Thursday, 18 December 2014

Saving the Globe



Mills was shocked

Verity is deliberately burning her hands on the Globe! I have put her through too much and now she has finally lost her mind...when I thought it would be her heart that would go first.

Mills strode into the foyer as if he belonged there. Verity waved at him, pointed to her sore hands and went to soak them in a basin of cold water in the ladies’ for a few minutes. 

Then she explained about the redundancies and the Administration.

“So, Rathlin, Was it mortal?  Has it died?”

Verity had never thought of it that way before but, yes: Rathlin was mortal. Plenty of other firms were “dying”, too. People would move on and find other jobs, if they were lucky: some would take early retirement and some, like herself, would simply live with less.  She had called Chris to thank him for helping her in the morning and to ask if he had heard the news: yes he had, he was going back to his parents’ farm. She left him her contact details. Joe had always said he would rather be in Renewable energy than Hydrocarbons, so perhaps this was the push he needed. And in a few months’ time, if all went well in Parliament, the Citizens’ Income would take most of the stress away from this kind of thing. 

“Why did you burn your hands?”

“Quickest way to get you here. Administrators take everything: they’d have your Globe flogged off to someone in China by tomorrow if you don’t grab it and run”

“That was very thoughtful of you. Shall we...?”

Verity felt dizzy. “Blimey Mills, where are we?”

“My apothecary in Kirkgate...”

“Eh?”

“...Castle Museum, York”

Verity thought of all the hours of commuting she could have saved.

They left the Globe in the gift shop and walked home along the river path. 
There was a note on the kitchen table: Sacha had a paper deadline and would be working in his office until he’d finished writing, probably after midnight. Verity lit the woodburner and brewed tea: “When in doubt: Brew up. Did you ever see one of those posters during the last war?” Mills said he had. Verity said she wished she had one. 

Verity seems to have a lot of war memorabilia: Victory Gardens poster, tea-ration mug, even a victory cookbook. Does she think her Green people are fighting a war? A war against my Plan?

“Verity...” Mills hesitated “Can I ask...about your hair. What happened to it?”

“No idea. What do you mean?” Verity seldom bothered with a mirror: she just brushed her hair until it felt smooth, and didn’t use any make-up.

“Verity, your hair is violet. Why?”

What?”

She went and looked in a mirror. “So it is. Well it’s sort of burgundy. I don’t remember doing it but it’s easy enough to explain. I must have wanted a job, right? So that meant going to an interview. And nobody, at least in any industry involving technology, employs anyone with white hair. Everybody knows that.”

“Why not? Don’t they want people who are knowledgeable and wise?” 

“No. They want people who’ll do as they’re damn well told and no questions. And who won’t ask for too much money: wages tend to go up with age, well, people tend to expect them to anyway. And above all, if you’re a woman you better look presentable: that means young. And so, I dyed my hair_”

“Your hair...died??”

“Not die as in mortal, I mean dye as in colour. Like dying cloth.”

Verity suddenly thought of something

“Mills, this colour, it’s not forever. My real hair colour is still white. Mortal hair grows all the time, remember? In three month’s time, it will all be its true colour again”

“Now I must ask you about my appearance”, said Mills: “does anything about me, disconcert you at all?”

Verity looked carefully at Mills’ face: he reminded her of the Vikings from the February festival the city held. Except, he was rather better-groomed. Verity did not find Vikings disconcerting: as a Yorkshirewoman, she probably had a few as ancestors.  

“No”, she said finally. 

“No?” 

“Absolutely not. Should it?”

“I am, as your Sharon once so perceptively put it, ‘fear turned into a person’. You can’t see that?”

“I can’t read faces. Remember?”

Verity thought: poor Mills, perhaps everyone else he ever meets is scared of him.

Yes they are, Verity, everyone but you. And even you don’t trust me. I have only four days left in which to change that...

He thought he’d start with something simple. 

“There are knots, in your shoulders. Shall I_”

“Oh yes please; that would be marvellous”


Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Rathlin R.I.P.



Mills was shocked

Verity is deliberately burning her hands on the Globe! I have put her through too much and now she has finally lost her mind...when I thought it would be her heart that would go first.

Mills strode into the foyer as if he belonged there. Verity waved at him, pointed to her sore hands and went to soak them in a basin of cold water in the ladies’ for a few minutes. 

Then she explained about the redundancies and the Administration.

“So, Rathlin, Was it mortal?  Has it died?”

