Monday, June 28, 2010

They're Just Living in my Head

After a gap where I have been thinking about the future of mankind, I return to what I hope is happier subjects with part 421 of “A Couple of Tenors Short”.

As always, the picture is a clue and I give you the answer.

OK, the quiz question out of the way, here is my mantra. This is a serial. Any new-joiners should start with the opener known as Part One.    
The troublesome recap has now settled into its new home. You can find the recap here!

Now read on...
When he returned to his desk, Sir Andrew Witherspoon was waiting for him.
“Inspector Jones, I trust that your Superintendant has set your mind at rest over bail for my client?” Sir Andrew grinned broadly.
“He explained the situation and has made it clear what is expected of me.” Jones grinned in return. “We will be in a position to bail your client first thing in the morning.”
“WHAT! But Inspector, this is uncalled for!” Sir Andrew shouted and slammed a fist down onto Jones’s desk.
 Politely, yet firmly, Jones explained that he needed the address of where Dunker Phil would be staying while on bail and that he would need to liaise with the local police to make sure that they were aware of the arrangement to allow them to take appropriate steps. Jones explained that his Superintendant had been most clear that only when these matters had been resolved could he bail Dunker Phil.
Sir Andrew had stood glaring at Jones before writing down the address, curtly wishing him ‘Good Day’ and storming from the office.
“First problem down.” Jones whispered to himself as he watched him go. “Smithy? Can you join me in the meeting room?”
Jones stood by the door and when Smithy arrived motioned for him to take a seat, slowly closed the door and then took the seat opposite him.
“What’s up, guv?” Smithy asked while slowly running his hand over the back of his neck.
“What were you doing on the 16th April?” Jones asked quietly.
“Well... we went to the McRamie house to investigate his abduction.”  Smithy’s eyes narrowed as he answered.
“You didn’t remember that until we went back the other day, so apart from that.” Jones clasped his hands together on the table and leant forward.
Smithy shifted in his seat and scratched the back of his head.  Jones watched in silence.
“OK, Smithy, let’s try another.” Jones cut in after about half a minute of silence. “Tell me about the Maryfield case.”
“C’mon, guv.” Smithy whined. “You and I are both a touch hazy over that.”
“I know.” Jones leaned back in his chair and put his hands behind his head. “But I guess you have had a chance to chat with the others to refresh your memory.”
“Yeah, but...” Smithy’s voice trailed off and he bit his lip.
“But what?” Jones pressed.
“Johnson wasn’t with us then, Tom is off sick and Brown thinks he was on leave.”
Jones nodded slowly and leant forward. “How long have you been suffering with these memory loss problems?”
Smithy looked at Jones opened mouthed.
“It’s OK, Smithy.” Jones spoke softly. “I know it’s difficult to admit that you have a problem.”
“I haven’t got a problem!” Smithy leapt from his chair. “Nobody can remember everything! You’re the...”
“Sit Down!” Jones spoke firmly.
Smithy slowly sat back in the chair.
“From what I can tell, everybody around here is having these strange memory problems. Something is happening, I don’t know what or why, but they are. It’s not just you or me.”
“You sure?” Smithy pouted.
Jones nodded slowly. “But that doesn’t give you an excuse to try and cover your own frailties up by running to the Super suggesting that I am somehow unfit for duty.”
“That’s not fair, guv – and you know it.”  Smithy pointed a shaking finger at Jones. “The Super asked me to keep an eye on you because we care about you. We were worried about you, wanted to make sure that you weren’t coming back to work to soon after...”
Smithy’s finger slowly sank into his lap. He could no longer keep Jones’s gaze and he lapsed into a sullen silence.
“Too soon after what, Smithy?”
“You know” Smithy’s voice was barely a whisper.
“You’ll have to tell me, Smithy. I’m having one of those memory lapses.” 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

READ ALL OF THIS! It's your life.

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a disaster. It is a disaster of unprecedented scale that has cost lives and livelihoods. The long term impact cannot be known either in terms of the environment or the economy of the region.

The full facts behind what caused the blast and where the blame lies has yet to be told, but in what has come out so far, the theme tends to be that safety was set aside for the sake of profit.  One such tale comes from Tyrone Benton.

It wouldn’t be the first disaster where safety was set aside for the sake of profit.  In 1984, an accident at the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal released Methyl Isocyanate and other toxins into the town affecting an estimated 500 000 residents. Estimates vary on the final death toll, but some put it as high as 15 000 people.

A 1982 safety audit identified 30 faults with the plant. Union Carbide rectified the faults at a sister plant in the US, but took no action in Bhopal.

15 000 people died.

The plant is still sealed off. It has never been decontaminated. Any remaining toxins are left to leach into the groundwater and get into the food chain.

