Week five and still going strong. This is a continuation with the prompt to write a short story based on lyrics, no longer than 1500 words. If you watch the video, it offers a better understanding of the story.
The Brexit Conspiracy
In 2010, the Conservative Party barely won the British general election, and were obliged to enter into an agreement with the pro-Europe Liberal-Democrats to share power. This was reluctantly accepted by many party members who strongly opposed closer ties with Brussels, but understood that it was better to be in Government rather than sitting in opposition. The Tory party leader, a young, dynamic, eloquent speaker however, was unhappy for other reasons. Yes, at last he was Prime Minister, but constrained by the more socially conscious agenda of his coalition partners, it was not what he had in mind when entering politics. However, he was still young and had five years to develop a manifesto that would attract the populous behind him so he could achieve his lifetime’s ambition, and govern in his own right. Consequently, he was already scheming to ensure victory at their next visit to the polling stations. His mind raced around in circles exploring possible winning strategies.
One evening, when his wife was out supporting one of her many charities, he read bedtime stories to his several children in the cramped apartment in Downing Street, London. When they’d settled down to sleep, he adjourned to the drawing room, poured himself two fingers of single-malt Scotch whiskey and turned on the radio. The Swedish group –Europe, were playing The Final Countdown.
He tapped his fingers on the crystal glass in time to the inspiring music and listened attentively to the opening refrain of the song; we’re leaving together.
Then he looked at the mellow golden liquid swirling around his glass as the catchy music ended and the name of the recording artists were announced by the drole DJ.
“Of course,” he muttered to himself recalling the subject matter of a secret paper that he’d quickly scanned earlier that afternoon. “Why didn’t I think of that before?”
Excited now, he placed the glass on an antique wooden side table, taking care that it stood precisely on the centre of a Houses of Parliament coaster. He switched on the baby alarm and dashed downstairs to his study, where he opened the battered red-despatch box sitting on top of his expansive mahogany desk. He flicked through several folders and extracted a report marked Top Secret.
He speed-read it then smiled, giving himself a high five. At last he’d discovered an infallible although unquestionably treasonable method to control the belligerent anti-Europeans in his party. He laughed to himself, visualizing their facial expressions and apoplectic fury as they came to realize how they had been outmanoeuvred, but could say or do nothing for fear of becoming political has-beens.
He picked up the phone and dialled a familiar number. A man answered.
The Prime Minister spoke briefly and ended the call. It would mean a secretive trip north of the border.
“Nobody must know of this meeting,” he said to himself. “I wonder, will things ever be the same again?” he sang remembering the words of the singer, Joey Tempest.
But he couldn’t just dash out the front door. It was permanently under the glare of the world’s cameras. He called his father and explained what he wanted to his Lordship and why. They agreed a plan.
Feigning a sudden onset of food-poisoning from his wife’s take-away kebab, he instructed his secretary to cancel appointments for the following day. Well before dawn, he dressed casually and wrapped himself in a thick overcoat with a high fur-collar, slipped a matching fur-cap with ear-muffs over his head and checked himself out in the mirror.
“Splendid,” he chuckled. “Unrecognizable.” He crept downstairs, nobody was about and the overnight security guard had sneaked off to the canteen for a cup of tea before changing shifts. The Prime Minister walked quickly along the tunnel from Downing Street through the connecting door to the musty underground Churchill’s War Rooms. “We’re leaving ground,” he whispered to the revered Statesman’s ghost as he climbed the steps and out onto Horse Guards Road. A black Rangerover with tinted windows was waiting, engine running, exhaust steaming in the bitterly cold December frost. He jogged over and clambered in the passenger door. His father smiled ruefully at him, and they drove off for the long drive north.
Six hours later the car stopped outside the entranceway of a private estate just over the Scottish border north of Gretna Green. It belonged to the First Minister of Scotland’s sister. She was in Spain for the winter leaving the property in the hands of her trusted housekeeper.
They rang the entrance phone. They didn’t need to announce anything, the camera could see the driver’s face perfectly. The tall white gates swung open and they drove up a long meandering gravel drive to the stables and entered the house through the kitchen door.
Waiting inside was Scotland’s First Minister, behind him, the housekeeper. The FM moved forward to shake hands icily with the PM. Although this was an off-the-record meeting and there were clandestine deals to be discussed, the two ministers disliked each other intensely. But political subterfuge makes for strange bedfellows. For the moment they smiled warily at each other as the host led his distinguished guest through to the lounge where a roaring fire blazed in the grate. Stuffed stag-heads were mounted on each wall interspersed with a dozen Van Dyke portraits, some of them with a remarkable resemblance to the FM. The PM was grateful that at least they had spared him some background music of wailing bag-pipes.
His Lordship did not want to be privy to the detail of their discussions so remained in the kitchen happy to accept the housekeeper’s offer of a full Scottish brunch with haggis, black pudding and free range eggs from the estate.
The two ministers sat opposite each other in padded green-leather arm-chairs either side of the fireplace.
