In August last year, Tom Randall essentially had two separate lives.
The trained solicitor would work in London from Monday to Thursday, then clamber on to a National Express coach and head to his second life in Gedling.
For all he knew, it would all be in vain. He’d have thrown himself into a bruising, and physically-demanding General Election campaign and, in his own words, walked away with nothing.
He – and everyone else for that matter – didn’t even know when the election would be called. For all he knew the two lives could have gone on for years.
But from Thursday night to Sunday night, 38-year-old Mr Randall would hit the doorsteps, talking with the people who are now his constituents.
On the best night for the Conservatives for generations, he replaced Labour’s Vernon Coaker, who Mr Randall describes as a ‘well-liked, well-respected constituency MP’.
When the returning officer read out the result in the wee hours of Friday, December 13, the old life was jettisoned and Mr Randall dived head-long into the new.
“I had to decide. Until the election was over this had to be the most important thing in my life,” he said.
“I was either working in London, or I was campaigning. There was nothing else.
“I missed friends’ birthdays, I had no social life. This was it.”
When the election was finally called after those febrile, treacly days in Parliament, Mr Randall took unpaid leave from work and gave even more of himself to what was widely seen as one of the most grueling campaigns in decades.
The 38 year old said: “Gedling is a very hilly constituency, and I was walking between seven and 10 miles a day, usually in appalling weather, so it was a hard campaign.”
Usually at election counts, you have a fairly good idea of who’s going to win before the result is announced.
Party activists count the ballot papers at the same time as the counters do, so they tend to know which way it has gone.
But at Gedling it was clear as mud.
“While they were counting, I had a slight inkling we were fractionally ahead, but I didn’t want to believe it, because you have to be prepared to walk away with nothing, you have to cushion yourself for that.”
Did it sink in straight away? Not really.
“I’ve looked back at the footage of that moment, and I certainly don’t look very happy. But I definitely was.
“I still feel like I’m me, but there are those moments that you realised ‘I’m not just who I used to be’.”
“Obviously I’ve always opened my own doors like everyone else.
“But when the Parliamentary door keeper opened a door for me and said ‘Good Morning, Mr Randall – having memorised my name and face – I thought ‘ah OK, this is new’.
“Then I was asked by a couple of people for a selfie in Arnold. Funnily enough that didn’t happen to me before.
“I still go and stand in the House of Commons Chamber when it’s empty, and just take it in.
“I’d been and done the tourist thing before, but it’s just different when you’re a member, and you feel it.”
He puts his hand to his heart. He has become the MP for his hometown – Arnold.
“And that’s a very special thing,” he says, with a smile.