The dog days of August are over, yet so bleak has been September that already I long for them. Things started swimmingly as Letwin and I hunkered down to finesse The Party's strategy on the BBC. This requires some subtlety. Savage the corporation and all the newspapers will be cheerleaders. Put the boot in too often, however, and the public will leap to the defence of dear old Auntie.
Anyway, Ollie and I were merrily piecing together the jigsaw when the phone rang. "Hello, Gidders darling," said Venetia from Natural Selection, using an endearment which always prefaces very bad news. "We need you to check out a prospective candidate. Pronto."
“Who?" "Jones." "Absolute non-starter. I'll resign rather than play any part in that counter-jumper Dylan Jones furthering his . . ." "It's not Dylan, it's worse . . ." As if.
It was refreshing to discover that Dulverton had not changed a jot since my childhood. To go to the edge of Exmoor is to return to the 1950s. It is bucolic and it is bracing. Despite this, the maid who answered the door was in a terrible condition. Either she was hydrocephalic or she hadn't eaten for decades. Either way, she wasn't much of an advertisement for her house's cuisine.
Before I could enter, she hurried me off to look at the postbox which had apparently come under gun attack. She was most upset but, let's be honest, we were hardly talking Dublin 1916. Eventually, I was allowed into the house.
“Would you like some Illy?" she asked.
“Coffee will do fine, thank you."
She scuttled off, leaving me time to register how appallingly the house was decorated, before returning with promised coffee and dressed in a new
outfit. Most odd.
“Is your mistress here?" I asked, not unreasonably.
“Liz Jones is mistress of all she surveys," she replied, not entirely helpfully. "And where is Liz Jones?" I asked.
“I am Liz Jones."
Once again, so damned fluid are the classes these days, I had seemingly mistaken mistress for maid. No matter. Of more immediate concern was how this complete fruitcake had gulled Natural Selection into putting her forward as a putative candidate.
“So, Liz, why don't you tell me a little bit about yourself?"
“Must I," she replied, before telling me more about herself than all the people who have ever talked to me about themselves have told me about themselves combined. None of it was particularly interesting, although, to be fair, the expression "holistic shearer" was a new one on me.
An hour or so in, I intervened: "So . . . Liz, why do you want to be a Tory candidate?"
“Because I am superbright and, (on came the tears) "after all that's happened, if anyone deserves a safe seat . . . it's liddle ol' Liz."
There was no need to dignify this with a response.
Back at Letwin's the news broke that dear Alan had been sacked and sent to work for Grieve. It's enough to make you want to spoil your ballot paper.