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A saga of everyday life in the Big L and a wry look at contemporary culture

By Tony Carden

 

Episode Twenty Six

 

‘Mary.’

‘Uh huh. Sorry there Des, I was thinking.’ Why must you interrupt me? Now what was I doing?

‘You don’t seem so happy at the moment.’

‘Des, Parliament resumes this week. Brexit is mired down, thanks to Bernard and that incompetent…’ Who is it…?

‘…Brexit Secretary?’

‘Precisely.’ I must have a block as to his name. What is it? ‘I should never have appointed him.’ But I had no choice. I’m scrapping the barrel as it is. I’ve tried buffoons, conmen and piss artists, not to consider the monks and plodders. ‘He’s off there galivanting around Brussels thinking he can make a deal.’ She waved in the general direction towards Belgium.

‘Isn’t that what he’s supposed to do?’

‘No, no, NO!’ He’s meant to do what I want. Not what he wants. Mary’s gaze turned to the framed newspaper headline from The Times that adorned the wall. “PYLE PRIME MINISTER” Yes, me. Everything should come to me, not that berk—I remember his name now—Ralston. Oh, things were much easier when Christoph oversaw Brexit. Nothing happened, as it should. We could coast on towards the deadline—pretending. Then we could make some excuse, move forward the transition period. I had it all planned. Now that spinning top…

There was a knock on the door. Another bloody interruption.

‘Yes!’ This had better be good.

Andrew poked his head around. ‘PM, Ralston has been on the line to ask if you’ve had a chance to read the No-Brexit Preparations document he sent you.’ Read this. Read that. That’s all I do. When do I get to lead? Make the decisions. She rubbed her eyes.

‘Tell him I’m on to it. As soon as I’ve read the latest report on the Novichok investigation.’ If it isn’t one thing, it’s another.

Andrew withdrew. The door closed behind him.

Mary shuffled through the pending files on her desk till she came to a bright red folder bedecked with a Union Jack. What? She held it up. Blazoned across the front was “No Treaty Brexit Preparation #10, Department for Exiting the European Union”. Bloody hell, what’s this all about?

She opened the folder. Below the title in bold lettering was printed: “DON’T PANIC”. What on earth is Ralston thinking? Has Brexit driven the department insane? Then she knew. It’s too much. No human can contemplate the abyss without losing their mind. We’re being driven mad by the whole process. She could feel her heart pounding. She held on to the desk as her vision blurred and she felt faint. What’s going to happen to me?

‘Des, could you get me a glass of water, dear.’

‘Bloody ‘ell, you alright? You look as if you’ve seen a ghost.’

‘If only.’ I’ve seen the future, Des, that what I’ve seen, and I don’t like it. Mary Pyle isn’t in it.

He went over to the drinks cabinet and got out the bottled water, found a glass and filled it before bringing it to her. He put it down on the desk then spun the folder, so he could read it.

He tapped the cover. ‘That’s a bit late, ain’t it?’ He turned the page. ‘On 29th March 2019 the world as we know it comes to an end…’ He guffawed. ‘That’s laying it on a bit steep isn’t it?’ He chuckled. ‘On that day, the United Kingdom will cease to be a member of the European Union. But don’t worry. Life as we know it, will still go on…’ Des burst out laughing. ‘Who wrote this stuff?’

‘Ralston.’ And it’s out there. Everyone will be reading it. What will they think of me? She read the header again: “DON’T PANIC”. I can just see where this is going to go. My resignation. Pictures of the possible headlines rushed through her mind. The Mail: “Pyle Plummets”, The Sun: “PM Flushed”, The Times: “Pyle Plucked”, The Telegraph: “Pyle Pays the Price” …and it went on…

‘NO!’ She sent the glass flying. Water spattered all over Desmond. The glass bounced on the carpet before rolling under the coffee table.

‘Hey!’ He brushed some of the drops off. He went over and retrieved the glass. ‘You asked for water.’

‘He’s out to get me, you know.’ I can just sense it. The most important political and economic change in forty years and Ralston wants to steal it from under my nose. Why did I appoint such a toad?

‘Really?’

‘Can’t you see it.’ She pounded the folder in front of him. ‘What better way to sabotage things than by making people panic.’

‘But it says here not to panic.’

‘Bah! You’re a dolt sometimes, Des. It’s reverse psychology, don’t you see? The more you tell people not to panic, the more they do.’ She waved at the room. ‘Do you honestly think anyone believes anything the government says?’

‘Well…I wouldn’t know.’ You don’t do you?

‘No, you know nothing.’ He growled. ‘Sorry. That was unkind. You know all about plumbing—and some.’ She petted his hand. ‘I just can’t believe everyone has it in for me.’ Infamy. Where had I heard that one before?

‘I thought that was the whole point of politics? It’s like that soap on Netflix. Kill ‘em all, so as to be the last man standing.’ He gulped. ‘I mean woman, Mary.’

‘Bah.’ Mary sat back. ‘Do you know what Macron said when I asked him to help me get The Plan through the Commission?’