Ten days after the accident, the Chairman and CEO of Union Carbide, Warren Anderson, addressed the US Congress, stressing the company's "commitment to safety" and promising to ensure that a similar accident "cannot happen again".

In the rhetoric over the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the phrase “cannot happen again” is oft repeated. The response of BP has been to stress their “commitment to safety”.

This doesn’t make me feel any better and I am thousands of miles from the pollution. I did not lose friends or relatives in the explosion. I have not lost my livelihood. I will not have to live with the after effects for decades.

I want to make sure that safety is not set aside for profit. I want to see actions by government that reinforce the message that they are serious about making sure that they are making sure that safety is so paramount that, regardless of the industry, such ecological disasters “cannot happen again”.

With pictures of the thick sludge lapping up against the shoreline of the Gulf of Mexico on every news bulletin and the stories of hardship and grief of residents, workers and relatives ringing in everybody’s ears, you would be forgiven if you thought that governments everywhere are being extra diligent in making sure that safety is not being set aside for the sake of profit.

You are wrong. Especially in the case of the US Supreme Court who yesterday decided to overturn the ban on Monsanto selling GM modified seeds BEFORE all the safety tests have been completed

Just in case you didn’t catch that last bit, I’ll repeat it. The US Supreme Court decided to let Monsanto sell Genetically Modified seeds to farmers BEFORE they have completed and analysed all the safety tests.

So, Monsanto can start to pull in their dollars BEFORE they have proved that their Genetic Modifications to alfalfa has no safety implications to the environment and to ecological systems.

BEFORE they prove that their Genetic Modifications cannot, under any circumstances, pass to other species.

BEFORE they prove that large scale and repeated use of the weed killer, Roundup, does not have long term environmental impacts – despite this weed killer never having been submitted for test by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

BEFORE they can prove beyond doubt that intensive farming that has huge fields that consist of a single species does not have a catastrophic effect on habitat and disrupts the food chain.

Genetically Modified crops will always raise an emotional debate between those who claim that man is playing god by the manipulation of DNA and those who point to the potential for GM crops to provide huge benefits in feeding ever growing populations. There will be scientists who argue on both sides and eventually scientific data will prove the point one way or the other.

BUT, in this case there is a fundamental difference. The Genetic Modification doesn’t increase yield or require less nutrients. It doesn’t reduce the amount of irrigation required. In this case, it means the crop will be resistant to a single brand of weed killer (which in a stunning case of corporate co-incidence is also produced by Monsanto).

Surely I cannot be alone in looking at this and thinking that somebody is setting aside safety for the sake of profit? Am I alone in failing to understand how selling these seeds BEFORE completing safety tests can demonstrate even the most basic “commitment to safety”? Can anyone explain to me how this decision by the US Supreme Court demonstrates that they wish to ensure that environmental catastrophe “cannot happen again”?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Is it a Gun Is it a Knife Is it a Wallet This is Your Life

Another view of the top of the Caen Hill flight of locks on the Kennet and Avon canal. June 2010.

Before I let you loose on part 41 of “A Couple of Tenors Short”, I should offer my apologies at the lack of updates in the last week. This was down to a very busy week and a particularly difficult part of the plot to put into words.

I normally write a couple of episodes ahead of what I am posting. Before I start writing anything new, I give the previous couple of episodes a read and a quick edit. Then I do my writing, then another edit on the piece I am due to post. Sometimes this also involves tweaking earlier bits in my manuscript. Well, such were the difficulties in part 43; this has taken a lot longer to reach you than I would have hoped.

Now, I think that the lyric today is an easy one, so instead I give you a picture I took last week, but as always, I give you the answer.

OK, the quiz question out of the way, here is my mantra. This is a serial. Any new-joiners should start with the opener known as Part One.    
The troublesome recap has now settled into its new home. You can find the recap here!

