Georgina is a New Zealander who has put down her roots in London. She loves how alive the city makes her feel when she’s biking through the streets at night, but misses walking barefoot along the warm pavements at home.
Georgina’s writing is inspired by the emergence of the ‘Me Too’ movement and the way it has gained momentum within many workplaces but failed to reach others. Her work examines the often unspoken long term effects of being privy to a predator in action. Political ‘would you rathers’ keep her awake at night, while inspiring leadership (think Jacinda Ardern) gives her hope and inspiration in her day to day life.
That Naked Video is a multiple viewpoint novel telling the story of a nationally beloved politician with numerous sex scandals waiting to break, the journalist wanting to break them, and the women he manipulates along the way. It explores what we are willing to look away from in order to maintain and justify our world view, decisions and purpose. Although it includes seemingly charming predators, leaked nudes, sexual assault, and glass ceilings, it is also packed with self-discovery and recovery, unity and hope.
That Naked Video
“Sir Arthur Pearse?”
She’s looking at me. Me. Arty. Arthur Pearse. Sir Arthur Pearse QC MP. Leader of the Opposition. Leader of the Labour Party. It just happened, and even though it’s madness, ridiculous even, it somehow feels more normal than any other aspect of my life ever has.
A woman who used to work for me back at my law firm, Frances, she told me that no matter where we are, at any given point in time, it is predetermined. We are here for a reason, we are there because it is our path. She talked a bit of bollocks from time to time, but I think there’s something to be said for that destiny chat of hers. I slid out of my mother’s womb, all covered in shit and blood, and the shit clung on for year after year, but I kept on going. I made it here powered by something so strong it could only have been destiny. And my God am I going to bring my Party back into leadership so I can make a change for those people that come into the world like me, but who aren’t backed by destiny. Not just people like me, but anyone who is treading water, who needs to be taught to swim, or better yet, given a life raft. I am going to be that life raft.
“I can take you through whenever you’re ready.”
The girl standing in front of me is smiling at me eagerly. She looks young, she must be smart to be working here at this age. My little girl will be like her, I’m sure of it. This one’s put a great deal of effort into getting ready. I want her to relax, to know we aren’t so dissimilar.
“None of that Sir business! I’m Arty, always have been, always will be. And you?”
“Me? My name?”
I smile and nod encouragingly. She’s blushing and holding her wrists with opposite hands. I’m thinking she must be a fan – the young ones so often are. But then again, perhaps my head has got too big for my own good just one week into the job. Maybe she’s just nervous – these media agencies can be as ruthless as law firms.
“I’m Emmeline, it’s really good to meet you, Sir, sorry, Arty. I got told not to mention it, but I’m a big supporter. All my friends are!” Knew it. “Your proposed Uni tuition reform is like amazing. I so wish you had been in Office when I started my undergrad. Sorry, I’m talking too much. I just hope you get elected. I mean, of course you will. You’ve got my vote. But anyway, I just had to say that. I should take you through.”
“I’ve got plenty of time, Emmeline, no rush. Do you mind if I ask the damage… of your loan?”
She pauses and looks upwards. “29. But I’ve got it down to 27 in two years.”
This girl is about to lead me to my first official interview as Leader, she’s one I want to remember. I want her to remember me.
“Emmeline, do you give me permission to ask your boss for your bank details? I’d like to tidy something up for you.”
Those cheeks of hers may be polished in foundation and defined by highlighter, but red screams through, a stutter starts to emerge. I didn’t intend for this reaction. I just wanted to reward her bravery to open up to me. I don’t like this version of her as much as the chatty one I just met. I want that version back. So, I give her the smile. The one that tells her she’s okay, she’s got this. Because she does.
“Well, I’m going to take your silence as a yes. Now I think you should take me through. It’s been a pleasure.”
I need to focus. I park Emmeline and her loan (I’ll put it through the system as a campaign expense) and start to come inward. We walk down the dimmed corridor in front of us, through some double doors, and into a studio bathed in light. The headline is prepped on a teleprompter: ‘Live with the Labour Party’s Leader and Saviour: Sir Arthur Pearse. Feminist, father, hero.’
I navigate the questions as a politician, a feminist, a father and, yes, a hero. I get laughs, I get eager nods, I even get little taps on the elbow.
