The great baby you see there is not yet out of his swaddling-clouts.
- Shakespeare, Hamlet.
True, we might never have arrived, but the fact is we did. If only people thought a little more about it, they would see that life is not worth worrying about so much.
- Lermontov, A Hero of Our Time.
Dean Street, Soho
Wedneday, April 30th 1997
I take up my pen once again to record a momentous time in the affairs of men (and, thank God, because this is intended to be a secret diary, I am not required to add 'and women').
The day after tomorrow on May 2nd, as dawn breaks, I predict that the Labour Party will just scrape in, and will form the next government. Talk of a landslide victory is hysterical rubbish whipped up by the media.
My own prediction is based on 'insider' knowledge. The insider is an actor called Fred Gipton who was in An Inspector Calls with Tony Booth, the father-in-law of our future Prime Minister. Gipton spilled the beans in Hoi Polloi, the restaurant where I work, after two bottles of Jacob's Creek, a Pernod and a vodka sorbet. After begging me to keep 'shtum' he told me that he had heard, via a tortuous grapevine, that Mr Blair expected to win with a tiny majority. Three was mentioned. He also told me that Mr Blair wears a wig, but I have freeze-framed a News At Ten video of him alighting from a helicopter on to a school playingfield and I am satisfied that no wig could stand up to the air turbulence caused by the chopper blades. Tony wears his own hair, it is certainement.
So every vote counts, which is why I will drive up to Ashby-de-la-Zouch tonight after I finish my shift in the restaurant. When I told Savage that I would need to take a day off in order to vote, he went into a tirade about the foolishness of giving 'hoi polloi' the vote. 'If I ruled the f------ country,' he said (I cannot bring myself to write f------), 'I'd restrict the vote to men over forty-five years of age, and I'd narrow it down to those who earned over seventy K a year.'
'You wouldn't allow women to vote?' I checked.
'No, If------ well wouldn't,' he raged. 'They're all f------ mad. If they've not got PMT they've got HRT or VPL.'
I pointed out to him that VPL stands for visible panty line, but he was, as usual, beyond reason. When he began to recount the crimes and misdemeanors of his estranged wife, Kim, I went into the kitchen and made onion gravy for the toadin-the-hole.
After he calmed down a bit I approached him again. 'Mr Savage,' I said, 'I have not had a day off for six weeks.'
'How do you intend to vote?' he asked, challengingly.
I resented him asking, but I replied, 'Labour.'
'Then no f----- way, Jose,' he shouted, pushing a highball glass under the rum optic, and keeping it there until the glass was half full (or half empty, depending on your personality type). He drank deeply from it, as though the contents were Ribena.
'Why should I lose a valuable member of staff on one of the busiest days of the year and help that shirtlifter Blair get elected?' He coughed, lighting one of his filthy French cigarettes. I pointed out to him that Mr Blair is far from being a poofter, and has, in fact, fathered a trio of children. Savage gave a horrible phlegmy laugh, during which he crossed his legs (he suffers from stress incontinence). He took me to the front door of the restaurant, pointed at the Hot Rods shop opposite. Rod himself was in the shop window, arranging some studded leather underpants on a collection of tiered display plinths. 'Now that's a shop for poofters, am I right, Mole?' he said, breathing rum fumes in my face.
Copyright 1999 by Sue Townsend. All rights reserved.
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