Now read on...
David Heatherington, the security man pressed his palms together and rested his nose on his two forefingers. Despite steeling himself as soon as Heatherington started the move,  Jones found himself giving  a shudder.
“An interesting response, Inspector.” Heatherington dropped his hands and gave a smile that, for once, managed to implicate his eyes. “However, we really do not have time to explore it further. I need to ask a couple of favours.”
“I see.” Jones stared at the lift door.
“In the spirit of co-operation, I wondered if I could see Phillip Duncan’s statement?”
Jones opened his folder and pulled out a copy of Dunker Phil’s statement which he passed to the security man.
“Sir Terence hates Horse Racing, you know.” Heatherington stated as he started to read. “Yet, on the spur of the moment, he decided he wanted to host a small gathering at Newmarket on the 15th. He took the hospitality box next to Vera, Veronica and Violet Adkins. Among his guests was Sir Andrew Witherspoon.”
“That is, as you would say, interesting.” Jones watched Heatherington as he continued to read.
“Indeed.” Heatherington turned the page slowly. “Victoria Adkins worked for Sir Terence’s electronics company in Research and Development. Gossip suggested that they had an affair, although I cannot substantiate such tittle-tattle.”
“Victoria Adkins? A fourth sister?” Jones closed his eyes and clenched a fist. “Why didn’t I...”
“Memory playing tricks? I know how that feels. Even now it takes an effort to recall her. ” The security man continued to read. “She’s gone underground. Nobody seems to have seen her for nearly two weeks. Sir Terrence has had his feelers out trying to find her. I want to find her first.”
“Mr Heatherington, wouldn’t we better off discussing this in an office, in the form of a case review?” Jones asked the security man who in response plucked the folder from under Inspector Jones’s arm.
“It is the old clichĂ©, walls have ears.” Heatherington opened the folder and slipped Dunker’s statement back into it.
“Lifts have walls.” Jones curled his lip.
“I’ve checked. I would describe this lift as a deaf mute where it not for the loquacious manner in which it mutilates the classics.” Heatherington flipped through the pages in the folder. “I would be very grateful if you did not interview Sir Terrence or Sir Andrew unless you clear it with me first and it would be beneficial if you did not pull Darrius Kipling in just yet. My men are keeping a close watch on Darrius, he is more use to us on the streets at the moment.”
“That’s three favours.” Jones paused and stroked his moustache. “Besides Darrius Kipling is my prime suspect in the murder of an unidentified man whose body we dragged from the Thames.”
“You have the evidence to support that?” Heatherington snapped shut the folder and looked at Jones who nodded. “A further complication, but my request still stands. I’m rather hoping that Mr Kipling will lead me to Victoria Adkins.”
“Why do you think he would?”
Heatherington handed back the folder and punched the button for the ground floor. “Just a hunch.”
The two men stood in silence observing each other as the lift counted down the floors and regaled them with the timeline of the English Civil War.
The two men left the lift and walked in silence to the car park.
“Inspector, can I rely on you to respect my wishes on those little favours?” Heatherington asked as he offered his hand to Jones. “In return, I will make sure that you are immediately informed of any developments from my end.”
“I’ll not interview Sir Terrence or Sir Andrew.” Jones shook the security man’s hand. “And I will give you the weekend to follow your hunch on Darrius, but after that we’ll have to see.”
The security nodded and gestured towards an old Bentley S3 Continental in the far corner of the car park.
The Bentley moved around and stopped next to the security man. A chauffeur dressed as William Pitt the younger leapt out and opened the rear door.
“That seems fair given the circumstances.” Heatherington climbed into the Bentley. “I will be in touch on Monday.”
The chauffer closed the door and leapt back into the driver’s seat. Jones watched the Bentley leave and then glanced at the Pink Zephyr and his own Datsun. Shaking his head, he thrust his hands deep into his trouser pockets and sauntered back into the station.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Man Who Preached the Funeral

Just a flying visit to bring you part 40 of “A Couple of Tenors Short”.

Another difficult track lyric that provides the title, but as always, I give you the answer.

OK, the quiz question out of the way, here is my mantra. This is a serial. Any new-joiners should start with the opener known as Part One.    
The troublesome recap has now settled into its new home. You can find the recap here!