We’ve been talking for forty minutes, so I need to drop polling in and start to close this conversation down.
“Shakira says hips don’t lie, but I say the polls don’t lie. We’ve gone from 21% to 42% in the month since my appointment was announced. Now I’ve officially left the Marvel Chess and Lug partnership, I can only expect us to rise further as we approach election year. We are on a trajectory that is looking–”
Tap! The interviewer interrupts me to gush, “–Sorry you mean you’ve risen in the polls, you’re at 42%!”
“No, no. We. I am a sum of my parts, and a part of me is my community. Any of my achievements are the achievements of a collective. As you touched on earlier, I come from a broken home. I see this country as one big broken home. I want to bring it back together, I want to be the father figure for our nation, the father figure I never had.”
This should be the place we end. I’ve given them their sound bite, their headline. But I know this isn’t possible, because they haven’t mentioned the Video. And they will mention the Video, no matter how much they want to support me. Because they also want viewers and viewers love this stuff. It’s a way of life, sex and politics.
“Now, Arty. I don’t want to detract from your vision and ambitions, but before we close, I have one last question. The Video. What do you have to say about it? Obviously, because of the pornographic content, we can’t insert a clip for our viewers. But to those of you watching, just think one of Arty’s senior team members at his law firm MCL, sexually compromising positions, numerous men – you get the drift.
“Janine, really? We are going there?”
“Arty, we are. I know it must have been an exceptionally stressful time for you, but I feel like we have to get your take on it. She was your 2IC! The Twitter handles #goodgirlgoesbad @MarvelChess&Lug and #MCLsexscandal, well,they’re still trending, and it’s been a month since the Video hit the public.”
She’s creative, bringing up the Twitter handles. Although she missed out #hotterthanpornhub, which was my personal favourite. I give her a cheeky smile, which I know she will love, and get to it. Although it’s tiresome, I know how to navigate this. I go over it with my wife while we sit over breakfast, when we are in the bath, on a walk, or tending to our baby girl. It’s sensitive, it’s personal, it’s dangerous. My response needs to be perfect every time. I’ve said variations of what I’m about to say more times than I can count but, each time, it’s with more empathy, more compassion, more conviction than the time before. It’s genuine though, I promise.
“Look, the woman who was in the Video was an exceptional lawyer. No images or videos can detract from the impressive work she did for my team. I’m not sure why the Video emerged or why it was made in the first place. But what I would say is that everyone has their own story. You know that. And we need to respect that. You have no idea, I have no idea, what was going on for her. Unfortunately, we couldn’t keep her at the firm, as you can understand. We simply had to crack down on that sort of behaviour, especially coming from senior staff. We had to ensure we could remain focused on delivering world-class advice. But her work was gravely missed when I was still at MCL, and I’m sure it still is.”
I look into the camera. Frances will be watching. I need to look her dead in the eye. It’s destiny. We are here, at this point and time, for a reason, Frances.
IS PEARSE SET TO RESIGN ELEVEN MONTHS INTO THE JOB?
MARVEL CHESS AND LUG CAUGHT UP IN SECOND SEX SCANDAL THIS YEAR!
ANONYMOUS SOURCE COMES FORWARD WITH STORY OF AFFAIR
ARTY’S ESCAPADES AT MCL COME TO LIGHT – THE NAUGHTY BOY WAS MENTORING INTERN IN MORE THAN THE LAW!
ARE THE TORIES BEHIND PEARSE SCANDAL? STRANGER THINGS HAVE HAPPENED!
FROM MINX TO MODEST – INTERN REFUSES TO SPEAK
MCL CLAIM NOT TO HAVE KNOWN OF AFFAIR
LABOUR CONFIRMS THAT RUMOURS WILL NOT AFFECT LEADERSHIP
Rosa cannot believe she is about to undergo a heated power vinyasa session. The only physical pursuits she partakes in are outdoor ‘bitch boxing’ and ‘strong woman bootcamps’. She does not own fancy tights and does not want to tap into her inner child, as a quote on the wall in front of her suggests she will be doing.
She better get a promotion after she breaks the story. She better break the story.
