The Witching Hour

Minolta DSC

I really don’t know how we seem to be getting away with things so lightly in the press! Or why no one has fallen on their sword yet. Or flown off on their broomstick.

Take a look at what is happening with Tesco. Constantly in the press, senior staff suspended, boardroom exits including the Chairman. But I guess they deal directly with the public rather than business to business – or rather business to the faceless bureaucracy of government. And they have a new Chief Executive. A new broom to sweep clean. Cleaners again!

Talking of Lyle Clean, he is being especially creepy.

He takes me aside every day to check out what I have said. He has made it quite clear that I am a potential target for repercussions should I talk out of turn. Eve Asian from our lawyers Fastbuck Made has reported back that I am a potential liability so I am singled out for special measures.

Today Lyle thinks he is particularly funny with his threats. Apparently the minimum consequence for me is apple bobbing but I will be the walking dead if he tells Will Full or Tony Wall what Eve told him.

Will also seeks me out regularly. But of course with his military past he talks about stepping out of line. I imagine the consequences of such a thing would be a firing squad.

I’m dreading tomorrow night and the prospect of them all turning up to trick or treat me.

I’m beginning to think that prison would be better than this! Perhaps I could do a deal..???

Damage Limitation

mop

It’s Board (bored) day again! Miraculously some form of Board Pack has been sent out but there is very little by way of papers supporting the agenda.

The usual behaviour is, on the face of it, present. Gloria Ewes was jetted in from the States yesterday and again has a mass of shopping bags with her. Clearly she is either oblivious to the fact Utilico is staring into the abyss or else has shut her eyes to it. Louis Vuitton, Prada, Jimmy Choo, Tiffany, to name a few. I suppose it was naive of me to expect her to have gone down market a bit. She would probably rather be dead than shop at Shoefayre for example but perhaps Russell & Bromley is more the zeitgeist for a Utilico NED at this point?

All the other NEDs and most of the executive directors arrive late as usual. We may as well change the start to 10.30 as we never start much before then despite the 10 am billing. Will Full with his military past is a stickler for punctuality and this tardiness really winds him up. He mutters about time being money and that the collective cost of that wasted half an hour each meeting is over £1 million a year. I haven’t checked his sums but I daresay he is right. Still, given the money we waste generally that is a drop in the ocean.

Talking of oceans, my mind starts to drift. I can see a gorgeous turquoise Caribbean beach. I can see a beautiful blue sky. I can see fine white sand. And palm trees. And an ice cold beer. And a hammock……

Different..Different..are you listening to me?”. I jump with a start. It is the cringe worthy Lyle Clean. Of course he would attend wouldn’t he? The Cleaner! Well I’m not sure how successful he can be with our latest little mess. “What time are Fastbuck Made arriving?” he demands to know. Our lawyers of course. We can’t fart now without them and Lyle having cleared it first. “11 o’clock” I tell him.

The table is laid out with a vast array of sumptuous looking pastries as well as the sausage and bacon butties for Al (white van) Mann. I think idly to myself that if he could just hit his mouth more often with his food he wouldn’t need to eat three times as much as anyone else. Our cleaning bill is always exorbitant after he has been in a room. More crumbs than a bread factory. Cleaning again! Why can’t I stop thinking about cleaning and get back to that heavenly ocean? Maybe it’s because Lyle Clean who normally finds me almost invisible is ominously watching my every move.

Sir John Fuller-Pomp, our Non-Executive Chairman starts proceedings, “Okay guys it’s business as usual at Utilico”. Gloria pipes up with an objection: “I am manifestly NOT a guy Sir John.”

Oh stop splitting your immaculately groomed ends dear – it’s just a turn of phrase” he retorts, rather unchivalrously for him I think. He must be a bit rattled.

Gloria just glowers at him.

Today we need to focus on damage limitation! We need to protect our existing revenues and our share price, and ensure we are still able to bid for new government contracts. Outwardly it is business as usual and we put our best face on. All clear?” says Sir John.

Everyone should know their scripts by heart by now and Tony and Will have been tasked with enforcing our position. Lyle is in charge of clean-up and needs to know immediately what is being said or asked. All clear?”

This type of monologue goes on ad nauseum. Occasionally someone else butts in but it just seems to be with reinforcements. When Fastbuck Made arrive it is worse. At least I can understand Sir John and his sentences aren’t couched in legalese.

