but I finally manage it by dint of following them both into the car park after work.

I hang back until they've said their goodbyes and Vicky has driven off, and then, as soon as Andrew gets into his own car, I sneak towards it under cover of some bushes. Rather like a panther, now I come to think of it.

I tap on the window, and The Boss opens it, rolling his eyes as he does so.

"Andrew, can I have a word?" I say. "It won't take long."

He says nothing, although he does pause in the act of starting the engine. Then he just glares at me and waits for me to speak.

"What on earth's the matter with you today?" I say. "You're like a bear with a sore head. And I wish you'd stop shouting at me in front of everyone. It's embarrassing, as well as not very professional."

"Let's just say I'm not comfortable with working with a fascist," says Andrew.

This seems like a non-sequitur, so I resort to the open-mouthed staring again, coupled with an excessively-raised eyebrow.

"Vicky told me what you said about Michael Gove," he says. "Seems like you're working for the wrong MP. We're supposed to be Socialists in this office, you know, Molly."

"Well, at least I've never been a member of the bloody Tory Party," I say. "Unlike you - or so I hear."

This must be the first time in my life that I've ever managed to come up with a cutting response while the person who deserved it was still present. Though, judging by The Boss' expression when he revs the engine before he drives off, I suspect it's going to cost me dear.

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