Back in the days when I and most of the young men I knew looked like the young Al Pacino or Russell Brand, or even Che Guevara, among other jobs I was employed as a washer-up in the Houses of Parliament. It was a security-free world then. You could walk straight into parliament from the underground station. Not a check was in effect.
I was a young Marxist-cum-grumbling anti-establishment, shoplifting, drinking, drug-taking, enemy of the privileged – and much sought after by the men in blue for former crimes; listening to Brand’s complaints and quips against capitalism these days has a very strong sense of deja vu about it.
I did not do well in the kitchens of parliament. Unable to keep my Marxist mouth shut, I soon annoyed the other staff, and in particular the cook. Her suggestions were along the line that I should try Russia, where a lipstick stain on a tea cup might lead to a public execution. Or a long period of custody in the frozen parts.
I did not last long and ended up driving a forklift truck in a North Acton industrial estate, unhappy that I had queered my pitch at the mother of all parliaments. I had planned on building a cell of the disillusioned, from the appallingly paid staff, who were mostly got from a temporary agency. Yet because of my grumbling ‘youthy’ contempt as they called it, I had to go back to the agency and be reallocated.
Last Tuesday, though, to confound predictions about me from police officers, prison warders, teachers and my own mum, I got out of the grief, and as if to underline it was made a member of the House of Lords.
It was the strangest day of my life. I have not had a day like it when so many messages of encouragement came thick and fast. With the odd one about how I was getting above myself or that the House was a den of vipers.