Two weeks ago, Aurelia and I left for a six day holiday in Croatia. We had planned to leave just after the August Bank Holiday with the last of the summer fetes behind us, and to come back to England before the two countries played each other in the World Cup. We did this in case the warm Croatian hospitality became chilled in the event of an England win; or we found ourselves surrounded in Dubrovnik by rejoicing locals offering us commiserations.
I assumed the high point of the holiday had been on the first day, when we travelled out in the same plane as the Saint and James Bond – a youthful-looking Roger Moore sitting several rows in the aircraft ahead of us. “Isn’t that Sean Connery?” asked a passenger as she went past, running the risk of being annihilated by a bullet fired from a biro designed by Q.
Our plans in Croatia were for a rest, some gentle travel, a brush with local culture and a search for early works by Aurelia’s father – the sculptor Oscar Nemon. We didn’t plan to be in constant communication with our native land. So no laptop – just the occasional visit to an internet café to keep ahead of the game. And a mobile phone left at the hotel, and switched on in the evening to see if there were any messages. It was a formula appropriate for an Opposition backbencher that had worked well in the past.
And thus it was that on September 7th, we were cruising round some sunkist off-shore islands and inhaling the smell of the grilled mackerel that the ship was serving for lunch on board. Meantime, my Party leader was reshaping his front bench. I am not one who sits by the telephone during reshuffles. Indeed, I had been asked on local radio a few days earlier whether I anticipated a return to front-line politics and I had confidently replied that I had seen the inside of my last red box.
Unbeknownst to me, while we cruised from Sipan to Lopud, and swimming on the beach, multiple messages were heading down the Adriatic.
We got back in the evening to find a stack of SMS’s on the mobile phone; backed up by some voicemail messages; reinforced by a pile of emails in the internet café and, for good measure, a fax pushed under the door by the hotelier.
All with the same message, but with mounting urgency as the hours had passed. To ring my Party Leader.
I did so and the rest is history. Recalled to the colours. Back to the Shadow Cabinet table. Embraced by collective responsibility. Given a slot at the Party Conference.
And told not to move without my Blackberry