Enthusiast: deeply involved in something, especially a hobby
PUP COULDN’T STOP THINKING about Charlie being at the O2 and the crap hand he’d been dealt which had stopped him being there. He hadn’t been to a Chamberpots meet up for years, in fact the last one he went to, he’d organised. Charlene Wright’s presence, as a guest of Dave – the old dog – would have got him there on nearly every week day this year but not this one. He had to go to work.
He yawned, put his fingers through a miscreant tangle of black hair that had fallen over his right eye. He nodded to the cat, which ignored him as it did every morning, and then he surveyed the breakfast debris all around him. Probably, around quarter past eight, Robbie Richardson, his youngest son would have flown out the door. The ‘late-as-usual Richardsons’ lived in Sunningfields Road in Hendon, North London. It would be stretching a point to say they lived together. Like ships passing in the night. Pup’s son, Robbie, would never think of loading the dishwasher.
Pup went over to the biscuit tin and broke a Rich Tea in half. One half he ate. Then he walked over to the dog that also hadn’t bothered, as usual, to greet him. The long haired, black, Bouvier-cross remained stretched out, lying on his side, on an old, yellowing, smelly duvet cover which was inside a huge purple, badly gnawed, plastic dog basket. The dog’s head was upright, thanks to its chin being rested on the side of this basket.
Monsieur Le Shag, nicknamed ‘Mussy’, had one big brown eye wide open. The other eye may have been open but it was hidden under his thick, wavy, fringe. Mussy knew what was coming and was therefore feigning attentiveness even though he was comatose.
Pup went down on his knees and pulled out both his pockets to show that there was nothing in them. He then showed Mussy that there was nothing up his sleeves. Finally, he showed Mussy that he had two completely empty hands. He then reached over Mussy’s head with one hand and proceeded to pull half a Rich Tea biscuit from behind the dog’s ear. Pup then gave the biscuit to Mussy, who gulped it down in an instant, and then, really quite dismissively, closed his eyelids and resumed his sleep.
Pup sat down and moved aside a plate with some half eaten pizza slices that his daughter, Zoe, had saved for breakfast from the night before. Clearly, what had been a good idea at midnight hadn’t seemed so appealing to her at a quarter to eight in the morning. He filled a relatively clean bowl, probably his wife’s, with Bran Clusters and poured on the last remaining drops of a carton of skimmed milk. He made a sort of clucking noise which was meant to convey to himself, the cat and the dog that he was unhappy with the state of the breakfast table.
Before he began to refuel Pup took eleven handwritten sheets and three press cuttings, from a large, crumpled envelope. The envelope had a Malta postmark. Pup knew that he should have destroyed the contents, and the envelope, days ago. He hadn’t because this was the first letter he’d received from Chris in, at least, fifteen years.
He knew the contents of the envelope deserved another reading. Today, a day when the Chamberpots were getting together, seemed a good time to study it carefully again. There would be much hidden between the lines and in the cuttings but Pup hadn’t cracked it all yet. He knew he was being asked to do something big but he had to completely get onto Chris’s wavelength before he could hope to establish what his assignment was.
Chris had clearly taken great care to ensure the bulky contents of the envelope would appear innocent to observers. However, Pup knew that Chris would feel he’d taken a risk in communicating by letter which signalled to Pup that he was being asked to do something that the other Chamber Pots wouldn’t and shouldn’t know about. Normally he was asked to do something for Chris by Dave. Face-to-face had been, virtually, the only means of communication between the Chamberpots, until a month or so ago when Chris had broken his own rule by writing to Dave and now Pup.
Pup had been by far the youngest in the cricket team that Chris captained in the eighties. At the time he’d felt that many of his team mates regarded Chris as an old windbag. Nearly thirty years later they certainly would. Yet, to Pup, Chris was the finest teacher and mentor that he could have wished for. Chris was almost the opposite in beliefs and disposition to his own, straight laced father. Chris always said that he thought his father, Geoff, was out of his time as he resembled Dickens’ descriptions of the professional classes.
Conversations with Chris were exciting. They discussed things that he didn’t study at school, such as philosophy. Chris taught him how to explore reason, truth and concepts such as ‘What is good?’; ‘What is being?’; ‘What is art?’; ‘What is real and what is illusion?’ Not just modern philosophers either, Chris was captivated by ancient Greek philosophers and had taught himself Greek and improved his schoolboy Latin too.
