Welcome to Chapter Five in the serialisation of There There My Dear, the highly original and critically acclaimed new novel that has got both readers and politicians talking. If you’ve missed events so far, then you really need to catch up. Follow this link to revisit Chapter One!
There There My Dear
The room looked different in that most of the photographs from the wall had been taken down, the coffee table had been placed in front of the battered leather sofa and the old fashioned standard lamp had been replaced with an oversized Anglepoise. Harold Connor’s study now resembled a university common room – a place where the mind was stimulated enough but the seats were still very comfortable. His own war room. His den.
Covering the coffee table were tabloid newspapers, magazine articles and an assortment of pens, pencils and part- used note pads. Beaming out from the pages of the newspapers and magazines was the ever-smiling face of Kyle Andrews. In some of the images he was beaming alone, in others he was beaming with a beautiful young woman on his arm and in many more he was laughing with his TV chums. Harold Connor was not particularly surprised that there was more coverage of Kyle Andrews’ activities than of the recent election result.
Noticeable from these images were the changes to Andrews’ face. In the older pictures there had been obvious laughter lines and wrinkles around his eyes, but there were no discernible creases or cracks in the more recent photographs. In some of the shots Andrews’ face looked smooth and expressionless. Time was treating him well, allowing his wrinkles and signs of ageing to disappear as he grew older.
Kyle Andrews was seldom out of the public eye. Over the last decade his television shows had captured the imagination of millions of viewers, had won several TV awards and attracted praise and scorn in equal measure. He had worked his way up from general assistant in an independent production company all the way to the very top, turning himself into a media tycoon with his own television companies, record production companies and celebrity management companies. Along the way he had amassed an enormous personal fortune and he loved to demonstrate his wealth. A generous man, he had given millions of pounds to charity over the years and, off screen, he gained a lot of respect for his sincerity and altruistic spirit. On screen he was a caricature, almost a cartoon figure, whose arrogance and barbed comments catapulted his talent shows to the top of the TV listings. Kyle Andrews loved the fact that people loved to hate him.
Harold Connor neither loved nor hated Kyle Andrews. In fact he had only become aware of him after reading an article in the Sun newspaper, the article that had inspired him to rearrange his study and call his old friend.
‘Is this true?’
‘It’s in the Sun. So it must be true,’ came the response from Professor Alan Baines, the lecturer of politics at Warwick University and Harold’s friend of twenty years.
The two men had met in the early 1990s, not long after the general election when Prime Minister Harold Connor was touring educational establishments across the country in order to attract students to newly created degree courses. The advent of the new courses certainly had helped to ramp up the number of university applicants resulting in more jobs at the educational institutes and at the university clearing houses. Prospective students had the chance to study almost any subject to degree level.
Doctor Baines, as he was at that time, had intrigued the newly re-elected Prime Minister with his urbane character and tacit warnings about the possibility of the devaluation of degrees as academic currency. Despite the potential for friction between them the two men had forged a friendship that was based on respect and genuine affection. Each had enjoyed the prospect of meeting one another and discussing the meaning of higher education and its relationship with the world of work and employment. And each had developed a theoretical appreciation of the other’s point of view.
‘Have you read the article? I mean, have you actually read the whole thing?’ Connor heard his own voice rising in exasperation.
‘The whole thing? It’s only a few paragraphs and it hardly states anything at all. I mean, he wants to make another formulaic talent show with a twist. That’s all. I can’t even imagine that many people would want to watch it.’
‘But surely it doesn’t matter if anybody watches it. The fact that he wants to make the programme at all is a bloody disgrace. I mean, does he really believe that the British public would choose a politician based on a handful of TV auditions? It is preposterous.’
The professor paused for a moment and uttered a comment that made perfect sense yet compounded Harold Connor’s fears that the public’s conscience was under the full control of the media. Professor Baines said, ‘It is no more preposterous than the American way. You know? When the President and his contender go head-to-head in live televised debates. It is no different to that.’
Harold Connor mumbled his consent as his mind raced ahead into an imaginary world where everything was decided by the medium of television and telephone votes. Surely somebody had considered the risks. Even if the show does not make it to production there must have been fears over publishing the article in the Sun in the first place.
‘Would anybody watch it? I mean, and be influenced by it?’
‘I’m sure one of my students would find it amusing. And I’m sure she would not be swayed by anybody else’s views. She, Lily, would probably be a more eager contestant than viewer. Although I doubt she would even enter such a competition. No. She wouldn’t want to be a part of it.’
‘I would imagine that the government would not want something like this grabbing the public’s attention.’ These words oozed from Harold Connor’s mouth as if he were in a trance.
‘But no government would want to censor something like that. Especially now the article has been published. It would be political suicide.’
Harold Connor’s head was now so full of ideas that he wanted to foreshorten the conversation and he thought about calling the professor back at another time.
Leaning back on the distressed leather of the old sofa, looking up at the ceiling and then at the walls, Harold Connor’s gaze settled on the one remaining photograph on the study wall. Looking at the image of his wife’s smiling face, his memory returned to the days before his political career had taken off. Almost vicariously he witnessed the excitement and dizziness of being with his wife, of plotting his political rise and of having it all. All at the same time.
His eyelids fluttered slightly as the tears slowly formed and he knew there was no point trying to hold them back. Mere mourning had not resulted in such an emotional outpouring for several years. But this was more than self-indulgent grief.
This was frustration, anger and remorse all coiled into one knot, and Harold Connor dropped his guard and gratefully let it all out.
Not so much weeping, and certainly not sobbing, Harold Connor noticed a strange noise emanating from the back of his throat. He did not know why but he started to laugh. He did not feel guilty about it and he did not really question it.
He did know one thing for certain. He knew that, if Kyle Andrews’ programme went ahead, he could use the opportunity to put things right. Perhaps that is why he was laughing. Perhaps he could see a route to catharsis and, maybe, to reconciliation.
‘Are you OK, Harold?’
Baines’ voice shocked Connor back into the real world. ‘Oh, yes. I’m fine. Just fine.’ He paused a moment and then told the professor that he would call him back later.
To Be Continued…
Thank you for joining me on this exciting journey, I do hope that you’re enjoying the story so far. If you are enjoying it, or have any thoughts (good or bad) on the story and characters, then please do leave a comment below. Does Kyle Andrews remind you of anyone perhaps? 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’re guaranteed to get a personal reply from me.
Chapter Six to be published next week.
Very best wishes,
Sign Up To Neil’s Newsletter for the latest news and book talk. Announcements, reviews, signings, talks & author events, competitions & giveaways…and much more! JOIN THE CONVERSATION TODAY!