IN THE PINK WITH BORIS AND BREXIT – a short story
What I am about to say will, I promise, shock you to the core, but I can no longer keep it to myself. I have to confess that I, an educated, liberal, middle-class, heterosexual Englishman of wondrously mature years, cannot stand the sight of grown men (meaning those over the age of eighteen) if they are wearing anything that is pink…which is to say sporting shirts, ties, trousers, jackets, neckerchiefs etc, should any of those be of a rose (with a French accent) hue. There, I bet you recoiled in incredulous outrage at once, and didn’t know where to start in fulminating against and excoriating the likes of an evident sexist, macho, patriarchal, intolerant enemy of hard-won personal freedoms, whilst inter alia just possibly employing your favourite searingly pejorative term ‘judgemental’ against a pointlessly provocative old bastard like me.
I am talking about visceral instincts, not calm reasoning nor ratiocination, and I would add that I think it better to speak my controversial feelings, than cowardly hiding them from the universe, idly pretending that I don’t give a damn what colour of tie or poplin shirt anyone offers to the world of sartorial display. Nevertheless, I need at once to brush off the accusation of notional homophobia, and on two solid grounds. Firstly, and most cogently, and courtesy of my particular job, I have numerous gay friends all over the globe, and not one of them, of whichever gender, ever sports pink, and in my broad experience it is strictly straight males who decide to be free floating when it comes to chromatic aka roseate latitude. The fact is I run a one-man literary publishing house, and two of my leading authors are gay, one an American male just turned 60, and one an Englishwoman ditto. Both of them when we were recently sipping coffee at a lively litfest in an exhilarating northern UK town turned to me independently, and more or less said the same thing.
“Joe,” said Dave Henthoff, with his innocently puckered grin, “as far as I’m concerned you are an honorary homo, man. I can’t put it any other way.”
“Joe, “added Maggie Brownson. “You seem to me to accept absolutely everyone, whoever and whatever they are. Even though you can diagnose people who are pains in the arse faster than else anyone else in the world…”
What might perhaps clarify my extreme allergy to pink, is to add that that there is one particular species of male, invariably clad in the colour of Portuguese Mateus Rose (I went past the extensive factory near Vila Real in the remote Tras Os Montes in 1981) a masculine species who gets my goat more than any other. Have you guessed who I mean? I am talking about British Labour politicians and especially the male cabinet ministers, who at their annual conferences instead of singing the socialist anthem Keep The Red Flag Flying, if they had any trace of honesty would be warbling Keep Our Admirably Pink Flag Aloft. There they are all in pink shirts and pink ties, their faces pinked and pinking from the copious lunchtime wine and the rare beef steaks that are of course pink, their unflinching pinkness signifying a lack of red-blooded meaning visceral passion for everything under the sun. One thinks with sadness of the founding fathers and mothers of the Party, who were steaming angry and with scarlet faces to match, when it came to the ambient rank injustice, the monstrous unfairness of inherited and moneyed privilege, the pampered drones who lived in their London villas on their steady dividends while the factory workers repined in insanitary cottages with the solaces of blood-flecked TB and communal outside lavatories. They were very angry red-faced founding fs and ms, many of them aristocrats themselves, whereas their pink-visaged grammar school and comprehensive 2019 counterparts, in their pale pink duds and spats, are piously peevish, virtuously vexed, not raging nor incandescent with righteous anger. At this point I can inform the whole bloody lot of them for free, that they need to be very angry before they can make the stone-deaf Brexiteers and for that matter the ardent Remainers, stop in their tracks and really listen, their facial capillaries urgently need to dilate and their voices need to come from their guts and especially their spleens, not from their fluttering and flabby vocal chords. The truth is the Labour Party for the last 80 years has been ruled by an assortment of clapped out, feebly mumbling and stumbling strictly masculine physics and geography teachers, variously called Clement, Hugh, Jim, Neil, Michael, Gordon, and currently Jeremy….the only notable star celebrities being those beamingly pragmatic egotists called Harold W and Tony B who would do anything and beyond to stay in power, luxury weekend junketings with cosmopolitan fascists included. There was also I dimly recall a fizzy adolescent called Ed who had the cheek to grin as he said he was perhaps way too far to the left, but he squeaked like a twelve-year-old as he said it, and turned pink not red, and nobody believed a word of it, not even his wife. He had a cabinet pal also called Ed whose surname splendidly means testicles, an ironic inversion if ever there was, as the notional seat of all hot-blooded male passion seemed at an unbreachable existential remove from both or our Eds, certainly when it came to the world of executive politics.