Chris wasn’t just a thinker though. He was an activist and passionate about changing society and righting wrongs. Most of his team mates thought Chris was probably too passionate about things and he shouted too much. Partly this was to do with his bad hearing which has continued to deteriorate over the years. Partly it was to do with the copious quantities of red wine he drinks.
The drinking was a problem, more for Pup than Chris. Pup may have turned out to be a good cricketer, but most matches he played he was just pleased to get out of them alive. He’d always feel so bad during the match as a result of the drinking the night before. Then there was the pre-match pint and more pints at the tea interval, with a whisky chaser in cold weather. The killer was the heavy post match session, with the opposition, often with drinking games. This was followed by mandatory team bonding, around midnight, at their regular curry house in Mill Hill, accompanied by wine and liquors.
Of course, he could have said ‘No’ or asked for a Coke but he felt the peer pressure, especially in the first few years when Dave, Chris’s best friend, was also in the team. It was too much for a teenager. By the time Pup got to Imperial, to do an ICT degree, he had a problem with the booze. Chris’s drinking became even worse after his first wife, Sue, who he’d left but returned to nurse her, died. Chris seemed to start drinking red wine by the barrel. Even today, Pup would feel sick just thinking about the five dreaded words Chris would add to his invitation for them to meet up: ‘Bring your thirst with you’.
The Chamberpots get-togethers in the early years were great because of the outstanding sporting events they attended together but they were often spoiled by the amount of alcohol consumed. The meal after the event was the worst bit of the day.
Trude always tried hard to stop Chris and Dave encouraging the rest of them to join them in drinking a bottle of wine with each course. Even the coffee at the end was designated as a course. Fortunately, years later, when Steph started coming to the get-togethers she became the second moderating influence. For this reason Pup thought the Chamberpots get-togethers were better as a result of Steph being there. He was sorry to miss today’s.
Pup remembered when Chris’s letter had arrived. It was the day after he’d seen Charlie for the third and last time. He’d first seen her as a little girl. Then recently, many years later he’d seen her twice in quick succession. He knew his crush on her was crazy. Both times she’d been in a group of smart city types and pretty young things but she looked stand-out amazing.
She wouldn’t have noticed him, of course, even though they’d been in kissing distance of each other. He’d found out her name (‘Ms Wright for me!’), where she lived, that she was married, that she wasn’t living with her husband, what she liked to do and where she worked. He was following her on Twitter but she wasn’t very active and she was unlikely to follow him and certainly not as a friend on Facebook or as a colleague on LinkedIn. He hoped she’d look at his Twitter profile and be impressed by his 8684 followers and then follow him back. But she hadn’t. He’d worked out the age difference too. That bit wasn’t so good.
He comforted himself that up to a fifteen year age gap was quite acceptable today. Why, Tony Curtis had died leaving a wife who was thirty years younger than him. Michael Douglas has Catherine Zeta Jones. Rod Stewart will have some young model whose legs come up to his shoulders. Ronnie Wood too – likely all the Stones have. That Baldrick and Time Team actor guy doesn’t reach the armpits of his young partner. Do you need to be vertically challenged to get a young hot woman? Anyway…they all seem to be at it. That’s show biz, folks.
Pup knew he was lean, tall, assisted dark and, some thought him, handsome. Certainly the full head of hair and the lack of belly fat made him look much younger than his age. Hell, if he was ever introduced to her, it’s not as though the first thing she would ask is ‘How old are you Mr Richardson?’ It seemed to Pup that the three biggest hurdles to him and Charlie falling madly in love were: firstly, she now lived over 200 miles away; secondly, that he had a wife and three kids and thirdly, that she didn’t know who he was.
Pup felt a definite hardening in his leisure shorts. He spooned in more bran clusters and looked again at the contents of the envelope. Reading his leader’s words seemed like the best thing to do to take his mind off this unreachable woman of his dreams. Of course, as a last resort he could ask Dave what Chris’s letter meant but this would be letting Chris down as he clearly didn’t want Dave to know Pup’s instructions. Chris regarded Pup as the smartest of the Chamberpots and so Pup felt it would be an insult to his intelligence and their friendship if he failed to work this out. ‘Focus Pup – get it right’; he said to himself.
