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Achieve Real-Time Retaliation Within Two Sweeps of the Radar

Excerpt from the novel The Relatively Constant Copywriter, Northern Writers 1972

The Account Director said: "Aaaarghh, here we are!"

The party disembarked, stretching their cramped limbs; the chauffeur saluted and drove away. All around them empty fields stretched away to the boring horizon, rim of the world, and birds in droves banked high in the watery sky.

"This is the life!" said the Account Executive.

It was impossible to see through the windows into the building because all one could see was the reflection of the sky. Atop the flag-pole the company's flag fluttered and flapped in the stiffish breeze. It was cool but nice.

"What time are we leaving?" asked the Art Director.

Having replenished their lungs with good fresh air the party attempted the short steep climb to the double doors vibrating gently, creaking slightly, from the onslaught of air moving across the flat open fields. Inside sudden warmth enveloped them.

The Copywriter didn't say anything.

The entrance hall consisted of large square smooth slabs grouted with a black plasticky substance, a gold clock proud of the wall, a semi-circular reception desk and a grey cube illuminated on all sides by concealed fluorescent tubes. A small placard bore the caption: Achieve Real-Time Retaliation Within Two Sweeps of the Radar. It meant nothing to any of them. The uniformed man behind the desk extended a pen and indicated the company book lying diagonally across the red leather surface. The Account Director stepped forward ingratiatingly, signed his name and handed the pen to the Account Executive who did the same, handing the pen to the Art Director. The Copywriter was the last person to sign his name in the book.

"Whom do you wish to see, sir?" the man said.

The Account Director's reply was drowned by a sudden deep rumble from somewhere inside the factory but evidently the man behind the desk understood for he smiled and picked up the telephone gracefully. Speaking into the instrument and then listening, then speaking again, he replaced the receiver and smiled with apparent sincerity.

"Would you care to wait a moment, gentlemen. Mr ------ " another rumble obliterated the man's name "will be down to collect you presently."

There was nowhere to sit so they stood in an ungainly group chatting intermittently about the landscape, the uncommon warmth in the entrance hall and what could have been the cause of the sound, low and menacing, from deep within the works. The Account Executive cracked a weak joke at which they all laughed gratefully. After not too long a period a man appeared at the head of the open staircase and descended rapidly to shake hands with them: Account Director, Account Executive, Art Director and the Copywriter last of all.

"Did you have a pleasant trip?"

"Very pleasant."

"You're in good time. The manager of XUDepartment is waiting in the conference room."

"Aaaarghh good," said the Account Director.

"This way."

The party followed him up the staircase, along a featureless corridor, past a series of glass-walled rooms in which serious white-coated men were bending with intense concentration over chemical apparatus and control panels, down another featureless corridor, through heavy leather-bound doors that opened and closed in complete silence, up yet another featureless corridor and finally through a padded door which gave access to a large light well-ventilated room featuring a long central table and ten chairs, with a cinema screen and two revolving blackboards set in the walls. Two men awaited them: the manager of XUDepartment and his assistant. This made a total of seven: three company men and four from the agency.

"Did you have a pleasant trip?" the manager of XUDepartment asked.

"Very pleasant."

"These are very nice premises," someone (probably the Account Executive) remarked.

"Thank you," the young assistant said. "We have a tremendous number of PhDs to the square inch." Everyone laughed at this pointless remark.

"Aaaarghh, now then," the Account Director said, "where do we start?"

The young assistant said promptly: "Isn't the first thing to establish the general overall policy for the coming financial year and then to seek ways in which that policy can best be implemented?"

The manager of XUDepartment looked thoughtful, pressing his fingertips to the bridge of his nose, and cleared his throat. Everyone waited without breathing for him to speak. He stared out through the brilliant window and then let his hands fall slackly to the table. He opened his mouth, changed his mind, and eventually decided to say: "What do you mean by general overall policy?"

"I was thinking in terms of defining our general attitude to advertising in the coming financial year. I take it we do intend to advertise?"

"Of course," the manager said. "That is the whole purpose of this meeting. Let's be sensible, Jeffrey."