Now read on...
The lift doors opened. The lift greeted the pair with a quote from The Simpsons in the original Greek.
The security man pressed the button for the ground floor, waited for the lift to start to move and then pressed the stop button. The lift gave a shudder and halted between floors.
“Inspector, we do have a leak.” The security man turned and faced Jones. “You were right, it was one of my men who reviewed the CCTV footage with your constable, but none of my men were authorised to talk to Sir Terrence.”
“I didn’t tell my men where we were going until we were in the car. Unless...” Jones stroked his moustache. “Unless one of them made contact while I was inside the club.”
“It is a most irritating complication.” David Heatherington withdrew a business card from his backpack and gave it to Jones. “This makes it all the more imperative we co-operate fully. That is if you feel that you can trust me?”
Jones turned the business card over in his fingers and said nothing.
“Inspector, the reason I am interested in this case is because of the interest of Sir Terrence Cauldron – not on his behalf.” Heatherington placed the bag on the floor then clasped his hands together. “There is always curiosity about ambitious men and sometimes there is a need to clarify the methods such men are willing to employ to satiate that ambition.”
“Are you saying that people suspect that Cauldron is planning a coup?” Jones asked incredulously
“Sir Terence is a very rich man. He made a fortune with his electronics business to add to the family fortune before he reached the age of thirty.” Heatherington stared at the ceiling of the lift. “He then entered politics and within three years became a cabinet minister and the darling of the media. Such success can invoke jealousies.”
“So somebody asked you to find something that would slow his progress down.” Jones sneered.
“Inspector, let’s just say that we were asked to make sure that we were getting exactly what was written on the tin.” The security man looked at the inspector and raised his eyebrows.
“I see. So just where did our two investigations start to overlap?” Jones asked flatly.
“Around the time that Sir Andrew Witherspoon felt the need to inform Cauldron of his meeting with Vera Adkins.” Heatherington sighed. “But I cannot explain why.”
“You mean you won’t explain.” Jones snapped back.
“No, I do mean cannot.” The security man shook his head. “So many of the files seem to be missing and my normally reliable memory keeps failing me. Yet, everyone else seems to rationalise and accept it all as being perfectly normal.”
“The whole world is out of step except me.” Jones mumbled.
“A very apt phrase! There is something that enables you to see things that others, including myself, seem to miss.” the security man jabbed a finger towards Jones. “Take the fish and chip wrappers for instance. Everyone reads their fish and chip wrappers as they eat from them, yet you are the only person who noticed that story. Such is the hysteria of the moment, I find that... odd.”
David Heatherington leaned slightly towards Jones and waited for a response.
“Oh come on, are you suggesting that I had something to do with it?” Jones looked at Heatherington open mouthed.
“It was a theory I briefly considered, along with others equally ludicrous, but did you?” Heatherington asked flatly.
“Of course not.” Jones spoke emphatically, but couldn’t hold the gaze of the security man.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Assembled Here the Volunteers

This week looks like it will be a busy one, so postings may be sparse. Still, fret not my fine yeomen, I can still bring you part 39 of “A Couple of Tenors Short”.

Giving a picture clue today would rather give the game away as to the track lyric that provides the title, but as always, I give you the answer.

OK, the quiz question out of the way, here is my mantra. This is a serial. Any new-joiners should start with the opener known as Part One.    
The troublesome recap has now settled into its new home. You can find the recap here!

Now read on...
The superintendant answered the phone and blustered for a few moments before his eyes opened wide and he suddenly mellowed, agreeing to take the call. Rushing over to the athletes, he grabbed his trousers and hurriedly put them on without removing his shoes, almost tumbling over in the process.
The superintendant became increasingly obsequious as the conversation went on until at last he replaced the receiver with a little bow. Afterwards, the superintendant drew himself up to full height, straightened his uniform and gave a cough.
 “That, Inspector was Sir Terrence Cauldron demanding to know why we have still got Phillip Duncan in the cells.” the superintendant stared at a spot a foot over the top of Jones’s head. “As he has co-operated fully, shouldn’t he have been bailed?”
“Enquiries are continuing and there are still some items that I feel that he could help with.” Jones gave a sigh. “Besides, Dunker doesn’t seem to be very keen to go. I believe he fears for his own safety.”
“Sir Andrew has said he is prepared to take Mr Duncan to a place of safety, has he not?” the Superintendant clasped his hands behind his back and flexed at the knees. “I suggest you bail Mr Duncan and release him into the custody of Sir Andrew.”
“But, sir...” Jones started to object.
“But, sir nothing.” The superintendant waved a palm of a hand at Jones. “My mind is made up and I order you to bail Mr Duncan!”
“I applaud you, Superintendant.” David Heatherington cut in, ignoring the scowl from Jones. “That is absolutely first rate decision making from you. First thing in the morning, bail Mr Duncan.”
“First thing in the morning?” the superintendant’s grin vanished as his head spun sideways to look at the security man. “What do you mean?”
“It will give me time to arrange extra security for Mr Duncan.” The security man stood up and looked out of the window. “It wouldn’t do if the nearest thing we have to a witness came to any harm, would it, superintendant?”
The superintendant coughed the nodded his agreement.
“Then we are agreed.” David Heatherington turned from the window and patted the Superintendant on the shoulder. “Good meeting everyone. Now, Inspector, walk with me.”
As the security man repacked his things into the embroidered bag, Jones shot a glance at the Superintendant. His superior made a shooing motion with both hands to indicate that he too considered the meeting over.
“Before I go, sir.” Jones looked at his superior. “I need you to authorise some weekend overtime for team.”
“Overtime! Out of the question!” the Superintendant’s cheeks began to flush. “We are less than a week away from the Light Entertainment Championships. Can’t be done. Besides, you need your rest. Relax and enjoy your weekend.”
Spotting the rising colour had spread to the superintendant’s nose; Jones fell in behind David Heatherington and headed for the heavy brass doors which swung open as they approached.
While the security man walked straight out into the lobby, Jones paused on the threshold and checked out the area for macaws before hurrying across the lobby to the lift.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

When the Basement Packs and the Needle Drops

Here is part 38 of “A Couple of Tenors Short”.

