Her Party Piece – A Short Story

Clarissa was perched on the edge of her chair. She was angry. The middle-aged man at the front was making it up as he was going along. What was that aphorism: ‘You can tell when a politician’s lying – his lips are moving.’?

It was the local Member of Parliament’s monthly constituency meeting day. For once, it was taking the form of a public presentation in the town centre library. He was talking about his party’s proposed changes to their health policy. They were going to work miracles, if you believed him, and they’d save taxpayers’ money into the bargain. Those in the audience were seated, socially distanced and masked, following the initial  lockdown.

Someone had pulled down a whiteboard for him and he was using a laptop and a table projector to display graphs of how they’d reduce bed-blocking, open new wards and reduce the need for Accident and Emergency patients to wait for treatment on trollies or in ambulances.

He paused for questions. The first few had obviously been asked by coached and carefully chosen constituency party members. Clarissa eventually managed to get the Chairman’s attention. Her appearance had probably helped – she was young, tall, pretty and well dressed, with nicely cut short blonde hair – every inch a typical target voter.

‘Please state your name, occupation and question,’ the elderly, silver-haired Chairman asked. Someone passed Clarissa the roving microphone.

‘Clarissa Tredegar,’ she said, ‘second year trainee nurse, I want to know where all these extra nurses you speak of will come from and when will they actually be trained and working on wards?’

The MP extolled the Government’s plans to award trainee nurses a non-repayable £5,000 annual grant to attract new entrants. He gave no details of the number of nurses expected to take up the offer. He smiled to her as if expecting applause.

Clarissa pointed out the shortcoming in his answer and told him that his figures did not recognise the number of existing qualified nurses who were leaving the profession – in fact, even if his optimism about take-up were justified, in reality, there would be thousands of nurses fewer employed. The Chairman tried to stop her flow, but she was on a roll. She spoke of the nurses and trainees who were quitting or sick because of Covid, and the fact that trainees were not receiving all the practical training they had been promised. They were being treated as unpaid healthcare workers yet were expected to continue to pay their course fees and accrue Student Loan debt. ‘Please fund the NHS properly,’ she told him, ‘instead of asking people to clap us.’

One of the party workers was trying to get to her in order to wrest the microphone from her grasp.

Her final words to the microphone were, ‘By the way, my friend has been recording this meeting on her phone. It’s uploading to YouTube as I speak and a copy will also be on its way to the “Guardian.”’ The politician sat and put his head in his hands.

Featured Photo

Another photo from my walk between Carr Mill and Billinge. This photo is of reflections in puddles on a path framed by the railway bridge beneath which the path leads to the village of Garswood (that wasn’t the direction I was headed in just a path that I passed on my way).

As with all the photos from that walk I took all the shots with my Pentax KP 24 MP apsc camera and a 35 mm f/2 lens. The EXIF data are 1/200 @f/11 and ISO 3200.

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