Excerpt from the book Different Planet
5 Days in the life of an English office – there’s lots of banter and insults flying around in this story. One person goes to the wrong place for the weekend, another has horrible personal habits, but the main protagonist realises how he can become a better person – he undergoes a transformation after losing a race and feels better for it.
Continuing from the previous post
“That’s better than he normally does,” said Dobbs, “he’s improving.”
“Do you know why the big boss is here, Ben?” asked Atkinson.
“I don’t and even if I did I wouldn’t tell you,” joked Dobbs.
“How are you, Martin?” enquired Atkinson.
“He’s in a bad mood because he failed his driving test again.” John Desmond replied on Benn’s behalf. Benn waved his hand in the air to indicate he was trying to concentrate.
“You’ve still got your moped, look on the bright side,” said Atkinson and headed away towards the front door of the office.
“Thank god TOTR’s gone – looking at him reminds me of a baguette and that leads me to think I am going to have myself something to eat,” said Dobbs, “and when I eat, I eat. And when I drink, I drink.”
“That’s good to hear,” said Desmond, “what are you going to eat?”
“Whatever the canteen has for breakfast, times two. I quite fancy some pancakes, actually – are you going to come?”
“Yes, I will get some of their coffee I think, it’ll keep me awake for the rest of the day. Do you want anything Martin?”
“No thank you,” said Benn, “I’ve had my breakfast already.”
“Cooked it yourself, did you?” asked Desmond.
“I just had corn flakes and orange juice.”
“Right, well we’ll leave you to it, Benny, see you later, alligator.”
“In a while, crocodile,” replied Benn, thankful they were leaving him in peace. He rubbed the back of his neck with his hands – he was beginning to get a headache.
Jan Wood and Martin Tranfield had arrived at Salmsberry Holdings after a journey of 30 minutes. The firm occupied a small site on the edge of a wooded area with views over the surrounding moors and river valleys. The air felt crisper even though the elevation gain had only been 100 metres.
Wood and Tranfield walked into the main brick building, dating from the 1930s, and spoke to Erica the receptionist at the front desk. She was sitting on a large podium that elevated her about two feet above the ground, so she had to lean forward to get a good view of the visitors.
“Is Barry Dingle about?” asked Wood.
“He’s at his desk, so you can go up and see him, but I should warn you he’s not in a good mood. He had another accident this morning; he hit a signpost on his way to work.”
“Another accident? How many’s he had?” asked Tranfield.
“Well, the signpost makes three this week,” said Erica, “I think it’s because of his medical complaint; it makes it uncomfortable for him to sit in his car for long periods of time, in fact for more than 20 minutes, which is why he’s speeding everywhere.”
“He’s got piles has he?” said Tranfield.
“Haemorrhoids, that’s right,” replied Erica.
“I wonder if that’s Ted’s problem?” wondered Tranfield, “by way of explanation we have a colleague who also had an accident this morning, but I think it’s because he’s Welsh rather than because he has piles, but I will ask him about that.”
“Right, well let’s go and see Mr Dingle shall we?” said Wood, “thank you for your help, Erica.”
“It’s a pleasure,” replied Erica, “I will just let him know you’re on your way.”
Wood and Tranfield walked up the stairs and along a gallery that overlooked the main manufacturing works. Dingle and his employees had their desks along the outer wall of the gallery. Natural light came in through windows high in the walls and they could just see the tops of the trees swaying in the breeze. Dingle was at his desk.
“Hello Barry,” said Wood, “I’ve brought my colleague along to see you – this is Martin Tranfield.”
“No need to get up,” said Tranfield, shaking Dingle’s hand,”we’ve heard about your problem.”
“Oh, have you now,” said Dingle,”and what problem might that be?”
“In this case it’s your piles,” said Tranfield, “and not the problem you’re having with car accidents.”
“Someone has been talkative, haven’t they?”
