“On her hands and knees, she was, Gidders,” brayed David Cameron, chuckling maniacally and throwing back his throbbing, boiled ham head. “You jolly well should have seen her – prostrate on the floor, clawing away at my ankles like some kind of ghastly wild animal.”
He paused to drain the contents of a colossal, bulbous brandy glass.
“And the tears, Gidders, the floods of tears. I really didn’t know where to look. Neither did the other diners. I won’t be able to show my face in Apsley’s again for a while, I’ll tell you that. It was all quite mortifying, now I come to think about it.”
“What was it all about?,” gasped George Osborne, eagerly. “What did she want?”
“I’m not sure, old chap. Something about wanting my support or blessing for something or other,” replied Cameron, scratching his chin. “A billion pounds to make a deal with the DVLA to move to Northern Ireland or something of the sort. ‘What the blazes do I care?’, I said to her. ‘Go and pester Boris, can’t you see I’m busy with my fish course, woman?’.”
A white gloved waiter ghosted alongside the pair and set down a silver coffee pot. Another waiter breezed in efficiently and delivered two china cup and saucer sets, a pot of cream and a bowl of sugar cubes.
Osborne eyed the waiters warily until they glided away out of earshot.
“Can I put that in The Standard, David?” he hissed, conspiratorially. “It’d be a jolly good wheeze.”
Cameron curled his lip and slumped back in his chair.
“Do whatever you damn well like, Gidders,” he spat. “You can run a front page story telling people Theresa May is planning to introduce legislation to force everyone to walk around with their genitals flapping around in the breeze for all I care. After that EU referendum business, this country can burn to the ground as far as I’m concerned. I was so looking forward to seeing my face on the five euro note. I’d have looked very handsome on a five euro note.”
An blissful, faraway look spread over Osborne’s face as he began pouring coffee into an ornate china cup.
“Oh how jolly exciting,” he mused, dreamily. “Jolly exciting. Jo…lly…Exc…iting…”
“Gidders. No. Not again,” exploded Cameron, slapping both hands down forcibly upon the dining table. “I thought you were over this. An entire month in The Priory. The hypnotherapy. The electro-shock treatment. That illegal Clockwork Orange style aversion therapy we paid those back alley Albanians top dollar for. All those private sessions we bought you with that beastly Paul McKenna creature, for crying out loud.”
The cup was now brimming perilously with steaming hot coffee as the rictus, grinning Osborne continued to pour with oblivious abandon.
“Drat,” muttered Cameron, petulantly flinging down his napkin and rising wearily from his chair.
He caught a passing waiter by the arm and snatched a heavy silver platter from his grasp.
“One moment, my man,” he muttered to the confused flunky. “I just need to borrow this for a brief moment.”
He took three slow, deliberate paces to the side of Osborne, who had now succeeded in draining the entire coffee pot. He had stained all but a few isolated islands of the pristine white tablecloth an unedifying effluent brown in the process.
Cameron frowned and grasped the platter in his right hand, took a deep breath and took a two gentle practice swings as if tentatively weighing up a new tennis racket in a crowded sports shop.
In a single fluid motion, he took two furious steps forward and swung the platter with such ferocity into the side of Osborne’s head that he was knocked backwards, chair and all, in an awkward sprawl across the carpeted floor.
“Thank you, my man,” growled Cameron, handing the dented platter back to the wide-eyed waiter and smoothing down his suit jacket.
He returned to his seat, ignoring the aghast stares directed at him by the smattering of fellow diners at the periphery of the room.
Clawing his way back into a sitting position, Osborne surveyed the scene of coffee coloured carnage in front of him.
“Was…was I doing that spaced out, faraway thing aga….”
“Yes, Gidders, you were,” came Cameron’s terse interruption, accompanied by folded arms, sour expression and a long, protracted silence. “You were indeed.”
The pair sat and stared uneasily into space for several minutes while a waiter tried in vain to mop up the pools of coffee which had formed on the tablecloth with a handful of paper towels.