I’m so pleased when we get to end of the meeting. At least I won’t have any minutes to write I think. But then Alec our Chief Executive says his usual: “Minutes by close of play please and don’t forget what they need to say”. I start to open my mouth to say something but a chap from Fastbuck Made who’s name I didn’t catch tells me that the minutes will be with me by 6pm. Great I think. I’m now completely redundant but, unfortunately, too knowledgeable to be dumped. Suddenly a wave of paranoia sweeps over me as I think of Lyle Clean’s new found fascination with me.

Tonight I think it is going to be more gin than gym for me.

Teflon Man

Teflon

So what has been happening back here at Utilico?

Well on my return to work, I found several characters still ex-communicado under police imposed restrictions.

Alec Smart our Chief Executive was of course back at work. Why of course I hear you ask. Well Alec is Teflon coated. Nothing ever sticks to him. Quite how he can have got off more lightly than me so far given his position is beyond my understanding. No doubt he got better service from Utilico’s lawyers Fastbuck Made. I understand he was back at work after a couple of days. Perhaps that is a bit strong – work! He is a lazy so and so. Mind you – I have to hand it to him – he is a maestro at self-preservation. The extent of his self-delusion is tangible – he seems to think it is hilarious that he was caught in flagrante with Sheila Gree our Head of HR. Makes him the big man. Well on that note we agree. He is a big man, but not in the way he thinks.

Sheila is of course back at work too. Alec will protect her over and above most others unless his own being is threatened when I have no doubt he would drop her like a stone.

Lyle Clean our unctuous Head of PR was of course back at work. Friends in high places no doubt.

Eddie Smooth our Marketing & Sales Director was back too. He probably genuinely knows very little. He is usually asleep during Board meetings.

Will Full our Operations Director was also back. No doubt that Sandhurst, ex-army officer background helped.

No the missing characters were Tony Wall our Finance Director and my underling Sunil View.

Tony Wall’s continuing absence was not a surprise to me. He is a very dodgy character and, even if he were not up to his neck in the alleged shenanigans anyone could be excused for assuming he was. A working class, Scouser background probably doesn’t help.

But Sunil? Why on earth are they still holding him? He can’t know anything much. He might get the Board packs out and such like but I doubt he has ever read them. And he rarely stays in meetings very long once he has helped ensure our non-executives are fed and watered (he is an expert at using our super-duper espresso machine) and has received all their expense claims.

So it is all a bit of a mystery to me.

I was told by Will Full that, under no circumstances, was I to ever drift off my pre-prepared statement. Not with anyone! I was left with the very clear impression that I would be summarily executed if I ever did that. And allegedly Will can kill a man with his bare hands. Though I would like to see him try. No I would be far more frightened had that threat been delivered by the very menacing Tony Wall.

Allegedly, all our non-executives have been called in for interview – though none were placed under virtual house arrest like me and some other executives.

But basically everyone is being very tight lipped about events. On the surface it is business as usual. But in reality there is a palpable sense of tension in the air. I imagine it must feel like it was in the courtroom awaiting the Pistorius verdict.

Nodding Dog

Nodding Dog

You guessed it! I signed the Statement.

And a few days after that I was back in Paddington Green Police Station with Detective Inspector Kat Aspertion and Detective Sergeant Ian Quest – accompanied of course by my lawyer Eve Asion from Fastbuck Made. I say “my lawyer” but of course she is Utilico’s lawyer and I’m not convinced she is acting in my best interests.

This time the interview was even swifter than last time. Eve Asion handed them my Statement and replied to every question that my response was in the Statement.

I just sat there like a nodding dog.

DI Kat Aspertion looked at me like I was a pathetic piece of rubbish. And I guess that is what I was. She said: “Again this is getting us nowhere. We will of course read this pre-prepared piece of bullshit and it better contain some answers. If it doesn’t, we will haul you back in here faster than Usain Bolt. And we will consider charging you with wasting police time!”

At this point I’m more like a rabbit with myxomatosis caught in the headlamps. With feet like lead I plod out of there.

Again I try to talk to Eve Asion about my statement, the truth, what will happen next. But again she just brushes off my concerns and questions.

Back home I tried to concentrate on the sport and the weather. But I couldn’t concentrate on anything very much. I spent almost 3 weeks in limbo. I wasn’t called back to the Police Station – and I heard nothing from Fastbuck Made or from anybody at Utilico. In truth it was a rather awful and lonely time.

