Saturday, 16 July 2016
A week was once thought to be a long time in politics. But these past few weeks have made normal political time look positively glacial. The British people’s decision to leave the EU – not yet sunk in, or even accepted, for some – has caused rumblings across the world and more fracture lines are showing in EU unity as Germany imposes border checks in response to the Nice attack; the Schengen area of free movement may soon be thing of the past. Meanwhile an attempted military coup in Turkey throws their entire relationship with the west into sharp focus. Every day’s events seem to make yesterday’s decisions into mere historical relics.
Other things of the past include cabinet ministers as Theresa May sweeps away the not so old and brings in the shiny new faces for the electorate to irrationally hate any time soon. The world of politics is a bruising one with many perfectly decent, effective and honourable people vilified for a single action, a careless word or simply not being photogenic enough for the public palate. And what awaits them after office? Some high-flyers will be endowed with riches, but others just slide off into the simple oblivion of a modest retirement far away from the glare of publicity.
Retirement these days can last a long time and one long-time retired, long forgotten and now very elderly couple’s flame flickered on some decades after their public fire ceased to roar. Although they were not poor, their Westminster pension from the old days made them far from rich. They managed to get by comfortably by skimping and watching their pennies and were in pretty good health for their age, mainly because of the wife's insistence on healthy foods and exercise since their sixties.
But fate is a fickle master and despite their careful regime they tragically met their demise in a plane crash returning from holiday. Being good people at heart they found themselves at Heaven’s gate with St Peter himself as their heavenly concierge. He welcomed them and showed them around their new home. It was a replica of their old home but with everything as they would have dreamed. Everything was bigger and everything was new and everything worked perfectly. In addition a maid tended to their daily needs, a cook busied himself in the kitchen and a gardener hummed happily away outside, making perfect stripes in a bowling green lawn.
The couple enquired about the cost of upkeep, to which St Peter relied. “How much? Nothing. You have earned this by being good during your lives and this is your reward. Heaven with all its blessings and luxuries.” The old man looked out the window to see a championship golf course, finer and greener than any on Earth. “I used to love golf” said the man, “but I couldn't afford to play much more than a few times a year on Earth. And with my back...” St Peter held up a hand. “Remember, this is Heaven. Your back is already better and the greens are free. Play as often as you wish. On the house.”
In the club house they walked through the dining room where tables groaned under the weight of a lavish buffet. Seafood, steaks, exotic desserts and free flowing wine. All limitless and free of charge. The old man glanced at his wife and asked, “Well, where are the low fat and low cholesterol foods, and the decaffeinated tea?” Saint Peter just laughed. “You are in heaven now. You can eat and drink as much as you like, whatever you like, and you will never get fat, sick, or too drunk to function.”
“We don’t have to work out to stay trim?” asked the man, to which St Peter just laughed and said “Not unless you want to exercise for the fun of it.” He went on, “No medical checks, no pills, no diet regimes. All you have to do here is enjoy yourself.” The man turned to his wife a tear in his eyes and said “You and your rice cakes, steamed veg, sugarless tea and all those bloody pills you’ve had me on... We could have been here fifteen years ago!”