For a while, Gordon Brown and I flirted with being pen pals. Sadly, the relationship turned sour. I penned and he wasn't much of a pal, dodging the issues and passing the buck.
My letters were scrounging for funds to help equip the twins' empty school playground, but the advent of summer brought with it a more pressing plea. We don't just need more climbing frames, Gordy – we need shade, too. And a lot of it, because the playground is a south-facing sun-trap and my children are set to blister like burst tomatoes. Please help.
Help never arrived. And, lo and behold, the hottest day of the year so far came to pass. At pick-up time, Oliver's face was the colour of a baked bean while Claire's cheeks peaked on the Richter scale of red, the hue of a shiny glacé cherry. Worse still was their lethargy. "Oh my God," I shielded my eyes, physically frightened by their appearance. "Are you feeling OK?" Oliver burst out crying. Claire was too out of it to answer. Their classroom was like a kiln – both were suffering from heat exhaustion.
Parents whose children attend the same primary school were round for dinner. We thrash this story out over Jamie Oliver's tray-baked salmon (a healthier shade of pink). "When we went to school," my husband reminds us, "none of us wore sun cream or sought the shade, and we all coped. What's the big deal?" "That may well be true," the other mother concurs, "but when we went to school we were all ignorant about melanomas."
I couldn't let the matter lie. Disappointed by Gordon, it was time for a different track, a new pen-pal. David Cameron is a likeable, affable sort of chap; he might not yet be PM, but he might prove more fruitful. It was worth a shot. A letter was penned and posted to Parliament, with no expectations.
Away for a few days, my mobile was out of range. Once up and running again, I listened through the accumulated voice messages. The line was a tad fuzzy. It was hard to hear, so I pressed to repeat:
"Hello, it's Michael Gove calling. I'm the Tory spokesperson on education. I know you wrote a letter to David earlier this week about the problems with your playground in your children's school and David passed your letter on to me. Whenever you have a moment perhaps you might like to ring me back."
My face must have registered shock because my husband asked what was wrong. "Nothing's wrong," I said, slightly baffled, "but I think I've just been called by the Shadow Secretary for Schools and Families. And he even left his mobile number."
"I don't believe it," said my husband, and neither did I. I told my parents. "I don't believe it," said my mum, and neither did I. I told my husband's parents. "I don't believe it," said my mother-in-law, and neither did I. Granted, had it been Brad Pitt on the blower the whooping and hollering would have reached a whole new decibel level, but nevertheless, a shadow minister dialling my number was still a thrill.
Watching Question Time later, this articulate, charismatic, intelligent panellist starts to speak and captures my attention. Up pops the caption "Michael Gove", and I am enthralled.
This is a man with sense, a man with power, a political mover and shaker. This is a man who cares for children, a man who cares for his country, a man certain to lose the shadow from his title and shift it to the twins' playground.
I can't wait for tomorrow morning so I can return his call.Reuse content