Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Self-Help - A Highway To Madness, Especially When Coupled With Two Noses.

God, self-help books are rubbish - no wonder everyone who reads them is barking mad. I've only read half of mine, and I'm going round the bend already.

I'm standing in the hallway this morning, staring into the full-length mirror, and saying my affirmations, when I notice that I've got a huge spot on the end of my nose.

It's so big, it almost eclipses the nose itself, and makes a complete nonsense of positive statements. Especially this one:

"I still look sexy, and attractive."

Honestly, what good does lying to yourself do? I do not look sexy, or attractive. I look as if I have two noses - and I've got toothpaste down the front of my top. But dogged is my middle name, so I take a deep breath, then carry on:

"I still look sexy and attractive."

I say it a bit louder this time, but still not loud enough to drown out the voice that's laughing like a drain somewhere in my consciousness.

According to the wretched book, this is just my inner critic, whose advice is apparently best ignored. (I suspect it's the book's advice that's best ignored, but I suppose I'd better give it the benefit of the doubt.)

"I still look sexy, and - "

"You actually look a prat," says the voice - so loud that I nearly jump out of my skin.

This must be what it's like for Mr Humphries, contending with all these competing voices. If I'm not careful, I'll end up attacking myself next time I can't resist touching my spot just to check how big it is.

"What the hell are you doing, Mum?" says Josh, appearing behind me and peering at my reflection in the mirror.

"Did you just say I looked a prat?" I say.

"Yes," he says. "Because you do."

"Oh, thank God," I say, which I don't think is the response that Josh is expecting, given how quickly he ducks out of the way.

When he straightens up, having not been slapped around the head, he looks at me as if I am mad, while I breathe a sigh of relief that I am definitely not.

Not that that belief lasts long, thanks to Greg, who's lying on the floor laughing as I type. He wasn't supposed to hear my other affirmation:

"I am highly-valued at my place of work."

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Sulking, And The Law Of Its Diminishing Returns.

Thank you to everyone who has emailed me to ask where the hell my blog has got to, and whether it's been subject to a Blogger-related implosion.

It hasn't. For once, the fault is all mine - or, rather, it's my birthday's fault; coupled with the realisation that I have achieved precisely nothing of any value to the human race whatsoever, over the whole of the last year, and despite my (second) best efforts.

Greg says that I am having an existential crisis, but Max says that I have just been sulking about getting old. Both of them may be right - but, anyway, there's only so much navel gazing that a person can do, before the whole thing becomes tediously boring for all concerned.

So, my belated birthday resolution is to pull myself together, think positive, and get a grip. (As well as over-using a host of cliches in the process - anyone would think I'd taken a self-help book out of the library at lunchtime today.)

I probably need to allow a few days to practise my affirmations before they start to work, so I shall be back next week, uncharacteristically dynamic and full of optimism for the coming year - which is when I shall achieve something really noteworthy. I just haven't quite worked out what.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Happy Birthday To Me. (Sung In A Deeply-Ironic Tone.)

Am far too depressed to write - seeing as I am another year older. I shall be back, once I've sought treatment for the trauma.

In the meantime, here's a song for those of you who share my birthday - if you feel more positive about ageing than I do while staring hopelessly into a magnifying mirror.

I wonder if Clare Grogan has a problem with facial hair these days?

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

A Year In The Life Of A Coalition; And Of An MP's Caseworker. One Even Less Covered In Glory Than The Other.

So the Coalition are celebrating their first anniversary of being in power - which means it's also a year since I started keeping this diary, for what that's worth.

Mind you, Blancmange-face* has spent the day bigging up the Government's achievements in honour of the occasion, so maybe I should follow suit, and produce a list of mine.



God, this is depressing. There must be something I've achieved, despite Greg's version of chaos theory. Maybe I'll concentrate on pros and cons instead - and break the list down into sections to make it look even more impressive.

Molly Bennett's List of This Year's Pros and Cons


Con: I am still one of the poorest-paid members of staff on the House of Commons payroll.
Pro: I do still have a job, unlike Max.

Con: The Boss still can't write an intelligible sentence.
Pro: I have managed to prevent any letter that he's written by himself from ever reaching the slot of a post-box.

Con: Vicky is still here, flicking her hair; and her nails are still square at the ends.
Pro: She is still an unpaid intern, as far as I can tell. Though I have no idea what she actually does, apart from the above.

Con: Joan is still trapping me in the loo to talk about her Tax Credits.
Pro: I am learning to be rude, and to close the door before she starts.