“May I offer you some refreshments after your long journey?” invited the FM.
“Thanks, but no,” answered the PM tacitly. “I’d prefer that we got down to business. The quicker I’m away the better. Media and all that.”
“On the phone you intimated that the Scottish Parliament had a corruption problem,” mooted the FM. “I assume you have evidence to that effect?”
The PM opened his briefcase and passed over a copy of the Top Secret document.
The FM took it reluctantly and glanced through it. He reached the bottom of the page, looked up and said quietly shaking his head, “It seems that three of my leading cabinet members have received substantial payments into Isle of Man offshore bank accounts from a billionaire American Golf Course developer. I assume that was to ease the path of planning permissions near Aberdeen. Idiots. This will kill any chances of the Scottish National Party being re-elected and would keep the Labour Party in power here for decades.”
“It would indeed, and neither of us would want that,” interrupted the PM. “Therefore, I propose that we bury this evidence and agree a strategy to keep them out. But still it’s farewell to the ministers involved, they will resign.”
“I agree. I guess, there is no one to blame, but myself,” said the FM bitterly. “I trusted these men. Will things ever be the same again?“
“They could be if you go along with my proposals. I’m not asking that we’re heading for Venus or Mars,” said the PM. “What I’m offering is a Referendum for Scotland to secede from the Union.”
“But you’ve always been vehemently against.”
“That was before I needed something from you.”
“And still we stand tall. A referendum will ensure that we thrash Labour in Scotland but, what’s the catch?”
“You will support me on a matter that continues to divide my party.”
“How can we help?”
“I’m going to call for a free vote on our membership of the European Union.”
“Wow! You’d risk a Brexit referendum with no idea of what kind of deal you could negotiate with Brussels?”
“Same as yours in Scotland.”
“Point taken. What if you lose?”
“That’s where you come in.”
“After you’ve thrashed Labour in Scotland, you should have fifty odd seats in Westminster. You will ensure that they vote with me to stay in the EU.”
“That’s what we want anyway.”
“I know, then nobody will be surprised.”
“That’s ingenious Prime Minister. My respects. With so many light years to go until the next election. What’s your timeline?”
“Scottish referendum first, say in four years. It should give you ample time to get the people of Scotland behind you,, although I forecast that you will lose, but not by much.”
“We have to try, but you’re probably right, while the polls maybe in our favour, Nationalists tend to make hell of a lot of noise, whereas Remainers’ stay silent. And Europe?”
“Sometime during June two years after the Scottish referendum.”
“That sounds perfect. Are we in agreement?”
“Aye, that we are.”
The two men stood up and shook hands warmly.
The PM walked toward the kitchen. At the door he paused, turned and said, “Then let the Final Countdown begin.”
Paul S Bradley – baby boomer born in London too many years ago, escaped rat race to Spain in 1992 to pursue career in journalism. Published life-style magazines and guidebooks throughout southern Spain before concentrating on writing the Andalusian mystery Series. To learn more about him, please check out his Author website.
There are four types of clouds. Cirrus clouds are thin, wispy clouds that curl up like ringlets of hair. They are delicate and ladylike. Cirrus clouds are usually associated with pleasant weather. They are very high up in the sky and float by at their leisure. The first time I saw Sim, I thought to myself that she is like a Cirrus cloud: light, fragile and elegant. The world would be a wonderful place if we were all like Cirrus clouds.
I am like a Cirrus cloud too. If you knew me, you would understand why I say that. I don’t really want to be a Cirrus; I would prefer to be something more manly – like Stratus. Even the name is masculine and serious – like a Greek god. If you want to understand Stratus, try and imagine layers of white or grey. Stratus clouds lay low in the sky. They cover the horizon from end to end. They often come in after there has been cold weather, although they don’t really produce rain themselves; maybe just a drizzle. When I think of Stratus clouds, I like to think of white sheets, white blankets and long white sleepers. There is something comforting about them. They are calming, soothing, more mature than the other clouds. Maybe because once they are around, you know that whatever cold front has just happened, is now gone.
Cumulus clouds win the popularity contest so far as clouds are concerned. These are the large, puffy white clouds. This is what your average person will draw, when they are asked to draw a cloud. Personally, I find them messy. They are stacked unevenly, with the base being the flattest part and the rest of the cloud teetering up like a tower. It is almost like someone tried to make space for something else, but didn’t have the time or the energy to move what was already there aside properly. There are different types of cumulus clouds, and they are generally nothing to be scared of. What I mean is, they are not explicitly associated with bad weather . . . that is until they morph into some other combo with one of the other clouds. Then they can bring on major precipitation. Keep an eye open for cumulus, they cannot be completely trusted.
Nimbus is the last type of cloud; although, it is more like a status. Nimbus is never alone. It aligns with another cloud indicating that that cloud has reached the point of precipitation. Nimbostratus, represents an overcast sky with rain and snow. Cumulonimbus – the cloud that everyone fears – portends thunder, lightning, violent downpours, maybe even a tornado.