“Theresa though, eh?,” Osborne finally piped up. “Disaster, eh, old boy?”
Cameron grunted a non-committal agreement and continued to stare sullenly at the empty coffee pot.
“Problem is David,” chirped Osborne, in a further attempt to break the now frosty atmosphere between them, “is that she didn’t get the right education.”
“She’s not instilled with the traditions, the discipline, the rigorous pursuit of intellectual excellence that we are. She never tried out for a rugby team. Never picked up a cricket bat. Doesn’t understand the customs, the jolly old ways of a good school.”
He took a sip from his over-filled coffee cup and forged ahead.
“What I’m driving at David, is that she’s never, for example, had to stand in tight swimming trunks and read the Daily Telegraph aloud in her best Joanna Lumley voice to the housemaster while he slowly rubbed himself all over with a bar of Pear’s soap in an old tin bathtub. She’ll never know the joys of being hand-picked to fulfill ancient traditional roles like that.”
Cameron glanced over at Osborne, a look of disgust spreading over his face.
“We were never asked to do that at Eton,” he spat with utter contempt. “That’s bally well obscene, Gidders. The mark of a lesser school, that is. A lesser school.”
A faraway look played across his gammon pink face.
“The worst Boris ever did was insist I dress up as an old washer woman and thrash him awake at six every morning with an old carpet beater when I was fagging for him,” he sighed, wistfully. “Eton was an altogether more civilised affair. Not like the second rate gutter your Mickey Mouse wallpaper salesman father sent you to, Gidders, you ill bred, jumped up little peasant.”
Osborne’s bottom lip began to tremble. He began breathing heavily, staring balefully at his dining companion.
Maintaining eye contact with Cameron, he slowly reached over to the sugar bowl with a shaking hand. He began slowly feeding sugar cube after sugar cube into his mouth.
“Oh Gidders, do stop that,” groaned Cameron, eventually. “You can’t kill yourself with a sugar cube overdose. We’ve been through this a thousand times. It’s impossible. Just because Jamie Oliver says something, it doesn’t mean it’s true.”
With cheeks now bulging with solidified sugar, Osborne shook his head defiantly and slowly wedged another cube into his now congested mouth.
Cameron sighed. “Oh come on now Gidders, let’s not fall out.”
Osborne forced the final cube in the bowl through his pursed lips and sat back triumphantly, cross armed and puce faced.
The former Prime Minister eyed him warily. If Osborne were to die at the table, it might well make future reservations nigh on impossible. Only subtlety, diplomatic nous and a deft touch could prevent this situation from developing into a crisis. “Remember Libya, David,” he thought to himself. “You’ve done this before.”
He groaned wearily and leaned forwards.
“What if I got you a proper exclusive for your silly newspaper? Would you stop this foolish nonsense then, Gidders?”
Osborne nonchalantly shrugged his shoulders and continued to sit perfectly still, staring angrily at Cameron.
Cameron whipped a mobile phone out of his suit jacket and jabbed at it with his index finger.
He held it to his ear and looked over at Osborne with a raised eyebrow.
“Theresa!” He boomed. “How are you my dear lady?”
He winced and smiled uneasily as the Prime Minister answered.
“Bother with Davis, eh? Fox? And old thrasher too? Oh, how terribly ghastly for you,” he continued with mock sincerity. “Is there anything I can do to help?”
Osborne’s face lit up from across the table. His bulging mouth contorted into the nearest thing to a smile it could manage whilst occupied by 16 sugar cubes.
“No, Theresa. I’m in Claridge’s with Gidders. You’re unlikely to find me in my office nowadays anyway…why? Because it’s your office now. Remember what we talked about – you’re the Prime Minister these days.”
He shot Osborne a pained expression and held his phone away from his ear as a long, mournful wail became audible from the handset.
“Anyway. I wondered if you could settle an argument, Theresa…No, no, it’s not the real versus fake leather trouser debate again…Just…just calm down dear and listen to me for a moment.
