n the early 1990s, when she had been on the parliamentary selection circuit and spending an inordinate amount of time at Party Conferences in an attempt to impress (or prey) upon constituency officials and Shadow Ministers, there was a dress code.
Women on the hunt wore sharp suits; usually in navy or black;possibly pin-striped and invariably exposing as much leg as possible if not cursed with piano trunks.
Men adopted three-quarter-length trench-coats, belted at the back, with the number of eyelets and buckles denoting seniority.
In the absence of embroidered codpieces; flowered ties sufficed, with senior personnel vaunting the equivalent of the Chelsea Flower Show above their breasts.
In 2009, ties were out and socks were in.
Robbie Nantwich; aged 59, with a moustache, hair-weave and to-die-for salary, had dressed for combat with Sandra Cornish in a tailored grey suit, black Hugo Boss-style vest and fluorescent pink socks.
She sneaked a glance at Lynne.
The latter was staring resolutely at the set and did not say
Didn’t you bonk him at Dorlich?
But it was obvious that she was thinking it.
How ridiculous it was to even feel a twinge of embarrassment, as she, along with millions of others, prepared to watch the acclaimed presenter go through his paces with their old university friend.
Robbie Nantwich had certainly put it about at Dorlich; over the years there had been rumours about his friendships and she’d like to bet that there was an entire battalion of women between the ages of 20 and 60 who were settling down to view The Nantwich Hour with very specific recollections.
As for herself, she hardly counted as one of their number.
They had only done it twice.
Nevertheless, it would have been better if they had never done it at all and she had spent the entire evening at the recent Sceptre Room party, trying to avoid Nantwich at one end of the room and Kingsmill at the other.
She mentally berated her 20-year-old self. How foolish that person had been.
Whatever had induced her to have sex with either of them?
Thou hast committed –
Fornication: but that was in another country
And besides, the wench is dead.
Meanwhile the camera homed in on Sandra, very much alive.
Well Mrs Cornish – or may I call you Sandra? began Robbie. Perhaps you’d like to tell us in your own words exactly why you decided to break your silence and expose what you describe in a tabloid newspaper as ‘corruption’ nestling at the very heart of Wendy Runcible’s Government?
Take your time; this must be very difficult for you – and difficult for ME, to see a former university friend in such terrible distress.
Sandra did not look distressed; indeed, the workings of her mouth seemed to denote somebody trying to disguise a smirk rather than an outburst of tears. She looked positively perky – even predatory.
Was she hoping to make a move on Nantwich? In which case, she’d better forget it - Sandra trussed up to the nines was no match for Sarah Cassidy with her implants and facial fillers.
And in any case, a man who had the pick of the sweet shop would hardly light upon Sandra, who began her story with the oratorical ease that indicated many hours of practice in front of the mirror – or even with a voice coach.
Her heart was breaking, and it had been the most difficult decision of her life to bare her soul to Ponia Tindall and Jessica Trotter (no doubt eased by the money that The Crier had put her way; Bruce Oldfield and Jimmy Choo don’t come cheap) but this was a matter of duty.
And her duty as a devout Christian was to clean up politics for the sake of the ordinary, hard-working people who did not deserve to be represented by heinous toads such as these.
A Christian? Must have been a Damascene conversion, offered Lynne, genuinely shocked.
And even if it was, it obviously doesn’t require her to renounce Mammon and give all her worldly goods to the poor. That outfit must have cost a bomb!
As their friend rehearsed the litany, determined to wreak revenge for a lifetime of disappointment, she noticed that Nantwich’s interview technique was markedly different from his usual chatty style.
In fact, this was not an interview, it was a monologue; coaxed from an increasingly garrulous Sandra by sympathetic prompts such as:
And did they really? Or You found them on the sofa? And Children – you mentioned children – tell me more about that – if you can…
The reference to children ushered in the commercial break.
During the first half of The Nantwich Hour, Sandra had supplied a potted life history; beginning with what she termed the birth of the sect 37 years ago at the University of Dorlich.
Here, the prime movers were a certain Leslie (now Sir Leslie) Potts and Derek Kingsmill (now Home Secretary in the Runcible Government).
Potts was a rampant and deviant homosexual who had taken advantage of the virginal Sandra Milford as cover for his true nature. No young man was safe from his clutches ( she hinted that pressure had been brought to drop charges in connection with a homosexual rape case and two incidents of cottaging in a public convenience adjacent to Persimann’s Folly ) and his partner in crime was Derek Kingsmill.