NB. There was once an American TV comedy series featuring a talking horse, called Mr Ed. Had he been called Mr Edward, no one would have watched it, if only because diminutives are reassuring whereas full-length adult names are so daunting. Had the two effervescent teenage Eds called themselves the grown-up name Edward, they might have been taken far more seriously. For Edward Balls has a certain august and unmockable ring about it, would you not agree? Need we say more at this point?
Yes, we bloody well need. The Tories, however they might think of themselves, are in fact all Fallen Angels to a man and woman, and I am talking in the strictly scriptural not metaphorical sense. Nonetheless they have one or two orators who can talk a passionate streak, and who sound as if they believe in their Melodramatic Mendacity (all melodrama is a lie by definition) that is their autopilot birthright. Let us at this point scrutinise three paradigm Tory cabinet Brexiteers, all of whom dress in pink, hence are almost indistinguishable from their Shadow Cabinet counterparts. There is the one who looks exactly like Pinocchio, who was once Minister of Schools, and who insisted on the rote learning of the Genealogies of English Kings and Queens and ditto the Nine and Two Sevenths and the Seventeen and Three Sixteenths Times Table. There is also a tall, completely hairless one, who by his critics is unkindly nicknamed Tablespoon, an acronym for ‘Tall Bald String of Piss’ (so cruel, so utterly and needlessly unkind). Tablespoon’s fulsome contribution to the annually published and defiantly titled Tory Chapbook of Melodramatic Veracity is often to repeat the statement that ‘Britain Is the Greatest Country in the World’, a devastating mantra he learnt from the late Margaret Thatcher, she who had a full head of hair and who was an Iron Lady, not a Tablespoon made out of alloy steel. Then there is Mr Fluffy, so named because of his singular tonsure, and he is also called Boris, and he is destined for great things, as he is nearly as fluffy and blond as the fluffiest and blondest and most powerful man in the world, who as everyone knows is called Donald. Mr Fluffy and Donald both like to dress in pink, both admire each other enormously, and sometimes joke about outfluffing the other as a means of raising money for charity, and even moot a competitive if jocular IQ test. Boris in a pink shirt once asked Donald in a pink shirt (off the cuff that is, haha) what was the capital of Liechtenstein to which Donald earnestly answered Liechtenstein City, and when Boris modestly put him right with Vaduz, Donald snorted hilariously, That is such Fake News, Boris, man! and added that he Boris was The Enemy of the People! for contradicting the fluffiest and most powerful man in the world, and the two of them were helpless with merriment for the next half hour…
Fluffy read Classics at Balliol College, Oxford in the 1980s, but his take on Modern Greek was always a trifle shaky, so that when he once holidayed in the Cyclades with his wife, and kept overhearing the word ‘boris’ all the time, reasonably enough, he thought it must be a touchingly respectful homage to the blond and amiable English celebrity. It was only when he dipped into his Berlitz phrase book one day, that he recalled ‘mporeis’ or ‘boris’, actually meant ‘you may’ or ‘you might’ and lo and behold that quaint fact seeped into his subconscious with remarkable speed, so that the same night he had two hideous nightmares in succession. One featured an olive-skinned middle-aged Greek male who was of course not an Anglo-Saxon, but a European, and worse still a member of the EU, meaning that noisome, swamplike lethal morass that Boris the minister was so keen for his country to escape as soon as possible. In his bizarre dream, a leering ill-shaved Mykonos barman of about fifty leaned over the Balliol man, who was startlingly just a little gurgling baby Boris with a dummy in his mouth, and shouted at him with a comical albeit threatening grimace.
“Borish! Pay attenshoon! Your name mean, You May! Lissen, my Borish, bebe! It mean, You May!”
There was only one May with a capital in Boris’s capacious subconscious, and she was called Theresa and she was Head Girl amongst the English Tories of the Brand New School, and a woman at that, and she hadn’t a single friend nor any allies within the Parliament, and nobody of any political hue, including the Labour Pinks or Tory Pinks, agreed with anything she said or did. You or me or even Fluffy Boris, would have had a crippling nervous breakdown in her cruelly isolated position, with the weight of the intractable world upon her shoulders, but the Head Girl’s remedy was to go to church once a week, where she begged the Anglican vicar to reassure her she wasn’t really a Fallen Angel but a Responsible and Infinitely Dutiful Head Girl of the Brand New School. The vicar not only rushed to confirm she was all of that, but assured her it was all the dandruffy Labour chaps all dressed in unmanly pink who were the Fallen Angels, and would get their comeuppance when as in Thessalonians at the end of all things you would hear the sound of the trump = trumpet, and it might even be the apocalyptic trump in human form, meaning Donald the One and Only, who would start off (by a nifty tweet of course, not a noisy trumpet) the eschatological proceedings.
