Meeting Boris: Behind the scenes at government triumvirate's visit to Welwyn Garden City
- Credit: Frank Augstein/PA Wire
Those three faces. The ones we saw every day on our screens, for what felt like a decade, professionally bumbling their way - and ours - through a global pandemic.
It was a tricky night's sleep. All the questions I wanted to ask them were going through my brain. Some hilarious. Some sarcastic. None of them really super acceptable.
My favourite one at three o'clock in the morning was: "Will you be cancelling your private medical insurance now the NHS is going to be all sorted?" Followed closely by: "Did Eton adequately prepare you for an apocalypse and a Third World War?"
The vibe is weird. There are mystery suited men around every corner as if we are on some sort of millionaire quiz show alongside people walking around with broken arms and X-rays.
I walk up five flights of stairs having sat around in the hospital foyer for at least 40 minutes.
A woman with her son telephones her husband: "He was right there - he walked straight past us!"
Now sitting at a table about a metre away from me, having been given only an evening's notice (me - not them) is PM Boris Johnson, Health Secretary Sajid Javid and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak - the "Big Three" at the heart of government.
- 1 Man stabbed in St Albans
- 2 Major architectural firm moves into St Albans
- 3 Aldi prioritises St Albans for new store
- 4 Area Guide: The historic St Michael's village area of St Albans
- 5 St Albans woman defies odds to become oldest with Rett Syndrome
- 6 WATCH: Delivery driver caught fly-tipping in rural area
- 7 Sentence increase for St Albans theatre stalwart jailed for paedophilia
- 8 St Albans paedophile jailed for trying to arrange online abuse
- 9 St Albans is one of UK's worst locations for hay fever
- 10 Daughter taking the plunge in mum's memory
Instant regret as I focus on the 'senior' bit of my reporter job title like I was trying to impress the Prime Minister with my social standing. "Oh BRILLIANT!" says Boris pitifully as I announce I'm from the Welwyn Hatfield Times. I mean, he might be an avid reader but...More likely is that he remembers his own pathetic local journalism moments and is showing that empathy he has been trained to pull out for any eventuality.
After an awkward series of elbow-bumping - fist-bumping is so last year - we sit down and I launch into my first question, only for Sajid Javid to request that I ask my second question as well.
Readers, news journalism for a paper is not the same as broadcasting. So I am not used to stringing my words together whilst pulling the perfect facial expression and trying to trip them up as well as make notes, take photos and record their comments on my iPhone.
I usually interview 86-year-old ballet dancers and neighbours with bin collection problems. At one point Boris makes a comment about the importance of us all keeping our masks on in a hospital environment. It is clearly a random virtue signal to himself back in November when he was told off three times for being unmasked on a hospital visit. Nobody has tried to take their mask off.
I am channelling my inner Piers Morgan but I'm actually looking more like a teenager on a first date at a school disco - it is a tad intimidating to be honest. And the fact the three of them look exactly how they do on the screen is making it a very surreal situation. What I mean is, usually when you meet familiar faces, they are a bit different to their other version.
Take Rita Simons, Roxy from EastEnders, for example. When I met her doing panto press stuff she was dressed as an evil witch and clutching a plate of pizza and salad in a Greek restaurant.
I really am not a Tory fan, I remind myself as I go and get an espresso from the hospital coffee shop afterwards, but seriously the three of them have obviously been to charm school.
They did kind of wriggle away from my question about making poor people pay for hospitals by asking for the next question and then focussing on that. This is an actual tactic I am later informed by my more politically experienced tabloid sister. (I am not sure she will like being called my tabloid sister.)
Someone mutters something to me about all the receipts being asked for by members of their entourage and makes an off the cuff remark about expense-claiming.
As I made my way, somewhat star-struck, back to my humble Fiat 500, parked not far from the PM's fleet of Range Rovers, I was suddenly hit by one final thought: "I wish I'd got a selfie!"