Rosa stands before the reception desk, breathes out and looks up at Frances who is signing people into class. The look that Frances gives Rosa in return makes her feel like her soul is being ruthlessly analysed. Not that Rosa really believes in souls and all that.
Frances softens her gaze and smiles at Rosa before speaking. “Welcome. I’m Frances, the owner here, and I’m also guiding this morning’s session.”
“Right. Frances. Good to meet you. I’m Rosa. I’m not really a yoga person, you know? Just thought I’d give it a shot! You won’t make me do the splits, will you?”
“No splits, I promise. It’s not so much about flexibility of your body, it’s more a suppleness of the mind thing. You’ll be great. Drop your things on your left, studio is down the hall to the right. Class begins in a couple of minutes, so we’ll sort the starter forms later.”
Rosa nods, then accidentally gives Frances a once over with her eyes before turning towards the studio.
Frances calls after her as she walks away, as if trying to neutralise the up and down she just received, “And Rosa? Good to have you here.”
Just over 90 minutes later, Rosa is lying flat on her back, eyes shut. Frances is plucking at a guitar and singing to the class. Rosa would usually judge this situation in a major way, but despite all the wanky spiritual rhetoric she’s just been subjected to, it feels like it’s worked, whatever ‘it’ may be.
She’s exhausted, but feels all chilled and mellow. She’s definitely sweated out the Chinese takeaways she devoured last night while prepping today’s pitch. Her shoulders feel all soft and loose, and her hips – well they haven’t felt this open since pre-puberty. When the singing stops, she peeks out of one eye in time to see Frances bang a little bowl with a metal stick. Her job really does take her to some weird and wonderful places.
“Shanti, namaste.” Frances savours the words before bowing her head dramatically. “Incredible work today everyone – you are looking so powerful! Try and keep that power throughout the day. Remember to drink lots of water and go gentle on the old bod. I’ll be out the front if you have any questions. Namaste!”
The class namastes right on back to Frances. They all look like they want to have one-on-ones with her, get a little bit of her love. Not today, Rosa thinks, no, Frances is all hers. She leaps up from her mat. She needs to give Frances a quick pitch and then wait until everyone has left before interviewing her properly.
“Frances, that class— you are seriously talented! I can’t believe you spent so long as a corporate, such a waste.”
Frances retracts her neck back but then steps forward.
“Sorry Frances, I don’t want to sound like I’ve been looking into you— like prying or anything. It’s not about the Video.”
Frances sighs. “Rosa, I’m going to have to ask you to leave the studio now. And please don’t come back. I can recommend some other yoga teachers in the area who will look after you.” There is very little intonation in Frances’ voice, which moments ago was so full of life. She obviously gets a lot of people coming to the studio to see their favourite porno live.
“No, no Frances, I’m not here to— I’m a journalist. I want to help. I know there’s something more to the Pearse story. I know MCL has been in discussions with C&Q, I’ve done the due diligence. C&Q specialise in ruthless NDAs. Please just talk to me. I’m here to help.”
I always try and take a couple breaths before everyone comes over for their farewell chat, but today I don’t get the chance. One of the new students appears before me. She has pushed her way out of the studio and is standing right up in my face. She’s saying stuff about the Video.
I mean she has gumption, I’ll give her that much. She attacked the class. She was tight as hell but strong. That strength is present in her voice now. She’s talking about her suspicions like she is one of us. Like Arty’s mind has fucked her mind. I could tell there was something up with her from the moment she arrived. The way her eyes flickered as she scanned her surroundings upon entry, and how she looked at me, rather than herself, in the mirror as she practised. It was all off.
I’m not going to let her intimidate me. I never let stuff slide when I worked at MCL, why would I now? I’m also not going to rush to reply to her. I breathe in for six, out for seven, and repeat. I honestly think she could implode if I keep this up. She is exceptionally pink in the cheeks from the practice and my breathing seems to be making it worse. I know that this rage within me, this bitterness, makes me a living, breathing, contradiction. I get it. But I do try and fight it. I put Rosa out of her misery, I speak.
“Rosa. So you’re a journalist yes? Like an actual qualified, practising journalist?”
“Yes.” She nods twice, quickly.
I lower my voice – this space is meant to be free from corporate and legal bullshit.