Verity had never thought of it that way before but, yes: Rathlin was mortal. Plenty of other firms were “dying”, too. People would move on and find other jobs, if they were lucky: some would take early retirement and some, like herself, would simply live with less.  She had called Chris to thank him for helping her in the morning and to ask if he had heard the news: yes he had, he was going back to his parents’ farm. She left him her contact details. Joe had always said he would rather be in Renewable energy than Hydrocarbons, so perhaps this was the push he needed. And in a few months’ time, if all went well in Parliament, the Citizens’ Income would take most of the stress away from this kind of thing. 

“Why did you burn your hands?”

“Quickest way to get you here. Administrators take everything: they’d have your Globe flogged off to someone in China by tomorrow if you don’t grab it and run”

“That was very thoughtful of you. Shall we...?”

Verity felt dizzy. “Blimey Mills, where are we?”

“My apothecary in Kirkgate...”

“Eh?”

“...Castle Museum, York”

Verity thought of all the hours of commuting she could have saved.

They left the Globe in the gift shop and walked home along the river path.  

There was a note on the kitchen table: Sacha had a paper deadline and would be working in his office until he’d finished writing, probably after midnight. Verity lit the woodburner and brewed tea: “When in doubt: Brew up. Did you ever see one of those posters during the last war?” Mills said he had. Verity said she wished she had one. 

Verity seems to have a lot of war memorabilia: Victory Gardens poster, tea-ration mug, even a victory cookbook. Does she think her Green people are fighting a war? A war against my Plan?

“Verity...” Mills hesitated “Can I ask...about your hair. What happened to it?”

“No idea. What do you mean?” Verity seldom bothered with a mirror: she just brushed her hair until it felt smooth, and didn’t use any make-up.

“Verity, your hair is violet. Why?”

What?”

She went and looked in a mirror. “So it is. Well it’s sort of burgundy. I don’t remember doing it but it’s easy enough to explain. I must have wanted a job, right? So that meant going to an interview. And nobody, at least in any industry involving technology, employs anyone with white hair. Everybody knows that.”

“Why not? Don’t they want people who are knowledgeable and wise?” 

“No. They want people who’ll do as they’re damn well told and no questions. And who won’t ask for too much money: wages tend to go up with age, well, people tend to expect them to anyway. And above all, if you’re a woman you better look presentable: that means young. And so, I dyed my hair_”

“Your hair...died??”

“Not die as in mortal, I mean dye as in colour. Like dying cloth.”

Verity suddenly thought of something

“Mills, this colour, it’s not forever. My real hair colour is still white. Mortal hair grows all the time, remember? In three month’s time, it will all be its true colour again”

“Now I must ask you about my appearance”, said Mills: “does anything about me, disconcert you at all?”

Verity looked carefully at Mills’ face: he reminded her of the Vikings from the February festival the city held. Except, he was rather better-groomed. Verity did not find Vikings disconcerting: as a Yorkshirewoman, she probably had a few as ancestors.  

“No”, she said finally. 

“No?” 

“Absolutely not. Should it?”

“I am, as your Sharon once so perceptively put it, ‘fear turned into a person’. You can’t see that?”

“I can’t read faces. Remember?”

Verity thought: poor Mills, perhaps everyone else he ever meets is scared of him.

Yes they are, Verity, everyone but you. And even you don’t trust me. I have only four days left in which to change that...

He thought he’d start with something simple. 

“There are knots, in your shoulders. Shall I_”

“Oh yes please; that would be marvellous”


Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Termination Tuesday



It was a Tuesday morning with, as Verity liked to put it, a “high blue-arse factor”. 

The previous evening she had called Chris and found out that he did, indeed, have all the materials for the presentation. She also had to get him to take her through everything she said. And, indeed, did. Oh crap: “what could possibly go wrong?”, she thought sarcastically.

She had to get directions to Rathlin’s office, having completely forgotten anything about her week of work there. She got in late: at about nine. Joe took her to the colleague who was to drive her to Leeds, and she then had to explain that all her stuff was at Chris’s place, so they would have to swing by there to collect it. 

Everybody was very tolerant and understanding. Well, everybody who was actually in that day: it seemed that about two-thirds were off work with the flu.
The presentation, to her great relief, went without a hitch. She managed to resist the urge to say “ridiculous” instead of “totally safe” when drinking the water. The discussion afterwards was interesting, too. St Chad’s being a deeply religious school, the class was bitterly divided between those who believed fracking was damaging Creation, and those who took it on faith that if God in His wisdom has put the fuel there, then we would be insulting Him if we didn’t use it. Verity packed up swiftly and they left for Sheffield just as things were beginning to get ugly. She had her letter of resignation in her top pocket and was hoping to be able to present it when Joe called her in to the office for the individual pre-Christmas chat and bonus. 