My resolve to visit the gym more after the haunting vision of Sheila Gree, our Head of HR, and our portly Chief Executive Alec Smart stark naked in a compromising position was severely tested. I did try to take some exercise but found myself comfort eating. Still – if I do end up in prison I thought to myself I will surely lose weight there. Cold comfort I know.

So there we have it. I’m now back at work. I shall fill you in on what has been happening in my next post.

“Now he’s in purple, now he’s a turtle, disintegrating”

 

purple room

As promised, the day after my interrogation, a car was sent over from Utilico’s lawyers, Fastbuck Made. I was driven over to some huge swanky modern offices in Canary Wharf.

I was taken to a small but perfectly formed meeting room decked out in purple. I was given some very strong coffee. I couldn’t help wondering if they too had shipped a super duper espresso machine from the States costing over $20,000 like Utilico.

Soon the lawyer assigned to me, Eve Asion, arrived. She presented me with a pre-prepared statement and suggested I read it. She then disappeared. I tried to read it but my mind kept wandering. And the purpleness of the room started to hurt my eyes. Not my favourite colour!

The statement was just full of words like I just take the minutes of Board meetings and the like. I don’t prepare paperwork. I don’t play a part in decisions. I don’t recall the detail of meetings four years ago – or even more recently. The minutes are there on record and so on and so on.

I wasn’t sure whether this was likely to get me in more trouble than singing like a canary. All that was running through my head was that I do know things – of course I do.

My head felt like it was going to explode. I didn’t know whether to scream or whether to curl up into a ball. Why was this happening to me? How had I let this happen? Why had I stood by and watched things I knew were wrong just happen?

These thoughts of course were not helpful at that point.

Eve Asion came back into the room and asked me if I had read it and was ready to sign it. I tried to tell her that I did know things and wasn’t comfortable signing it.

But she just told me it was in everyone’s best interests my own included to sign it.

So guess what I did?

The Longest Day

Paddington Green Police Station

Well I don’t really know whether to tell you about my first day back at work after my enforced incommunicado. Or about my experience after that fateful night!

But I suppose I ought to reflect on what followed the police raid.

After being unceremoniously bundled into a Black Maria, I was taken to Paddington Green Police Station. Entering that station I suddenly came out in a cold sweat. I thought they only interviewed – or should that be interrogated – terror suspects there! My mind started racing about what Utilico might be into. We haven’t been involved in money laundering for an arms race have we?

Anyway I was put in a cell – on my own – where I just had to wait for hours. I had no idea where anyone else was. I was told at the beginning that I would be seen as soon as possible. When I politely asked how long that might be, the Police Constable escorting me just smirked and shrugged his shoulders.

How the time dragged whilst I was in there. Of course various things had been taken from me – like my Blackberry, my personal phone and my wallet. I didn’t even know the time as I rarely wear a watch these days. My head started banging from all the alcohol I’d consumed and I was desperate for a drink of water.

I didn’t really think about what might happen next which of course I should have done.

So when they eventually came to collect me and took me to a room for questioning I didn’t know what to do or to say. I didn’t know what my rights were. Clearly I’ve wasted a lot of my life watching crime dramas. They all kept flashing through my head. But all they have done is confuse me about what it might really be like. Should I be expecting a True Detective or Homeland type conspiracy? Or was it more like Sherlock? Or Broadchurch? Or would it be more old school like the Bill? Or even Heartbeat? Or would I be subjected to psychological pressure like Cracker? Would it be a woman like Jane Tennison in Prime Suspect? I’m pretty sure that would kill my admiration for Helen Mirren!

Did I need a lawyer there? Was I entitled to one? There were two police officers there – a man and a woman. They introduced themselves as Detective Inspector Kat Aspertion and Detective Sergeant Ian Quest. She did look a bit like Helen Mirren! I asked them whether I should have a lawyer present. They asked me whether I needed one…did I have anything to hide?… I was only helping them with their inquiries….. I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time…. They were sure I wanted this over quickly and could get home…getting a lawyer there would delay things unnecessarily.

I thought about this and decided I did want someone there. They offered me a duty solicitor.

It was at this moment that it suddenly dawned on me what that risk bloke from Head Office in Basel was banging on about when he talked about risk management and contingency planning and reputation management. I should know what to do in a situation like this and how best to protect the company’s interests. But I didn’t!

But I do remember, being company secretary, who Utilico’s lawyers are – Fastbuck Made. So I decide to ask to ring them and see what they advised.