The Copywriter experienced a growing dislike for the manager of XUDepartment. It was always the case, personalities and internal politics interfered with the job in hand. The information he required was quite simple and straightforward and had he been allowed to interrogate the manager, the young assistant and Mr ------, could all have been obtained within an hour, two at the outside.

"Excuse me, but I think I am being sensible," the young assistant said. "These gentlemen have travelled a long way to see us and I think it only right that we set our thoughts in order before proceeding any further with any sort of detailed discussion."

"I think that's very wise," the Account Director was about to say but didn't get the chance.

"Let's not forget who is the manager of XUDepartment," said the manager of XUDepartment. "It was I who called this meeting in the first place and as my assistant I expect you to act in that capacity."

The young assistant lapsed into a moody silence, contributing little or nothing during the remainder of the meeting.

"To continue," the manager said, happy now that he had irrevocably established his superiority and rightful place as the most important person in the room. "I think that before we begin we should adjourn for coffee. No doubt you gentlemen have had an extremely tiring journey - "

"Actually it was very pleasant," the Account Executive said.

" - so, if I may be allowed to continue, a break at this point might prove most welcome."

"It will indeed," said the Account Director, smiling horribly all round.

Almost immediately a middle-aged woman entered the room pushing a tea-trolley. She poured coffee into seven cups and placed two plates of biscuits on the table, one at either end. Everyone drank coffee and ate biscuits (the manager of XUDepartment chose one with silver paper wrapped round it, the Copywriter noticed) and then when this was over and done with bent their heads into notebooks, schedules, BRAD, tabulations, calculations, etc., riffling stacks of papers importantly while they waited for someone (the manager) to break the silence, break the ice, crack the whip, get them back on the right tack. But it was the Account Director who spoke. "Aaaarghh, may I ask a question?"

The manager retained a blank expression for a moment and then smiled bleakly. "Please. By all means. Isn't that why you're here?"

Everyone laughed good-naturedly and all at once the atmosphere in the room changed.
"Well, first off," the Account Director continued, "I should like to thank you for the coffee and biscuits. Very nice."

"The company's pleasure."

"Yes. Now. Could we, do you suppose, begin by defining - in vague general terms - the way in which you hope your advertising policy will develop during the next financial year? I would find it most helpful and I'm sure my colleagues will also."

"I'm sure we will," the Account Executive said.

"Oh yes," the Art Director said.

The Copywriter said nothing.

"Good idea," said Mr ------.

The young assistant went "Hummphh" and received a stern glance from the corner of the manager of XUDepartment's eye.

"I can answer that question quick enough," the manager said confidently. "Or rather Mr ------ can."

Everyone looked expectantly at Mr ------. Mr------ in his turn looked in a puzzled fashion at the manager of XUDepartment. "I'm afraid I don't quite ..."

"The memo," the manager said briskly. "The interdepartmental memorandum I sent you asking you to prepare a report outlining the way in which we hope our advertising policy will develop during the next financial year."

"Oh that." Mr ------ lapsed into an unhealthy silence. Then he appeared inordinately pleased with himself. "I initialled it and passed it on to - "

"Me," the young assistant said.

The manager of XUDepartment went white. "On whose authority did this take place?" he demanded to know. "Need I remind you once again that you are my assistant and I suggest you fulfil the duties of that position rather than interfere in matters which do not conern you. Where is the memo now?"

"I initialled it and passed it on to you," the young assistant said.

"Me?" Mr ------ said.

"No, him."

"And the report?" the manager said.

"I thought he was doing it," Mr ------ said.

"Me?" the manager said.

"No, him."

"Did you do it?" the manager asked the young assistant.

"I thought you were doing it."

"Me?" the manager said.


