“Well Karl I’ve got some great news and some not so great news. Which one would you like first?” asked my agonizingly beautiful girlfriend as she grabbed the lagers from on top of the bar and lead us across the astroturf. There seems to be more and more astroturf in the world every time I look. Astroturf bars, astroturf gardens, astroturf kitchens. Before we know it the whole House of Lords will be turfed up. What ever happened to our pride in the great, old fashioned British lawn?
I got the feeling she had brought us to the pub to tell me something quite important, because she wanted it to be just the two of us. Usually she would bring a train of wacky but quite vacuous uni friends along who I’d have to begrudgingly endure. I looked forward to it being just the two of us for a change. We settled on a bench next to a ping pong table and I stared at her with weary eyes.
I’d just got back from the Tory party conference in Manchester which had sucked the life right out of me, so I was delighted to go for a nice big pint of beer. Man those guys are in for a tough time if they think they are going to convince the electorate that they can operate as a competent government for the rest of the parliament. The whole thing was fantastic political theatre, the falling letters, the cough, the impostor with the P45. You’d expect to see that kind of imbroglio on The Thick Of It, not in real life. It was truly exhilarating. I really have absolutely no idea of the direction British politics is heading at the moment… Anyway, back to me and the awe-inspiring woman.
“Great news first please,” she handed me a nice big pint with a giant white head on the top like a great big dollop of vanilla ice cream. It was the kind of beer you’d expect to see on a reasonably good TV advert. One of those adverts that conditions you so that you think having a cold glass of beer is the most wonderful, happiness inducing thing that could ever happen to a person in the world.
“Okay. I got the teaching job.”
“No way? Wow. You must be very happy. ”
“The one in Chalk Farm silly, I only applied for one.” I didn’t know where Chalk Farm was, let alone what constituency it was in, so squinted at her slightly. When you are so close to somebody and your love goes deep enough, you don’t need words to communicate.
“It’s in Northwest London,” I got a strong hunch it might be Hornsey and Wood Green. Or possibly Holborn and St Pancras. I’d check on my smartphone when I went to the toilet.
“And that’s the bad news then, the fact it’s in London, I take it Mars?”
Mars is short for Maire. This is pronounced Mar-ee, not Mare, like a horse. Her mouth and pupils moved towards the side of her face as her head began to nod. She stared at me like I was a Green Party MP standing in a Labour heartland who’d just been told that unsurprisingly and despite a long and fearsome three months of campaigning I’d only managed to get a meagre 0.9 % of the vote share. I knew something was quite possibly very wrong now. I could feel my hands and feet beginning to sweat.
“Go on then, put me out my misery, what is the bad news? Are you dying or something?”
A long, purgatorial pause.
“The bad news is that you won’t be seeing me anymore.”
On being told this I wanted to pick up my glass of lovely refreshing beer, relax my oesophagus pour it straight in, then kneel on the astro-turf while pleading and praying to a God I don’t even believe in that I was being tormented in a dream.
“Are you going to say anything Karl?”
I felt like somebody had jammed a coat-hanger in my chest.
“I just can’t comprehend how you’ve came to such a screeching U-turn all of a sudden.”
“Yes a U-turn. Our relationship has been absolutely fine recently, I’d even go as far as to say it was particularly strong. And now you want to throw it all away-.”
“I’m moving one hundred and sixty three miles away Karl. I haven’t got the energy to have a ‘relationship’ at that distance.” It looked like I had some convincing to do.
“I’ll level with you, overall I think that the decision to build HS2 is a complete waste of the taxpayer’s money. But my god that’ll get you to and from London fast. Getting to London will be the new equivalent of getting the 144 from Droitwich to Bromsgrove.” That didn’t cut ice with Maire. She wasn’t aware of what HS2 was, and I knew based on the mood she was in she wouldn’t listen if I explained. I sighed and then went to grab a massive swig from my pint and realised I’d necked it all already and was fighting with every sinew in my scrawny little body to resist the urge to grab hers and neck that as well. She didn’t seem remotely interested in it either. It was just a convenient prop brought in purely for the purposes of lubricating my heart before ripping it into pieces.
“We can come to some kind of arrangement surely. I’ll still come and see you. We can Skype as often as you need…”
“Are you trying to negotiate with me Karl?”
Maire often liked to play jokes on me, it’s part of the reason why I was so infatuated with her. I remember when on April Fools she called me up and got me to drive out to Aston Police Station, where she said she had been detained overnight for being caught with four grams of cocaine. Frantic with worry, I jumped into my Peugeot and gunned it down the motorway at seventy miles per hour, minimum speed. I got there and told the police that I was here to see my girlfriend who’d been caught with an illegal substance on her person. When I got there I went all round the station, even checking the women’s toilets cubicles, and subsequently I had to undergo the lengthy and infuriating process of convincing a female officer who saw me coming out that I wasn’t a pervert. I called Maire and all I could hear coming out of the handset was her satanic laugh like the sound of thousands of hyenas in a hanging sack being burned alive. It took me a very, very long while to realise it but the whole thing was absolutely hilarious.