There were three cuttings, all from a long while ago and all from the Malta Times Two were about fireworks and the third was about the Lockerbie bomb.
The letter didn’t refer to the cuttings at all. The letter started with the greeting ‘Bonjour Jacques’ and finished ‘Au Revoir Jacques, Ernest Defarge’. The letter read like an essay on Chris’s time in Malta. The uprisings in each of Malta’s neighbours in North Africa and the Middle East were mentioned and Pup detected Chris’s anger with US/NATO interventions and the lack of them in Syria – but no-one else could have read this into his comments. His interest in Anonymous and Lulz Security was joked about in terms of knocking out the CIA and the Spanish police. But they were referred to in passing along with other comments on technology and gadgets. Chris and Pup had always talked technology and gadgets. The letter was mainly written as a description, to a friend, of what Chris had found were the best and worst things of him now living in Maltese society.
Pup learned that Malta was a small island with a small population, ‘think Hull’, which resulted in everyone seeming to know each other, at least through ‘a friend of a friend’. Jobs, business opportunities, social and political positions were mainly gained through word of mouth, not by formal application. In these extended social networks palms were often greased to help secure the deal. Politicians and government officials, accepted bribes, gave favours and received back handers from the corporates to succeed in major government contracts, like energy. Yet, Chris seemed to be drawing to Pup’s attention that Malta’s society was moving in the right direction, despite its links with the US and the UK; ‘The world needs more countries like Malta’.
Chris implied that the downside of Malta was its male dominated divisive, political allegiances. It led to violence even, occasionally, attempted killings and bombs. Chris observed that like most countries, the Maltese government and media were superb at covering up these ‘incidents’.
It was a duopoly but with the Church siding with the nationalist party. ‘Serious politics too’ as ‘back in the day’ the church had not allowed Labour Party committee members to take the sacraments. Today, there are often legal actions by the opposing party to get MPs and Councillors imprisoned for corruption, Chris clearly liked that. He loved the proposed new laws to protect whistle-blowers. They would blow the whistle on what was only petty crime, in comparison with the UK, of politicians and corporates. There were presidential pardons for the corrupt grassing on other politicians and there was even talk of there being no time limits to those revealed by whistleblowing. Just think how that’d get the attention of British politicians.
Despite being rated as one of the top countries in the world for quality of life, Malta’s society is under stress, ‘like their trousers’. Chris joked about them eating too many pastizzi. Pup wasn’t surprised to see the Church blamed for much of the stress and repression. Chris always got just as angry about the hypocrisy in the Church as he did about hypocrisy in Government. Chris ranted about Malta being in a state of denial regarding its cases of child abuse by priests. Chris claimed this was ‘a travesty of justice for the victims’.
Outdoors, Chris described a sunny, friendly community in harmony. It’s a ‘make do society’. It’s positive on family rather than dependent on state. Everyone seems to go to the festivals. Enthusiasts and band clubs work all year round to make these festivals successful with their displays, including beautiful cribs and models of Bethlehem at Christmas, entertainment and music. Fantastic floats and marching bands aplenty grace the Carnival in Valletta just before Lent. At Easter there are wonderful processions and displays too. All the festivals raise money for the church, charities and the band clubs by selling specially prepared, home-made sweetmeats, breads, cakes and chocolate treats.
Nightly everyone seems to go out walking together, stopping and chatting with friends. Every street, park, beach and square suggests a community enjoying its own company and looking after their own.
Indoors, Chris claims the picture can be bleaker and there is much that is repressive. Apart from those with the attractive coloured wooden balconies most Maltese homes look small and non-descript from the outside. The masonry may be crumbling and many blocks of newer houses and apartments are so austere they would not look out of place in East Berlin.
Everyone and every dwelling looks crammed together. Massive cranes loom menacingly in every direction you look. There is little respite from the incessant drilling, hacking and shovelling. Most days you feel in the middle of a never ending construction site.
Yet, inside very many of these unattractive looking dwellings are the most wonderful, spacious and luxuriously decorated and furnished living spaces. Chris claimed that all is not as it seems in terms of domestic harmony for down every street and in every apartment block there is a woman subject to habitual physical or verbal abuse. Such was the level of domestic violence that a charity assisted by the Catholic Church, Helping Hands, had been founded in 2004. Naturally Chris helped with the fundraising.
