Saturday, 13 June 2009

The grindstone and the disappearing swallow

Too busy to check, 1.0 unit. I had a busy day in the office yesterday, doing just about my first full day of public relations work since February 2004. I was reassured to find that I was still able to attain the high standard of incompetence I have always set for myself. The function of a PR man whose name appears as the contact for enquiries on a press release is to answer the phone courteously (in the regrettable absence of a well-groomed PA to do it for him), listen attentively to the journalist’s enquiry, refrain from saying “That’s a bloody stupid question” OR “The answer is in the second paragraph if you had bothered to read it, moron” OR “If you want to speak to the chief executive, why didn’t you ring his number instead of mine?” Dear me, no. One just nods and murmurs intelligently (the nodding being a bit of waste of effort, to be honest, in the absence of a video phone). Then one utters the immortal, all-purpose PR line “I’ll have to get back to you on that” and goes to seek out some poor sod who may be able to answer the inevitable question “How many of the new stores you are opening this year are going to be in Wales?” Knowing full well that within half an hour one will have to go back and pose the same question about Scotland, Wales, the North East, Northern Ireland and anywhere else that aspires to a regional media. Not something any of us will have to worry about too much longer, then, the way things are going.

It’s not exactly demanding work, it has to be said, but after a full day of that I was still more than a little tired when I set off with Mrs H and the dog for the four hour (on a good day) drive to our house in Northumberland. Fortunately it proved to be a good day, and we scrunched into the gravel of what I have to admit is a yard rather than a drive about 11.20 p.m. The first thing I did after unloading the car was to check my mail, and right at the bottom of the substantial pile was a note from a courier company saying “Parcel left at door” which reminded me of the wedding present two friends had carted all the way from New Zealand to hand over to us, but which we had then failed to find the time to collect from them in person. I opened the front door with a heart that was only slightly heavy, for crime has never been a major issue in this rural backwater, but there was nothing there. Next I checked the woodsheds at the back of the house, which was where I had told my friends to get the present delivered, in the sure and certain knowledge that we would be away when it turned up. I drew an equal blank here, though I was surprised to find another pair of eyes staring at me intently as I looked. These proved to belong to a swallow, which had built its nest right next to the lamp in roof. I called Mrs H out of the house to admire it, but by the time she turned up it had flown off into the night, greatly troubling my conscience in case I had caused it to abandon its eggs. I went to bed exhausted, present-less and guilty, in sore need of the soothing whisky nightcap with which I lulled myself to sleep.

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