A memorable moment with the Minister

A memorable moment with the Minister

A kiss is just a kiss. Or does it count as sexual harassment?
Michael Jackson

30 November 2005

Publication: Issue 52

The taxi home swerved just slightly, to avoid an approaching car that was being driven too liberally, probably by someone who had been taking his drink the same way.In the back of the cab, our bodies were thrown together, and I kissed the Minister of Health. Snatched a snog, so to speak.Except that a snog cannot be hurried. It may start briskly, but nature demands that it continues with exploratory diligence She bade me goodnight, but invited me to a lunchtime theatre in Soho next day. Courtships were slow in those innocent years, and she had sufficient time to eat her sandwiches, watch the one-act play, chat with me about it and be decisive.When we left the theatre, it was for our respective offices.She was not Secretary of State then, nor even an MP. She was plain old Patricia Hewitt. Not so much of the plain or old, though, if you don’t mind.It is perhaps less than gallant of me to kiss and tell, but I am a writer, and that is what we do.I get more scrivening than kissing these days, and she bans activities that might be deemed harmful to health.I detailed the swerve of the taxi in order to explain the almost involuntary nature of that memorable moment. Well it attained that status for me. I remember it, don’t I? In the highly unlikely event that she remembers even the Macallan 10 that flavoured the kiss, I have cast her as the snogged against.Had it happened today, I might have found myself charged with sexual harassment.How does anyone ever get to bed these days? Somebody has to make the first move.If the risk is social disgrace and long sentences (did you ever hear a politician who could manage short ones?), the articulate, socially aware middle classes will, due to lack of mating, become extinct.Patricia Hewitt and I were both working for charities, pressure groups that lobbied on social issues. We met at a very tedious seminar.Or was it a symposium…? Conference…? Meeting…?There are few activities more aphrodisiac than a really boring seminar, symposium, conference, meeting.Those of us who can think of nothing else (i.e. those of us who are men) do so. At the sight of a shapely laptop, fantasies start to download.I invited her to dinner. We hung on to each other’s every thought. I only had eyes for her, so I can’t remember what we ate. I have a feeling that there was bouillabaisse and crusty bread, and that I persuaded her to try island malt. It was many years ago. Not altogether the Good Old Days. Lots of selfish, ‘in your face!’ smoking. I prefer smoke in my whisky.Patricia Hewitt’s hardline seems to have been defeated by John Reid’s more pragmatic proposals, but smoking has long lost the war.Patricia Hewitt still likes to talk tough, as though to oblige the Daily Mailegraph by delivering the patronising, ‘I know what’s good for you’ bogeyperson of mythology.In fact, what she is proposing responds to the wishes of very many pub-goers. I very much doubt that can be said for the more recent notion that there should be no drinks on trains, though whoever runs these things might be more careful as to the drinks they serve.No experience I have had in the Third World can compare with the terror of being on a football special. It was on such a Voyage of the Damned that I formulated Jackson’s Law No 39a: The lower the malt content, hop bitterness and lagering time, the lower the standards of behaviour that ensue.I am not being wholly facetious. If sell people a product that has no taste and no merits other than the ability quickly to induce drunkenness, what do you expect?Just as I have long promoted the notion of the right drink or the right moment, I take a similar view of vehicles. A train ride is not complete without an aperitif, a meal and a digestif.Nor is a cab ride complete without a kissing companion.I really hope Patricia Hewitt is not going to legislate against osculation next.

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