“Well, let’s get on with what we came to see you about,” interjected Wood glaring at Tranfield, “we are going to need some more of those leading edges sending to us, in fact we’re going to need you to double your output for about the next three months.”
“When will you pay us for the 2,000 we’ve already sent you?” asked Dingle.
“If you agree to doubling your output, we’ll pay for the others by the end of the month.”
“You were supposed to pay us by the end of last month,” said Dingle, “so that’s not much of an offer, however if I can have that in writing by the end of the day then I won’t be taking you to the small claims court as is currently the case.”
“Well that sounds like we have worked something out together, so I will write out what you require right now. Martin, go and introduce yourself to the other lads here, you might be working with them in the future – you never know.”
“OK, Jan, I know when I’m not wanted. I’ll go and chat them up. I think I recognise the bald one.” With that Tranfield walked over to the nearest desk and introduced himself to the bald one.
“Hello, I’m Martin Tranfield, from Britannia Holdings, who are you?”
“Hello Mar-Mar-Martin, I’m To-Tony Graham, you l-l-look familiar, were you at that pub in Manchester’s gay village on S-Saturday night?”
“I was not, no, I am not gay.”
“I am not g-g-gay either, but I just went for a d-drink with my friend. I had my hand on the b-b-banister and I felt this other h-hand caress mine, that wasn’t y-you then?”
“Why would I want to hold your hand?”
“Y-you m-might d-do, you might find me a-attractive.”
“I might if I’d had ten pints of strong beer or Kestrel export strength, but under normal circumstances I wouldn’t. That was a joke, I would never find another man attractive, least of all you.”
“I have s-s-seen you before though, somewhere.”
“Wait a second, yes, you’re that git who drives a Sierra Cosworth in the outside lane of the motorway at about 120 mph, aren’t you? You almost hit me once cos you were driving so fast.”
“Almost r-r-rammed you up the ex-exhaust pipe, did I?” smiled Tony.
“He is a very unforgiving driver,” shouted Barry Dingle, “he was telling me this morning how he was driving along a single-track road last night and neither he nor a car coming in the other direction would give way, so they ended up knocking each other’s wing mirrors off.”
“That’s a bit brainless isn’t it?” said Tranfield.
“I-I-I misjudged the w-width of the road,” said Graham laughing slightly, “that’s all – it w-wasn’t a g-gladitorial c-contest.”
“Right, well whatever turns you on I suppose – nice to have met you anyway,” said Tranfield, “I’ll move on to your other colleagues, now.”
“Don’t b-b-be a stranger,” said Graham, enjoying Tranfield’s discomfort. Graham straightened his tie and continued with his work.
“Hello, I’m Christine Montgomery, I work on ordering parts for the company,” said the lady sitting next to Tony Graham.
“You’ve not seen me before have you?” asked Tranfield.
“Oh I most certainly haven’t, I am sure I would have remembered you, what with the shape of your face and all.”
“The shape of my face?”
“Well, your skull, the shape of your skull, it’s very…what should I say? Cro-magnon?”
“Crow what? Who was he?”
“Not Cro Magnon, Neanderthal, sorry I meant Neanderthal.”
“That’s so much better, you mean I look like a caveman?”
“I suppose so, but please don’t be offended in any way, because those Neanderthals did have a larger brain capacity than homo sapiens.”
“That’s reassuring to hear, thank you for pointing that out. So, what else do you do apart from ordering parts – you don’t work for the Samaritans do you?”
“I don’t work for them, no, do you think I should?”
“I don’t think you should do, because you’re not the most reassuring person I have met and I think you might end up achieving the opposite of what you were intending.”
“Thank you for that feedback, well don’t let me keep you.” Christine gestured to the person next to her, who Martin hadn’t met yet.
“Hello Martin, my name is Dermot Smythe, and I work on the industrial relations side of things.”
“Hello Dermot, so you work with the unions do you? Keep them whipped into shape.”