filthy mist rolls down the grimy street, the yellowing
vapour reminiscent of the smogs of my grandparents'
childhood days. Along greasy footpaths, I hasten towards
the ageing terraced-house I call home. A lethal
combination of fog and the onset of darkness have
reduced visibility to a few bare paces. Bus-services
stopped running a while before I left work. What a day
for it to happen; I have a date with Julie later this
evening. At the thought of her, I increase my pace. The
day has brought a marked drop in temperature. I shiver
in the dank mid-November air.
the murk comes the muffled tooting of horns. Streams of
foolhardy motorists clog the roads, persistent in their
efforts to find a way home. Inside their heated tin cans
they sit, their speed a crawl, no faster than my own.
Bloody idiots! The worst fog in forty years - or so
banal presenters on local radio have been announcing all
day. Their voices, filled with false sincerity, promote
an inconvenience up to that of a crisis. I imagine it
enlivens their day; a change from broadcasting an
endless stream of stories about pets, pigeons and the
local football team. I swear, each time a player breaks
wind, the channel has a three-hour in-depth debate on
the third attempt, I find the right house and make it
home. In these conditions, how easy it is for the senses
to become confused. The Jones and Ashley families will
be chuckling still about my unexpected arrival into
their homes. My face burns with embarrassment, as I push
open my own front door.
Dad, I'm back," I splutter as I suffer a
coughing-fit, brought on by the change of air.
from the swirling fumes, the foul atmosphere has
irritated a chest-cold I thought I had conquered. A hot
shower and dinner revive me. Dressed in much warmer
clothes, I am fit enough again for anything. A last
flick of the razor over the day's growth and it is time
to go to meet Julie. In the background, the familiar
closing-theme of an early evening TV soap fades. Ma
rushes into the kitchen to switch on the kettle, and
uncover the packet of chocolate biscuits she believes
she has hidden from me. A vain hope, but I have left
them some. Dad, of course, decides on the rest of the
do you think you're going?" a scandalised cry comes
from the kitchen. "You know you've had that cold
for a fortnight. You'll be up all night coughing if you
go out again in this weather. Dad, you tell him!"
from the front room. Dad ignores the altercation. His
interest lies in the TV section of the evening paper.
Sensible chap. Where possible, he avoids becoming
embroiled in one of Ma's rants. I shuffle into my coat.
right, Nathan, but don't you come running to me for
sympathy when you're poorly again!"
Ma, I won't. Promised I'd see Julie, must fly, seez you
haste, I close the door, cutting-off further comments.
With my scarf wrapped over my nose and mouth, I vanish
into the swirling darkness. By the dim light coming from
the window of a nearby off-licence, I snatch a look at
my watch; damn it, late again. It is already a quarter
to eight. I promised Julie I would be at her house by
half-past seven. Damn the weather! Damn the buses! The
meeting we are to attend starts at eight-thirty.
Rush-hour traffic has dissipated. Along silent, empty
roads I race. The dismal light from street lamps
struggles to penetrate the mist. Vague shapes loom out
of the darkness. People, walls, hedges, house-sides, all
are unrecognisable until close to. From their shapes
they could be monsters lying in wait! The clang of the
gate, outside Julie's house, alerts her to my arrival.
The cheesy sound of door chimes strengthens as the door
you, Nathan Philip Andrews, you're late again," she
snaps, her back straight and stiff.
Julie uses my full name, I know I am in trouble. Her
eyes are ablaze and her lips pursed, confirmation, if
needed, of her state of mind.
love, the buses stopped running at lunch time. I had to
walk home from work. It took me hours. Come on, hurry
up, put your coat on, if we rush we can still make it on
time to the meeting."
a quick kiss and struggle in the doorway, Julie,
somewhat mollified, grabs her coat from a peg in the
hallway. At speed, we set off down side-roads and
through claustrophobic, crumbling brick-lined ginnels
towards our destination. We burst into the wood-panelled
and white-plastered hall. The meeting is due to
commence. Breathless, we slide into a pair of seats at
the rear of the room.
inclement weather has kept away many of the potential
audience. Row after row of plastic chairs are empty. The
speaker-to-be appears unconcerned by this insult to his
magnetic personality. On stage, after a brief glare of
disapproval towards us at our late arrival, he launches
into his well-crafted speech.
Party for National Unit..." he booms.
sit and listen. On and on his voice drones. My eyes
droop. There is no lack of motivation in his words, but
I have heard them many times. A question and answer
session will follow the speech. Later, after the
non-party members have left, for the chosen few the
evening's important agenda commences. Three years ago,
Julie became a party member. Because I was, still am,
very much in love with her, I joined soon afterwards to
be closer to her. In those days, when we were both
eighteen, it was a fledgling organisation. If I am
honest, Julie is the fanatical one; but her passions
extend beyond politics, which means I reap the rewards
of party-membership in other ways.
the speaker answers questions, Julie and I sneak-out
through the stained-glass, wood-framed doors at the back
of the room. Down the corridor, in a draughty kitchen at
the side of the hall, we prepare tea and biscuits.
