It is deeply satisfying to leap into a London black cab and say: “10 Downing Street, please.” Now, don’t be thinking I just popped in there and blurted it out, oh no. I mean, how many times do you get to do that in your life? I felt some sort of preparation was in order, so naturally, I rehearsed.
Should I sound like a weary member of the inner sanctum, called from the North to advise the great and powerful? Obviously, my advice would be, use glue next time for the backdrop, create a new department of oil rig management, base it on an actual oil rig and put Boris in charge of it, based on the actual oil rig.
More mysterious? A returnee from a dark dangerous place, albeit an undercover agent with a hot pink and white polka dot overnight bag, hastening to Number 10, with sensitive information fit only for the ears of the PM. Vladimir’s favoured brand of cough sweet, perhaps?
In the end I blew it. I bounced into a taxi at King’s Cross and bellowed with excitement 10 Downing Street to which the cab driver replied “You what, love?” not being able to understand my accent or my rapid action delivery.
So I took a deep breath, said it again and realised I sounded nothing like a mysterious worldweary mover and shaker, but exactly like a country bumpkin on a freebie.
Rather marvellously, the taxi driver gave a whoop and said he’d never had a fare to Downing Street before and behaved like an official driver with the Scottish Ambassador in the back. The entire street is a stage set. Who is the first prime minister you remember striding along that pavement to that door? Wilson, Heath? Remember Thatcher crying as she got into her car? John Major giving his graceful farewell, permitting himself a bit of tiny temper as he glanced up to the circling helicopters above his head, like hi-tech vultures? Tony Blair glad-handing his way in and Gordon Brown leaving with the dignity you expect of a son of the manse.
The door itself is an icon. It’s catnip for a history junkie like me to stand in the darkness behind it, the gloom that swallowed Dave as he whistled off into retirement following the most disastrous decision of any career since Napoleon said “I hear Moscow’s nice this time of year”.
Never mind whistling Dave. Was this where Churchill took off his homburg and coat? JFK chatted to MacMillan? Larry the Cat gave Palmerston a right old kicking?
It’s all very nice, but where’s Tesco?
Not a great location, to be honest. What happens when the milk runs out, eh? Or you fancy a bath with a Take A Break for a read? I walked a fair old distance before I found the nearest Tesco.
The neighbours look alright, though. Don’t look like the sort who kick off a late night sesh with two litres of Mad Dog 20/20, six backpackers from Australia and a set of bongo drums, an everyday occurrence in Leith.
Even if party central did land next door, you wouldn’t have to phone the police. There are hordes of them outside.
What a miserable way to start your day, though. Tripping down a staircase with all your predecessors gazing balefully down, reminding you of the ways they were offed. Elections lost, backbench revolts and falling under the wheels of a plot-fuelled juggernaut driven by your glowering next-door neighbour. David Cameron looks faintly surprised, as if he can’t quite believe he’s numbered amongst the Yesterday Leaders so soon. Dave is near the top of the stairs. No idea what they’ll do when they run out of wall space.
No Treeza? Oh well, pass the canapés
It’s handy for the work, though. You can walk to the House of Commons at a nifty old pace and do it in about ten minutes with my wee short legs. Bet Treeza can do it in eight.
Perhaps that’s where she was, walking to work. Because she wasn’t at the do. Never mind. I’m not that sure we would’ve got on. Well, she’s so tall, she probably wouldn’t have seen me. And she’s in enough trouble without having to stoop over even more to patronise me. Karen Something, a cabinet minister, turned up to say how lovely she thought Edinburgh was.
She looked a little startled to be playing host to a horde of arty Scots getting wired into the freebie nibbles and plonk, but from what I can gather about the current governing party, they regularly get startled by suddenly having to stand in for Treeza.
Wasn’t bothered, me. Treeza wasn’t the big attraction for me. Who doesn’t want to see the inside of Number 10? History, canapés and wine, and there really were a couple of random Aussies. Why, all we needed were the bongo drums and we had ourselves a party.