What followed is hardly worth describing. Accusations flew from left to right, counter-accusations flew from right to left and the manager of XUDepartment and Mr----- had to be physically restrained from assaulting each other and the young assistant. The Copywriter fell asleep; well not actually asleep but drifted languidly into a soft subtle world composed of people asking simple questions and other people answering them simply. The trouble was (he dreamt) there was no longer any such thing as a simple question. "What is your name?" used to be a simple question but not any more. And "Which way is up?" was now a very questionable question indeed. One could fill a book with such questions. The question was, who could answer them? See, stumped already. Question answers question. The answer to a question is a question. Ask a stupid question and you get a stupid question. The only way out of this dilemma (the Copywriter dreamt) was not to ask any questions, not a single one, but simply let people prattle on and on until they talked themselves into the ground or dropped dead from exhaustion or just stopped. For what were the manager of XUDepartment and Mr ------ and the young assistant talking about right this minute? And who cared? Nobody was listening except the Account Director whose sole task in life it was to listen emptily to clients, and would have listened to them slurping their soup, to the sounds of their love cries, to the noises they made behind the lavatory door, smiling horribly all the while. But nobody else: the Art Director was asleep (really asleep) mumbling through clenched lips "What time are we leaving ... time are we leaving ... are we leaving ... leaving" while the Account Executive was miles away in a darkened bedroom with another man's wife, worrying in-between orgasms about his thinning hair. (So the Copywriter dreamt.) In this fashion the morning wound drearily on its way until the lunchtine hooter rasped like a blunt saw through the last lingering remnants of the all but burnt-out argument; desultory derogatory phrases limping wearily across the table fell dead to the floor.

For lunch they drove a short distance through bleak furrowed fields to the company guesthouse and were ushered inside a delightful old stone mansion by an attractive woman, the manageress as it turned out, who seemed to have more than a mere business understanding with the manager of XUDepartment. They patted and fawned over one another making the party from the agency avert its eyes. First they all had a drink in what had been the sitting-room and was now the main reception room, eating salted peanuts from shallow glass dishes and sinking lower and lower into enormous hideous armchairs, their feet suffocating in thick pile carpet. Then the manager of XUDepartment departed from the room leaving them to their own devices, presumably to steal a kiss and stroke the bum of the manageressin the cold capacious larder while trussed chickens and stuffed turkeys looked on with sightless arseholes. Back in the reception room the party from the agency was growing restless with hunger and Mr ------ was trotting anxiously to and fro plying them with drinks and more shallow dishes of salted peanuts. The young assistant remained sullen. Just when it seemed that none of them would ever see food again the manager reappeared smiling broadly and smacking his lips, jovially admonishing them to "get a move on" as the mock turtle soup was already steaming on the table. As indeed it was. And what's more it was delicious. The table itself was beautiful bare mahogany or some such timber, trimmed on all four sides with delicate little paper doilies and melamine-laminated hunting scenes on which to rest the plates and dishes. After the soup came steak and kidney pie, cooked so deliciously that any ill-feeling there might have been was soon forgotten as everyone attended dutifully to their heaped plates and brimming glasses. The Copywriter was becoming well-oiled. To date he had drunk: one medium sherry, three whiskies and ginger, two glasses of white wine and was now in the process of demolishing a third. The pleasant room was beginning to feel strange; the curtains, for example, hanging so tidily on either side of the large window - who had made them? Why were they that particular pattern, that certain colour? And why had whoever had made them made them so that they just barely touched the carpet instead of allowing excess material for shrinkage which would most certainly be needed following the combined action of constant sunlight and repeated washings (dry cleaning?) with some harsh detergeant that judging from the quality of the fabric would do the fabric no good at all, and quite possibly, almost certainly, sure as eggs is eggs, some positive harm? The question was (here he went again!) should he point this out to the manager of XUDepartment or even the randy manageress herself? It would save them a great deal of trouble in the long run, maybe even in the short shrink. But even as he was debating this he was back in the mainstream because in answer to a question put by the Account Director - smiling horribly at everybody - the manager of XUDepartment was saying: "What do we manufacture? What do we actually make? Well, to give you some idea: Silicon Semi-conductor Devices; Wide Band, Solid State, Linear Integrated Circuits; Solid State Digital Circuits; UHF and Very High Speed Switching Planar Transistors and Diodes; High Voltage, Subminiature and High Power Rectifiers; Parametric Amplifiers; Frequency Multipliers; Varactor Diodes; Photocells; Field Effect Transistors; Strain Gauges; Power Transistors; PNPN Switches; Zener Diodes and Regulators; Germanium Tunnel Diodes."