The good news was that Malta, Chris felt, was now capable of moving towards a secular society with greater equality. The referendum on divorce was the catalyst for this positive development and gay marriage is likely to be allowed if Labour win the next election.
Apparently some priests within the Catholic Church threatened ‘hell and damnation’ to any of their flock that might vote ‘Yes’ to divorce in the referendum. Posters with a picture of Christ with the words ‘Kristu Iva: Divorzju Le (Yes to Christ: No to Divorce) appeared all over Malta. Later the church apologised for the scare tactics, by its priests at the pulpit and in the confessional, but only after all the votes was cast. Despite this and with far more resources spent on advertising and campaigning for the ‘No’ vote by the governing Nationalist party, the ‘Yes’, to divorce, vote won. This was much to the surprise of the Government and the Church.
Chris felt that as over half the population go to church regularly that this vote didn’t mean that abortion or cremation would be allowed ‘any day soon’. Further, ‘withdrawal will continue to be the main means of contraception which is just one of many reasons why male supremacy will continue for many years yet, Maltese women will keep going to the UK and Sicily for their abortions and Maltese men will keep visiting the many Thai massage parlours’.
Pup was sure that the next paragraph was important in terms of understanding what he had to do to help Chris; Chris wrote ‘this is people power through social media. The social media perhaps didn’t affect the campaigns but it did give a lot of people confidence that a ‘Yes’ vote could prevail despite the church, government and conventional media propaganda. No-one ever had to admit going against the Church and the conventions of their society as they could confidentially place their ‘Yes’ voting slip into the ballot box. It will be the same with the next general election – in 2013.
Citizen Journalism, social media and mass communication through the internet from the grass roots of society will change opinions and as long as people are able to vote confidentially then the government, the church, the media and the corporates can all be changed. The US Government can control Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, PayPal, Visa and Apple – in fact it’s all one and the same.
They can control everything in their reach with the Patriot Act but still, unless they’re fully embedded it’s clear from the information I get that they aren’t so in control in other countries. Iraq, Libya and Egypt are far more fluid now than they were under the old regimes. $Multibillion illegal activities are becoming powerful world forces that propaganda doesn’t affect.
Then there’s guys like that New Zealander with his encrypted cloud storage boxes are determined to allow people to collect, store and access media that government authorities can’t get to. All is not what it seems. Look at Dave and his Missus, pillars of society. In fact Mrs Dave looks like someone who might just about let Dave ‘have his rights on the second Friday of the month whereas you and I saw her giving a blow job our wicketkeeper round the back of the pavilion. Mind, he seemed to catch a lot better that day.
They’ve even passed laws to say that a cyber-attack on the USA is an act of war and will be retaliated by military intervention. Is that why they always say it’s China that has hacked the social media, government and payment sites? Everyone knows they won’t attack China so perhaps the attacks are from other sources they’d be embarrassed to reveal? Make no mistake that they’ll interpret ‘cyber-attack’ as broadly as they did ‘terrorist threat’ in the Patriot Act and ‘protection of citizens’ and ‘humanitarian’ as pretexts for military intervention in NATO resolutions. If anyone tries to influence citizens in a way that the Government and the Big Global US Companies don’t like they will have ‘em if they can afford to have ’em.
Despite this the citizen journalists and the hackers may be winning the game. They’ll need to gamble, of course and they’ll need a powerful engine.’
Chris concluded his letter to Pup by writing that he was:
‘….in the right place. Malta’s sunshine, sea, safety, communities, festivals, location, media, technology, i-gaming, pastizzi (as if) and wine – this is the perfect location.’
Within the letter, still hidden, but any of other five Chamber Pots would have understood Chris’s instruction, were the identity of two targets Chris wanted information from Pup on. Chris also suggested that another Chamberpot, Pup now knew it was Nick, would make contact with Pup. Nick would convey to Chris what Pup had found out. One target was a former Government Minister, now a Director of an Investment Bank, and the other was the celebrity son of a well-known US based media mogul.
Chis wanted to know what these two were up to, where they went and who they met, especially he wanted to know ‘what are their little luxuries?’ and who was paying for these luxuries. He wanted the ‘street gossip’ on them.
Pup’s sources for this gossip included hacks, restaurant staff, bar staff, hotel staff, club staff, security staff, hostesses and entertainers. Pup worked with fellow Chamberpots, Tricks and Scalesy, on getting the information.
