So it’s the end of the summer last year, and I’m in a tea shop in Kettlewell in Yorkshire. Two years ago the Tour de France came through here, and there are still bicycles painted on the walls. Maybe shopkeepers are hoping the television crews, support cars, racing bikes and the peloton will be lured back. You know, like the probably apocryphal New Guinea natives who levelled land and made fake plane shapes out of branches and leaves hoping to lure real planes down out of the sky. Anyway, it’s not working here either. The tea shop is quiet, the streets aren’t that busy. It’s late in the season. Rain is about.
I’ve got tea and a fruit scone in front of me, and I’m looking around the room when I notice that one of the middle-aged ladies, covered in all that plastic hiking gear and sitting on her own with a similar tea and scone, is vaguely familiar. I can’t resist it. I’ve had the hots for this lady since first seeing her on television propping up the serially philandering errant husband.
I rise, go across. ‘Hello, Hillary Rodham Clinton, rider of second-wave feminism of which you have been both a clear beneficiary and a moderate advocate. You didn’t bake cookies, you said, yet in 1992 you entered a bake-off against other candidates’ wives and won with your recipe for chocolate chip. How are finding the fruit scone?’
‘Supportive and consoling,’ she said. ‘Take a seat. I was supposed to be running for the White House next year. Yet my experience and ever-presence on the public stage seem to be equal parts hindrance and help. I’m thinking of pulling out.’
‘And you thought a sojourn in the Dales would be the ideal way to think things over? Well-clad as you are in the finest products from North Face and Craghoppers.’
What plastic people walking in Kettlewell look like, in case you don’t know.
‘I’ve got a new Rab jacket.’
‘Never mind the plastic rainwear. You’ve already broken a mould set in a patriarchal political culture in which women could rarely be viable candidates themselves, and as candidates’ wives were supposed to be essentially decorative and supporting, not independent entities,’ I say. ‘You, the Lady Macbeth of Arkansas. Hot all round. You’ve got it every way.’
‘You haven’t met my husband.’
‘No, but if I did I like to think we would both be the better for it. You mustn’t let yourself be judged by the deeds of the trouser-dropping saxophonist Bill, star of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, survivor of witch-hunting by special prosecutor Kenneth Starr. You got your own thing going on: senator for New York in 2000, running for president in 2008 and secretary of state for four years. Go girl, go!’
‘Why don’t we go back to my caravan?’ she says. ‘Slip out of the weather wear and into something comfortable. Talk this over, in depth, for the next three or four hours.’
‘I think not,’ I say.
‘I’ve got more fruit scones,’ she says.
‘I would, Hill,’ I say. ‘But I’ve only another twenty minutes on the parking ticket. And you have a job to do. Western civilization is in your pretty little hands. Go girl.’ I know how to talk to feminists. ‘Go, little lady.’
And you know, I believe she took a lot away from that chat, for she is on the stump across the US even as we speak. I hope she has access to a fruit scone.
What a fruit scone looks like, in case you don’t know.