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Overnight, the house has been requisitioned by The Committee, and I come downstairs to find all those famous but interchangeable white men and token others huddled round the breakfast table, strategizing over take-out coffee and croissants. They’re all shorter than they look on TV and, if anything, whiter. Perhaps they’re a little less male. They smell of new cars and indulgent nannies, and of holidays on islands with familiar names and no budget flights. The Minister for Insincere Appeasement moves to let me sit and explains that my house was chosen in order to offer insight into Diverse Britain, and that they want to get closer to The People. I point out that I, too, am white, male, and in a pretty decent job, but the Minister for Telling It How It Is waves his hand like a silk handkerchief from a passing motorcade and assures me I’m diverse enough for his focus group, and that if I could answer Other to a list of questions about my parents, my sexuality, my cat, and my religion, it would be helpful in Getting Things Done. There is a round of applause, and the Minister for Sincerity presents me with a cheque for three thousand pounds to tide me over until Christmas or, possibly, next Christmas. It isn’t signed, and nobody has a pen. The Minister for Facetious Pragmatism takes a rubber stamp from his expensive but tasteful briefcase, breathes on the dried red ink, and presses it decisively onto a slip of paper that he tosses into the waste bin. There’s another round of applause. When the press arrive, they leave en masse, mugging for the cameras and joking in schoolboy Latin, slapping each other’s backs, jam-smeared knives tucked ready beneath blue cuffs. The dining room’s all crumbs and coffee stains, the silverware’s gone, and the phone’s ringing. It’s the Minister for Afterwards, reminding me to pay the breakfast bill.
About Oz Hardwick
Oz Hardwick is a European poet, photographer, occasional musician, and accidental academic, whose work has been published and performed internationally in and on diverse media. His prose poetry chapbook Learning to Have Lost (Canberra: IPSI, 2018) won the 2019 Rubery International Book Award for poetry, and his most recent publication is the prose poetry sequence Wolf Planet (Clevedon: Hedgehog, 2020). He has also edited or co-edited several anthologies, including The Valley Press Anthology of Yorkshire Poetry (Scarborough: Valley Press, 2017) with Miles Salter, which was a UK National Poetry Day recommendation, and The Valley Press Anthology of Prose Poetry (Scarborough: Valley Press, 2019) with Anne Caldwell. Oz is Professor of English at Leeds Trinity University, where he leads the postgraduate Creative Writing programmes.