I couldn’t really find a suitable quiz question today, so instead I took inspiration from the above school as an excuse to have this as the answer.

OK, the quiz question out of the way, here is my mantra. This is a serial. Any new-joiners should start with the opener known as Part One.    

The troublesome recap has now settled into its new home. You can find the recap here!


 “Inspector Jones, how lovely to see you again.” The man from state security moved silently across the office and shook Jones’s hand warmly. “I heard you have an update for us.”

“Yes, sir.” Jones continued to stare out of the window. “I believe I may have discovered something that might have sparked Vera Adkins to want to launch a defamation case.”

Jones shot a glance at the superintendant and then delved into the folder and produced a copy of the article he retrieved from the fish and chip wrapper. The security man took it and sat the Superintendant’s desk.

The only sound in the room was the hiss of the iron and the superintendant quietly singing a Cole Porter melody.  The state security man set down the article, bent down and picked up an embroidered backpack, reached inside and produced a copy of The Sun newspaper for 15th April.

“This is very interesting, inspector.”  The security man’s tone made Jones give an involuntary shiver. “This is a copy of ‘The Sun’ for the 15th I obtained from the British Library. It doesn’t contain the article you just showed me.”

Jones shrugged. The security man delved into the back pack again and produced another copy of The Sun.

“Yet this one does.” The security man placed the paper in front of Jones.

“Where did you get the second paper?” Jones asked quietly.

“You are worried about different versions of the same newspaper?” The Superintendant cut short his chorus and handed his pressed trousers to one of the athletes.  “Everyone knows that there are different editions and regional printings of newspapers.”

“I got this, the second version of the paper from my local recycling centre.” The security man picked up the paper and handed it to the superintendant. “It is the same edition of the London printing of the paper, but it is significantly different. Do you have any explanation?”

 “Obviously there is a very simple and logical explanation.” The Superintendant stated firmly causing Jones and the security man to turn and face him.

There was a long pause before the Superintendant added, “and I am sure that Inspector Jones will supply that explanation.”

“I have no explanation.” Jones replied flatly. “None of my team can explain it. I have copies of the paper from a fish and chip shop. The owner takes the unsold papers from a local newsagent.”

The Superintendant walked over to his desk and read the article, his brow becoming increasingly furrowed as he did so.

“So we have a problem with fake newspapers on our patch?” The superintendant looked at Jones and the security man in turn.

“Who else has seen these papers?” the security man shot the superintendant a glance before turning to Jones.

“I shared them with my team, Constable Tiddles was there when I discovered it. Sergeant Collins may have seen it when I was taking copies.” Jones paused for effect and locked eyes on the security man. “And maybe your man who was with Constable Tiddles when he was reviewing the CCTV footage.”

“My man?” the security man gave another chilling smile. “Why on earth would you think that I would have sent someone in on your case?”

“Well,” Jones slowly stroked his moustache, “there was somebody with Constable Tiddles when he reviewed the CCTV footage as there were two wrappers from fish and chip suppers in the bin. Then, when we brought in Dunker Phil, Sir Andrew Witherspoon was already at the station waiting to represent him.”

“Interesting logic, inspector, but Sir Andrew could have been retained by the Adkins sisters.” The security man’s smile didn’t fade.

“That was my thought originally.” Jones waved a finger in the air as he started to pace up and down in front of the desk. “Only I doubt the Adkins sisters would have chosen Sir Andrew over their usual people for such matters.”

“That, inspector, is pure conjecture.” The security man leant forward, rested his elbows on the desk and pressed his hands together as if in prayer.

“Not really.” Jones stopped pacing. “I believe you know that it was Sir Terrence Cauldron who hired Sir Andrew – and if you didn’t inform him that we were likely to bring in Dunker Phil, then one of us has a leak in their organisation.”

The superintendant’s phone rang. Jones and the security man turned to look at the phone and then slowly turned their gaze on the superintendant.


Friday, June 11, 2010

The Summer Ball

The Al Fresco Four

We take a short break from "A Couple of Tenors Short" to bring you this report from Evar Guttaluttabuttavic, special society correspondent for the Pig Breeder’s Gazette.

June 2010, somewhere in the Heart of England.

Fine yeomen, those of you in the fair British Isles this past week could be forgiven if you have missed the fact that, according to the Ethaniel Nightswerve Almanac, we are enjoying summer. For students up and down the country, this marks the end of the academic year. For some, it is the end of their journey as students and the start of a new chapter in their lives as contributing members of society.