“Gidders and I were just mulling something over and we need a strong and stable casting vote on the matter.”
He winked over at the wide-eyed Osborne and continued.
“Answer me this, Theresa. What would you rather do – agree to go around to Guy Verhofstadt’s house every weekend and wash his car in a nineteen forties style bathing costume while he stares, grinning at you with those crooked peg teeth from atop a child’s rocking horse…or change your name by deed poll to ‘Trees are Gay’?”
Osborne, now lost in the moment, let out a roaring laugh, spewing a mouthful of half melted sugar cubes across the ruined table cloth like a torrent of sticky marbles.
“No. No Theresa. There is no third way. One or the other. Strong and stable, remember? Leadership. Decisiveness.”
The phone fell silent for a few seconds. Osborne leaned forward eagerly and strained his ear towards Cameron’s. He heard a faint, tinny sigh followed by a solemn pronouncement. “Trees are Gay, David.”
“Jolly good,” roared Cameron, as Osborne collapsed in a gibbering heap on the table. He jabbed the phone with his finger, ending the call abruptly.
“There you go, Gidders,” he announced triumphantly. “That’ll make a good front page. ‘Sources – PM gambles on changing name to Trees are Gay to snatch poofy green LGBT votes’. It’s brilliant.”
Osborne nodded smugly and cradled his chin.
“Or I could say that she actually believes that trees are gay. That’d be jolly amusing too.”
Cameron frowned and shook his head dismissively.
“No, Gidders, I’d much rather you stick to my idea. Between you and I, the Prince of Wales actually does think trees are gay, and the last thing we want is the Royals being dragged into this.”
“Just goes to show though, old chap. She’s so desperate for any kind of friendship that we could probably get her to say anything. You’ll end up with a Howitzer Prize, or whatever they are, if you stick with me.”
Osborne narrowed his eyes, considering the possibilities laid out before him.
“We could get her to say she likes nothing better than a bit of Nazi dress-up – with Philip in a blonde wig as Eva Braun,” exclaimed Osborne, rising to his feet.
“We could get her say she formulates social policy whilst sitting cross legged on an Islamic prayer mat at the summit of Ben Arthur while ingesting experimental strains of Peruvian torch cactus sap.” boomed Cameron, springing from his seat.
The men stared feverishly over the table at one another, sweating and panting excitedly.
“David,” gasped Osborne, gripping the soiled table cloth. “I’m so excited. So firstly – we’re going directly to Derry Street to smash my office up and wrestle bare chested until we’re too exhausted to move.”
“YES!,” bellowed Cameron, thumping the table in a violent staccato motion. “IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CENOBITIC PROTOCOLS LAID OUT WITHIN THE ANCIENT BULLINGDON SCROLLS!”
“Then,” panted Osborne, jabbing the table with his index finger. “Then…I’m going to call an editorial meeting.”
“At that meeting, I am going to make an announcement. Namely that the politics team are all fired and that they are being replaced by the one and only….DAVID WILLIAM DONALD CAMERON!”
“YES!…Wait, hold on a moment – what the devil do I know about newspapers?”
“About as much as I do, David.”
Cameron paused for a moment to consider whether he was suitably qualified to be left in sole charge of producing the daily politics pages of the London Evening Standard. He shrugged his shoulders and smiled. How difficult could it be?
“Jolly good, should be a ripping good laugh, if anything,” he trumpeted, clicking his fingers. “Waiter, be a good chap and call us a cab to Derry Street.”
“Oh, and send the bill for all this to the accounts department, would you?,” chirped Osborne, linking arms with Cameron and skipping out of Claridge’s dining room with gay abandon.
“Read all about it, read all about it,” chanted Osborne, yobbishly.
“THE NEWS OF THE WORLD. THE NEWS OF THE WORLD,” they both barked, pumping their fists in unison as they spilled out messily into Brook Street.
© DH 2017