‘Was it a Gaullist “non”?’

‘Worse than that.’ She put on a French accent. ‘France wants to maintain a strong, special relationship with London but not if the cost is the European Union’s unravelling.’ As if! You’re after number one, like all of them. She pounded the document. ‘He’s a backstabbing froggie, just like Bernard.’ She wagged her finger at Des. ‘He’s just after our banking business, he is. And our fish. Look at that business with the scallops.’ But I can tell you, you trumped up little froggie with that grandmother wife of yours, you’re not going to get it!

‘If you ask me…’

‘Are you my political advisor?’ You’ve no idea what to do. No one has. Only I have a strategy…

‘No. I like to think of myself as your husband. You know. The man and wife thing where we can discuss our mutual problems.’ All you ever want to discuss is sex.

‘So, you have another plumbing suggestion, like the last one. And that worked one so well, didn’t it Des? A busted flush.’ I’ve got to try and keep the sarcasm out of my voice. I really should. By Jove, the coming months are going to be difficult.

‘It would have.’ He picked up the file. ‘It seems to me that Ralston has decided to follow my advice.’ Traitor!

‘What? You’ve been assisting him? How dare you!’ You’re like all the rest: in for me! How could you? My own husband!

‘No. No. No. You misunderstand me. I advised no one. I’m not the only one who can get an idea, you know, Mary. He’s just following the idea I suggested to you about creating a sense of crisis.’

‘Whatever for?’

‘Oh, Mary. You know. To create the right conditions for the country. To get things done.’ He pointed at the file. ‘To flush out opponents for one thing.’

‘Right conditions? What do you mean by right conditions?’ Why are you so obtuse, Des? Are you doing this to annoy me? What have I done to irritate you? Oh, yes! Sorry!

‘Where are we heading now?’ He gesticulated in the air. What are you suggesting?

‘What? I have a lunch booked.’ You know I’m always busy. If you want to do something, you need to schedule it, not simply drop it into the conversation. I’m the Prime Minister, for Christ’s sake!

‘Not us. I mean the country with Brexit.’

‘Ah! Of course.’ You could have simply asked me the question. ‘Honestly, I don’t know.’ What an admission! There’s so many opinions on this. ‘We’re stuck in the water, Des. There’s no majority in Parliament for any of the possible alternatives. We’ve got reversers, re-joiners, full EFTAs, lite EFTAs, bespokers, soft no-dealers, hard Brexiters, WTOs and non-WTOs. You name it. Everyone is convinced their plan is the way forward. And that’s before we start talking of Labour.’

‘Or the Europeans.’ Yes, the froggies. The Germans would come on board with my Plan, if it wasn’t for Bernard—and now Macron. We should have let them rot in 1940.

‘Why don’t we also add in the Americans, for good measure, Des?’ Come on. Everybody has an opinion on this.

‘Or the Chinese…and the Japanese…’ Yes. Yes.

‘So, what are you trying to say?’ Getting things out of you is like getting blood from a stone.

‘It’s gridlock. There’s a ticking bomb across town. No one can get to it. Boom!’ Yes, Des. Why do you have turn everything into another Mission Impossible movie?

‘Well, I’m not looking for an acrimonious divorce from the EU.’ But it is a marriage breakup. The Europeans feel jilted. Well, tough titty. They should have given Carrington something when he went around with his begging bowl before the referendum. She suddenly had a lightbulb moment. I’m now going around with the begging bowl. She felt angry. I’m not going to put up with this. She punched the intercom on her desk.

‘Anna. Get me Hamilton. We’re going to show those Europeans we mean business. Chuck us out of Galileo and now you’ll see what’s coming down the pipe.’

‘PM?’

‘Oh, sorry Anna. Just thinking out loud.’

 

*   *   *

 

The doorbell rang. Ahmed ambled over to see who it was. He gazed through the peephole. Omar! He opened it. ‘Hi yah.’ Weren’t expecting yah to drop by. What’s up?

Omar barged in, waving several sheets of paper in his hands. ‘Good news, Ahmed!’ Well, I’ll be damned. What’s good of late?

‘You’re lending me money?’ That’s good news, Omar.

‘No. It’s not that.’ So, it ain’t good news, ain’t it?

‘You offering me a walnut whip?’ That would be fun …

‘Nah. Don’t be stupid. Now let me explain.’ He grabbed Ahmed and pulled him towards the living room.

Ahmed shook his arm off. ‘Yah want tea?’

‘No thanks. I’ve just got to tell you this first. Perhaps afterwards.’ Omar gazed around at the jumble in the room. Then his eyes focused on the beer bottles. ‘You still drinking. I thought I told you not to.’

Ahmed went around and collected up a half dozen bottles and took them to the kitchen before returning. ‘There. David Mellor’s outta sight, outta mind.’

‘If it were only that simple…’ Yeah. Why make it complicated? All that haram stuff an’ all. What’s the problem with a few? Eh?