Baby Boris gurgled at the huge Greek barman in horror, “But me not Treesa May, mister forren He Hugh fellah! Me instead am de fluffiest, blondest, nicest ickle boy in de worrld!”
Cue offstage, or rather in the baby’s delicate left ear, where could be clearly heard: ‘That is the Very Worst Fake and Phony News, baby Boris! You really are the snake in the grass Enemy of the People, lil Boris in your British diapers! Aha aha aha… ‘
The second nightmare you may imagine yourself, or rather no you mayn’t, as instead of a hissing olive-skinned Greek, we have massive avuncular Donald himself looming over the baby Boris’s cradle and jovially hallooing:
“Didcha know, buddy, that your name in Greek means, ‘you might’, kinda hypothetical in terms of your uncertain future, Boris, you geddit? But listen, because you’re an ignorant and innocent little baby, you actually think I’m saying ‘you mite’, just like your Mom did when she leant over your cradle and said, Boyish, Boyish, my ickle shweet mite!”
Poor Boris pulled a tearful face and groaned, “But me not mite, Uncle Donald! Me vewy big boy and I am ve vewy fluffiest person in de worrld!”
At this point, reasonably enough Boris thought Donald was going to hurl Fake News and Enemy of the People at him, instead of which the most powerful person in the world seemingly distorted his earlier maxims and began to croon in a strange falsetto:
“Faint of heart, you are baby Boris! You’re an anemone of the purple!”
“What!” said a suddenly adult Boris as he flung out his dummy and sat up angrily in his cot.
“Foul poo poos, you are baby Boris! You are the enema of the people!”
Boris turned as purple as a violet anemone, as he snarled, “You what! How dare someone like…like… someone like you… insult an… a… top drawer English gentleman of such impeccable waddyacallit… like such as me? Why you… you…”
But no, let’s stop, and forget Boris and his horrible dreams for a while. For there is also the mighty Najj, Nadge, Nadgie, Call me Mr Brexit, and Najj has so much phenomenal energy and quite unearthly drive, we can hardly get him down adequately on the page. Najj, though a dyed in the wool pinko when it comes to his shirts and ties and Rotarian cummerbunds, to the uninitiated is not remotely fluffy-haired, much less blond. But if you have anything like an ounce of intuition, and have sharp unfoolable x ray eyes to boot, you can see that Najj is as fluffy as they come, and like Boris is a born Rotarian: which is to say jovial, jocose and jocund to the core, an expert at kissing babies, opening jumble sales full of obsolete video tapes and broken VCRs, shaking hands with those who touch their modest brows and drop their aitches, and making faithful old ladies laugh to excess when he mocks the ridiculous Brand New Head Girl and the clapped out Mr Corbyn…
Suddenly one of Najj’s audience, a man of about sixty with bulbous ears and thick rimmed spectacles, says to the world at large, and especially to the nearest ITV camera:
“In my opinion we are a great little country, a nice little tight little country, and that is why we’ve always done best on our own. You see, whatever the world atlases say, we really aren’t part of Europe, never have been and never will be. Added to which the consumption of garlic by an Englishman is invariably an immature Johnny Foreigner Dago affectation. Shoot me down if I’m wrong, of course…”
Najj, the modest hero of the garlic hater, like Donald Of The Myriad Tweets, speaks for the common man, rarely the common woman, and in doing so has craftily inverted and thus subverted the accepted linguistic rules. While Donald coyly parrots his robust mirror image Josef Stalin/Dlugashvili, whenever he talks about the ‘enemies of the people’, so Najj the breezy sexpot of the libertarian right, declares that he has completely ‘revolutionised’ politics, as if he is another Trotsky fighting the fakes, the compromisers, the totalitarians, and the power mad. Najj is a fervent Rotarian if only because the splendid word breaks down, qua his beloved cryptic crosswords, to yield ‘rote’, ‘rota’ and ‘hairy uns’. Najj firmly believes in learning by rote in schools (arranged in alphabetical order the following: Great British Admirals, Great British Generals, Great British Inventors, Great British Vice-Roys and Florence Nightingale as his sole Justly Celebrated Female of British History). He also frets over precise rotas for the Brexit jumble sales with Mrs Poges on coffee, Mrs Biss with the raffle tickets, and Mrs Bux on the kiddies’ face painting. That said Najj teasingly refuses to explain precisely what he means by ‘hairy uns’, though we take it his sprightly rugger-loving bawdiness, if that is what it be, is both manly and broad, rather than obscure and offensive. Actually, the explanation is much more banal and innocuous. At times he has taken severely injudicious political risks that were decidedly hairy to the nth.
