Lordy Lordy - Quiz Night
I was woken by Box carrying my breakfast tray, with suspiciously strong looking coffee, well-cooked toast and a full spread of toast adornments, all of which indicated that Box was about to ask a favour.
"Thank you Box," I said. "I will adorn my own toast today, you may go."
"A couple of things, my Lord," he said in that tone he adopts when he's trying to pretend that he's merely serving me, rather than attempting to control my life with his Machiavellian cunning. "The tickets have arrived for the annual quiz night."
"Damn, I'd forgotten that was coming up." Every year the local party enters the village quiz, as does the local Lib Dem party, who win every time. "I'd rather just write a cheque to the village fund rather than going through the embarrassment of losing to the Lib Dems. We don't have a chance, they spend their lives reading up on quiz books and watching daytime TV, none of them have ever done a single days work."
"They're all local councilors my Lord."
"My point still stands Box. What's the other letter?"
"It's a note from the chief whip. He's asking all Peers to raise their social media profile, as we're losing the battle to younger and more online-savvy opposition Peers.
"Raise my social media profile Box? I don't have a social media profile."
"I rather think that's the point my lord."
"Is that all Box? Only my coffee is getting less lukewarm than it was when you arrived?"
"There was one other thing my lord, which pertains to the last two items."
"Speak plainly Box, it's still early."
"My nephew is seeking work experience and I was thinking he would be ideal to advise on enhancing your online presence. He's interested in politics and very digital savvy."
"We have no money for additional staff Box."
"It would be unpaid work experience, and we can claim volunteer expenses for travel."
"Travel? I thought he was helping me online."
"He has to come here, my lord, in order to upgrade your hardware and discuss content with you. I suggest we invite him to visit on Friday. He's a very keen quizzer, and we can take him to the quiz night."
"I like your thinking Box. Our secret weapon , finally our chance to beat the Lib Dems."
A few morning's later I was woken by a pimply youth in glasses holding a tray with somebody's else's breakfast on it.
"Wake up Lord, Lord, it's breakfast time," he shouted rather too loudly, after all I was asleep, not dead.
"What's this?" I said. "Who are you?"
"I'm Julius, Lord Lord, uncle Box is taking the morning off, said it'd be a chance for us to get to know each other. I've brought your breakfast."
"I don't know whose breakfast this is, but it isn't mine. You've brought tea, I always have coffee."
"My tea making skills have been widely praised," he said, failing to address the problem.
"And what's this, toast made from brown bread. You might as well make toast from wood-chippings."
"Brown bread is healthier than white, you'll thank me for it. I will come back in half an hour to discuss your twitter feed."
"But wait, what on earth is this?"
"It's your daily newspaper."
"No it is not. It's the Guardian, whose very words (frequently misspelt and grammatically chaotic as they are) are banned from this house. Have you seen the front page. 'We no longer need hereditary peers'. It's like waking up to a death threat."
"I always read the Guardian, I find it much better than The Times or the Telegraph. Jeff Lefty's cartoons are highly amusing."
I almost died of shock. I've been in politics for over fifty years, have met activists young and old from every wing of the party, even the odd leftie in my time, but never once have I met anyone who finds political cartoons amusing. What had Box let me in for?
Worse was to come. Half an hour later I joined Julius in the drawing room, where he proudly showed me 'my' first twitter post, or 'tweet'.
"I thought start with a picture of your house. People will be so wowed when they realise you live in a house built by your great, great ancestor."
"A picture of Lord Hall, built in 1562 by the first Lord Lord," I read.
"Good isn't it?."
"But everything you've said is inaccurate. It's Lord House, not Lord Hall, it was built in 1652, not 1562, by Sir Sidney Lord. We didn't become peers until 1701."
"Facts are so last year though, don't you think. Nobody'll check, they'll just be wowed out by the house and the title."
Worse was to come. In spite of first impressions, I let him drive me to parliament. I gave him the grand tour, with my usual amusing anecdotes, at which he barely smiled. Last of all I took him to my parliamentary office, which I try to avoid, sharing it as I do with Baroness Bluster.
"Lady Bluster," said Julius, "It's an honour to meet you, I'm your biggest fan. I enjoyed your Question last week in the Agricultural Affairs and Unconnected Business Debate.
I will leave you to imagine how horrid my day became. I was positively fuming by the time I met Box outside the village hall.
"The Chief whip is very annoyed with your tweets today, my Lord," he said, not bothering with so much as a hello, let alone an I'm sorry I burdened you with the most annoying teenager in the history of teenagers.
"Well I did point out the factual inaccuracies to your nephew."
"It was more the tweets praising Baroness Bluster. 'While I appreciate your continued good relations having worked so closely together during the coalition government' the message says, 'It is not acceptable to heap praise on opposition policies directly contrary to our own'."
"Did I do that?" I asked.
"I believe it was the series of tweets in support of refugees that really fueled the Chief Whip's ire."
"So much for your brilliant idea Box, I'm in the Chief Whip's bad books and look to all the world as if I don't know my own family history. Julius had better be a brilliant quizzer."
"There is something I need to update you on in that regard. Apparently Julius felt unable to support the party, even in a quiz team. He's joined the Lib Dems."
"As if they needed any extra help. It's going to be embarrassing."
The night passed with the usual frustrations of a quiz night, those answers that you know but which elude you until the very second the quizmaster gives you the answer, the questions you argue about and end up crossing out the correct answer, the date questions you miss out on by a year, and the pop music round, which is ten points lost before you start adding up the rest of the scores.
"This will be our worst year ever," I said.
Then the Lib Dems started reading out their scores. 'Geography round - nil points. History - nil points. Pop music - nil points'.
"What on earth happened Box? The Lib Dem team always scores 9 or 10 in every round. We've only gone and bloody won."
"Julius my lord. He's a complete idiot, but a very confident idiot, the sort that can convince people who know the answer that they're wrong. I'm very much afraid he's going to end up as PM one day."
"You planned the whole thing, didn't you Box. You knew he'd join the Lib Dem team and you knew he'd be terrible."
"Yes my lord. Very much the way I anticipated the Chief Whip's latest email. He's ordered that you close your twitter account and refrain from using social media."
"I don't know how to thank you Box. Yes I do, you can have the prize we won at the quiz. It's a copy of Baroness Bluster's autobiography, Blustering On. Julius donated it."
"Thank you my lord. Your generosity never fails you."
"You've earned it Box. Don't think I don't notice how much you do for me. Just don't ever bring it in the house."