Con: Labour MPs no longer have any control over government policy.
Pro: Labour MPs no longer have any responsibility for government policy.

Con: The usual suspects are all still alive.
Pro: They are also another year older and thus closer to death.

Love Life

Con: Max and I have only earned seven gold stars for having sex.
Pro: Max and I have earned seven gold stars for having sex.

Con: I have managed never to have sex with my so-called lover, unless you count the virtual kind.
Pro: He hasn't yet given up trying to persuade me to have sex with him, presumably because he doesn't meet me very often and, when he does, he can't see me at all without his glasses.

Con: Max still seems to have an unhealthy fascination for a certain nymphomaniac neighbour.
Pro: This may be outweighed by his fascination for Bambi. (I am not sure if this should count as a pro.)

Family Life

Con: Josh is still living at home; failed his A-levels, and has a dead-end job. Failure to launch in action, if that isn't an oxymoron.
Pro: Josh hasn't been arrested for anything - as far as I am aware.

Con: Connie isn't still living at home.
Pro: As above (when she comes home and argues with Josh, who then ends up in hospital).

Con: Mum still has a pain in the buttock.
Pro: She has given up being towed around on a tea tray; and has thus avoided being sectioned. By me.

Con: Dad is still besotted with the Thai Bride.
Pro: He hasn't married her. Yet, though I am not counting my chickens.


Con: I am growing more facial hair by the day, and Max doesn't find a balaclava a turn-on, or so he claims.
Pro: To be confirmed, when I've thought of one.

Con: I shall be a year older tomorrow.
Pro: We can't afford for Max to throw me another surprise party.

It's always so nice to end on a high note, isn't it? I bet Nick Clegg wishes he could say the same.

*Blancmange-face - David Cameron, in Connie-speak.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

A Bumper Crop of Metaphors, Despite The Inattention (And General Uncaring Attitude) of Max, Whose Middle Name Obviously Isn't Percy Thrower*.

Honestly, and without wishing to sound like Miss Chambers, sometimes I'm sure I'm the victim of a conspiracy: to ensure that I never have sex again.

To his credit, Johnny seems to be trying to rescue me from this cruel fate, when he emails some rather intriguing suggestions as to what we could do if we were alone in my office - but then The Boss decides to phone for a chat.

"I hope you're not drinking coffee," he says.

"Um, no," I say. Truthfully, seeing as Johnny's scenario was far more appealing than a mug of Nescafe.

"Or losing your temper, either," says Andrew. "You sound a bit irritable, which also increases your chances of having a stroke. Along with having sex - but at least you won't be doing that at work."

"No," I say. "There's absolutely no chance of that."

By the time Andrew's finished telling me everything that might kill me before I ever have sex again, I've completely lost the urge to have it at all, so I send Johnny an email which simply reads:

"Mission aborted due to unforeseen circumstances."

Which is also what could be said to happen to my attempt to persuade Max that we should earn another gold star by impressing him with my new underwear. It's not as if Johnny ever got to see it, so I suppose it still does count as new.

As do the stars, almost - seeing as the packet's still almost entirely full. I'd quite like to use some of them up before the glue dries out, which is not a metaphor, but might as well be. (They're coming thick and fast today. Unlike some people I could mention.)

Anyway, I'm relying on my knickers to work their magic, once I get home from spending the evening at the Easemount Bowling Club, whose members are worried that they'll soon be without a green. They go on about it at quite some length, so the whole thing seems to take forever.

When I finally make my escape - having signally failed to learn to bowl - I find Max in the garden watering the plants. Or so he says, even though it's almost dark. It's also the night for putting out the bins, (since the Council changed the collection days to cope with all these bank holidays we've been having), so this could be a rather more convincing explanation.

I look up at Ellen's bedroom window, just to check, but there's no sign of her, naked or otherwise - though she could have dived behind the curtains when she heard me arriving home. Max's demeanour is definitely odd, so something must be going on.

I shall have to lure Ellen back out into the open, if I am to know for sure - but she won't come out if she can see that I'm still on the look-out. Evasive action is urgently required.

"How's the garden doing, Max?" I say, wandering casually around, and trying to hide myself in a rather attractive purple shrub.

"Be careful," he says, at the same time as I say, "Ow."

That's just typical, isn't it? The only plant big enough to provide cover for a very small person, and it has to be a bloody Berberis. Prickles everywhere, and that is not an euphemism.