My interest in clouds began when I was a young boy staring out of the window of the classroom. Those lessons were pure torture for an awkward kid like myself. I was quiet, shy, soft spoken, uncoordinated, and slow. I probably would have been physically bullied, if I were a smaller kid. Fact is, I have always been very tall. Another fact: I am pretty slow. I talk slowly, I digest information slowly. There was a time that my parents were concerned that there was something wrong with me, you know – cognitively. I remember key words being lobbed about, when they assumed that I was sleeping. Words like: retardation, autism, cognitive obstruction. By the time I got to early teens, they had ruled out the big things, but it was still quite clear that I was not developing like the other boys. My muscle tone stayed slack and weak. My body remained hairless and my voice didn’t crack or anything – a fact that was probably most painful of all. When I had to speak, I sounded like a teenage girl and not like the man that I was anxious to become. At the age of sixteen I finally got an official diagnosis – Klinefelter syndrome. A not completely unheard of syndrome, that basically indicated a chromosomal mishmash. I started testosterone treatment, and wished myself out of school, away from all these kids who didn’t understand me.
When it came time to choose a profession, I needed something that didn’t require interacting, socializing or following the intricate nuances that people with fast tongues enjoy. I needed something that I could do by myself, something that required slowness and patience. Meteorology was that thing. I have always seen myself as a collector of knowledge. My collection isn’t on a shelf – it is endless and dynamic: every day brings a new sky, a new tide, a new phase of the moon, and different atmospheric phenomena. Just like with other collections – there are the regular patterns and predictable occurrences. But, if you are lucky – sometimes there will be an abnormality, an irregularity that it gets your blood boiling with excitement. Like seeing Asperitas – a formidable cloud formation that makes the heavens seem like an agitated and raging ocean of waves. The amazing thing about Asperitas is, that despite its angry and tempestuous veneer – it really just chases storms and almost never becomes one. It is a proverbial storm in a teacup.
The first time I met Sim I was a normal-looking, normal-sounding guy. She knew nothing of my pre-existing condition, and I preferred to keep it that way. I assume that there were things that she didn’t share with me either. Her background was not like a mine – I had a solid, loving, affluent family who did everything they could to mold me into what a normal man should be. Together we were like a Cirrostratus cloud – unassuming and almost transparent to the naked eye – but also consistent and stable: a sign for a warm front ahead. Did you know that the cirrostratus cloud can cause a halo affect around the sun? That was us – basking in the warmth of the sun, and radiating with love.
When I first saw her at the post office, unwrapping that package and taking out the doll, I knew that it was her that I had been waiting for all these years. I recognized her passion straight away. I knew that this was not her first doll. I knew that wherever she lived, she had a family of dolls waiting for this new addition. Collectors recognize other collectors. It definitely occurred to me that our respective collections were what we would dedicate our lives to – the legacy that we would leave behind. I would gather knowledge unique like snowflakes. She would become a renowned matriarch of collectible dolls. They would be her children and we would all live underneath the shifting skies as could be observed from our home.
In the middle of our neighborhood there is a lush and fertile patch of grass. It is a place where the kids play and the neighbors convene. From this point, the heavens are as plenteous and bountiful as the grounds. Sometimes, I go out and observe the world moving around me. It doesn’t really matter what the weather is, there is always something to be seen. I have been spending a lot of time outside. Ever since Sim decided that she wanted live children, and not just her collection.
I will admit it, I was surprised. I had thought that her dolls would be enough. For me they were. Sure, she spoke about having children when we met, but it was all theoretical. It is the thing that couples say – isn’t it? So I just nodded. Nevertheless, in that gentle but determined way of hers, she took us down fertility lane, like we were some project – leaving no stone unturned. There was a lot of pressure on me. I won’t lie.
This green patch is the only thing that keeps me sane. Especially now that she knows that I, unlike these grounds, am infertile. I could have told her this fact at the very beginning of our journey. Children were never on the cards for us. Cirrus clouds never bear rain. But, I don’t think she would have listened. Just like I didn’t listen to her when she told me over and over again that what she wanted was children of her own. I didn’t want to hear her. I shut her out completely, like someone hiding from a tornado. I took every possible precaution to keep her voice at bay, because listening to her would have meant telling her the truth – that this whole mission for children of our own is like Asperitas – a cloud that embodies a storm, but will never become one. She would never have married me if she had known that I could never be a nimbus cloud. When Klinefelter took my masculinity, I took it back with the help of testosterone. But, when it took my fertility, I had to concede defeat. I kept that from Sim from the very beginning. I let her imagine that I was just like everyone else – cumulus: fluffy one minute, and fecund the next.
R. K. Mayer is a writer, blogger and change management consultant. She is passionate about storytelling and transformation and how these elements interact. Her writing, blogging and consultancy all interface at the point where life meets change, and what is left is to adapt and to grow. She has two published books: The Perfection of the Glass Lemons, and The Place Where We Belong. She was born in South Africa and lives in Israel. To learn more about her, please visit her author website or her Facebook page.
Secrets and Clouds,