"Really?" said the Account Director.

"Industrial Cathode Ray Tubes; High Resolution CRT Displays; Radar Tubes; Monitor Tubes; Fibre Optics Tubes; Telerecording Tubes; Flying Spot Scanner Tubes; Oscillograph Tubes; Microspot Display Tubes."

"Is that so?"

"Ceramic to Metal Seals; Single and Multiple Seals for High Temperature and Pressure Applications; High Vacuum Equipment; Getter Ion Pumps with pumping speeds in the range of 1 to 400 litres per second; Absorption fore pumps; High Vacuum Valves; Control Units and other associated equipment; Industrial and Special Purpose Valves; X-Band Klystrons for Local Oscillation and High Power Applications; Stroboscopic Light Sources; Linear Light Sources; Voltage Stabilisers; Vacuum High Voltage Rectifiers; Cold Cathode Relay Tubes; X-ray Tubes; Radio and Television Valves; Triggered Spark Gaps; Photographic Flash Tubes."

"You don't say - "

"Microammeters, Milliammeters, Ammeters and Voltmeters of moving iron; Moving Coil, Rectifier, Thermal and Electrostatic Types; Induction and Dynamometer Wattmeters; Power Factor Indicators; Synchroscopes and Frequency Indicators; Hermetically-sealed Instruments; Cell Testing Voltmeters; Clip-on Ammeters; Railway and Pole-type Clip-on Ammeters; Clip-on Volt-Ammeters and Clip-on Wattmeters; Current Transformers; Electronic Summation and Maximum Demand Metering Equipment; Disturbance Recorders (Oscilloperturbograph); Earth Leakage Relays; Voltage Supervisory Relays; High Voltage Indicators; Phasing Equipment; Live Line Testers; Railway High Voltage Indicators; Small Self-starting Synchronous Motors; Rotational Viscometers; Tesvac Vacuum Testers; Transducers; Peak Acceleromters."

"Who would have believed it - "

"Electrically-driven Artificial Horizons in 4.5in. or 3.25in. S.A.E. Cases; Vertical Signalling Gyroscopic Units with Electrical or Mechanical Outputs; Horizon Gyro Units; Directional Gyroscopes; Compass Systems; Control Units for Gyroscopic Units including provision for Boosted Run-up and/or Automatic Levelling of Gyro Wheel; Transistorised Control/Inverter Units for operation of Gyroscopic Equipment from a D.C. battery supply; Transistor Inverters for general operation of aircraft A.C. components from a D.C. supply; Transformer Rectifier Units; Transistorised Voltage Regulators; Helicopter and V.T.O.L. Flight Systems, Autopilots and Autostabilisers; Inertial Platforms; Lightweight Homing and Approach Systems."

"Well I never - "

"Electro-Mechanical Analog Computers for Fire Control Applications; Shipborne Gyro Stabilisers for Gunnery Platforms and other Applications; Range of Stabilised Electronic Power Packs and other Electronic Units associated with Military Applications."
The manager looked round triumphantly and set upon his sweet which the manageress had placed before him. Everyone ate in sloppy silence. The Copywriter ate his sweet with the rest of them, which was a sponge pudding soaked in layers of Drambuie, Benedictine and Cointreau. It was delicious and powerful and before very long he was feeling distinctly uneasy. He wanted to get up and open the window or walk out in the fresh air or lie cold and secluded somewhere. Yet still the conversation continued:
"Aaaarghh good, now we're getting somewhere," the Account Director said. "Now of the things you've mentioned which do you wish to advertise?"

The manager of XUDepartment was astounded. "None of them, of course."

"Oh I'm afraid I misunderstood," said the Account Director, smiling. "I thought you said - "

"What I said was: 'What do we manufacture? What do we actually make?' I said nothing about advertising."

"Then you don't wish to advertise anything at all?" the Account Director interpolated tentatively.

"But of course we do!" the manager said. "What do you think we're here for in the first place? Here in the first place for, or whatever the saying is. What do you think is the point of all this? The point of all this is for?"