All my other girlfriends had been so boring in comparison to my Maire. Both of them would just go on and on and on about things like how the devolvement of power to the Northern Irish and Welsh assemblies was ‘constitutionally inconsistent,’ or they’d be more excited by Luxembourg’s new leadership contest than spending quality down-time together. I loved Maire because she wanted to do things like go to the cinema, listen to really loud, repetitive music, watch horror films and occasionally do a bit of sex together. Everything I thought I had, that perfect partnership that had served me so well for three whole months of the autumn term was melting before my very eyes.
“How do you feel about this?”
“How the mother-fucking fuck do you fucking think that I fucking feel about this?”
“Not good I take it.”
“No not good at all. Listen Maire. I love you.
“You can’t love me. We’ve only been almost together for three months.”
I strongly, strongly felt like I had so much to say and I rummaged and I rummaged but I couldn’t find anything until I said “you’re making a mistake,” which made me feel like I was in Coronation Street.
“I don’t think I am actually Karl. It seems like the obvious thing to do.”
Like an avocado, the world as I knew it had been sliced down the middle, twisted off into two parts, and had the core of it ripped clean out and thrown into the bin. I planted my face onto the slightly wet surface of the table and gave my scalp a massage by gently running my fingers over the curves of my skull. This attempt failed miserably. I raised my head.
“Right, I know this is going to sound a bit like I’m negotiating, but please just for my sake can’t we implement some kind of transitional period? Even if it’s just for a couple of months. This is a massive change for me…”
“How do you mean? Do you think I’m going to fuck you every other week for the next eight weeks or something? You think I’m going to drive down to Bournville during my precious school holidays for a bit of sex with my ex?”
I was puzzled at this, and took a moment to pause.
“You’re not going to screw someone else are you?”
“No, sorry forget I said that. Listen, I could make a few amendments to my monthly budget and finance a trip or two every month or so. At least keep things as normal for a short while, so that I can get used to the idea of you leaving me. Please, You have to understand Maire that this is a cataclysmic shift of power.”
“Well it was my power, which you’ve taken from me. I feel like I’ve been castrated. You’re breaking my heart here Mars.”
“Being obscenely melodramatic about it won’t help you Karl.”
I returned my face to the wet wood, the hard wet wood. I tried massaging my head again but then got so frustrated by the impasse that I smashed my fists on the table like a very angry child. People looked over. Maire whispered in her gentle, angelic voice asking if I wanted her to do it for me. I said hell, yes I do. She then gave me the most celestial of massages, so soft and gentle. I wanted to cry, lots..
“Have you thought about maybe doing a teaching job somewhere a bit closer, like Birmingham for example?”
“No. I want to live and work in London. Is that not obvious to you?”
“It just blows my mind that the reason you’re willing to dissolve this is because you happen to have applied for a job in a different part of the country.”
“Karl,” she grabbed me by the hair on the back of my head and pulled my head up to look at her, like it wasn’t attached to my body because she’d just cut it off in battle, ready to flaunt it to her mates.
“I’m not breaking up with you just because of that.”
“Well why the mother-fucking fuckedy fuck fuck fuck are you breaking up with me then?”
“I don’t know I just don’t feel like it’s working.“
“What do you mean don’t feel like it’s working?”
“We want different things.”
“I thought we wanted each other and that’s why we mutually agreed to enter into a relationship.” I thought I’d dismantled her with that one, but she came back with a bazooka; “Things change Karl. I mean we want to do different things. I’m a Chemical Brothers kind of girl, you’re more… The Miliband Brothers.”
“Maire I thought we’d been through this together, so many times. I was completely ambivalent towards the Milibands, despite the fact that I thought Ed deserved a bit more credit from fellow party members, having contributed some seriously reasonable manifesto pledges in the 2015 election, such as the energy price cap for example…” At this point, Maire started to groan, which I noticed she only really tended to do when I was talking about politics. Which was reasonably often.
“Arrrrghhhhh! Shut up Karl. You are driving me crazy.”
I told her I was going to get another drink. Maybe two. I even thought about going full-Farage and pinching a cigarette off the rabble rousing proletariat in tracksuits standing by the outdoor heaters. In the end I thought no Nigel, not today.
Bastard Miliband brothers. Does she even know me at all? I bet she doesn’t know I voted for the Liberal Democrats at the general election. She just doesn’t care. Sometimes, sometimes I even consider that she may have lied to me and she has never even voted before in her life. And that’s so sad, because people really should realise how lucky they are to live in the longest lasting democracy on the planet and take advantage of that luxury. I’ve always thought that the U.K should take notice of the Australian voting system where voting is compulsory by law. About 5% of enrolled voters fail to vote at most elections and they get punished for it. And so they damn well should. In a very magnanimous way, the Australian government asks the voter if they have a credible reason for why they failed to turn up to the ballot box. If no satisfactory reason is provided (for example, illness or religious prohibition), a fine of up to $170 is imposed,and failure to pay the fine may result in a court hearing and additional costs. How would you like to be fined $170, endure a court hearing and the possibility of additional costs Maire? Not very much I don’t think. But that would be exactly what you deserve. Serves you right for not honouring, parliamentary democracy, you beautiful, evil bitch.