Well-practised, we work with an economy of effort. We
have time to spare before the wearisome session
next-door ends. The same issues, which arise time after
time, meeting after meeting, the speaker deals with as
if they are original and thought-provoking.
the Party's policies work in practice? Why does the PNU,
which claims to be a party for national unity, seem
determined to split the country? Why does the party's
name appear, whenever, since Brexit, a strike or
demonstration takes place; in fact, when anything
happens to challenge the established order of the
matter how trivial, every question receives an erudite
answer. Each response, statesmanlike though it may be,
bears little, if any, relevance to the original request.
In this respect, we differ little from any other
political party. Almost without fail, the questioner
goes away pacified, if not satisfied. This charismatic
speechmaker, whose words overflow with charm and
assurance, delivers his replies with confidence, as
indeed he should. He is the great Joseph J Emerson,
esteemed leader of the PNU.
exaggerated 'Ahem' comes from the doorway leading into
the corridor. Julie and I break apart. She wipes a smear
of her lipstick from my face. We look round, trying to
appear unconcerned. Old Alf, the caretaker, leers at us.
A knowing sly wink he aims in my direction.
about done in there. I thought I'd better warn you two -
to put the kettle on, of course," again the knowing
suppose that means you'll want the first cup and the
pick of the biscuits," Julie says.
habits are familiar to us. Soon, a majority of the
audience, twenty in total, amble into the room at the
other side of the serving hatch. They invade our privacy
in search of their compensation for sitting through the
evening's proceedings. Joseph J circulates. He speaks in
broad terms or in confidence, if requested, to those who
hang on to his words. After a while, once the plates of
biscuits are empty, the non-members drift away to
pastures new (home or, in all likelihood, the nearest
invited to remain behind retire to a former function
room upstairs, which we rent as the local party office.
Julie and I wash up. Ten minutes later, we join the
others. Downstairs, Alf keeps a watchful eye for anyone
who might try to gain entry or eavesdrop. He takes no
interest in what goes on behind the locked door above.
The generous payment he receives for his duties is
enough to satisfy his curiosity.
* * * * *
rises to his feet. The idle chatter of the gathering
comes to a halt. We wait, eleven of us, for the great
subtle change has taken place in his tone and accent. It
has become down-to-earth, conspiratorial and
encompassing toward us, his selected audience. He waits
until the usual coughing and fidgeting subside. Once we
are comfortable, he clears his throat, then continues.
you are aware, our agents meet with great success as
they incite unrest throughout the country. The economy
is in a mess, although that is nothing new. Strikes have
spread nation-wide. Demonstrations against the
government take place daily. Our participation in these
events we keep secret. Of course, rumours of our
involvement abound, which we deny and dismiss as
the polls tell us, the PNU has the majority backing of
the country's electorate. Whenever an opportunity
arises, in public or in private, we condemn the
government. Everyone knows that, in our opinion, the
malpractices of our leaders have led to this widespread
disorder. Yet, at the same time, we offer sympathy to
the populace, to those citizens in extremis, driven to
attempt to bring about a better Britain. By demonising
the elderly, the jobless, those on low-incomes or
benefits, while squandering billions on unhelpful
reforms across institutions countrywide, the government
plays into our hands. They make it easy for us to
ferment nationwide unrest.
know our actions are necessary. A succession of weak and
half-brained administrations, in or out of coalition,
has dragged our once great island through the mire. Do
the ruling parties ever put aside petty jealousies to do
the job the people elect them to do? Did they learn the
lessons of the Brexit referendum? No! Do we have a
remedy? Yes! We are the answer. You, me and our
colleagues spread throughout the land. We are the Party
for National Unity."
pauses a moment. Enthusiastic applause rings out. His
beaming countenance lights up the room. He waits until
his audience falls silent before he continues.
before have we fielded parliamentary candidates.
Although requested on numerous occasions to do so, we
have declined. Now, at last, the time is right. Clamour
for our involvement is at fever pitch. Stage-two of our
campaign is set for implementation. In twelve months, a
general election will be upon us. We shall contest it,
compelled, we shall say, to do so by the ineptitude of
the country's current political parties. We shall field
a candidate for each seat and, my friends, we shall
achieve an overwhelming majority. We have the backing of
many major figures in business, the police and the
military. Once in government, we will put Britain back
where it belongs, as a leading international
sit back and listen. The rhetoric continues. Each member
of the audience is in awe at the presence of such an
incredible visionary. We will dominate the election,
achieve an historic victory and, in doing so, secure the
futures of those activists involved.
