LOBBY 3 - Defiance

Pull-out poster as part of the third episode of the Bartlett's LOBBY magazine

Art direction Moa Pårup,  Photography Lewis Ronald

It’s 20.34 on a dark drizzly Wednesday evening, as the Pugin Pendelino pulls out of Wigan North Western Station. The sun has long since set, and the rain streaks the windows of the carriages. Here we find Trevor Sheridan, head of the onboard cleaning staff, and our jaded fly on the decadent walls of our new locomotive democracy.

"I fucking hate trains" mutters Trevor, staggering sideways, bracing himself against the faux wood panelling of the carriage as the train rumbles towards the depot. "Who puts wood panels on a train" he thinks, "it's like a shit Mexican restaurant".

Trevor doesn't want to work on a train, but he was one of the few who chose to accept the transition from land to rail when the Westminster cleaning contract was renewed. The pay may be lower, but at least he'd get to travel he'd concluded.

You've got to admire the ambition; to put parliament on wheels, sending it off around the nation to split its time between north, south, east, west, Wales, Scotland - even Cornwall; but for ladies and gents like Trevor it's been a right upheaval. He knew he wouldn't be sleeping in the hotels and dining in the restaurants of the provincial towns and cities like the MPs, but Trevor is convinced they're deliberately finding the worst bnbs in the country to put him up in as a vendetta for the time he spilt a gin and tonic on Theresa May.

Continuing down the narrow corridor he presses the tiny illuminated crest to operate the carriage doors and moves into the 'backbench carriage'. Trevor moves seat to seat, removing the panini wrappers and silver cutlery that have been incredulously shoved between the upholstery. In many ways he's pleased the rabble have sodded off to yet another pub, but there's a part of him that wishes they were here so he could give them a piece of his mind.

Carriages de-cluttered, and just in time, the train arrives at the railway depot. As the doors open, Trevor begins tossing the bags of litter out onto the platform for collection by the high-vis cloaked station staff. “Alright Sheriff!” one of them calls through the arched door. Trevor nods a reply; he doesn't know the man greeting him. “Tell Hunt he’s a twat!” another voice yelps. He knows he has a reputation amongst station workers; word of his lack of patience towards the MPs has spread, and to a great deal of approval too. But it’s been a long day and Trevor doesn't want to talk to anyone.

Heaving the largest and heaviest bag of rubbish, Trevor calls this the Pickles Sack, out onto the platform the station crew swarm the carriage to restock the buffet Car and drinks trolleys in preparation for the next day. Bottles of champagne clink together as they are bussed down the train for the Carriage of Lords.

The restock takes some time, so Trevor ambles through the train to take up his usual waiting spot in the most comfortable carriage, Upper Class. Relaxing into the front bench, Trevor’s gaze drifts to the paintings on the arched ceiling of the carriage and the faces of the bejeweled men sneer back at him. Although tiresomely familiar now, the subjects of these portraits are alien to Trevor. “These bastards were not my ancestors”.

Averting his eyes from the slave drivers, workhouse owners and land barons dawbed on canvas, Trevor turns his attention to the despatch boxes on the central table. These ornate wooden boxes and their contents are a total mystery to him, but he cleans them daily nonetheless. He remembers the day that a civil servant back in Westminster tried to have him fired for doodling on it, before it was discovered that Gordon Brown was the culprit. He never apologised.

Looking at his watch, Trevor heaves himself from his perch ready to lock up. As he turns to leave, something catches his eye. The PM has shoved his carefully scripted quips and pre-written off-the-cuff remarks down the back of the seat. Reaching down between the ancient repurposed green leather and heavily varnished wood, Trevor retrieves the note cards, putting them in his overall pocket.

At the huge wooden door that serves as the ceremonial entrance, he fishes the large, overly decorative key fob from his pocket before opening the panel by the door. Flicking switches and turning knobs, Trevor shuts off the power and the chandeliers and wall lights fall dark, only the hum of the wine coolers remaining. Stepping from the train and pulling the grand doors shut behind him he reaches into his pocket for his cleaning cloth and the note cards tumble onto the platform. Stooping to collect them, he straightens up, and begins to read:

‘I truly believe we’re on the brink of something special in our country; we can make Britain a place where a good life is in reach for everyone. Our manifesto is a manifesto for working people. It means giving everyone in our country a chance, so no matter where you’re from you have the opportunity to make the most of your life. It means giving the poorest people the chance of training, a job, and hope for the future...’

Trevor puts the cards away. Taking the cloth, he cleans the panel on the timber door where Black Rod bangs on the door with his staff.

“All aboard the gravy train”, Trevor mutters, turning and walking out into the rainy night.