"What are you doing, Mol?" says Max. "You know that plant's spiky - that's why we planted it. To deter Steve Ellington from burgling us again."

"Allegedly," I say - meaning the burglary, and not the planting. Or not the planting of the Berberis, at any rate.

I wish we hadn't planted it now, seeing as it's just ripped my skirt, and my lacy pants - not that Max seems to notice them. He's too busy looking at me as if I am mad, so I dab the blood off my arm with the hem of my skirt, and look around for inspiration. There must be another plant big enough to lurk behind.

"What the hell is this?" I say, picking up a tangled brownish mass of foliage that appears to be comprehensively dead, albeit that it's in a pot.

"Oh," says Max. "Ah. Um - that's the plant you bought me for our anniversary. I think I may have forgotten to plant it. Or to water it, actually."

I look at him, then down at the dead plant, then back at him. I'm trying to avoid recognising this latest metaphor for my life, but the bloody things just will not stop making their presence felt.

"So," I say, very slowly. "I buy you a Passionflower for our anniversary. And then you kill it - by neglect?"

Max winces, as he nods his head.

*Percy Thrower - Nan's favourite television gardener - and not a disco star, despite what Kenny Everett may have claimed.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Greg's Only Partially-Successful Attempt To Raise The Tone.

"Who's your pick for The Turner Prize, then, Mol?" says Greg, when I arrive at work, still half-asleep, and starving hungry.

I do a double take, before heading to the kitchen to make a coffee - thus buying myself time to think about my response. Nan always said, "Decide in haste, repent at leisure."

So I'm still mulling over the respective merits of George Shaw and Karla Black - and trying to find a clean teaspoon - when the phone starts to ring.

"Ah, Mr Beales," says Greg. "No, I'm sorry. Still no progress on ensuring HGV drivers can earn twice the number of penalty points as ordinary motorists. As I think Molly may have already told you, we are not wholly optimistic of success on this particular issue."

I stick my head around the doorframe and pull a face, but Greg's not paying any attention to me. He appears to be reading The London Review of Books, at the same time as listening to Mr Beales.

"Yes, well," he says. "I think you may have a somewhat dystopian view of society, if you'll forgive me saying so."

There's a pause, and then he says, very slowly: "Dys-to-pian."

Then he hangs up, and starts leafing through a copy of Nature, while I search for a safe place to put his coffee down on his desk. It seems to be covered with piles of new magazines and journals, though I can't see a copy of Hello anywhere.

"Did you just say 'dystopian' to Mr Beales?" I say.

"Yes," says Greg. "I am attempting to raise the calibre of conversation around here. Given the inexplicable omission of my name from the list of the UK's top three hundred intellectuals."

"Oh," I say - which I don't think lives up to Greg's expectations.

He raises his eyebrows, and waits for me to try again.

"A laudable aim," I say. "Though what did Mr Beales say in reply?"

"He asked why The Boss can't employ someone who speaks proper English," says Greg. "I am bloodied, but unbowed."

I wish I could say the same for me, when I look at what I've got for lunch. I'm sure those bread sticks we bought for Christmas have gone off.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Hungry Like A Nicotine-Deprived Wolf. Not That Duran Duran Have Ever Been In That Particular Situation.

Oh, my God. I've got over my hangover, just in time to starve to death.

"Don't eat that," says Max this morning, when he spots me about to make some toast. "Can't you see the mould on that bread?"

"No," I say. I must be wearing the wrong glasses, again. "Can you get some when you go to Sainsburys? I think we're almost out of milk, as well."

"Um, no," says Max. "I've been meaning to talk to you about buying food."

Then he gives me that look. The one that involves not looking at me. It's much, much scarier than a glare would be.

"What is it?" I say, as all my muscles tighten, and my digestive system grinds to a sudden halt.

"I can't actually go shopping."

Max grinds to his own halt - but I'm not sure if that's the end of the sentence, or whether there's an explanation to follow, so I stand still and wait to find out. It takes ages, but eventually he carries on:

"We haven't got any money left, you see."

"Oh," I say. "Ah. Okay. Well, we'll just have to economise then, won't we? We knew this would happen now you've lost your job. How much is actually left in the account?"

"Nothing," says Max, very slowly and deliberately. "That is what I am trying to tell you."

I know I should be practical, and positive, and find a creative way out of this situation, but I think I may have to sit down first, and have a fag.

Oh, Christ. Have a fag. If there's no money for food, then there's none for tobacco, either, is there? And the incidence of violent crime in Northwick may be about to rise.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

An Extended, If Muddled, Metaphor About Chickens, And Their Tendency To Steal Their Parents' Drugs.

