John refilled our glasses, and brought them back to the lounge. "Cheers," I said.

He lowered himself into the armchair with a grunt.

"Cheers," he said. There was a little line of sweat on his upper lip, and he had dark rings under his eyes.


"Neck hurts," he said.

The last of the afternoon light softened, and it grew dark. He turned on a lamp.

We sat in silence for a bit.

"One day," he said suddenly, "all this could be yours."

I said, "The pool's nice and everything, but I don't know if I could afford it. House prices these days! Crazy. Still, not our fault."

"No," he said, "not my house. My job."

"What about Judith?"

I've watched John age in this job and every time Judith's name comes up he ages a little bit more.

I studied him in the light of the lamp. His shoulders slumped. He took a long drink. "The party needs someone who the public thinks they could have a beer with," he said.

"That's me," I said. "Paula the Kiwi battler. Heart of gold. Wears it on her sleeve. Westie. All that crap. People love it!"

Max walked past in his underwear, and holding an unlit cigarette.

"He does that all the time these days," John said.

He got up and opened another bottle in the kitchen. I watched for signs of age, of wear and tear. I smiled as I drained my glass. He looked decrepit.

Staff meeting from 1pm to 1.03pm to discuss what my ministry of social housing is doing to combat homelessness.

Staff meeting from 1.03pm to 2.35pm to discuss what Auckland's Te Puea marae is doing to combat homelessness.

"Mind you," I said, when the report on their good works finally ended, "marae chair Hurimoana Dennis told me in confidence the other day that he's under police investigation."

I left a silence for the news to sink in, and then I said, "That information does not leave this room."

How we laughed!

I thought I'd water the plants in my office, and ran the tap in the staff kitchen. I let it run into a container but by the time I walked back to my office, the water had already leaked out.

I called in my press secretary Lucy Bennett and said, "How do you suppose that happened?"

She said, "It's because you used a sieve."

How we laughed!

The press have been hounding me over the leak about Hurimoana Dennis' police investigation, and Labour's Phil Twyford has kicked up a fuss in Parliament.

Thank God I've got National Party operative David Farrar in my camp. His latest blog reveals that the whole thing is a beat-up.

"Goes to show that you just can't trust the mainstream media," I said to Judith in the staff kitchen. "The bloggers - they're the ones you can rely on."

"I'll email you a link to Cam's blog," she said in a sing-song voice.

I clicked on the Whaleoil site when I returned to my desk.

The opening sentence read, "Paula Bennett is stumbling from one disaster to the next."

"I was just passing and thought I'd pop in for a drink," I said at the intercom at the front gate of John's house.

"Sorry," he said. "Bit busy."

"It's dark and it's raining. Can I come in?"

"Might have an early night."

"It's not even seven o'clock."

There was a silence.

I yelled at the intercom, "Hello?"

"Maybe you should go home, Paula," he said.

"But you said that one day all this could be mine."

"At the end of the day," he said, "today's not that day."

There was a burst of static, and a dial tone.

I pressed my face against the intercom, and yelled, "Hello?"