Meanwhile, three days ago, Mr Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour Party, received a handwritten letter from a twelve-year-old boy from Camden Town which his Mum had sneaked a read of, and then had photocopied multiple copies on the sly. She sent one of them to a campaigning journalist, an acquaintance of mine who showed it to me in a Kentish Town pub, and which I have transcribed in toto below. The journalist intends to send copies to numerous printed and digital sources, for he believes at long last he might have a possible exemplary foil to the ubiquitous and by now insane Brexit fever. The boy is called George Salmon and his letter speaks for itself.
Camden Town, London
Dear Mr Jeremy Corbyn
First of all I should tell you that my Mum, who with very little money brought me up single handed in a tiny council flat, often refers to you as Jimmy Tarbuck, not Jeremy Corbyn, as she thinks you are an out of date and unfunny comedian, rather than a true political leader. You need to know that my mother, aged 45, is very angry at you, for saying that the proper democratic thing is for all of us to respect the Referendum result, where 51% wanted to leave the EU and 49% didn’t. This is because she says it will obviously produce 100% unhappiness for both the 51% as well as the 49%, if the nightmare of Brexit should ever happen. She adds that if you were to ask the Great British People in a similar Referendum should we bring back Capital Punishment, 60% would say yes, and they would also suggest it might be a good idea to have all executions live on YouTube, if only to deter potential wrongdoers, though of course you’d have to be over 18 to watch them. My Mum tells me that is why we have democratic first past the post politics, and not referendums, which she says are ammunition for envious folk, and those she calls the infantilised, meaning the grown-ups who behave like spiteful little babies. She says the considered opinions of the Great British People really don’t mean shit (excuse me) as most of them spend all their time watching TV’s Strictly Come Dancing and The Great British Bake Off, though my Mum uses a different gerund and noun from ‘dancing and ‘bake’ and they are both very rude and both start with ‘w’ (I know what a gerund is because they make me do Latin at school when I wanted to do Arabic, but they said that option is too controversial and also disloyal and not really British). My Mum also reckons that if Nigel or Najj or Nadgy Brexit, as she calls him, ever becomes Prime Minister, he will immediately pass a law that will jail single mums, overweight people and all those who stutter, as in his opinion they seriously let down and embarrass the country, which Najj says is the envy of all other nations in the world.
My Mum says the truth is you will say whatever you think might get you into power, and that respecting the will of the people, even if they are ranting bullies and spiteful Rotarians, is tantamount to saying you have no real moral principles of your own. Her conclusion is you clearly have no Centre of Gravity, Mr Corbyn, that you both look and talk like a clapped-out physics teacher (so you ought to know what C of G means) and she also sometimes calls you Mr Carbon, as she believes you are a carbon copy, not an original version of a flesh and blood man with a beating heart and a sensitive soul.
That’s it then. I thought I would just run all this past you, as you never know what might change someone’s mind, and in doing so even change the world. Just possibly a letter from the heart from an unknown and very ordinary schoolboy aged 12, might lead somehow to something happening in this world that really matters. Because surely if films on the internet of kittens playing with a ball of string can go viral, maybe what my angry and passionate and hardworking Mum says can also go viral too? Who knows?
Hoping this finds you as it leaves me, Mr Corbyn.
I remain your obedient servant
PS The valediction (remember my compulsory Latin at school) is what we are now ordered to put at the end of our letters, by our Civic Studies teacher, Miss Petunia Byng. She copied some handouts from a very old book from her grandmother’s bookshelves, called Essential Social Etiquette For All. As a result, I now know the proper way to address a Bishop or a Right Honourable, or a Commander of the British Empire. If ever I should need to write to one of them, that is
( I am going to be busy for the next few weeks and the next post will be on or before Tuesday 2nd July )