A life less ordinary in the glare of the flash bulb

12th January 2001 at 00:00
Occasionally, just occasionally, those of us who lead ordinary, humdrum existences are allowed an insight into the daily lives of those at the top of the tree - the real movers and shakers of our world. Such was the case recently courtesy of the unlikeliest of sources: Natfhe's newspaper, The Lecturer.

By printing six (yes six!) separate photographs of general secretary Paul Mackney in a single edition, they have allowed dedicated union watchers to piece together a typical week in the life of FE's cuddliest union boss.

Admittedly, it does seem a repetitive existence - all that waving, handshaking and standing outside Government buildings waiting for the photographer to turn up - but, in the interests of openness, the story must be told: MONDAY: Got up. Read The Lecturer (somebody's got to). Combed hair and trimmed beard. Practised smiling in the mirror. Driven by Natfhe photographer to the House of Commons. Shook hands with the entire Labour cabinet. Finally found Baroness Blackstone. Shook hands and smiled while photograph taken. Who says men can't do more than one thing at the same time? Reminded the Baroness that Natfhe's policy was still to be nice to Labour in the hope they would be nice to us. Stopped smiling when Baroness reminded me that New Labour's policy was still "something for something".

TUESDAY: Got up half an hour early in order to practice smiling a bit more. Shook hands with the wife, the neighbours and the dog. Unfortunately no cameraman around to record the occasion.

Ticked off photographer for being late and missing early photo opportunities. Distinct chilliness in car on the drive to DFEE headquarters to head early morning delegation. Met Natfhe colleagues on steps; all looking pissed-off at having to get up so early. Decided against attempting to shake their hands. As the shutter clicked, assumed particularly winning smile to counteract comrades' surliness.

Attempted to enter the building but found we were too early and the door still locked. Convened emergency meeting, comrades voting two to one against trying the tradesman's entrance. Shouted through letter box that while we were still being nice to Labour it might not last for ever.

WEDNESDAY: Re-read The Lecturer in case had missed anything first time round. Hadn't. Got bored, so looked at pictures instead. On the way out of the house shook hands with the milkman andthe paper boy. Long drive to Glasgow for TUC conference. Stopped off at several services but failed to discover any Natfhe members to be pictured with. Bought new comb at one of them.

At conference shook a lot of hands, but decided it was impolitic to smile as everyone else was frowning. In the loo (shaking hands with wife's best friend) met delegate who said that gloom was due to poor response to union's "be nice to Labour" offensive. Said I knew how they felt.

Later met up with some jolly Cubans and shook hands with a couple of glasses of red wine. Luckily photographer still on duty to record the happy occasion. All smiles now.

THURSDAY: Got up. Tried out new comb. Moved parting over to the left in order to appease rank-and-file members. Photographer late again, so re-read The Lecturer starting at the back this time. Noticed that the sports section looked a bit thin. Perhaps a photo of general secretary shaking hands with Steve Redgrave would do the trick.

Drove to Birmingham for photo-feature "Black Members Meet" scheduled for next issue of you-know-what. Half-way through proceedings looked in mirror to check hair and remembered I wasn't black. Decided to bluff it out anyway. If questioned would cite 20-year membership of Free Nelson Mandela campaign and vigorous dancing to Smokey Robinson and the Miracles at Natfhe Christmas socials. Think I got away with it.

FRIDAY: Wrote letter to general editor of The Lecturer (a strangely familiar name of Mackney) pointing out that there were several pages of latest edition on which I didn't appear. Prepared myself for address to members at Natfhe's Westminster reception. Sadly few opportunities to shake hands as I have to stand at front and deliver lecture. Shook dust off notes from teaching days, but decided "Great Moments of the 60's" not really appropriate. Instead gave Government hell for slow response to our charm offensive. Danced night away to Smokey Robinson et al.

SATURDAY: Due at protest outside High Court but stayed in bed suffering from recurrence of repetitive strain injury. When photographer called, offered him "blow up" general secretary as alternative, only to be told he kept one in boot of car for emergencies anyway. When cameraman re-appeared clutching negatives, thought it looked better than real thing. Wife thought so too.

Stephen Jones is a London college lecturer

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