We’ve heard from Jenny again.  

Another strange tale – this time it’s something to do with those price increases in the Commons eateries.  

Well weird!

Jenny was hungry. She’d been kind of hungry all week since she’d got back off holiday and the food prices had gone up. She had braved the first few days but it hurt her pocket too much after her week in Spain. Far too much spent on sangria and shopping. Living on sandwiches and salad wasn’t going to cut it and until she got back in the black she could not afford takeaways or ready meals or the Debate or Terrace now. She was craving protein after experimenting with just getting the vegetables. It was recess as well so no receptions or breakfast meetings she could gatecrash. This meant it was time for drastic measures. She was going to have to learn to cook.

Jenny knew the basics from uni – she could do pasta or an omelette but her palate had grown more sophisticated. She was now used to mustard coated tofu and wilted kale, herb encrusted salmon or the strange but nice half burger/half sandwich/half a cow thing. Her mouth was watering just thinking about it and her stomach growling but instead of taking a leisurely walk to the Debate for a calzone or Cornish pasty,

Jenny got in the rickety lift up to the kitchen bit in Norman Shaw North with the vending machines. The trusty old vending machines were now her friends, except the tea and coffee one that was her mortal enemy as it put sugar in everything whether Jenny wanted it or not. Looking at the choices behind the plastic it was cuppa soup or fruit. The spinning thing revealed mangy bananas and an unappetising apple. So cuppa soup it was.

When she was back in the office she phoned Bob.

‘Good afternoon, James Johnston’s office.’

‘Good afternoon, James Johnston’s office.’ Jenny loved doing this to Bob, he took recess too seriously.

‘Jenny that was funny the first time but it is wearing thin now.’

‘I am wearing thin.’

‘You are being ridiculous.’ Bob said.

Jenny had momentarily forgotten that Bob was the sensible one. She would have phoned David or Janet but they were in the constituency or constituencies or whatever, so Sensible Bob it was.

‘Look why don’t you come over to mine after work and I will cook something?’

‘And show me how? Coz I was just thinking I need to learn how to cook.’

‘Yep I will show you something idiot proof.’

Idiot proof, she liked the sound of that. Wait, did Bob mean she was an idiot?

It seemed ages before it was 4.30pm, and she could safely go to Bob’s office without a friendly lecture on part time working. Luckily he lived near work so it wasn’t long before they were at his and cooking. The lesson went well, she thought, although he did move to take over several times. Apparently she almost put in sugar instead of salt but they’d had a good laugh about it, so that’s all that matters, right? They, well mostly Bob, had made roasted Mediterranean veg and stuffed giant mushrooms.

‘Simple.’ Bob said. It was delicious and Jenny ate it greedily.

As it was bank holiday weekend and recess she took a long weekend and went home, stocked up on mum and dad’s food, bringing home leftovers that lasted till Wednesday. Her friends David and Janet were allowed to escape from the constituency. Bleak northern-ness never suited Janet – she would have been much happier with a Home Counties or Cotswold MP if they weren’t all the wrong shade. David teased Janet almost every day by saying blah, blah is going to cross the floor and her face would light up for a second before her brain caught up.

Jenny suggested she cook dinner for them using the recipe Bob had taught her. For some reason Bob couldn’t make it and he did not normally pass up on free food. Jenny should have taken this as a warning sign. Perhaps. Jenny, having only crisp bread and hummus for lunch, was hungry by 3pm but waited as they were going to have a feast. They went into Tesco but it did not have everything she needed so she ventured into the large supermarket near Jenny’s house. David snuck crisps and nuts into the basket – it seemed he had very little confidence that they would be eating any time soon.

‘So we start with chopping the veg and making the topping for the mushroom.’ Jenny said.

‘OK’, David said and started to help chop the veg while Janet opened the large bottle of sangria Jenny had got in Spain. The vital first step Jenny had forgotten was to put the oven on as her crappy one takes about thirty minutes to get up to temp. After 20 minutes of arguing over the radio, getting the laptop out as it had more music, while attempting to chop veg and keeping the work surfaces clear, so it was another ten minutes before the veg was ready to go in the oven. It was then the realisation dawned on Jenny that she had forgotten to turn it on.

‘Right once it heats up it will only be 20 minutes for the veg so lets have a drink and sort the mushrooms out.’ Jenny said. There was a nagging doubt in Jenny’s head like she had forgotten something. Perhaps softening up the veg in the microwave.

Janet was busy on the laptop: ‘I am setting up a Facebook group.’

‘Jenny Can’t Cook, Won’t Cook?’ David said.

‘Not quite but good idea, I was thinking one about the Debate’, Janet said.

‘Why? We can’t kick up a fuss you know that.’ Jenny said. ‘My boss is all austerity, common man in this together, but I am all about austerity already.’

‘What about scrapping the healthiness at the Debate and making it a greasy spoon?’ Janet said.

‘A greasy spoon is very austerity and delicious. Yummy egg and chips.’ Jenny said.

‘Sounds good to me but any food does right now.’ David said crunching on a crisp.

‘Hey at least I am trying.’

‘Hey yourself; I have 20 members already,’ Janet said. ’40 members.’

