Welcome to Chapter Three in the serialisation of the highly original and critically acclaimed novel There There My Dear, the story that is continuing to ruffle feathers in high places. If you’ve missed events so far (and there’s no acceptable excuse) then you can catch up right here!
There There My Dear
As the spring sunshine strengthened, so Lily Cubitt’s powers of concentration weakened. Yes, there were important things to learn, notes to write up and studies to plan. But there were also boys to meet and fun to be had. The lecture had, as always, started on time and the lecturer was amazing. Amazing in almost every way.
Professor Baines wore several official hats and possessed many titles, and on that day he was Lily Cubitt’s lecturer on Political History.
Now in her final year at college, Lily had managed to combine the best parts of the university’s social scene with some serious academic development. No longer was she the introverted schoolgirl with a host of insecurities and a crushing need to be accepted. Over the last three years Lily had evolved – found herself – and left her angst behind.
When she first enrolled at Warwick University, Lily had been dangerously overweight, her health a great concern for her mother and, then, for the staff at her college. She accredited her weight loss to the ISD – the Impoverished Student Diet – which comprised tuna, moderate amounts of bulgur wheat and vodka. Her bodily transformation had led to a sharpening of her focus and a dramatic increase in her popularity.
This change in her social standing was something she had taken advantage of on a number of occasions and with joyful abandon. She had found her niche – it suited her to indulge her needs with a handful of regular boyfriends while remaining firmly unattached to any of them. The university lifestyle suited these needs and her capacity to compartmentalise things. Life was good – very good – and Lily was not looking forward to graduating.
‘Your silence is strangely refreshing and deeply disturbing in equal measure,’ came her tutor’s voice, like a targeted missile into her mind.
Suddenly aware of the attention and grateful for the opportunity of banter, Lily’s Zen-like response brought a snigger from the class. ‘I refuse to comment without due consideration, Professor Baines. Your words move me still and I need to appreciate the seriousness of your statement before I say anything at all.’
‘A natural politician. Evasive, half asleep and full of shit.’
‘Again, I value your comments but I must state that I am not half asleep.’ Fixing him with her winning smile and tilting her head slightly, Lily knew that the class would giggle again once they realised what she had not refuted.
Right on cue the chortles filled the room and Professor Baines arched an eyebrow in recognition of his defeat. With the lecture at its end, he drew the event to a close and sat at his desk as the students filed out of the lecture hall.
‘Lily! Lily Cubitt!’
Lily turned her head to see that Professor Baines had stood up and was beckoning her towards him. ‘Lily, I need you a minute.’
As she approached him she slowed her walk and pushed her right shoulder forward.
‘And exactly what would you need me for, Professor Baines?’ She always felt very comfortable teasing her mentor. He never took the bait and maintained his professional composure at all times. She put him at about fifty, maybe a little younger. The combination of his slim face and meaty lips made him unconventionally attractive. Many years ago he had been a fencing instructor and had kept in remarkably good shape. Lily really liked Professor Baines and she believed that he liked her in the same way.
‘I know we have spoken about this before, and I have heard your comments on this whole thing so many times. But…’
‘…but you must insist that I adhere to the rule things and complete my thesis with carefully researched prose based on accepted political tenets and recognisable philosophical arguments…?’
‘Yes, Lily. This is what you need to do if you want to get the First you deserve. I know you have some…progressive… inventive views on political systems. But this is a course that, well, you can pass with flying colours if you do the accepted thing.’
‘Professor Baines, I’ll say it again, the accepted thing is the problem, not me. The accepted thing is what we need to challenge. It is what got us into this almighty mess in the first place, isn’t it?’
Lily recalled a shorter dissertation she had handed in to Professor Baines in her second year that had become the bedrock of her distrust of democracy in Great Britain. It had been a well-constructed essay with sound reasoning that had brought her to the conclusion that democracy did not, in fact, exist at all.
Her argument had been that politicians were obliged to toe the party line, no matter what. This had seemed ridiculous to Cubitt because it meant that party members had to state openly that they agreed with every policy set out by their party. She had pointed out that it was more than likely that this was not the case, that there had to be some things that some members did not agree with. By shear human nature there had to be policies or ideals that were not shared by every member of a party.
The second part of her piece focused on the election process itself. She had pointed out that elected parties rarely adhered to the policies that they had touted during electioneering. She vaguely remembered a quote from the piece that painted the picture vividly: It is like going to a restaurant and ordering ham, egg and chips, only to be served bangers and mash. She recalled that the professor had remarked on the fact that she had not considered ‘high-end’ dishes in her portrayal. A stroke of genius that made her rhetoric accessible to a wider audience.
Cubitt’s final sentences in that seminal piece were simple and to the point: Democracy only exists in this country in the weeks leading to an election, when Parliament has been dissolved and when the people are making their choices. Democracy itself dissolves once the new government is appointed.
She remembered that he had not been able to resist the power of her words at that time. She was sure that he felt the same way again as he tried to offer her guidance through the examination system.
History was repeating itself. Again she could see that he could not argue with her for a number of reasons. Firstly, her rhetoric actually made sense and, secondly, she had the mental and verbal dexterity to tie him in knots in a heartbeat. He clearly did not have time for that.
‘Lily, do the right thing. Just do the right thing now and I’m sure you can go on to do whatever you want in the future. But do the right thing now, OK?’
Lily smiled and slowly walked backwards away from her lecturer, looking at him through her fringe. ‘Maybe!’ she sang then quickly turned and trotted out of the room.
To Be Continued…
I’m so excited to be sharing my new novel There There My Dear with you and I really hope that you’ve enjoyed the opening few Chapters. If you have enjoyed them, or have any thoughts (good or bad) on the story and characters so far, then please take a moment to leave a comment below. Alternatively, you can 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’ll always receive a personal reply from me.
Chapter Four to be published next week.
Very best wishes,
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