"I'll hazard a guess - " the Account Executive began.

"Rhetorical question," hissed the Account Director.

"To make a profit," the manager made clear. "To make sure the company is a viable financial proposition, a going concern. Where would we be if we didn't or weren't? (The Account Executive opened his mouth.) "Isn't that the function of any company worth its salt? We don't come here every day for our health, you know. The company isn't meant to serve as a holiday camp or a rest home for the elderly infirm or a country retreat for the sons and daughters of retired gentlefolk. Its true function is as a living, breathing, dynamic, fast-moving, quick-thinking, gigantic industrial complex, swift to praise, slow to chide, ready and able to dig out people's real needs and desires and satisfy them by means of tough, no-nonsense, uncompromising, hard-hitting, switched-on manufacturing and marketing techniques designed to move consumer-orientated products fast - but fast - to the people and organisations who/that need them most. It isn't a sloppy or wishy-washy or couldn't-give-a-damn philosophy but a very fast real-time on-line pre-programmed fail-safe strategy whose sole purpose is to make and sell, make and sell, make and sell, sell, sell. So when you say: 'Then you don't wish to advertise anything at all?' you're talking utter balderdash and what's more insulting the people here - thousands of them - who devote their working lives to researching, investigating, verifying, planning, designing, developing, test-batching, quality-controlling, producing, despatching, critical-path-analysing, cost accounting, commissioning, eating, sleeping, breathing -

" - yes and shitting, pissing, farting!" he added fiercely, "to raise our standard of living, give everyone a square deal, feed the poor, house the homeless, help the infirm and sickly, kick out the perverts and politicians, overcome apathy and ignorance, promote health, wealth and happiness and make this world a better place to live in and in which to bring up children generally."

"I wish I'd said that," the Account Director said, beaming. "Now what can we do to help?"

(The Copywriter was feeling genuinely ill by this time.) "What specifically can we advertise?"

"Systems," said the manager definitively.

"Aaaarghh, what kind of systems?"

"All kinds of systems."

"But what kinds of systems specifically?"

"All kinds of systems specifically."

"Could you give me a 'such as'?"

"Such as?"

"Such as what kinds of systems specifically?"

"Such as?"

"I was rather hoping you could tell me."

"I can, of course I can, I'm the manager," the manager said.

"Of course you are," said the Account Director.

"Very pleasant," the Account Executive said.

"What time are we leaving?" the Art Director said.

The Copywriter said nothing.

(He was about to throw up, literally. They were now drinking very old French brandy and smoking long fat cigars. The room reeked of brandy fumes and stale stagnant smoke. His skull was screaming get me out of here ... get me out of here ... but nobody listened, everyone talked on and endlessly on as the vomit bubbled in his chest and burned the back of his throat, making sweat stand out on his brow like round translucent beads stranded on dry parchment. Good God, he thought, I'm going to be sick all over this beautiful bare mahogany table with its delicate little paper doilies and melamine-laminated hunting scenes.)

"You sell systems," the Account Director grimaced briskly.

"We sell systems," agreed the manager of XUDepartment. "Air Traffic Control Systems, Tactical Control and Action Data Automation Systems, Radar Data-Handling Systems, Digital Data Transmission Equipments for Civil and Military Systems, Special-Purpose Digital Computers and Digital-Handling Systems, Air Defence Systems, Military and Naval Data-Handling Systems, Message Collection and Switching Systems, Military Simulators and Training Systems, Guidance Control and Data Processing Systems for Guided Weapons, Training/Simulator Systems, Real-Time On-Line Control Systems for Commercial and Industrial Applications, Aircraft Digital Computer Systems, Digital Remote-Control and Indication Systems, Stock Movement and Control Systems, Process Control and Consultancy Service Systems, Data Transmission Systems, Industrial On-Line Process Control Systems, Integrated Navigation Systems for Civil Aviation combing miniature inertial navigation computation and flight-deck displays, Gyroscopic Weapon-Aiming Systems, Angle-of-Attack Systems, Lightweight Inertial Navigation Systems, Stick Push Systems, Stall Warning Systems, Electrical Connection Systems, Numerical Measurement Systems, Microwave Pulsed Data Transmission Systems, Scientific Instrument Measurement and Control Systems."