I'm dying, and there is no paracetamol in the house.

Josh must have used it all up to treat his multiple hangovers, though he's kindly put the empty packets neatly back into the box. I'd kill him, if the room didn't keep spinning around whenever I get out of bed to go and find him.

It's all The Boss' fault for making me drink so much last night. Does he have to be so argumentative?

First he fell out with those young people who'd voted yes to AV - the ones who described most of the UK population as "clueless apes" - and then it was Pete Carew's turn.

He came into the pub halfway through the evening, presumably intending to celebrate having held on to the leadership of Northwick Council. (He can't have been intending to celebrate the referendum result, seeing as he too had voted yes.)

"Evening, Andrew," he said, nodding to me, Greg and Vicky, as if there was an economy drive on words.

"Sixty-nine percent said, 'no'," said Andrew, by way of reply. "Didn't see the way the wind was blowing on that one, did you, Pete?"

"Neither did you, until Molly and I warned you what would happen," said Greg, but Andrew wasn't listening to him, and nor was Pete.

They stood squaring up to each other like a pair of fighting cocks - rather bedraggled ones, so bantams might be a better comparison, except for the fact that they are female.

That's probably why they look so shitty compared to the males: they don't have time to spend on their appearance as they're far too busy laying eggs. (Which turn into chicks, who hang around far too long in the nest, and then use up all their parents' paracetamol without so much as a by your leave.)

I know just how they feel, but now I've lost my thread. How many brain cells did I kill last night? Oh, yes - Andrew and Pete, and the argument.

"Well, at least I gave our leader my support," said Pete, jutting his chin out and loosening his tie.

"More fool you," said Andrew, who wasn't wearing one, and whose chin isn't visible due to his beard. "You might as well have voted no like sensible people did. I know we put AV into our manifesto, but only as a bargaining chip to bribe the LibDems into a coalition with us."

If there was ever a time to kidnap one or more politicians, this would have been it, but Vicky was nowhere to be seen, and both Greg and I were too tired to make a pre-emptive strike.

Instead, we just sat back in our seats, sipped our drinks, and watched in horror while Andrew and Pete had a stand-up row about AV; the meaning of party loyalty; the relative importance of local versus national politicians, and whose fault it was that we're now in opposition.

All in front of a rapt audience of constituents, who were obviously listening to every single word. (They weren't even pretending to talk to each other, like well-mannered people would.)

Eventually, the whole thing just became too much, not to mention that we'd finished our drinks.

"Someone should stop them," I said to Greg. "It looks terrible, them arguing in public like that."

"I know," he said. "Come on. Grab your bag and follow me."

I thought we were just going to the bar but, once we got there, Greg dumped our used glasses on the counter, and then made a sharp turn to the right, pulling me along behind him.

"Keep your head down," he said, as we negotiated our way past various groups of drinkers, all of whom spilled at least part of their drinks onto my head.

"Why?" I said. "Where are we going?"

"Tesco Express," said Greg. "For a bottle of gin, some tonic and lemons. Then we are going to your house, to drink it all. I trust that you do have ice."

Which may be what I need for my head, in the absence of any pain relief.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Vox Pop, Or Unpop: A Voter's View Of The Majority Of The British Public.

I'm in the pub with The Boss and Greg, and beginning to regret that idea already. Mainly because the pub's full of young people who were part of the "Yes to AV" campaign, and they're not in the best of moods.

Nor is Andrew - not since one of them described those who voted "no" as "rubber-spined, clueless apes." Even Greg thought that that was rude.

I think I need another gin.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

When Certain Bossy People Continue To Call Other People's Time Their Own.

Still campaigning for the overly-hirsute, then taking numbers at the count. Life as we know it re-starts tomorrow - unless you are a LibDem, to quote The Boss.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

A Loss Of Liberty, Thanks To An Off-Shoot Of The Green Ink Brigade.

I'm not going to have time to write my diary in the evenings for the next few days, thanks to The Boss and the local elections. Greg and I have just been ordered to help one of the candidates in his campaign to become a local councillor - in our supposedly free time, of course.

"If he'd just shave off that ridiculous twirly beard and sideburns combo, he wouldn't need any help on the doorstep," says Greg, but Andrew doesn't take any notice of that.

He's probably contemplating the creative possibilities offered by his own facial hair - when he's not fretting about LibDems getting creative with paper and ink.