‘So’s what you want ta tell me?’ It’d better be good.

‘I talked to a lawyer, see.’ So? ‘He thinks you’ve got a case.’ What’s that gonna get me?

‘What yah mean?’

He grabbed Ahmed’s arms in his hands. ‘You won’t need to pay them back.’

‘Pay who back? What?’ I don’t understand what yah saying.

‘Ahmed. It’s so simple. They shouldn’t have lent you the money.’ But I needed it.

‘Why not?’

‘You couldn’t pay it back.’ Yeah, well I know that now.

‘Well, I hoped to…’ Shite I did. I thought I could.

‘No. You’re not getting it, are you.’ He sat down. ‘Let me give it to you plain.’ Ahmed took a seat opposite him. ‘The lawyer explained it to me. When FastCash advanced you the money they should have checked you were able to repay it. Did they ask you about your income?’ I told ‘em a few things, like.

‘Don’t rightly remember.’

‘Well, they have been the subject of many complaints. The lawyer says you have a very good case for compensation.’

‘Well I can’t pay ‘em. Got no folding, have I.’

‘Nah, that’s OK. They’ll take the case on a contingency basis.’ What yah on ‘bout?

‘What’s that?’

‘They will take a percentage of what you get from FastCash if they win the case.’

‘Looks like a good bet, then.’ Not having to pay back. Shite that would be good.

Omar got up and passed over the papers and a ballpoint pen. ‘You’ve got to sign the contact so then they can proceed with the claim.’

‘You sure there’s no bunce for this?’

‘Sure, sure.’ How’d they make their bees an’ honey, then?

Ahmed signed the document. He handed it back. ‘I hope ta start driving again next week.’

‘You think that wise?’ Omar, you’re always questioning, questioning. I need to make some bunse. Doctor says it’s OK.

‘Need the bees an’ ‘oney, don’t I?’

‘You’re getting benefits, no?’

‘Council’s been on about me rent. Had to give ‘em someit. Otherwise they said we were’s out. Bit skint, see.’

‘I’ll talk to Fatima.’ Omar rose to his feet.

‘You can give me it.’ I pays the fluffy bunny, Omar.

Omar gestured towards the kitchen. ‘So’s you can buy more drink; is that it?’

‘I’d give ‘er what she needs.’

‘No, Ahmed. I’ll find out what Fatima needs and give it her.’

‘Yah don’t trust me, do yah?’ Shit, Omar. You fuckin’ don’t think I can do it. I’ll be back to work next week!

Omar gave him a look and went off to the kitchen. Screw you, Omar.

The doorbell rang. Shite, what now? Ahmed went to answer it. He opened the door. Two men in what looked very much like police uniforms confronted him.

‘You the tenant of number 37?’

‘Who you?’

‘Bailiffs from the court.’

Omar emerged from the kitchen. ‘What is it?’ The men turned to look at him.

‘Bailey somits.’

‘Bailiffs. We have a court order to seize property at this address for unpaid debts.’

‘You’re fucking not doing the half inch.’ I’ll fuckin’ bust yah heads in.

Ahmed lunged forward to be restrained by Omar. ‘Don’t start a fight.’

Ahmed tried to tear himself away. ‘I’ll kick their arses.’

‘No, Ahmed.’ He pulled him back. ‘Calm down. I’m sure we can get this sorted.’

‘I thought you said they’d not get their Becks?’

‘The lawyer said you have a case. Nothing’s happened yet.’ Omar gestured at the two men. ‘Can we sort something out?’

‘If you’ve got the money owed, we can settle up. If not, we gotta take anything we can.’

‘Shit you will. You’ll be Father Ted first.’

‘Omar! Be quiet!’ He turned to the men. ‘How much does he owe?’

The man pulled out the collection notice. ‘Two thousand one hundred and forty-eight quid.’

‘I haven’t got that money.’ Omar felt in his pocket. ‘Will you take a cheque?’

‘Nah, mate. But we could go down to the bank with you and you could get the folding out. That’d settle it.’ A shitload of bunse. Omar, this is what they want! Fuck ‘em!

‘No, Omar! They’re Sarks.’

‘Ahmed. Leave this to me.’ He smiled at the men. ‘Can you wait outside for five minutes.’

‘We’ll wait. But don’t close the door.’

‘Come with me, Ahmed.’ Omar pushed him along the corridor and into the lounge. He closed the door behind him.

‘You can’t give ‘em nuttin.’

‘Now Ahmed, if we don’t pay them, they’re going to take all your stuff.’ He gestured at the flat screen TV and the Blue Ray player below it. ‘You’ll have nothing.’

‘It’s my fault this ‘as ‘appened.’ He kicked at a beer can that was half hidden behind the sofa. ‘Shit. Shit. Shit.’

‘You stay here.’

‘No!’ Ahmed lunged at Omar and tackled him sending him crashing to the ground. ‘Give me your wallet.’

‘Stop it!’ He fought back.

 

To be continued…

 

All characters appearing in this work are fictitious.

Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

 

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