As I’m waiting for the bar man to come to the rescue, I look back over my shoulder at Maire. She’s wearing these silver crescent moon earrings. Light bounces off them and they sway as her head slowly moves. She is entranced by her mobile phone, and laughs hysterically at something on screen, probably a video on Facebook. Only a few days ago I had to perform CPR on her after she could barely breathe laughing at some videos of goats climbing up mountains. It’s not even funny I told her. But this made her laugh even more, so hard that I ended up laughing myself. The way they get down a near vertical cliff face in such massive, reckless leaps. It is quite funny really, in a way. Goats.
I took in the full splendour of her smile. Such a sight to behold. My friend Abdul from P.P.A (public policy and administration) told me that she was the spit of Heidi Allen, the Conservative MP for South Cambridgeshire. And she is quite frankly what they might call ‘a sight for sore eyes’ if ever I saw one. How the hell have you pulled a girl like her? Abdul would always ask. No idea I’d tell him. Absolutely no idea.
“You waiting to be served mate?”
“Yeah, rum and coke please. Make it a triple. “
“We don’t do triples. I can do you a double and single if you want?”
“You know what mate. Fuck it, just give me three singles.”
I necked them all one by one with terrifying voracity as he laid them out on the table. The barman took a long look at me, with his hands crossed together and eyebrow raised.
“You had bad news or something pal?”
“You could say that yeah. She’s broken up with me.”
The bar man looked out through the window at the girl entranced by her phone.
“Are you saying that was your girlfriend?”
“Jesus. I would have betted my life on her being your sister.”
“I’ll pay by card please.”
Now I need to play this really cool. Don’t even mention the break up. Make it look like I don’t even care all that much. Mustn’t look needy. She’ll be well into that. I notice there’s a song being played and it sounds like it might be her kind of thing. I searched Google for an app that identifies music (there’s bound to be one) and downloaded Shazam and found that it’s a song called Love Don’t Let Me Go by an electronic music artist called David Guetta. I go back to the table, grinning to myself. It wasn’t over yet.
“Such a good track this is. I love David Guetta, such a clever DJ.”
“Oh yeah definitely. Guetta, he’s up there with the best of them for me. Faithless. Moby…” I start to bop my head slightly, “makes me want to go to a rave this does. I’ll check online if you want, maybe we can go to one of his gigs together if he’s touring?”
“I hate David Guetta.”
“Oh really? Yeah I’m not a big fan of his new stuff to be honest. It’s all a bit heavy and fast isn’t it?”
“No it’s just shit.”
“Oh yeah absolutely.”
Now Maire had pushed her beer to the side, pulled out a satsuma from her bag and was eating it with confidence.
“We both know you don’t listen to music Karl. You have two albums in your flat, and they’re both by Keane.” Why can’t people just accept that Keane are an exceptionally talented artist? That soft but dominating singing voice, the melancholic lyric bites, catchy tunes, the gentle piano. What more could anybody ever want from a piece of music?
Maire laughed again. I laughed back but really I wanted to cry again.
“You see Karl. You’ll be fine. You’re fine.”
“I won’t Maire. I still can’t believe you’re actually breaking up with me.”
“It’ll get easier. “
It wouldn’t get easier, in fact the exact opposite. I’d one day wake up and realise that none of this was a dream and then it would get much, much harder as it slowly sank in like the proverbial badger in the quicksand. I can’t even find a political analogy to suit such abject suffering. I can only think of something I saw on a nature documentary while I was waiting for Question Time to come on last month. I’m a tarantula and she one of those tarantula hawks, the insects that are neither tarantula nor hawk but are in fact parasitic wasps and she’s gone and stung me so I’m paralysed and she’s dragged me over to her nest so that she can penetrate me and lay her eggs inside me so a baby wasp larva grows and feasts on my insides but carefully avoids my vital organs so I’m on death’s door all the time but still alive and now the baby wasp larva is pupating and it’s grown into a wasp that’s effectively another version of her that’s much more evil than I could possibly have imagined and she’s burst out of my abdomen and she’s doing that awful laugh and it’s all preposterous and I can’t bear it any longer…
I drew my smart phone from my pocket and checked the BBC headlines-
Jacob Rees Mogg the bookies favourite to become next prime minister.
A conservative backbencher, never held a cabinet position….
Maire turned to me, twizzling a lock of her perfect brown hair around her blue varnished fingernails.
“Karl, has it ever crossed your mind that you might have an unhealthy obsession with politics?”