The Speaker, d1, edit up awkward phrasing [6 hrs later – requires another ‘layer’ for translition to Engrish Langage] + remove *hackneyed* ‘going forward’ joke.
I met Bercow once for a presentation.
One of The lad s I ‘looked after’ received a book token for being autistic. We stood together for the group photograph up at the Speaker’s lounge. I did not smile, I was pissed off for not getting a book token of my own, or like Beckham, distressed none of my colleagues nominated me for the grand lollypop, the VC – for charity work I conducted across the world, or Southwark – mainly at Christmas parties.
Unofficially I was the department’s ‘good chap.’ Cerebral type clerks, consumed in drafting legislation and such, found it challenging to communicate with ordinary folk, so letters from schools and English people came to me. Later, mass paperwork was centralised in a unique department of its own entitled Education & Outreach Umbrella. But that was years afterwards when work experience meant properly standing at reception for six hours.
I am not bitter. Yet my system operation practice was generally fool-proof and sound going forward, I said. And why exchange an old horse for a racing car? I said. Yes, the truth. My side-line was the supervision of work experience youngsters because nobody else wanted to supervise children. Still, many of them students were right geniuses from Hampstead, I wanted to punch them, and some are now Channel 4 executives or surgeons, contestants on Love Island. Others were more rough and ready students from the state system.
The greatest challenge was a big boy, or the Hulk, during that summer of two thousand and something. Already I said ‘yes’ to every work experience request approaching that school holidays. Thirty-seven teenagers to manage around the Palace, which wasn’t so difficult really. I was supposed, I think, to shepherd two students, I think it was, but I was very good at this ‘interaction,’ something might come of it one day, I thought. Maybe an assistant, or maybe a pay-rise? I thought. And once the students were security cleared at the gargoyle control, the kids had a go – standing at the dispatch box being prime minister, and then I sent them away exploring – on goodwill type of missions:
- Talk to one policeman [and report back].
- Talk to a fat man in his suit.
- Interview our dinner ladies
- Fart on the Committee Corridor.
Youths wandered back to my office container, converted from the shipping container, after a wonderful morning, in groups of three or four they returned with my doughnut. My flourish:
‘You guys share the doughnut, I don’t need it, guys,’ was perfectly pitched. A good man, I saw the joy in their pink faces. But Hulk was different:
‘Pricks,’ he said. ‘I want to be a paratrooper.’
So the next day, call it special ops, I walked him down to the Wellington Barracks museum. We handshaked with some squaddies, and they were good fellas. They chatted to Hulk, calculated if he joined up in three years time, there might be no wars, and he’d be all right. They let us around the museum – gratis, shhh…
On the Wednesday I composed a sightseeing quiz for young people. Everybody was really keen, but Hulk said:
‘Off you go,’ I said, ‘find the Cenotaph, Hulk, and number Ten Downing Street, and Hulk,’ I said, ‘take these the half dozen softy students – with you.’
Hulk, the bastard, took them all straight down the Red Lion pub. By mid-afternoon I was responsible for seventeen drunken teenagers on the Parliamentary Estate, and it was, exactly, it was my fault. Even so I puffed up in a faux rage, reprimanded them together, desk-side. And with Hulk, the brewmaster, I set a harsh, disciplinary example:
‘Your work experience is now officially over,’ I said to him, ‘go you, and go away home to mummy, and by the way,’ I said, ‘here’s a letter saying how good you have been.’
‘Bollocks,’ he said after his hiccups.
I admired him tremendously, and I hope he’s okay today, hope he wears his helmet somewhere, somewhere over sand or off in his aeroplane.
All the best.