‘How many of them are on the Parliamentary Network?’

Before Janet could answer Jenny’s question, David said ‘Can I smell burning?

‘Are you sure? ‘Coz the veg is not done yet.’ Jenny replied

‘What about the mushrooms?’

‘Oh crap’

David ran to the oven brushing past Jenny who had started to flap.

‘Have you looked in Jared’s cupboard?’ David said

‘Not after last time.’ Jenny replied.

’60 members.’ Janet seemed to think it was important to provide a running commentary.

David took the veg out of the oven and put it in the wok and binned the mushrooms. Jared was Jenny’s house mate who hated her touching his stuff.

I am too hungry to care, we can replace it.’ Talking about the tomato passata he’d taken out of the cupboard.

‘He is definitely going to buy a lock now.’ Jenny replied.

’80 members.’ Janet said smirking.

‘Janet your phone is ringing.’

The smirk soon fell off her face.

‘Its my boss…I forgot he gets Facebook notifications on his phone.’

‘You invited him to join?’ Ring ring. ‘Answer it – you have to.’ Jenny said.

The call went silent and the phone bleeped in Janet’s hand. David was laughing to himself frying the veg in the wok.

‘Take the fall for me?’ Janet said.

‘No way you will have to face this yourself- any way its your fault, you let him go on that social networking course.’ Jenny said. It had mysteriously disappeared out of Jack’s diary

Beep beep.

‘What’s the worse that could happen?’ Jenny continued.

‘Its an email from him- who let them have Blackberrys? It says that I have to go back to the constituency, so he can keep a better eye on me. He knew this recess that I would get in trouble. Oh and that ‘Bite Back at Austerity with a Bacon Butty’ was a good line.’

‘I’m sorry pet.’ Jenny said.

‘Look – edible food.’ David said grating cheese which had mysteriously appeared into the sauce.

Tring tring. They all looked for their phones.

‘Mine’ Jenny said ‘Oh its just twitter- eyespymp’

‘Go on read it out.‘ David said dishing out the saved food with some toast and garlic butter. Jenny’s house mate really was going to kill her.

‘Three MP’s were spotted in cyberspace eschewing fancy foods and joining the turn the Debate into a greasy spoon Facebook group.’

Jenny almost dropped the phone into her dinner. Her boss had joined Janet’s stupid group and it had been picked up already. Grr. It was too late to delete it from his newsfeed. She shook her head in disbelief.

‘Jack didn’t join did he?’ David asked.

‘Yep’ Jenny said. She couldn’t believe she’d left Facebook open on her computer.

‘How did eyespymp know before you did?‘ David asked.

‘250 members – everyone’s hungry.’ said Janet by way of explanation. It was then Jenny heard sniggering in the hallway.

‘Jared! I can’t believe you would do that. Putting it on eyespymp is really going to cause me trouble ‘

‘I told you not to use my stuff.‘ Jared said laughing all the way upstairs ‘and make sure you clean my wok.’

‘Just have another sangria and some food.’ David said.

‘You can spin it or say you did it?‘ Janet offered.

‘Just put the laptop away’ David said.

No wait a minute it’s weird. All the advertising on the page has turned Pot Noodle, on my profile as well. Check yours?’

‘OK’ Jenny said munching on some garlic toast. ‘Mine too and Jack’s’

David leaned over them and closed the laptop. ‘Forget it and eat.’

The food was good and the rest of the evening was fine. She switched off her phone just in case. When her friends had gone and Jenny was left with the mess in the kitchen from what should have been an elegant meal she could not face cleaning it up yet. She flicked on her laptop again and up came all the ads for Pot Noodle. A tasty meal in a tub – no cooking, no cleaning, no fuss. The dishes were calling her but lifetime supply of Pot Noodle for the lucky winner? What the hell? She put in her details, it’s not likes she wins anything – ever. Jenny cleaned up the kitchen went to bed and tried to forget this evening ever happened.

‘This is my last supper,’ Janet said when they were having lunch on the Terrace on Monday.

‘But it’s lunchtime?’ Jenny pointed out munching on a carrot.

‘I have to go up to constituency tomorrow.’

‘Ah so he wasn’t joking?’


‘By the way’ David said ‘did either of you win the Pot Noodle?’

‘Did you enter as well?’ Jenny said.

‘Yep but only got a voucher, came this morning in the post.’

Jenny wished them well as she had to go back to the office and deal with more austerity fallout. Explaining to her boss that there was no such thing as an austerity sports car was hard work so she needed more research to convince him going to Silverstone was a bad idea. He was popping in on his way so she had about a 5 minute window this afternoon. Being very observant now after the dramas of two weeks ago she noticed the attendant at the front desk was nervous.

‘Jenny, you had a delivery, only we did not realise…’

‘Realise what?’

‘How much of it there was.’ Jenny ran through the double doors and opened her office door expecting to see 10 printer cartridges and collided with a box. Dazed she looked up.

‘Pot Noodle?’

‘It looks like you’ve got a life time’s supply!’ Jenny sank to the floor

‘I was hungry, then I saw the competition. Now I have an office full of snack food.

What the Hell am I going to tell my boss?’