"And which of these would you like us to advertise?"

"Difficult to say. Haven't given it much thought. Do have another brandy. And care for another cigar?"

"Could you expand on that?"

"Don't you mean expound?"

"Yes, well, do that as well if you wish."

"Well now, let's see ... have another glass of very old French brandy and another cigar if you so desire. We've plenty here. The brandy is for drinking, the cigar for smoking. I can recommend both. I always say that no meal is complete without a bottle, or several, of very fine old French brandy, and a good cigar is worth every penny of the money in itself. It isn't very often I indulge myself but when I do I find a bottle of very old French brandy and a fine cigar 'make the meal' as you advertising types say." He stopped.

"Very pleasant," the Account Executive said.

"What time are we leaving?" asked the Art Director.

The manager said (the Copywriter said nothing): "I'm afraid there's little more I can say about very old French brandy and a good cigar. Perhaps my colleagues ..."

The young assistant shook his head moodily.

"Don't know a thing about either of them," said Mr ------.

There was an awful silence.

Into this plopped the words, "What do these systems do?" spoken like a man by the Copywriter. Immediately the manager of XUDepartment, the young assistant and Mr ----- delved into their piles of papers and produced three large white cards which they held up for him to see, and on each was printed the word:

"What does that mean?" he asked.

"Ssssssssssssssshhhh!!!!" said the manager. "For God's sake, do you want to get us all shot?"

"Is there nothing we can advertise?" the Account Director would have liked to know.

"Nothing at all? Any small thing will do. Anything ..."

"I'm afraid not."

"Could we possibly, do you suppose, see an actual system in the works? Could we write about one of those?"

"Not really. You see, we haven't actually built a complete system as yet. To be honest we haven't even started. We're working on it, of course. It's in the development stage at the moment. But even if we had one to show you we couldn't because it's classified."

"Wha - " began the Copywriter.

"Ssssssssssssssshhhh!!!!" said the manager.

"Can he talk to me?" the Account Director said with a toadying smile.

"By all means."

"As they haven't anything at all to advertise," the Copywriter said to the Account Director, "couldn't they advertise the fact that they've nothing to advertise?" Needless to say he was being facetious.

The manager brightened. "That's an excellent idea! Quite excellent. In that way we can advertise without saying anything, giving the game away or letting the side down."

The manageress appeared. "More very old French brandy, anyone?"

They all had some more very old French brandy.

The manager patted her rump. She didn't seem to mind.

"Aaaarghh, now that it's been decided what to advertise, can we discuss media?" the Account Director said.

"Discuss away" - the manager - "what do you suggest?"

The Account Director preened himself and took a breath: "Interavia, Aviation Week, Nato's Fifteen Nations, Armed Forces Management, Missiles and Rockets, Flight International, Flugwelt, The Aeroplane, Air Transport World, Air and Cosmos, Aviation Magazine, Flying Review International, American Aviation, Flug Revue, Deutscher Aerokurier, World Aerospace Systems, Reed's Aircraft and Equipment News, Science Journal, Electronics, Computer Weekly, Electronics Weekly, Electronic Engineer, Design and Electronics, Boilerhouse Review, Management Today, The Director, Woman's Realm, International Management, Business Week, The Diplomatist."

"I agree," said the bored Account Executive.

The Art Director said the same old thing. "What time are we ..."

The Copywriter didn't say anything.

"What about actual presentation?" the manager asked.

The Account Director frowned. "I don't think we should discuss that at this preliminary stage. Far better if we go away and have a blue-sky-brainstorming session behind locked doors, under wraps, zipped lips. That's how we creative people like to work. It can't be done over the boardroom table. We must kick it around a bit first, run it up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes it, put it through the mangle and see what emerges, drop it from a great height and hope it lands in one piece. There's more than one way to skin a cat," he finished proudly.

"We might go to double spreads," the Account Executive suggested, "full-colour bled-off into the gutter for impact, and follow them up with fourteen ten-by-eights over the peak seasonal selling period."