The summer for these marks a hectic round of tutorials, lectures, research, essay writing, revision and the dreaded final exams. Hours of burning the midnight oil to wring out the final few extra marks that mean the difference between a good degree and a great degree.

It is no surprise therefore that once the dissertation is bound and submitted; when the last presentation is made and the last exam is aced, the students let their hair down and celebrate the completion of their journey. The tradition within the august environs of all the great British Universities is for students to do this at the University Summer Ball.

The students knew that in 2010, there were always going to be funding issues. The world is in the midst of an economic crisis. The new British Government is introducing austerity measures to tackle the mounting debt crisis. University budgets everywhere are under scrutiny. Funding is in short supply. Despite all of this, they were determined to have a good time and make sure that their Summer Ball would live long in the memory.

This correspondent deemed it a great honour to be invited to cover the 2010 Summer Ball at Coventry University accompanied by Yvette, my photographer.

The weather did it’s best to support the student’s austerity themed extravaganza. Leaden skies blotted out the evening sunshine. A brisk and chilly North-Easterly wind invigorated by light drizzle made choice of formal wear difficult, but as you can see from the photograph, not impossible. In a reversal of recent tradition, women chose to go hatless, while it was the gentlemen who shone in a range of noggin apparel (Editor’s Note 1).

 The transport laid on for the students this year was sponsored by GM
Yvette felt particularly under-dressed in her Dior Donkey Jacket as the student’s arrived at the ball in the specially arranged transport.  Gone were the stretch limos of last year to be replaced by more restrained transport provided by the sponsors.  From around 6:30, students started to pitch up to the red chalked pavement in all manner of exotic transport.

 Blocked Gas Meter
Unable to afford the normal venue, compromises had been made. Yet, as you can see from the photograph, the students pitched in to turn the place of fun and laughter. The clever use of gaffer tape, a few balloons and yards of bunting might have improved things, but the students stuck with the theme.

The press corps which thronged the surrounding streets in the hopes of catching some candid shots of the celebrity guests, debated how the intrepid students would handle the catering. Having arrived early, I was fortunate to get the inside track on the arrangements from the manager of the 24-hour taekwondo shop.

The theme was most definitely Bring Your Own Grub! Some of the students sought out experts in the field to ensure that the culinary experience would be second to none. With dinner pencilled in for 7:30, the students sat down (Editor’s Note 2) with an air of gastronomic expectancy.

Student accommodation the length and breadth of Coventry filled with the sounds and smells of food preparation as the spirit of ‘we are all in this together’ gripped the student body. Where it not for some unfortunate oversights and numerous attacks of the mid-afternoon munchies, there would have been a fantastic spread laid on. (See Editor’s Note 3)

Delicious BBQ
Thankfully, this didn’t upset the spirits of the intrepid guests. After sharing their repast, the cheap cider flowed freely as they proposed numerous toasts to members of the faculty, the university administrators and, of course, each other. After the toasts, at around 7:45, they rose for dancing.

Unable to afford a full band and the CD player somewhere at the bottom of the punch bowl, the musical accompaniment was left to the student body. The dancing was highly entertaining. A string of students took turns to enter the compact and bijou dance mat to show off their shapes. We were in total awe of the innovative modern contemporary dance moves of one young gentleman only to  discover later it was the home brewed alcohol causing him to throw up over the garden wall.

Carriages would have been called at around 8:06, but local taxi drivers don’t take fares in that neighbourhood after 5:30. So after much kissing, groping and promises to call in the morning, the student body made their farewells and staggered to the nearest skip.

Editor’s Notes.
Note 1: Yes, I know that I have thrown a lot of links into this rather long and rambling piece, but if you have to follow only one of the links, follow that one – just promise me that you won’t  forget what you were doing before you did and you return here.
Note2: Well, they would have sat down if the budget had run to chairs.
Note 3: Although these unfortunate events meant the ‘Bring Your Own Grub’ initiative was a little less than a triumph, the students did manage to make sure there was a plentiful supply of booze. Even the hardened journalist present, who themselves are renowned for finding cheap booze, were amazed at how much alcohol the students managed acquire on their meagre means in tight financial times.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Erase the Proof... Erase the Proof but

Here is part 37 of “A Couple of Tenors Short”.

Another stinker of a quiz question today, I guess that as the numbers get higher, the quiz questions will inevitably get harder, so you will need the answer.

I was reminded today by Sean, that I have been at this blogging lark off and on over four years. My how time flies when you are having fun!

OK, the quiz question out of the way, here is my mantra. This is a serial. Any new-joiners should start with the opener known as Part One.    
The troublesome recap has now settled into its new home. You can find the recap here!