“Okay, so you’ve done your DD. I’ll add to your evidenceor whatever. Take what you need from this: a video of me, which was sexual in nature, was made public on 14 June of last year. The person who released the Video was never identified. The Video undermined the integrity of my performance and my reputation as a fit and proper employee. The continuation of my employment jeopardised my former employer’s client relationships. For this reason, I could not continue my employment with them.”
I’m waiting for Rosa to nod or wink, just like the other journalists do. They all scribble down some notes, then move on, thinking the big discovery is that I’ve signed an NDA to stop me from embarrassing MCL any more than I already have. Not Rosa.
“No. Frances, I’m not here for your NDA spiel. I’m here about whatever Arthur has to do with it all. Your video has to be linked to his affair or whatever they’re calling it. Were you, you know, romantic with him too?”
Normally everyone is too focused on my bare ass in the Video to read between the lines. In the same way I was when I signed a document that gave MCL the all clear to fire me. Rosa is reading between the lines. It’s terrifying. It’s also so very exciting.
“Was there penetration, Frances. With the intern, with you? With the other girl— Clare? What happened with the three of you? Just tell me. They’ll never know.”
The excitement disappears with that word. I don’t know what to say, what I can say, what I want to say. I go on autopilot. I whisper the exact words I used to confidently belt out to difficult clients on MCL conference calls.
“Rosa, call me, in an hour or so. I’ll be all ready for you by then.”
Toby and Frances lie in silence on his sofa. It’s not a heavy silence, more a unifying one. Toby notices they’re breathing in time. He knows Frances will have already clocked it and it will have some symbolic meaning to her. She looks at him and lets out a tired smile.
“That Rosa woman brought it all back up and I thought it already was up.” Frances wipes her eyes with the heels of her hands. “Anyway, where’s your head at?” She slings her calf over Toby’s lap and nestles into his side.
“Just what approach we should take. What we can do with you to make it better. God, it’s these moments where I miss her.”
Toby is only ever referring to one person. He gives Frances’ shin a little tap and then frees himself from beneath it, heading to the kitchen in search of anything with a kick in it. He pulls out a bottle of red from next to some hygienically debatable homebrew kombucha. By the time he’s poured two glasses, Frances has already lit a candle and is lying on her back with her legs up the wall, a couple of books propped under the base of her spine.
“My parasympathetic nervous system is crying out today.”
Toby nods and passes her a glass. He never thought he’d be the kind of guy who knew that meant she needs her hips above her heart to calm her down. He thinks he likes it.
She gets to work on the wine from where she is, tilting her head to the side and trying to pour it into her mouth. Toby doesn’t tell her it’s an expensive bottle and she should probably not let it gush down her chin and onto the floorboards. He would do anything to protect the face she pulls when she finds herself funny. It’s one of the links to pre-video times, when things were fun and easy. He sits on the floor beside her, tries to kiss her as she laughs, and then continues to attempt to start a conversation about their old friend.
“I know it sounds bad, but she just made me feel so much more chill – like I was so aware of the contrast between her and us – she was just so bloody uptight.”
Frances is gargling the wine now. “I think sommeliers should do this – how funny would it be if people did this at fancy restaurants? The taste is way stronger than swirling it in your mouth upright”.
He presses on, gently, fighting the urge to shout or shake her, to do anything that might make her listen. “Francey, we need to get into the habit of talking about her, even if she can’t be here. We can’t just erase all our memories of her. That’d be a hell of a lot of my life.”
Toby moves away from Frances. He knows it’ll hurt her, but he’s done tonight. She’s not even trying to see where he’s coming from. She hasn’t for a long time.
He leans against the door frame and rubs his head. “It’s not like she’s dead.”
Frances sits up abruptly and swallows her mouthful. Her eyes tell him she’s about to lose control.
“Well, actually, she may as well be dead. They killed her in my eyes. Who the fuck does that? We were the only ones there after it all happened and we can’t even talk about it. Who writes a clause forbidding someone from seeing their best friend? That is not a standard NDA, it isn’t.” Frances puts down her glass, so that the base is immersed in the puddle of spilt liquid. “And who the fuck signs a clause like that, Tobes, seriously, how could she do that?”