most people in the room, their involvement with the
party has been since its inauguration. We will become
leaders of an invigorated nation. Whether our role be a
political one, or one of a multitude of other positions,
we will take control of the country. Life is amazing. To
be twenty-one and to have a bright and assured future is
exhilarating. Some of our compatriots might distrust us,
even fear us, but we have the backing of the majority -
for as long as it matters. Rare it is for my zeal to
approach that of Julie's, but tonight is one of those
clock approaches eleven. The meeting ends. After much
handshaking and backslapping, we make our ways back to
our respective homes. JJ's enthusiasm has inspired each
one of us. We are secure in the knowledge of our roles
in the momentous events to come. Hand in hand with
Julie, I walk her home. The all-pervading mist is
thicker than ever. We part at her doorstep. A passionate
goodnight kiss, a slapped hand, then away I go, to dream
of glory to come. Soon, we will put the country to
* * * * *
months that follow the meeting pass by at an astonishing
rate. The owner of the factory, where I work in
production-planning, is a party-sympathiser. He allows
me extensive time-off, on full pay, to canvass
door-to-door, district-by-district. On evenings and at
weekends, Julie and I attend political gatherings, far
and wide. There, among thousands of other jubilant
followers, we listen to, and applaud, our various
of troublemakers ensure meetings, held by other parties,
face frequent disruption. In contrast, our gatherings
have tight security, policed by either the appropriate
authorities or our own well-disciplined groups. Friends
in the right places ensure we receive the maximum amount
of positive publicity. As a result, the election in
October, as forecast by JJ, is a landslide. The PNU take
all but seventy-five seats in the Houses of Parliament.
A token resistance now sits on the opposition benches,
bereft of influence and effective voice.
this period, Julie and I become much closer. Two weeks
after the announcement of the results, we hold a double
celebration, victory and our engagement. Julie's parents
have misgivings about the latter, but that is a common
failing among parents when faced with their offspring's
choice of partners. My parents are the opposite. I am to
marry someone who lives in a semi; a huge step up from
our well cared-for back-to-back terraced house.
weeks, the new government shows its iron fist to the
country. Strikes become illegal. Firms must provide
monthly productivity figures to the Department for
Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, which then
demands improvements. A public outcry from some owners,
and near riots by workers, follows these repressive
measures, a response we had anticipated.
months after taking office, JJ's government instigates a
state of emergency. The government create a National
Security Force, using loyal party elements from both
police and armed-forces. Unlike the police, NSF units
bear arms and are a law unto themselves. This, of
course, was a part of the Party's hidden agenda. Loyal
members welcome it with open arms. Now we can begin in
earnest to put the country back on its feet. For me, the
vicious methods employed by the new force tempers my
enthusiasm for them. Their brutality is gratuitous.
Julie, as usual, maintains her belief in her beloved
the exception of PNU rallies, a ban on all public
meetings comes into effect. Days later, with their
leaders arrested or on the run, the disbandment of
trade-union organisations takes place. Imprisonment,
without trial, for troublemakers becomes the standard
method of dealing with opposition. Instead of to prison
cells, the authorities put the detainees to work on the
many improvement schemes the government has initiated.
measures stir-up further unrest among the populace;
protest groups receive similar treatment. In a
calculated escalation, instead of the police, NSF troops
become the ones to handle dissent on the streets. On the
first occasion in which they see action, several
protesters are shot and killed while 'resisting' arrest.
Under such harsh treatment, support for open opposition
collapses. A massive propaganda campaign comes into
time, people begin to appreciate the advances that
appear in everyday life. Public services and transport
become more efficient. Industrial productivity soars.
The rich become richer, while the less well-off see some
improvement in their lives. The populace finds it
convenient to forget the plight of thousands of
political detainees. These are the people who, by their
sweated labour in and out of the political
reform-centres and forced-labour camps, bring about many
of these changes. Providing no-one voices their thoughts
in the hearing of the many informants, the majority of
the population find their standard of living rises.
myself, I reap the rewards for my diligent work within
the movement. I become the party representative at a
large factory complex in the centre of Sheffield,
Dawson's Springs and Metal Forgings. With powers greater
than those of the directors, lord, how everyone fawns
over me. The board, in particular, are careful to watch
their words and temper their actions. One word from me
and they could be sweeping the floors. Under my tenure,
productivity increases. My reputation within
party-circles also rises.
That, I suppose, is the meaning of the game. In many
ways, a game it has become to me. I soak up the
attention gained through my position. At first, I
hesitate to exercise my authority to the full. With the
gradual realisation of my true position in society, I
try-out my strength and wield my influence with greater
learn to quieten my conscience. With practice, it
becomes easier to hide my guilt or remorse when, because
of some infringement, I condemn someone to several
months of re-education in a political-reform centre.
Power is a mantle to wear; I wear mine as if moulded to
me, or give the appearance of it being so. My sense of
right and wrong, instilled into me by my parents from
childhood, although suppressed, refuses to abandon me.
from Love, Lies and Treachery Copyright Brian R Hill 2016
Number: 284707313 - UK Copyright Service