Now read on...
Jones gave a nod and a smile, before taking several copies of Dunker Phil’s statement and filing them. He took one copy and locked it in his drawer.
A large blue and yellow macaw swooped into the office and landed on Jones’s shoulder. The inspector scowled at it.
“Reminder! Reminder!” The macaw screeched in the inspector’s ear. “Meeting with the Super in five minutes!”
Jones squirmed and flapped at the macaw which gave a loud screech before flying in circles around the office.
“Meeting in five minutes! Do you want another reminder? Another reminder?” the macaw continued to screech as Jones picked up his file of notes and left the office.
The macaw expertly caught the thermals from the office computers as Jones hurried toward the lift. Jones allowed himself a glance over his shoulder. As he did, the macaw dipped a wing and dived towards the door. Jones broke into a run for the last few yards of the corridor.
The macaw broke out of the dive and headed down the corridor at just below Jones’s waist level. Jones stabbed at the lift call button furiously. The macaw was half way down the corridor. The lift doors opened and Jones ducked inside, punching the button for the top floor.
The doors closed with the macaw only yards away. Jones listened for the thud of Psittacinae against metal. When it didn’t come, Jones swore under his breath. The lift admonished him for his language and then counted up the floors, interspersing the progress reports with useful stain removal tips.
When the lift doors opened at the top floor, the macaw was observing Jones from the thicket of aspidistra. Jones curled his lip and walked cautiously towards the large brass double doors of the Superintendants office.
“Wait!” The receptionist shouted from within the aspidistra thicket causing several birds of paradise to take flight and a sleeping kitten to lazily open one eye. “You are early. Please stand there until the Superintendant is ready to receive you.”
“Ready to receive you, Pointy Head!” the macaw screeched.
There was a rustle of leaves within the thicket and a leather gloved hand reached up and handed the bird a grape. The macaw gripped it in one claw as it tilted its head from side to side to decide on the best angle from which to observe Jones. Jones glared at the bird.
“You will be able to enter in 45 seconds” the receptionist intoned from her hiding place. “To avoid embarrassment, please check your dress before entering.”
Jones didn’t move, preferring to prolong the standoff with the macaw.
“Enter in... 5... 4... 3... 2... 1...” the receptionist chimed as the brass doors swung open on cue. “Have a nice meeting.”
Jones walked into the office and the heavy brass doors swung shut behind him.
The superintendant was resplendent in his full summer dress uniform but without the trousers which he was ironing next to his grand piano. His bronzed legs glowed in the afternoon sunshine that streamed in from the windows. Behind him, the three athletes were busily quilting.
“Ahh, Inspector Jones! How lovely to see you again.” The superintendant lifted the iron and spat on it causing it to hiss alarmingly. “I hope you don’t mind the laundry work, but I am giving a PR event for the Light Entertainment Championships later.”
“It’s fine, sir” Jones replied while making sure to look out of the window.
“We have a few minutes before David Heatherington joins us. I thought I should make sure that you are on top of things.  How are you feeling?” the superintendant managed to speak the word in italics.
“I’m feeling good, sir.” Jones turned to his superintendant and then quickly back to the window.
“Not too stressed?” the superintendant inspected the razor sharp crease on his trousers.
“No, sir. I’m fine, sir.” Jones showed his superior just how speaking in italics should be done.
“I hear that you interviewed the Adkins sisters over this missing writer thing.” The superintendant carefully repositioned the trousers on the ironing board. “How do you think that went?”
“They were evasive, sir.” Jones watched a couple of pigeons getting amorous on the picnic table on the balcony.
“I’ve had reports that you were insensitive. They are having to deal with the loss of their beloved father. Then you barge in and start accusing them of kidnap. They have every right to be upset. You are lucky that they haven’t made a complaint.”
“Sir, I went there to interview Dunker Phil. They showed me into the office and tried to keep me occupied while Dunker slipped out the back way.” Jones spoke quietly and deliberately. “I didn’t accuse them of anything.”
“Look, Glynn.” The superintendant stepped back from the board and went to the window causing the frustrated pigeons to take flight.  “The last few months must have been hard for you.  These things take time to recover from. If you have returned to work too early...”
“Too early?” Jones scrunched his eyes closed as another memory evaded his grasp. “What are you talking about?”
“I’m sorry.” The superintendant repeatedly clenched and unclenched his buttocks causing the cartoon bunnies on his buttocks to jump alarmingly. “We are all concerned about you. Just remember, we all care about you.”
Jones unscrunched his eyes, spotted the gambolling cartoon bunnies and closed them again quickly. “Sir, I am fine. I am also convinced that the Adkins sisters know more than they are letting on.”
“Glynn, the Adkins is a very respected family.” The superintendant turned, held up a hand and went back to his ironing. “I’ll make allowances this once, but before you interview them again, just make sure you clear it with me.”
“Yes, sir.” Jones forced the words through gritted teeth.
The heavy brass doors swung open and a figure in a green lycra body suit and heavily embroidered backpack entered the office.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Let's Pack Up and Start Again

Here is part 36 of “A Couple of Tenors Short”.