Chris wanted to know who these two targets ‘are fucking’, the names of any interesting people they met out of the gaze of the public eye and any particular fears, hang ups and vices they may have – ‘ any of the 10 S?’. The ’10 S’ wasn’t a class or apartment number but was a reference to the files Chris accumulated on his targets: Substance, Sauce, Spinning, Spades, Snakes & Spiders; Small Spaces and Sad Sex.
There was no reason given as to why Chris had enclosed three old newspaper clippings: The first newspaper report told the tragic story of a fireworks factory explosion in Gozo. The explosion had wiped out an entire family; father, two sons, daughter in law, son in law and a family friend. The distraught mother watched from an upstairs window as the coffins, each with an identifying photograph, were carried in procession to the church.
It had been impossible to be sure if the right remains were in each coffin. The mother was quoted as being angry that the feast which the ‘enthusiasts’ were preparing the fireworks for, went ahead. She felt it should have been cancelled as a mark of respect.
The article stated that twenty four people, in Gozo alone, had died in fireworks–related disasters. The prevalent view was that no government would dare stop the production of fireworks by the enthusiasts. The fireworks and the enthusiasts, the hobbyists that produce them, are a major part of Maltese life. Each town and village will have a number of feast days each year. Sliema has five with the fireworks being set off from large rafts and boats in the sea. There are many other major national celebrations, all of which are ‘embellished’ by fireworks.
The second cutting about fireworks seemed especially curious to Pup. It implied that, as a result of a police tip off, a man may have been framed for illegal storage of fireworks. The heading was ‘A miscarriage of justice’ These were the words of a 41 year old trumpeter that had been convicted, with a two year prison sentence, for storing explosives in the basement of the Naxxar Peace Band Club.
The convicted man said he had no particular interest in fireworks although he was passionate about the feasts’ decorations. He held the key to the basement store but claimed he had no knowledge of a small room which was found to be packed with explosives. The entrance to this room was totally hidden by a tall white cupboard.
He stored paint in the cupboard but showed photographs which seemed to prove that no-one standing in the basement store could see another entrance. Indeed, two previous police searches, before the successful one, had not revealed the secret room and the man was adamant that he did not know of its existence.
The third report, suggested another frame up. It involved explosives but on a much more terrible scale. It was a well-known story about the Lockerbie bombing which Pup knew was being looked at again now that Gadhafi was out of the way. This was an old cutting, though.
It stated that 100 Maltese nationals, along with nationals from 32 other countries, had signed a petition calling on the Scottish government to open an independent inquiry into the only Lockerbie (December 1988) bombing conviction to date. The petitioners’ spokesperson was Jim Swire, the father of Flora, a victim of the worst terrorist act on British soil.
It is claimed that Mr Al-Megrahi, who at the time was a Libyan secret service agent working with Libyan Arab airlines in Malta, had nothing to do with the bomb – ‘a gross miscarriage of justice’. . Investigators concluded that the bomb that exploded over Scotland was loaded in unaccompanied luggage on an Air Malta flight to Germany before making its way to London. The luggage was traced back to Mr Al-Megrahi. The ‘highly suspect’ yet crucial evidence to convict him was provided by a Maltese shopkeeper who identified him as the person who bought the clothes that were found in the luggage. Mr Al-Megrahi’s defence, and the reason for the petition, is that the Maltese shopkeeper was paid ‘in excess of $2 million’ while his brother was paid in excess of ‘$1 million’ for ‘cooperating’. Neither man has ever denied receiving these massive sums.
On the margin of this clipping was written. ‘There’s always one that has the answers – Moussa?’ Pup thought it was incredible the number of people that are nailed by Governments for crimes they didn’t commit, even close to home, like Northern Ireland.
Pup had seen Mr Al-Megrahi on television, not long before his death at a meeting supporting Gadhafi, during the Libyan uprising. Pup looked at his watch and realised he was running very late. He thought to himself one of the others can clear up the breakfast debris when they get back. After all, he hadn’t created any of the mess.
NICK BURGESS WAS EXHAUSTED. Even travelling business class was a chore. He was out of shape, breathing heavily and his rather puffy cheeks were always flushed. It was probably high blood pressure but Nick wouldn’t see a doctor.
