Welcome to Chapter Eight in the mesmeric serialisation of Neil Mason’s There There My Dear, the critically acclaimed and much talked about new novel that many politicians want to see ‘removed’ from circulation. If you’ve missed events so far, don’t worry, it’s not too late to catch up. Follow this link to revisit Chapter One!
There There My Dear
Happenstance created the meeting and both Professor Baines and Lily Cubitt enjoyed the encounter. Despite it being the holiday each felt the need to spend some time on campus, either preparing lectures for the next trimester or delving into the reference library for inspiration.
Professor Baines’ academic timetable for the months ahead was no different to that of the previous term. However, he was committed to delivering lectures that were up-to-date and meaningful to his students. The recent election result had provided the nation with a coalition government and such an important event was likely to stimulate and invigorate his audience and, probably, raise several questions. That the coalition had been formed between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats was provocative in so many ways. The Liberals had rejected joining with the Labour Party and this very act had surprised the nation and, in particular, the media. The professor had never struggled for lecture content during his career, but now he had far too much to cram into his presentations. What could he leave out? What could be redacted?
The professor was unaware that Lily Cubitt had chosen to stay on campus during the break. He understood that she enjoyed immensely spending hours in the quiet and empty library. Of late, her chosen reading material was all sociology. Her unconventional take on political structures was borne of her belief that government existed in order to control the population rather than work on its behalf. He knew this because Lily had spoken with him on several occasions about her theories and her belief that all politicians should study sociology to understand the importance of a cohesive society.
At a little after nine o’clock, with the sunshine bursting through the vaulted glass ceiling, Professor Baines was treating himself to a chocolate bar from the vending machine in the vestibule close to the entrance of the library when Lily Cubitt spotted him and saw an opportunity to tease.
‘Apparently, a moment on the lips is forever on the hips, professor.’ With that she prodded the professor’s lean side. ‘We can’t be having that now, can we?’
‘You know, Lily, I believe that your wisdom knows no boundaries. So I can’t help asking myself, ‘What can that young woman hope to gain from mere books in a library?’’ The professor was uncomfortable with the physical contact.
‘Are you actually asking me that, as a real question?’ Lily looked at him with the wide-eyed stare of a mocking teenager.
‘You know I’m not. It was a rhetorical question.’ The professor was making a point of avoiding eye contact with her.
‘I sometimes ask myself ‘What’s the point…?’’
‘‘…of a rhetorical question.’ Very funny, Lily. Very funny.’ For a moment they made eye contact and it was the professor who looked away first. The awkward pause prompted partly suppressed giggles from them both and then the charade was over.
‘Are you planning to stay here all day?’ asked Lily in a genuine yet relaxed way.
‘I had no real plans, as such. But I expect I can keep myself busy all day. You?’
‘I’m reading for pleasure today’ she responded. ‘A book on social psychology by DeLamater. Very interesting, but not especially radical in any way.’
Inside the professor was frowning but he smiled at Lily all the same. He found it hard to understand that an attractive – very attractive – young woman would want to spend her free time reading such a book. He thought that she must be some kind of social outcast. Had he ever listened to the campus gossip and common room banter, then he would have heard tales of Lily’s sexual exploits and uncommon practices.
‘I do have other interests, you know.’ Lily seemed to have read the professor’s mind. ‘It’s just that your lectures and tutoring have inspired me to look even deeper into the drivers behind politics. And DeLamater may give me an insight into the crazy world of mass consciousness. Does the population’s psyche influence politics or does politics influence the mass psyche? Fascinating, huh?’
The professor feared that the conversation would veer back towards teasing and flirting, and so he tried to change the subject.
‘By the way, do you watch much television? I mean, apart from documentaries and stuff? Do you watch those singing talent show things?’
Lily tilted her head ‘Professor Baines! What can I say? I love them! Well, the early stages when the deluded are given the opportunity to make arses of themselves. That’s before the real competition starts and the real arses take over. Why do you ask?’
‘Well, I was speaking with…erm…a friend earlier and he said something about a new TV show – a wannabe politician’s talent show. It just struck me that social psychology and politics and media could, well, I don’t know what it could do. What do you think?’
Lily did not pause for a second. ‘It is complete madness. And that’s an end to it.’
These were her parting words and so Lily returned to the library and Professor Baines finally dared to bend over in order to retrieve his chocolate bar from the vending machine.
The morning rolled on and the English weather lived up to its reputation. The promising sunshine that flattered the campus earlier in the day had been chased away by uncouth clouds. The middle of the morning, damp and uninterested, had stalled and dawdled until a cheery breeze righted all the wrongs.
Come noon and the sky was clear once again. It was as if the clouds had never come at all.
Just after midday Lily Cubitt glided into Professor Baines’ study, dropped off a three thousand word commentary on the value of Kyle Andrews’ new reality television show and then turned around and left the room.
Professor Baines was not surprised by Lily’s tacit behaviour but he was surprised, after reading the report, to learn of her opinion. He would have expected a rant, a diatribe at least, slating the concept and ridiculing the minds behind that concept.
The professor read Lily’s perfectly crafted essay that criticised briefly the modern political machinery and mocked the idea that democracy even existed. Citing the great political theorists at times, adding in her own angle at others and pulling the disparate chords together, Lily Cubitt had drawn a conclusion that actually shocked the professor.
For the third time in just a few minutes, Professor Baines read the final paragraph to make sure that he had understood properly.
In summary I believe that the creation of this television programme was inevitable. The format of the show, if it is to follow that of previous broadcasts by Kyle Andrews, reflects closely the existing procedures in several democratic countries. In reality it stands to offer a greater opportunity for voters to reach their political destination because unwanted or unpopular policies or politicians will be deselected in real time. With live presidential debates in America, shoddily copied in 2010 here in the United Kingdom, it is fair to state that we already elect our leaders by means of TV popularity contests.
Professor Baines finished reading and tossed the report onto the desk in front of him. He stood up and raised his arms in a broad stretch. Letting his arms drop to his sides he looked at the telephone on his desk and wondered what the former Prime Minister might think of his favourite student’s conclusion.
To Be Continued…
Thank you for joining me on this exciting and thought-provoking fictional(?) journey of politics, lies, deception and Reality TV. If you’re enjoying it, then do let me know; I’d love to read your comments on the story so far. You can also get in touch with me via my Contact Form at the bottom of the Home Page , or through my Facebook Page. I’d love to hear from you and you will always get a personal reply from me. Unless you work for the British political establishment, in which case I am still absentis ausus est mortuus!
Chapter Nine to be published next week.
Very best wishes,
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