After yesterday, where I thought the quiz question was so easy that I felt I could afford to advertise  mugs, I have never even heard of the band let alone the track for today’s title.  

Anyway, so I need to give you the answer.

Plus, if you want to read a really fantastic blog entry, you could do a lot worse than go here.

OK, the quiz question out of the way, here is my mantra. This is a serial. Any new-joiners should start with the opener known as Part One.    
The troublesome recap has now settled into its new home. You can find the recap here!

Now read on...
After the interview concluded, Inspector Jones and Sir Andrew Witherspoon stood outside the interview room watching Smithy and a constable taking Dunker Phil back to the cells.
“You will, of course, be bailing my client.” Sir Andrew stated flatly.
“We’ll see.” Jones continued to watch the trio making their way down the corridor. “I’ll need a signed statement from Dunker detailing what he said in the interview. Once I have that, I’ll think about it.”
“Get your sergeant to draw one up and I’ll give it the once over and get Phillip to sign it.” Sir Andrew smiled “Then we’ll talk again about bail. I would not like to have to go to a higher authority.”
“We’ll see, but there are still some gaps.” Jones sighed deeply and turned to look at Sir Andrew. “I want to know more about this Sergei character and who it was who opened up the club. It could be that Dunker is holding something back.”
 “I believe he has told you everything he knows, Inspector.” Sir Andrew spoke softly. “It is I who has held something back. I was at the Craven Meeting at Newmarket on the 15th and I saw Vera with Veronica and Violet. There is no way they could have been in the club at lunchtime. They were there when I arrived just after 12 and I saw them again in the parade ring with a horse their father part owned that ran in the first race. ”
“You? A guest of the Adkins?” Jones looked wide-eyed at Sir Andrew.
“Oh no!” Sir Andrew gave a hefty bass guffaw. “No, I was with another party. It was just pure co-incidence that I saw them.”
Jones swore under his breath.
Back at his desk, with Smithy drawing up a statement, Jones rang the McRamie house. The phone was quickly answered by the butler. Jones had him check if any luggage or any of Archie’s clothes were missing. The butler was adamant that there wasn’t, but Jones had him go check. Several minutes later, the butler returned to the line and confirmed that nothing was missing.
Carefully replacing the receiver, Jones leant back in his chair and stroked his moustache as he stared at the ceiling.
With a large sigh, Jones shook his head and started working on the case notes.
A little while later, suddenly aware of somebody stood next to his desk, Jones looked up to find Sir Andrew Witherspoon at his side.
“I thought I would bring you this myself” Sir Andrew handed Jones a signed copy of Dunker’s statement.
Jones took the offered papers and read through them slowly.
“Perhaps we should talk about bail for Mr Duncan now?”  Sir Andrew waited patiently until Jones placed the statement on his desk.
“He doesn’t want bail, guv.” Smithy spoke as he came across the office to the Inspector’s desk. “He wants us to give him protection.”
Jones looked up at Sir Andrew and raised a querying eyebrow.
“My client is understandably concerned.” Sir Andrew ran the palms of his hands over his trousers. “But I am willing to have him released into my custody and I will make all of the arrangements to ensure his security. I have a friend who has a place in the West Country where he can stay.”
“This friend.” Jones turned so he was able to see Sir Andrew’s face clearly. “Would this be the person who is picking up your bill?”
“Come now, Inspector” Sir Andrew gave a light laugh. “You know that I cannot discuss that with you.”
“Indeed.” Jones paused, pursed his lips and stroked his moustache. “I’m certain that you weren’t retained by the Adkins family. After all, they have their own solicitors who would deal with these type of matters.”
“Inspector, I really cannot discuss this with you.” Sir Andrew shifted slightly.
“So, if it wasn’t the Adkins family who retained your services, it must have been somebody else.” Jones paused and watched Sir Andrew closely. “I would guess that it was Sir Terrence Cauldron.”

There was the faintest of twitches around Sir Andrew’s right eye.

“As I say, Inspector.” Sir Andrew smiled broadly. “I cannot discuss the matter, but if you will not discuss bail, I will have to find somebody who will.”

Sir Andrew turned on his heel and walked from the office, swearing under his breath.