-I’m not saying that it was better without the award, of course I’m not.
-Well what are you saying then? Oh hang on, I want to see this bit.
[We watch in silent horror the coverage of Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions]
-You could write about that, couldn’t you?
-Well, and how would I be able to produce something not written, better, by about a hundred other people? And written more quickly by them too, you know I have to try and scribble things down on my way to work and in between meetings and-
-Oh poor you. It’s hardly starvation in a garret, is it?
-Who’s side are you on? I’m just saying, I sort of feel frozen now, because before, I just pushed stuff at ConHome, and I’d got used to the people who would read the things, could even cope with the sometimes rebarbative comments, but now I feel like, like, like Tony Blair, with the heavy hand of literary history weighing down on my shoulder, like every word or phrase has to contain scintillating, hitherto un-noticed insight, like-
-You never respond to them though, do you? Every time I ask you Did you read the comments? you lie, and say No, no of course not, when I know perfectly well that you did, except you focus on the bad ones, rather than engaging with the readers and entering into a debate with them, like that excellent Andrew Lilico does. It’s like you throw something at them and then run away with your hands over your ears, going Not listening! Not listening! It wasn’t me! And you think you can be a writer acting like that?
-I’m not a writer. I’m a statistician.
-And why do you use a word like rebarbative? It’s just a memory of a funny passage in a book by Sue Townsend you read when you were a child. No-one uses words like rebarbative in real life.
[There is a pause for reflection. One of us is digesting this last remark, the other is wondering if he’s gone too far. We watch the news about Nick Clegg’s newfound Muscular Liberalism]
-Muscular liberalism! What does he mean by that? The man’s a fool.
-You mean: The man’s a valuable member of the coalition government who is doing great work in helping to sell the importance of reducing the deficit. Which translates as We must do something for Nick at the next election, said in the style of a vague, well-meaning but ultimately ineffectual Aunt, worrying about her nephew’s school report.
-I mean the man’s a wimpy looking fool. He’s about as muscular as your prose.
-Well, why don’t you write the next piece for ConHome then? I’m going to have a bath.
-Socialism doesn’t waste time bobbing about in the bath. Maybe I will write it. At least then it won’t be your usual loosely approximate description of our life, where I’m constantly presented as your harshest critic, rather than the pillar you lean on for everything. What’s that you’re reading, Keith? they go at work, and I’m like: Oh it’s just some made-up stuff by some bloke who’s never going to get anywhere in this life until he does something about his funny walk. At least if I write it, it'll be vaguely right-wing, and about politics, which might be a nice change for Tim.
– I don’t have a funny walk. Well, remember to say how grateful I am to Tim, for everything he does for Conservatism, and how amazing the success of ConHome is, and how I pinch myself everytime I see my name on the Comment pages, and basically how much I owe to him for all the chances he's given me. And how you’re the pillar I lean on for everything.
– Go and have your bath, and leave it to me. Now, Clegg. Muscular Liberal? You’re having a laugh …