Thursday, 24 February 2011

Surrealism In Action....And Not A Moustache In Sight (Except Possibly Mine).

Honestly, has everyone gone mad? Even when you disregard the usual suspects, I still don't seem to have had a conversation with a sane person all day.

"Where do I stand on *AV?" says The Boss, upon his return from the Easemount Day Centre - where he's spent lunchtime terrifying the hell out of old people by warning that the Coalition is bound to cut the services on which they depend to shreds.

"I don't know, Andrew," I say. "You'll have to make your own decision on this one. Though it would help if you could hurry up about it, seeing as I've got lots of letters from constituents who want to know exactly that."

He scowls as me as if I've said something unreasonable, then turns towards Greg, who is trying his best to ignore him by staring out of the window.

"Gregory," he says. "Don't pretend you didn't hear me: AV - for or against?"

"It's a bloody stupid system," says Greg, with an air of finality.

Andrew shakes his head, sighs heavily and then starts walking round and round in circles until he finally veers off into the kitchen and comes to a halt. You can tell he's definitely not himself when he offers to make us all a coffee. Probably because Vicky's still so annoyed that he used her as a human shield that she's rung in sick today.

"We'll have coffee and a sit down in the Oprah Room - and discuss this properly," he says. "We could even have biscuits. Mrs Arthurton gave me some Garibaldis before I left the day centre. She said she thought I still looked a bit hungry after my lunch."

So, ten minutes later, Greg and I are sitting on the sofa, sipping at the worst coffee we've ever tasted, wondering what's happened to the biscuits and wishing we were elsewhere. Meanwhile, Andrew sits in the armchair, brushes the crumbs from his beard, and looks at us both expectantly.

No-one seems to want to start the ball rolling but, as usual, I crack first. No resilience, that's my trouble - I'd make an utterly useless spy.

"I'm most bothered about the fact that AV seems to have been the only deal-breaker for the LibDems," I say. "Unlike tuition fees, or cuts to Housing Benefit, or any of the other things they've rolled over on."

"That's just bloody typical," says Greg. "They've been driven by self-interest all along."

"Yes, well," says Andrew, fidgeting a bit and looking down at the floor. "Talking of which, what do you think the effect of AV would be on me?"

"You? Total buggeration, I should think,"  says Greg. "Seeing as half your constituents are completely mad. Can you imagine the Beales brothers managing to comprehend how the AV system works? They'd end up accidentally voting for everyone except you, even if they've usually voted for you in the past. Which I rather doubt."

Andrew looks aghast for a moment, and then seems to pull himself together. He stands up, and takes the cup out of my hand.

"Right - so I'm against AV, then,"  he says. "Now that's sorted, you two can get back to work. You can't just sit around here all day."

He's right for once, as I've got lots to do if I'm to be able to leave on time this evening. Which is important, as I'm supposed to be doing the cooking for once.

It's probably a measure of how depressed Max is, that's he's even considering eating something that I've prepared, seeing as he normally doesn't trust me in the kitchen at all. But he's got an important meeting after work - or so he claims.

So I'm standing in the kitchen stirring a rather lumpy-looking sauce for Macaroni Cheese when I realise that I haven't spoken to Dad for days. Or to Connie, either.

Never try to do two things at once when one of them involves cooking, that's all I can say. By the time I've spent half an hour listening to Dad moaning about Dinah's "devil child" and what the hell is wrong with the UK when we can't fly British citizens out of Libya like "even the bloody French" have managed to do, the sauce is looking even more dubious than before.

To make matters worse, I can't get seem to get hold of Connie at all, which always makes me fret like mad. She's not answering her phone, or responding to messages or texts.

"What's up, Mum?" says Josh. "You look even more of a stress-head than usual."

When I've explained that his sister seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth, and that my concentration is therefore shot, Josh takes one look at the Macaroni Cheese, declares it ruined - "as predicted" - and suggests we go and watch Channel 4 News instead.

"We can have a mother and son bonding session while discussing world events," he says. "By which time Connie'll probably have finished showering or watching Eastenders or whatever she's doing while she's ignoring your calls, and then she'll get in touch with you."

This seems like a good plan but, although I stare dutifully at the screen, I don't really seem to be taking much in - so I haven't got a clue what leads to Josh's Big Idea to reduce the budget deficit.

"Mum," he says. "Are we still an Empire, or something?"

Sometimes I despair of comprehensive education. What sort of question is that for someone who's supposedly got GCSEs and an A-Level?

"Well, not exactly," I say. "Though there is the Commonwealth. And the Crown Territories. And -"

"Never mind about the detail. All I want to know is: do we own any other countries?"

Never mind the detail? Who does Josh think he is - an MP? I make allowances, though, on the basis that Film Studies probably isn't much use in situations such as this.

"Um, yes, I suppose so," I say. "In a manner of speaking. Why?"

"Problem solved, then," he says. "Why don't we sell one of them? We just phone up China and say, "Hey, China - do you want to buy Australia? I bet they'd jump at the chance."'

While I'm trying to think of an answer to that, my mobile beeps and - finally - there's a text from Connie. Not that it's very informative, considering I've heard nothing from her for ages.

"Mum, I'm fine," it says. "But I can't do a pull-up."

There's nothing for it but to go for a very long lie-down, until people start making sense again.

*AV - The Alternative Vote, which I have trouble understanding unless I am concentrating very hard. Which means that it'll be completely beyond the grasp of certain people I could mention...

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