Wednesday, 23 March 2011

The Birth And Death Of The Joshua Bennett Economic Think-Tank, And The Burial Of My Self-Respect

Bloody hell, MPs' staff should be given the day off on Budget Day. How are we supposed to comment on something when we haven't had any time to read it? Let alone work out whether it's going to be worth our own while to turn up for work tomorrow morning?

I might be feeling a bit brain-dead this week, but I suppose I know the answer to that question already, now I come to think of it. I still haven't got over that whole monkeys earning peanuts thing.

"Try not to spend all your money down the pub tonight," I say to Josh, as he gets ready to go out for a drink with Robbie and the rest of the boys. "Don't forget I'm relying on you and Connie to keep me, in the style to which I'd rather like to become accustomed."

"Don't hold your breath," says Max, who is sorting through the bills again, while watching the news at the same time.

I think he's making notes of the main changes announced in George Osborne's Budget, and trying to work out what the effects on ours will be. I don't think I want to know.

"You look as if you mean business," I say, lying down on the sofa and pulling a blanket over my legs.

Max glances at me over the top of his glasses, then looks down at the calculator he's holding in his hand. He taps in some numbers, and makes a wincing noise when he sees the result.

"I do mean business" he says. "Unlike you."

There's no call for that, seeing as I'm not actually asleep. I'm just resting my eyes for a minute, that's all. Just like Ken Clarke during today's Budget speech in the House.

When I wake up again, I'm even more confused than usual. There's no sign of Troels Hartmann, and the room is full of teenage boys, all smelling strongly of after-shave, along with something else that I can't quite identify.

"Wha -?" I say, trying to sit up and look alert.

"Ssh, Mum!" says Josh. "Me and the boys are having a discussion. High finance, so you wouldn't understand."

"Why are you here, though?" I say. "I thought you were going out."

"We're economising - as per your advice."

Josh raises a can of Red Bull in a toast, as do all the other boys. Oh, and Robbie's holding a bottle of Jagermeister, too. So that's what I can smell.

"Oh, God," I say. "Do you have to do it here? I was hoping for an early night."

"Yes," says Josh. "We do. Staying in is the new going out. Now go back to sleep and don't interrupt. We're trying to sort out what to do with approximately thirty million pounds."

I'm so pleased to hear that the younger generation are taking fiscal matters seriously, that I feel it's safe to relax and close my eyes again. Then I try very hard to recapture my dream, though this proves wholly unsuccessful. Troels seems to have been replaced by a sniggering George Osborne, who is brandishing a sheaf of unpaid bills.

It's all right, though, because the boys are still working hard to restore the public finances by promoting all kinds of growth:

"I'd buy the moon," says Josh. "And make it lavishly hospitable."

"Hmm," says Robbie, approvingly. "Not a bad idea, that."

I'm quite impressed by my son's entrepreneurial thinking myself. I open my eyes, and start taking more of an interest. I could be raising the next Chancellor of the Exchequer, for all I know.

"What about an island?" says Robbie. "That'd be even better than the moon."

"Yes," I say. "Richard Branson's got one of those."

I am clearly witnessing the birth of a new entrepreneurial think-tank, with innovative ideas on how to ensure the recovery of the UK economy. I feel quite moved.

"What would you give me?" says Josh to Robbie, which confuses me a bit. "Could I have a cove all to myself?"

"Yes," says Robbie. "Though it wouldn't be as nice a one as mine."

Cove? I'm about to ask the boys for an explanation, but then Max walks into the room, so I gesture for him to sit next to me. Then I can pick his brains on the sly. All this economics jargon is leaving me behind.

"And we could have a monorail, too," says Josh. "I love a good monorail, don't you?"

"Yes - and one of those Flying Dolphins like the Russians have got," says Robbie, pouring another Jagerbomb.

"So, is this going to be some sort of tourist-based economy, then?" I say, trying to get a handle on things. "Only I think you'd need a manufacturing base to spread the risk."

All the boys look at me as if I am barking mad, which is something I'm becoming increasingly used to this week.

"Mum," says Josh, very slowly, as if speaking to a child. "What exactly do you think we're talking about?"

"A plan for economic recovery," I say. "Or to reduce the deficit and encourage growth. Or something like that, anyway."

My voice tails off as I realise that no-one has any idea what I'm going on about. Including Max.

"Mol," he says, and his voice is strangely gentle. "I think you need to go to bed and get a decent night's sleep. The boys are discussing what they'd do if -"

"If they were in charge of the country," I say. "I know that. I'm not an idiot, thank you very much. Or a monkey - even if I am paid peanuts."

"No," says Josh. "Sorry. We're deciding what we'd do if we won Euro-Millions. You know - that lottery thing?"

I nod, then shake my head and cringe. I think Josh must feel sorry for me, because he pats me on the arm and says:

"Don't worry, Mum. I've already decided I'd give half of it to you and Dad if I win."

"Only half?" says Max.

I assume he's being ironic, but Josh doesn't take it that way. I'm not the only one whose feelings are all too easily hurt.

"That's more than you'd get from Connie, Dad," he says. "She said she'd buy you and Mum a house and clear your debts, but there wasn't any point in giving you any more than that, because you're both so bloody rubbish with money."

It's lucky for Connie that she's ill in bed, though next time she wants a hot drink, she can get it herself. I'm retiring to the monkey enclosure, to curl up in a ball and dream about Troels.

No comments:

Post a Comment