Although Kingsmill; whom she had surprised in the act of congress with Potts on a sofa, was licentious with members of both sexes.
Indeed, he had maliciously appropriated the key to a hotel bedroom at a student conference, knowing that she had no means of escape, and had then proceeded to have sex with a drunken woman right under her very nose. The room was extremely small and the only way she could avoid the outrage was to close her eyes tightly and stuff her fingers in her ears.
(Did she imagine it, or was Robbie Nantwich struggling to suppress laughter? She could not look at Lynne).
Sandra continued her sprint down the years, via her fateful meeting with Bill Cornish; her boss at United Biscuits whom she had encountered during the course of a disastrous holiday to Marrakesh with her old university friend; a former Head of Section at The Department of the Environment and now acclaimed Inuit specialist Lynne Lessways.
Ms Lessways, (who had later nurtured the career of the infamous Clifford Morledge) had spent the entire fortnight engaged in lascivious hedonistic pursuits, risking arrest for impropriety in a strictly Muslim country, and had abandoned her to the clutches of Cornish, who had used her for cover whilst conducting a series of assignations with very young men in the Majorelle Gardens.
I’ll FUCKING KILL HER! screamed Lynne.
AND WHO’D HAVE LOOKED AT ME ANYWAY IN THAT BLOODY KAFTAN?!!!!
She sat on the chair, mesmerised by the mouth on the television; spewing its venom like Billie Whitelaw in Not I.
Sandra was not their friend. She had never been their friend. She hated them both. She hated the world.
On the mouth went; the gay film club; the spurious Honour for Leslie Potts; the infiltration of Morledge into her home; sodomy on the sofa (again); sex with male interns in the office; sex with male asylum seekers in exchange for visas; blind eyes and deaf ears from Wendy who was terrified that her longstanding lesbian affair with Official Spokeswoman Edith Traynor would be exposed; sex in the kitchen at No 10 during the Children’s Christmas Party….
How could they allow her to do this? Why didn’t they flash the credits?
Where were the lawyers?!!
The children, said Robbie Nantwich after the break.
I wonder, Sandra – could you tell us a little more about that? Now I’m not trying to put words into your mouth AT ALL – but do you think that any of the children at that party had any idea? Not of course, that they would UNDERSTAND what was going on if they happened to stray into the kitchen after the jelly... they would think that your husband and Mr Morledge were –er—‘play fighting’ wouldn’t they?
And what about the Santa? Do you think that Santa knew? Or could have been in on it? Not that I’m saying he WAS – it was a male Santa wasn’t it?
Do you know who Santa WAS?
My husband… said Sandra.
And Robbie Nantwich, who had been content to be a listener during Part One, now began probing ruthlessly; extracting the information from Sandra that Bill Cornish was always the Santa; or the Rudolph or indeed, the Easter Bunny, at the annual Number 10 Egg Hunt.
And not only did he perform these functions at Westminster to help out; dandling the children on his lap, jiggling them up and down ( being a horsey) but he was just as assiduous and eager to help out in the constituency.
Why, he had even rescheduled the Mainland Security Paving Motion in order to make the 200-mile round trip to Boughton Hallows, so that he could step in to the Methodist Church Children’s Christmas Fumble, deputising for the usual Santa who was recuperating at home following a hip operation.
I expect the children got rather over-excited at these events? suggested Robbie silkily.
All that jelly, all that ice cream, and then being bounced up and down on Mr Cornish’s knee with their presents! I expect one or two of them might have been a bit sick. Or tearful? At the No 10 party? Do you think?
Did any of them cry, Mrs Cornish?
Sandra, who seemed to have lost a little of her poise, admitted that perhaps, yes, some might have been a bit tearful.
Although she couldn’t be sure what had caused it…
And on that note, concluded Robbie, cutting Sandra off rather rudely, in mid sentence
t’s ‘Goodbye’ from the Nantwich Hour, on a day when not one but two Cabinet Ministers and the esteemed geneticist, Sir Leslie Potts are currently helping the police with their enquiries and - breaking news! – we have just heard that the Tories have tabled a Motion of No Confidence in Wendy Runcible’s Government.
So on this historic day, when the revelations of a woman scorned are poised to bring down a Government, may I wish you happiness, harmony and a very good night.
And the camera zoomed, for one last time on Sandra; providing a most unflattering close up of her eyes, which looked larger - and wetter - than ever.