Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The Journal OF Lynton Charles

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The Journal OF Lynton Charles

Article excerpt


Saturday Flu. Bed. Ill. Fever. May not be coherent. Started last night. Shivers and hot. Sick over table. Can that be true? Smells as though it's true. Must have bath. Can hardly stand up. Alan Milburn right. Epidemic. Must be. Hardly ever ill, strong as an... Feeling worse. Ask Cheryl to call the doctor. She says that since new Labour is so keen on self-medication, now is the time to see how well it works. Besides, she's heard that the doctor is ill. Flu. Why don't I phone NHS Direct? She brings me the phone and a Lemsip and says she's off out with the twins to visit her mother for the day, and that I'm to stay in bed and take plenty of liquids.

I try to call NHS Direct, but I must be misdialling. Describe all my symptoms to sympathetic-sounding young woman, who listens carefully and then asks me if I'll be wanting garlic bread with that. Get through. Advised to go to bed and drink plenty of liquids. But how can I get plenty of liquids if I'm in bed? Fall asleep.

Doorbell. Insistent. Stagger down in pyjamas. Girl in crash-helmet with pizza. Takes one look at me and retreats. Willy hanging out? No, thank God. Back to bed.

John Humphrys is interviewing me. "Did you or did you not say in 1993, Mr charles, that the spectacle of operations being cancelled because of seasonal illnesses was one of the great indictments of the Conservative era?" I try to explain that we are spending more, and it's taking time, but the words won't come out properly. "It's all a bit of a mess isn't it?"

And he's become Paxman, and is looking at me as though I was something the cat had brought in. I realise that I'm sitting in the News-night studio in just my pyjamas, and that William Hague is the other studio guest and that he's immacu-lately dressed and is about to tear into me and it's the end of my career. …

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