He’d see a dentist to keep his teeth pearly white, an optician to ensure perfect rimless spectacles for his blue eyes, a hairdresser to keep his short silver hair nicely layered, a cosmetic clinician for Botox and a tailor to ensure his dark suits hid his paunch as much as possible. But he wouldn’t see a doctor. They may have bad news for him. They may prescribe treatment or time off work.
Nick could not afford any time off work and any suggestion that he was undergoing any treatment might be just the excuse his boss needed to start moving him out. It’s the same as pro team sports. You play with an injury because you’re afraid if you miss a game someone else will take your place permanently. After this trip he’d get less than two days at home before it was time to fly out again.
Next stop was London and home. He’d been to Malta to check out Conference arrangements and also, as promised to Steph and the Chamberpots, he’d checked out Chris, and delivered their messages. He was walking from the cab into Chicago O’Hare airport. Ouch! A hand had been clamped hard and tight, pinching his shoulder bone. Before he could re-act he heard:
‘Nicky Boy what a pleasant surprise this is. Bud, we can have a little chat. Keep walking, turn left and jump into the Merc.’
‘But I’ve got a flight’
‘No problem. This won’t take long, bud’
Nick’s bag and suitcase were taken from him and the door of the dark green Mercedes was opened by a sharply business dressed, middle aged, brunette who greeted him with a kiss and said
‘Nick – hey we’ve missed you’
The man whose hand on Nick’s shoulder had guided him there was now sat beside him. Small, stocky, dark suited, short grey hair, grey goatee and much gold on show – Rolex, cufflinks, bracelet and ear stud. The brunette was his wife. .
‘How was HQ, Nicky Boy?’
‘Cool. You’ll know we’re all set for the Czech Republic and Poland and …’
‘No need to say more. We should talk about that’
‘But you’re doing well I’ve seen your stats. And I’ll bet the numbers I see aren’t even a fifth of what you’re raking in. Am I right?’ said Nick
‘Times are hard Nicky Boy. Austerity is the name of the game in Europe. Good for recruitment but bad for how much the recruits can afford to invest. It’s no good to you either. You won’t get promoted on sales of starter kits’
‘Where would I get promoted to, Richard?’
Richard King looked out the window. There was nothing to see. The Mercedes was and would remain stationary. His eyes had not yet made contact with Nick’s. Nick had noticed before that when Richard King was about to confront Nick, or any other Supramax Life executive, he had a habit of fiddling and twisting his gold bracelet. He was fiddling and twisting right now. He turned to look Nick straight in the eye.
‘What we need, Nicky Boy is a new marketing plan for Europe. We desperately need increased incentives for the leadership. You need strong down lines internationally now. There’s big competition and you know it. I’ve laid it out in here’
Richard King handed Nick a red memory stick and continued:
‘It gives you the complete business case and a power point. Present it. Present it as your idea to the Board and the Owners. It’ll cost one point two mill dollars but will bring in another twenty mill sales in the first year. Third year additional cost will be six mills for up to a hundred mills at retail. Makes good business sense, bud, there’s no doubt about it. ’
‘No way. You know I can’t do that Richard. It’s not a year since the last change’
‘We don’t use the word ‘can’t’. This is an opportunity. What’s the mission of the corporate staff at Supramax Life?’
‘To help you all build successful businesses so that you and we achieve our personal and business goals – but this is still crazy – the Owners wouldn’t even let me get it on a board agenda. European Vice President isn’t at the top of the corporate tree, you know, and I’m only just hanging on to my branch as it is.’
‘You won’t think that Nicky Boy when you read what’s in that memory stick. In fact when you see the presentation and hand-outs I’ve done for you – you’ll see that it’ll do great things for your career.‘
‘I’m sorry Richard, this time I really can’t. They’ll think I’ve lost my marbles….’
As Nick handed the memory stick back, Richard’s strong hands closed Nick’s fingers back around it
‘You must keep it. There’s a little report from one of my people too. It’s a kind of added bonus feature. The report suggests that Rosie Charlton did not commit suicide voluntarily.’
Richard turned away to look out the window again and then said calmly but softly:
‘In fact there’s evidence that you lied at the inquest. You knew that your Regional Manager was there the day she died’.
He turned to look Nick in the eye again and said:
‘We’d better get going and you’ve a plane to catch. How about we have a KIT in London next week and you can give me your action plan?’