"We might," conceded the Account Director generously.

The Art Director woke up. "Rough flimsies using paste-up half-tones or stylised line-and-wash to establish an image and boost corporate prestige, backed by a neat logo or symbol and strong call-to-action and/or coupon would be nice."

"Mmmmmmm," the Account Director nodded. "But first we have to decide whether or not a second colour might not be preferable to bleed, which costs ten per cent extra, because that will involve three Zincos and God knows how many stereos if we're to cover the media I've outlined above. In addition, an institutional rather than a prestige approach is desirable, I suspect; there again, are trichromatic reds, blues and yellows subtle enough to create the identity we're after? And should we submit scamps, layouts or go the whole hog to finished artwork? It's a question of time and expense. I rather fancy that once the copy platform has been approved we could go direct to typesetting on coated fine-art stock, mounted on board, and present it complete with logo, symbol, slogan, pay-off, coupon (if necessary), address line, coat-of-arms, Queen's Award to Industry, picture of the chairman, aerial view of the factory, the lot, and take a chance that it will be approved en totale, so to speak, the entire shooting match, for better or worse, warts and all."

"You have a point there," said the manager of XUDepartment, not having understood a single word.

The Copywriter said, "Nothing."

"What did you say?" the Account Director asked.

"Nothing," the Copywriter said.

"Aaaarghh; is there anything else to discuss, gentlemen? We've had what seems to me to be a very frank, useful and illuminating meeting. We've covered all the points that required covering. Now, is there anything else? Any further questions?"

"What time are we leaving?"

"I'd like to raise one," said the young assistant.

Everyone craned.

"I'd just like to say that it wasn't my fault the memo was passed back to you. I know I'm only your assistant, but I do try, really I do, to give of my best. If anyone is to blame it's him."

Mr ------ went white.

"Well it is," the young assistant asserted. "If the manager addressed it to you why did you pass it on to me?"

"I'll have you remember I'm your superior," said Mr ------ hotly. "You're only the assistant to the manager of XUDepartment. How dare you speak to me in that fashion?"

"Oh bugger off," the young assistant said under his breath.

"I beg your pardon?"

"Get stuffed."

"Do you know what you're saying?"

"Get knotted."

"Do you realise to whom you're speaking?"

"Drop dead."

"I never heard such - "

"Piss off."

"Well - !"

"Gentlemen, gentlemen," the manager broke in smiling, (the Account Director smiled with him) "all that's dead and buried, water under the bridge, yesterday's headlines. Let's make up and be friends, bury the hatchet, let bygones be bygones."

"It's all very well for you," the young assistant started up.

"L-o-o-k," said the manager with gentle menace, "I'm letting you off the hook. Don't push too hard, Sonny Jim, or I'll have to do some pushing. It'll be the day of reckoning and the night of the long knives all over again, in spades."

"It's not bloodywell fair - "

"Ssssssssshhhhh!!!!" said the Copywriter.

"Well it isn't."

"What time are we leaving?" asked the Art Director.

"Right now," the Account Director said horribly.

"I trust you'll have a good journey back," the manager of XUDepartment said.

"Very pleasant," commented the Account Executive.

"Thanks for bothering to come at all" - Mr ------.

"S'not fair," the young assistant said.

"I've warned you!" the manager warned him.

"Well it isn't."

"For the last time - "

"Why pass the memo on to me ..."

"Do I have to exercise my authority?"

"... that's what I want to know."

"Do I have to turn nasty?"

"He's as much to blame ..."

"I can if I have to."

"... more in fact."

"It won't be the first time."

"If he'd done as he was supposed to do ..."

"I can be strict when I want to."

"... none of this would ever have happened."

"I'm the manager, remember," the manager suddenly remembered.

"Oh all right," the young assistant said. "I'm fed-up with this conversation anyway. It never gets you anywhere."

"Time we were off," the Art Director said.

"It is indeed," the Account Executive agreed.

"Aaaarghh!" went the Copywriter, being sick all over the beautiful bare mahogany table with its delicate little paper doilies and melamine-laminated hunting scenes.

The Account Director said nothing.

© Trevor Hoyle 2008

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