But it didn’t happen. When they walked in to the upstairs open-plan office, everybody was standing around by the kettle drinking tea. Joe was in tears.
The price of oil having now remained below $60 a barrel for over two years, fracking, with its expensive technology, was no longer financially viable, and Rathlin had gone into Administration. 

They were all to clear their desks: contracts were terminated with immediate effect. Their severance pay would arrive in their accounts in the New Year.  

Walking out through the foyer, Verity caught sight of the Globe. She needed to let Mills know that if he ever wanted to see it again, he’d better come quickly and collect it. She knew her fear would summon him. She walked up to the Globe, braced herself for the pain and, for just a few seconds this time, put the palms of her hands flat on the burning Amazon. 

Monday, 15 December 2014

Sheffield calling



Verity was making lunch. The phone was ringing.

“Bugger!”

Verity always swore at the phone: people were usually trying to sell things. And she was famished: it was nearly 2:30 and she was mentally exhausted after the morning’s efforts. But she turned off the soup and went to see who it was. A week of her life had gone AWOL: whoever was calling, they might fill in some gaps. She never gave her name when picking up the phone: she had once lived in a house full of lasses, and known names had merely provided their many nuisance callers with ammunition. 

“Is that Verity? Joe Hilman here, from the office” said a businesslike voice.

“Speaking”...(help! who on earth is this?? Quick, buy some time...)

“...sorry, I’ve left the soup doing: can you hang on a second?”

She went back into the kitchen where Mills was sitting with a glass of wine. She quickly explained about the call, beckoned him through, and put the phone on loudspeaker mode so he could hear the entire conversation. She handed him the notebook and pen from the phone table. 

“OK, back now. I guess you must be wondering what happened to me this morning. I was crashed out with a migraine: I’m sorry I didn’t ring in at the top of the day and let you know”

“Oh don’t worry, Vee_”

(so that was where she’d been given that nickname: at Rathlin!)

“We did wonder about you after Sunday night. Chris told me all about what happened. By the way, that Globe looks the bees’ knees in the foyer”

“Oh...er, thanks. How is Chris, by the way?” 

“I’m afraid young Tyzack’s off with the ‘flu. You’ll have to slum it with a different driver. Which brings me to tomorrow’s presentation: are you likely to be fit enough to do it? It’s a biggie: St Chad’s, in Leeds”

(Oh crikey! I’ve no idea what I’m supposed to present!.. I’m going to have to lie a bit...)

“I’m really sorry, but all my materials are with Chris: I handed them to him, to take back to the office, because I walked home on Sunday. My guess is that he’s still got them. Look, is it possible for you to give me his number so I can give him a ring?”

“Well, data protection...”

(Bugger!)

“...but I’m sure he won’t mind. And anyway, it’s important you get hold of those materials: every presentation counts these days, with our many applications being heard. ‘Hearts and Minds’, Vee, you know the drill (aha, her boss was a punster like her). OK, got a pen? Here’s Chris’s number: it’s 0114....”

She had just put the receiver down when her mobile gave a beep. Text message: she’d better read it. 

Get today’s Press

Bloody adverts. She passed the phone to Mills: “Look, this is the sort of crap I’m always complaining about: adverts”

“Who’s Patrick D’Anjou?”

“Green_ er, what was that?”

“Well, that is the sender’s name”

“So it is. Well, I’ll nip out and get one after lunch”

There was a ginnel that led to the newsagents: she could read their sandwich-board with the headline before emerging into the street. It read:


V for Virtues: Bully sees light after Schoolgirl saved from torture! 


The front page was graced with a picture of a beautiful Oriental girl and the strapline:

Kuan-yin: Mercy

Plus a few lines of story. Apparently some bullying bastard had tied her to the rack during a school trip to the Dungeon museum. Verity paid for the paper and emerged from the shop, still reading.

The inner pages held more detail. Underneath a picture of a big fat loaf of a lad was the caption:

Duncan-Smith: Repentance

Verity nearly tripped over laughing: they weren’t two words one often saw together. But it got stranger still as she looked over to the right-hand page. Smiling up out of it was her own picture, a formal one which she couldn’t remember being taken, and which for some reason made her hair look darker than it really was. It was captioned:

Verity Player: Courage

Apparently she had stepped in before things got out of hand and saved the girl from serious injury. The girl, who was named after the goddess of mercy, had promptly forgiven her tormentor and caused him some sort of crisis of conscience.  Already of age because of having had to re-take two years of school, he had gone straight home and signed up for a post as a driver in an aid convoy delivering emergency supplies to South Sudan. 

Well blow me. Verity had never expected to end up in one of The Press’s classic Christmas “feel-good” stories. 

Mills was delighted: his lost Globe had finally turned up.