Saturday, 4 October 2014

That Was The Week That Was - Part 1

First of all - apologies for no blogging - it's been quite a week.

I am starting to blog again, but if you are hoping for gossip, rumours or inside tidbits about the by-election, I am afraid you will be sadly disappointed. I have always blogged to share humour, good practice and Association gossip - but not to divulge information which could damage or hinder. So no matter how juicy, eye-widening or titillating, if it's about Rochester & Strood you will not read it here!

So here is a recap of the last seven days (part two tomorrow).

After two frantically busy conference seasons (in 2012 I was looking after our PCC candidate and in 2013 I was agent in an 18,000 majority seat about to select a candidate) I was looking forward to a quiet time catching-up with friends.  Rather than book a hotel room we teamed-up with Rochester Association Chairman Andrew Mackness and his wife Nancy to hire a canalboat to sleep-on during the week. Even my long-suffering partner Steve joined us for the two pre-conference days between collecting the boat and arriving in Birmingham. In fact, here we are enjoying the autumn sunshine.

Part of the journey along the Worcester & Birmingham canal is the magnificent Wast Hills Tunnel, 2.5km long and taking around 1 hour to travel. There is something very contemplative about being deep underground, in pitch darkness and with no modern communications. I was sitting at the front of the boat looking at the distant light and thinking through the year ahead. Steve, Nancy and Andrew were astern, Steve using the perfect acoustics to sing the Tenor's aria from Hendel's Messiah (beautifully). 

As we emerged into the Birmingham suburbs, Andrew Mackness came forward to join me and we talked through our plans for the Conservative Party in Kent and the forthcoming election. Suddenly as our phones reconnected with the modern world a cacophony of beeps and bloops indicated 22 missed calls and 17 texts.  Andrew's phone was doing likewise, but with a different range of beeps. "I wonder what might have happened which has made us both so popular?" I asked, nervously, almost knowing that I probably didn't want to know the answer.

As the reality sunk in all hopes of a quiet week drinking coffee with friends faded into oblivion. Alongside me, Andrew Mackness said "Oh dear, that's not very decent of him" (or something like that!)  I immediately thought of just 18 hours earlier when I had bumped into Mark Reckless on Rochester High Street, as I often did. Conversation was never easy despite having known him for 10 years. For some reason he appeared to be dressed in a grey valour "onesie".

"Hello Mark, how are you?" I enquired. He stared at me as if we had never met. "I am putting out the rubbish" he replied - looking at the black sack at his feet, before adding, "don't sniff it." Whilst contemplating why he would think I would wish to sniff his rubbish, he added, "It really doesn't smell very nice at all, it might have nappies in it."  I didn't really know what to say, but thankfully he was on a roll and broke the awkward silence. "I've got two or three more sacks to bring out".  He stood rigid, blinking at me. I was a bit lost for words at the absurdity of the conversation. "Do they all smell as bad as this one does?" I enquired. Another long pause, before he replied "I'm not sure, really." And with that he walked inside.   

I wondered if "it really doesn't smell very nice at all" was a euphemism for what he was about to do, or perhaps the entire conversation was a smokescreen to stop me asking him questions he would struggle to answer. Whatever the reason I knew my week catching up with long lost friends was about to change.

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