Our brilliant new columnist on Johnson family mealtimes, Trump’s random punctuation and why she’s not standing to be the MP for Maidenhead
If I had a euro for every person who’d gone, ‘oo-er, must be interesting around the family Sunday lunch table eh’ since early 2016 I’d be coining it. The virtual stranger (nobody who knows me well would go there) will pause in happy expectation. I can see in their eyes the hope that I’ll vouchsafe private tales of dinner plates hurled at each others’ heads as we debate the impossibilities of frictionless trade or a People’s Vote on the deal. I will tell them all about the time that my husband threatened me with divorce if the Leave campaign led by Gove and you-know-who swung it and then they did and my children cried. I’ll totally dish about what really happened when I went on the Remain boat with Bob Geldof on the Thames with the flotilla of fishermen and Farage. Or failing that supply them with some gobbet about the foreign secretary they can regurgitate if they trigger me by saying something insulting about his (impeccable) grooming regime and attire or ask who owns the family hairbrush.
Newsflash! This never goes down well. Serieusement folks. Do people think we all live together like the Waltons under one roof? I would like to make it very clear that as a family we only have plenaries every month or so and when we do, there is one rule. We never talk about Brexit at mealtimes. My husband – who has since reconciled himself to the inevitability of rupture – broke the rule once but, rowdily, at a cook-out I hosted for my mother’s birthday in Notting Hill to fire up my new Big Green Egg barbecue (a joint 50th present from all my siblings), for the first time. I almost went EastEnders. I have never forgiven him.
The other thing people go on about if they have the misfortune of trying to make conversation with me is the Lib Dems. I joined in April last year as a protest vote. It was the only mainstream party that had a sensible rather than suicidal policy on Europe. Then of course the promise of a second referendum bombed with a public suffering from poll fatigue and Euro-exhaustion, allowing me to jest, haha, that since I joined the Lib Dems had never been so unpopular. I’ve been a member for a year. This means I am in theory allowed to stand as an MP. In fact, I had an email wondering if I’d be keen to be listed to fight the Tory stronghold of Maidenhead.
‘It could be a high-profile opportunity for a talented new candidate to hone their campaigning and debating skills in the spotlight,’ the local activist wrote in an email addressed to ‘Dear Lib Dem Women.’ Arfan Bhatti, the party’s ‘head of diversity, candidates and talent support’ forwarded it to me, simply saying, ‘This could be fun?’ Fun? It’s always lovely to be asked, but I don’t want to be ‘blooded’ by the Prime Minister in a stunt-election (the writer John O’Farrell has already done this for Labour in 2001 and got a doc out of it called Losing My Maidenhead). Given my record as a crowd-pleaser for the party I’d worry I’d win even less votes than Lord Buckethead (249).
Am becoming increasingly fascinated by Trump’s punctuation as well as syntax. Look at this tweet. ‘Slippery James Comey, a man who always ends up badly and out of whack (he is not smart!), will go down as the WORST FBI Director in history, by far!’ It’s got all the hallmarks of a man not morally fit to lead. Shouty capitals. Hitty exclamation marks. Random use of brackets. Or this one: ‘Attorney Client privilege is now a thing of the past. I have many (too many!) lawyers and they are probably wondering when their offices, and even homes, are going to be raided with everything, including their phones and computers, taken. All lawyers are deflated and concerned!’
Each Trump tweet is like being punched in the face. I’m prepared to bet that even as I write experts are analysing each one for evidence of insanity. And that PhD students across the Anglosphere will be submitting learned theses on Trump’s Use of Parentheses and Inverted Commas for many years to come.
I moved heaven and earth to catch Julius Caesar at The Bridge before it closed. Very much a theatre for our times. Warnings that ‘almonds will be served in the auditorium’. The availability of ‘immersive tickets’ (punters could join the crowd and become part of the performance). Gender and colour-blind casting in a play that warns of the ever-present dangers of the rise of populism.
I loved it all. Except when I tried to pee. How can architects build a brand-new theatre in 2017 and still end up with interminable queues for the ladies?
Rachel Johnson is a columnist for the Mail on Sunday