Prologue – THE TIDES OF LIFE

Prologue

            Alan Trout awoke early, as he did every morning, and admired himself enormously.  The mirror was his best friend.  And although Alan loved his left profile, he thought his right was a smidgen more perfect.  His morning routine hadn’t changed since boarding school.  Even on Christmas and family holidays, Alan would preen himself to perfection before presenting himself to the world.  He plucked his eyebrows, though he would never admit it.  He clipped his nose hairs twice a day and kept a close eye on any that tried curling out of his ears.  He shaved with a straight blade because it seemed a brave thing to do, and he often fancied himself a man-of-action if only he’d been born a century or two previously.  He received manicures and pedicures at a secret location, and in the company of his constituents he’d perfected the art of feigning empathy.  He’d been coddled and cuddled through childhood, steered into privilege in adolescence, and upon leaving the hallowed halls of an elite education knew that the world was his for the taking.  More than anything, his pedigree had opened the golden gates of confidence.  And that was all Alan Trout needed – you see, for all the tutors, time and money spent on rearing a razor-sharp mind, poor Alan fell woefully short, all things considered.  To be sure, he was no idiot, but he was a country mile from the opposite end of the spectrum.  Alan left engineering and the sciences to the creators and the curious, and philosophy and the arts to the thinkers and the thoughtful.  Even the degree Alan graduated with didn’t mean much to him.  He could run on the rugby pitch but was afraid of being hit, and so as a youth had perfected the subtlest manoeuvre in wiggling out of any potentially tricky situation.  Not being on the team was not an option – his father’s words.  You could say that Alan had foresight, perhaps, as it was on the pitch all those years ago from his position far along the flank that he would watch the progression of the ball, and there his mind would process all the potential scenarios which always, incredibly, steered him well clear of the play.  But hey, everyone knows that maths and the arts and smashing yourself to smithereens on the pitch wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea.  Alan had the right words and possessed an infinite supply of confidence and that was more than sufficient to ensure success.  He was no scrooge either.  Alan knew just how to treat others.  His wife’s wishes were his command, his girlfriend’s desires were always met, and his mistress received beautiful Colombian flowers every single day.  He always sent gifts to his constituents and his staff received backhanders fortnightly.  Alan had vision, too.  He had plans for just about everything.  Some thought Alan was a touch delusional, but that mattered not to him and he reminded himself that the greatest visionaries had always been seen as a little mad.  So great was Alan Trout’s self-belief that not even the reality of how he entered public office tempered it.  A lurid scandal involving all of his rivals burst onto the headlines a week before the big election. There were weird leather costumes, doctored videos and hidden cameras.  Drugs were found, as were phone numbers for illicit massage parlours.  It was a big old mess and no one could make heads or tails of what was fact or fiction.  Only Alan knew.  But so in shock were the voting constituents that every hand wavered over casting their ballot, and so it would be that Alan Trout found himself voted into office by so thin a margin that if you could split people into votes, he snuck in by one teeny toe.       

            With one final look in his favourite bedroom mirror, Alan would kiss his wife on the forehead and make his way downstairs.  And into every mirror he passed striding towards the front door he would take a little peek, give a little wink, blow a little kiss, and ponder his perfection.  As he walked into Parliament Alan often glanced at the palace across the road and always the same thought emerged, a thought that he would never share with his parliamentary peers.    

            This particular day would prove momentous.  Alan would be meeting three visitors.  But these weren’t your everyday visitors; constituents with an ache or a local merchant requesting a tax break.  They were: Roger Remington III, a Texas oilman and all-around industrialist.  Dr Foo, a Shanghai based investment maestro.  And Achmed, a billionaire salesman from Zanzibar who started life as a shoeless nomad wandering the deserts of North Africa.  In preparation for the meeting Alan had his one trusted aide perform an analysis of their estimated wealth.  When presented with the final figure he was speechless.  Gulp.  ‘That much, James?  Are you sure?’ – ‘That much.  Alan, they could buy the world.’  Well, perhaps not the entire world, Alan reflected privately, but certainly a large chunk of it.  So stuffed full of confidence was Alan that he rarely felt nerves.  But the thought of sitting across from so much wealth gave flight to a butterfly or two.  Settle down there.  I’ll manage.  I’ll sell them on progress. And our potential.  These are men of action, not words.  But – they came calling on me, moi?  Well, whatever it is…I’ll do my best…I’ll… 

            Alan Trout would make it happen.

            Alan Trout was the perfect politician.