rounds the mortal temples of a king

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the purpose of ginseng tea (the thick of it)
lan fan
Title: the purpose of ginseng tea
Rating: R (for swearing)
Characters: Stewart, mentions of others
Warnings: swearing
Disclaimer: It's one am on a Saturday night and I'm up writing The Thick of It fanfic - do you really think I own anything more than a boxset?
A/N: Did I mention this was written at one am? I'm tired and I, for some reason, thought this would be a good idea. Oops. Not confident on the 'voice' of Stewart at all, but it's an attempt.
Summary: Ginseng tea tastes vile - so why drink it? Or, a rough account of the first hundred days of the coalition.

Stewart discovered ginseng tea on a backpacking trip he took with some camarades five years ago. He found it in a little shop attached to a petrol station in India. A pack of twenty bags for a rather exorbitant amount, if he did say so himself. Still, helping the economy and drinking a tea that’s sure to be good for you? Easy decision.

Sure, it tastes vile and gives him rather inconvenient migraines on occasions when he’d rather be going a few rounds chitting and chatting with the good PM, but still. The tea has some benefits. It really serves to energise the staff in a way that normal tea doesn’t, makes them more susceptible to engaging, processing, breaking the mold with their ideas (never labouring. That’s still a no-go word. No one likes to be reminded of the previous tenants. It’s like bringing up the name of your once adorable puppy that bit the leg off your five year-old child and had to be put down).

So that’s why it was Stewart’s first act as Director of Communications to make sure the staff of each ministry had a healthy supply going. That they could share. Encourage a communion between the ministries, you know? That’s the key to good governmenting, especially in a coalition. Stewart likes to think of it as a metaphor. They share the ginseng like they share the responsibility of running the country. It’s a similar sort of thing, really, in that they struggle to do both.

(His second act as Director of Communications was to bin a set of sticky notes his predecessor had left him, warning him to ‘ignore the stench in the cupboard on the second floor. Its contents may smell like a dead body and bare a slight resemblance to one, but not to worry because the fucking Ghostbusters will be round any day now to clear it up and if one thing has been moved from there, then their fucking extrapolators or whatever the fuck they use wouldn’t be able to pick up the wee molecules of the “Go Green” cockhead that would be smeared on the walls by the time you finished checking that cupboard for cobwebs’. Stewart was rather disturbed, but not all that surprised, when a group of removal men did in fact turn up two days later and went straight up to the cupboard opposite the men’s bathroom on the second floor. He’s made it a point to do his business elsewhere since then - better safe than sorry, and all that.)

Still, by day fifty, it’s clear that the coalition is going remarkably swimmingly, in that no one’s been convicted of homicide yet. (there was a close call, but it wasn’t government related - there was an affair and a Holiday Season party. Mishaps happen.) His little worker bees are hard at work, building a modern (non-neo-colonial) British Empire for the DigiAge and he feels like he should give substantial credit to his ginseng tea. It must be the calming influence that allows peeps of diametrically opposed thoughts and idea-ettes to get along for the benefit of the nation. So he orders another four years’ supply of the stuff from the interwebz. Might as well buy in bulk, and all that. There is a recession on.

Yes, the coalition was going all according to plan until day sixty-nine (an email from his predecessor with a rather interesting pun as the subject line pinged into his iPhone that night when he finally got home). Fucking DoSac. All he had wanted was a quiet afternoon with the bright spark that was Emma, discussing policies that they could fob off to Tweedle Dum and Dumber so that the department would look like it was doing something. And then they had to go and give a microphone to Peter ‘Motorised by Misery’ Mannion. Oh, he had had to have a long chat with Cornelia Stamp about that one - just because she’s Simeon’s cousin (fresh out of St. Andrew’s - can’t have too many Oxbridges and LSEs nowadays. A bit dim, but sweet, unlike her utterly indispensable cousin who Stewart met on a tour of Pixar three years ago), doesn’t mean that she shouldn’t be be very, very careful over who she hands a microphone to. Especially when that ludicrous, ancient ignoramus who ended up saying how wonderful it was to be part of a coalition because he ‘always wanted to take up boxing and now he has a punching bag to practise on’. Okay, so the PM said the same thing the previous week and it got a good chuckle out of the cabinet, but at least he didn’t say it with a fucking microphone around his neck, just in time for the evening news, when all Stewart wanted was to get home to watch last Sunday’s Countryfile. Instead, he was stuck at the office until three am explaining the non-existent situation to journalists who clearly didn’t buy into his twirling the various plates of spin. He had to have three cups of camomile tea in order to bring his energy levels up to an acceptable amount the next morning. Fuck the ginseng - desperate times called for desperate tea types that he could actually stand the taste of.

After that, it was like the proverbial dam had spilled shit all over his previous ordered matrix of calm and efficiency. One thing after another - Jezza with the bell, Emily with the slight hate-crimes and then, of course, the passing of Steve - it felt like it was all he could do to not spew up his granola snack bars every Monday morning. Until he was forced to take a few good, deep breaths in the wide open space of Hyde Park on the hundredth day to stop him from killing Harry Hefton who managed to get himself caught shagging his married (and distinctly male) PA. And then he realised it, he finally understood the purpose of ginseng tea and it was so enlightening he had to sit down and listen to some calming tunes to soothe the ideas cradle before excitedly tweeting Simeon - it’s a distraction. The taste distracts him from how god-awful everything else is and makes him really focus on something other than controlling the raucous men-children that comprise the government. There’s something quite lovely about that.

Pity it tastes so fucking vile.

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New series, new fic! :D So glad to find this. And so quickly. (Are you some sort of magician.)

Despite your worries, I could hear Stewart in every single line! The PR/corporate-inspired solecisms were definitely our Pearson, and I particularly loved "the ideas cradle." And he would go to India and buy tea in a petrol station, he would.

Brilliant. Thank you so much for this, and I really hope we see more! I've got such a soft spot for Stewart and he's so rarely in fic.

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