Jen had promised to send me a letter she'd received last week from the LibDem to whom her MP lost his seat - which finally turns up in the post today. I'm so surprised when I see it that, like a fool, I email a scan of it to The Boss - who then goes up in metaphorical smoke.

"Christ, those LibDems know how to walk a fine line," he says, when he phones me to discuss the damn thing further. "Look at the colour of the paper, and the ink. The only thing missing is the bloody Commons crest."

For once, Andrew's right. The letter is within the rules, but it could very easily mislead. In it, the MP advises his constituents to vote for the various LibDem candidates at the local council elections in his constituency - as party political a message as can be - and which therefore mustn't be sent out on House of Commons headed paper.

Whenever The Boss wants to send anything similar to his constituents, we use the cheapest, plain white paper you can buy - which the Party has to pay for, of course, and not the taxpayer. It looks like shit, and doesn't really carry much clout at all.

However, Jen's new LibDem MP has found a cunning way to suggest that his suggestion of how to vote in the local elections has the official stamp of approval - which is why The Boss is blowing his top.

The letter is printed on cream paper which is exactly the same shade as the proper HOC* stuff, and the header is printed in green ink - also of the exact same shade as that used by the HOC. The lay-out of the MP's name and address is also the same, and the only thing missing is the Portcullis crest.

Now The Boss has decided that, if the LibDems should prove capable of similar campaign creativity in Northwick too, our candidates will need all the help they can get. Which apparently takes the form of me and Greg.

So, in the absence of a good barber with a way with twirly facial hair, that's the next few evenings spoken for - and all thanks to the new Green Ink Brigade. I can't wait for Friday night, and some time alone with Max - if he hasn't gone off and left me by then.

I wonder if you can cite jury service and local elections as grounds for divorce? Not to mention facial hair...

*HOC - House of Commons, as usual.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Uncivil Disobedience Goes Awry; And Why One Should Always Answer One's Phone.

God, I'm glad I don't work for David. (Not that I can quite believe I'm saying that, but he's even more annoying than The Boss.)

He spent most of the weekend trying to trace one of his drivers, who had gone AWOL and wasn't answering his phone.

"He's even worse than you for doing that," he said to me, when we were sitting in the garden discussing whether bosses are more incompetent than staff. (Max and Susie had had the sense not to join in, and were lying soaking up the sun in silence.)

"Thanks," I said. "Though I do have good reasons for hating the phone. And I don't often ignore it on purpose - or not when I'm at work, anyway. Then I'm only screening calls."

"Come on," he said, jumping to his feet, and grabbing his car keys. "You've just given me an idea. We'll go and buy some stuff for brunch. Won't be long, Suze - you and Max stay here and chill."

Never believe anything a successful person tells you, that's all I can say; especially when it involves claiming that they won't be long.

We spent the next two hours driving around in David's great boat of a car - leather seats are very slippery around corners when you're wearing anything containing lycra - apparently searching for the missing Craig.

"Ha," said David, as we finally drove past a cluster of small shops, mainly of the betting and kebab variety. "There's his van."

As he spoke, he screeched to a halt so suddenly, that I nearly flew straight out through the windscreen. Then he got out of the car, raced across to the van and began trying all the doors, without any attempt at subtlety at all.

I was almost expecting him to start wielding a crowbar when all of them turned out to be locked but, instead, he walked round the van and back on to the pavement, and then started peering up and down the street - as if looking for something, or someone. And then he disappeared completely.

He was gone for so long, that I'd just closed my eyes and decided to have a nap, when he opened the passenger door, which I'd been leaning my head against.

"Ow," I said, as my neck jerked sideways. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"

"Come on," said David, pulling me out of the car by my arm. "We'll go and get a coffee to wake you up."

Before I could argue, he dragged me towards what looked like the scruffiest cafe I've ever seen, punching a series of numbers into his phone as we went. Then he held it clasped to his ear, while we entered the cafe and looked for a seat. Or I looked for a seat, anyway. David wasn't exactly helping.

He was standing still, watching a young guy wearing a hat - who was seated with his back to us at a table nearby, looking down at a mobile phone lying next to his cup.

"What are you doing, David?" I said. "Are we having a drink, or not?"

David put his fingers to his lips, then dialled again, and put the phone back to his ear. At the same time, a really irritating ring tone filled the cafe, and Hat Man picked up his phone, as if to turn the damn thing off.

"Answer your phone, Craig," said David, at the top of his voice.

David might be annoying, but I'll give him his due - Craig did as he was told, without even looking round.