I enjoyed writing this chapter so much I wanted to share it. I’ve edited out some of the background details but other than that it’s yet-to-be-edited, raw material written for my novel.
In the doorway, Rupert Cavendish MP appeared. A six and a half foot spectre, dishevelled and unshaven. His linen suit looked as though it had been retrieved from the bottom of the laundry basket in the midst of a domestic emergency. The trousers were slightly too short for his lolloping frame. His entrance was ignored by the Committee Chair, to the best of his ability. The remaining eight members (those attending to committee business for thirty minutes, so far) took their Chairman’s lead, looking sideways, but not lingering on the latecomer, as he struggled to drag a wheeled suitcase over a bump in the carpet. David Days used the gap in the proceedings as his opportunity to set his fellow members straight.
‘I’m sorry, Chairman, but I insist that the motion goes to vote, I won’t wait another quarter before moving this forward. It’s been a year in…’ Days stopped himself to cough, a Dickensian head-shaking cough, a cigarettes and real ales cough, turning him puce and bringing tears to his eyes ‘… in limbo already while this committee drags its feet.’
‘Or it’s suitcases?’ An unidentified voice prompted a low rumble of laughter around the room.
Lord Albert Zimmerman chaired from the front in a suit that was tailor-made, straight backed in his seat at the table’s head facing into the his crescent of wilting colleagues.
‘I don’t care what goes on in the rest of this government. It is of no interest to me that the Prime Minister is threatening a re-shuffle. Nor am I interested – you needn’t minute this Belinda – in your personal time frames. The fact it’s your birthday, the fact your wife needs a holiday. This committee operates…’
He paused, because at the back of the room Rupert Cavendish, yet take his seat, had begun rustling the plastic packet of everything edible laid out on the refreshment table. Bruce watched him pick something up, put it down again, pick up something else, put it down, all the while mumbling to himself, punctuating his findings with little grunts. Cavendish’s seat on this committee was the last he one he managed to hold on to. If there was any truth in the rumours – if a reshuffle was on the cards – he had better be the first out.
‘Rupert, would you mind taking a seat?’ Zimmerman interrupted himself to settle the room, but his bugbear was too engrossed reading nutritional information to hear him.
‘This committee operates by the rules. There will be a vote on this motion when the full evidence has been presented and not before.’ He turned now, looking behind him, giving everyone else permission to stare too,
‘Mr Cavendish, is everything quite alright at the back?’
‘Thank you Chairman.’ David Days said, bringing everyone’s attention back to the business at hand. Bruce hated Days. He’d voted against Bruce repeatedly, but more than that he looked like a wreckage, he was angry, outspoken, a bloody nightmare for the party. Days shook his head again and looked at the man next to him to share in an aside of disgruntlement before he rattled off another cough that this time evolved into a porcine laugh. It told a forty year story of horrid pubs and meat puddings. Rupert started mumbling to himself,
‘They’re trying to bloody poison us. Honestly, it’s beggars’ belief, I’ve had no lunch. I’m bloody starving, and all you people are offering is this crap’
The rustling was really erupting now, and biscuits in their packets were being dropped onto the floor,
‘Even the teas and coffees are poisonous’ he added, too quietly for anyone to hear.
‘Next item on the agenda. Barbara this is one of yours, talk us through it please.’ She began,
‘Evidence to support a motion to exempt four communities in England and Wales from the mandated…’
‘Of course, fair trade doesn’t mean what you think it means either.’ Rupert addressed them all now, directly, as if they had all been listening to him all along. At being interrupted, Barbara looked like she’d been slapped. Albert removed his glasses, tossing them onto his paperwork and squinting as if pain were beginning to radiate through his body, the look that came over him when even he had lost all patience.
‘Rupert what is all this? We’re trying hard to get through a tight agenda here and you’re making it very difficult.’
‘I need to eat something and I’m bloody sick and tired of being fobbed off with this crap.’
Rupert took the lack of challenge on his point as an invitation to continue,
‘It’s covered in pesticides this stuff – look at this, apples from Fiji. So, they’ve done more air miles than I have, which is a disgrace! Bananas from the Ivory Coast. Have any of you ever been there? The Ivory Coast, anyone? No, didn’t think so. And these things,’ He threw a couple of sachets of instant coffee on the floor, ‘these are just made entirely of poison. Nasty, ugh. They cover it in all kinds of crap and I for one will not be poisoned.’
A sigh, an eight person collective sigh, sounded around the table. The clerk, a middle aged woman with thinning hair scraped backwards into a very tight ponytail that concluded in a few greasy looking wisps at the back the of her head said,
‘Should I be minuting this?’
‘Look, would you eat this? I bet you wouldn’t eat this bull would you, sensible looking girl like you?’ Rupert was talking to her. She looked at Albert, hoping for confirmation either way, on whether or not this was reasonable to put up with, let alone to be put on the record. Albert shook his head and she rested her hands in her lap.
‘Well, would you?’ Rupert persisted, thrusting a packet of Highland Shortbread towards her.
‘Would you eat these? Would you feed your kids with them? I bet you’d rather buy organic, wouldn’t you?
‘Rupert, please leave Belinda out of it and take a seat, man, pull yourself together and let’s get on with it. We’re all busy people.’ For an elderly man Albert’s voice was fortified with an intimidating boom.
‘Actually, seeing as you’re asking, the answer is yes. I would eat that, and that and that.’ Belinda had been the clerk to the same committee for longer than any member had served on it. For some of them, hearing Albert say it now, it was the first time they’d heard her name, let alone heard her speak. She pointed at the apples and then the bananas from where she sat. She pointed viciously, with her wrist facing upwards and her long yellow fingernails curled into her palm.
‘Because if you think for one minute that sitting here and typing up what you lot say would fund an organic food habit you are quite mistaken.’
This was the tip of the iceberg, it seemed, but the right occasion for her to air the rest of whatever it was that she so hated about her captors was unlikely ever to arise. Rupert was delighted at this twist on his stance and he raised his fleshy forehead, dragging his overhanging eyelids into a clownlike expression of surprise. It made him look mad, or drunk, like King Lear in a creased linen suit. Bruce was entertained by the excitement, quite unaware of the clock now.
‘Well, I think that’s my work done for the day.’ Rupert said, and he leant down – with a slight sway that made them think that perhaps he actually was drunk – and shook Belinda’s hand. She seemed delighted with her contribution.
‘I’m going to have lunch.’ He said, before he opened the door and left, dragging his suitcase behind him.