It transpired later that of course that is the first thing Alec Smart, our Chief Executive, had done. Fastbuck Made had in fact been trying to insist that they represent everyone and had already sent a team of lawyers down. So there would have been no delay.

So anyway, there I was – suddenly accompanied by a lawyer from Fastbuck Made called Eve Asion.

Before I knew it I was bundled into another room. A very scary looking Police Constable was watching over me. I tried to make a few pleasantries – a bit of small talk – but he just stared at me like I was something the cat had dragged in. I decided that bit was more tortuous than spending hours in a police cell. At least I was on my own in there.

What seemed like an age later, someone came to the door and the PC went out. Eve Asion came in. She told me that they had lots of questions to put to me about what I did or didn’t know about certain contracts and dealings of Utilico. I started to blubber all sorts of things out to her. She just looked at me in a very deadpan way and said: “Ian, just shut up for a moment. Here is our strategy. You simply say ‘no comment’ to every single question.” I wasn’t happy with that and said that I thought silence wasn’t permissible anymore. She told me that it was – but that it can make it more awkward if things ever came to court. But that she was there to make sure that didn’t happen. And in the unlikely event it did, we could make sure the defence was robust and that the prosecution couldn’t use things that had been pressured out of the likes of me, or said without thought.

All of this really scared me but I thought I had better go along with it. After all, we paid Fastbuck Made a huge amount of money so they must know best. I did however ask what would happen if I said ‘no comment’ to every question. She said they would probably release me and allow me to come back in a day or so to give a witness statement – which we could prepare in advance.

We then went back into the room with the DI and the DS. The interview went something like this:

DI Kat Aspertion : This interview is being taped under the Police & Criminal Evidence Act…blah blah blah…for the benefit of the tape can you confirm that your name is Ian Different and you are Company Secretay of Utilico?

Me: No comment

Eve Asion: No Ian you can answer that question.

Me: Yes

DI Kat Aspertion : I do hope this isn’t going to be a course that the interview will follow. Can you recall being present at a meeting of Utlico’s Board on 5 September 2010?

Me: No comment

DI Kat Aspertion : Can you recall that at this meeting Utilico was discussing its bid for a government contract…blah blah blah…

Me: No comment

DI Kat Aspertion : Do you recall at or around this meeting anyone discussing bribes or inside information…blah blah blah…

Me: No comment

This game of ping pong went on for quite some time. Then DI Kat Aspertion said; “This is getting us nowhere. You can go home but you must go nowhere near any of Utilico’s premises and must not make any contact with anyone from, or connected to, Utilico. You will be accompanied by a police officer who will remove from your home any communication devices. You will be recalled for interview again in a few days and we expect some answers.

I started to mutter something about surely I could speak to my lawyer and how could I contact my family and friends if I don’t have a phone and so on. DI Kat Aspertion just pointed out that was my look out and she would see me soon.

With that I was out of there. I had to sign a few forms and was escorted home as she said. Eve Asion just told me she would be in touch. “But how?” I asked “if I can’t communicate”. She said: “Don’t go anywhere. Get some sleep. We will send a car over tomorrow.

When I got home, it was late the next day – a full 24 hours had passed since the raid. Truly the longest day of my life so far!

Subbuteo

subbuteo

I haven’t posted for a while because I had all my electronic devices confiscated! Both work and personal! I’ve been incommunicado. Something that last happened to me when I was in my early twenties before the mobile era! And I’ve been confined to home.

Anyway, I now have some technological devices back so I can up-date you on the state of play at Utilico.

My last post seems like another lifetime ago! The Football World Cup was about to start and the excitement here in the UK was palpable.

How quickly things change.

If you recall, I was hoping to watch the World Cup opener in the office on the world’s biggest highest definition indoor screen with super surround sound – washed down by fine wines and beers from around the world – and sumptuous international cuisine. And to be chauffeur driven home at the company’s expense. But sadly it all fizzled out as the word on the (Fleet) street was that Utilico was about to be raided by the police.

So I watched the opening game on my own at home on a tiny screen with a takeaway and a couple of cans of cheap lager. A far cry from what I was expecting.

And of course, for England’s opening game against Italy on the Saturday, nobody was in the mood to utilise Utilico’s facilities either – although we had not been raided.

By the Thursday, spirits were a bit higher. Still no raid. So we all decided to watch England v Uruguay in the office. The food and drinks were flowing and it was a good old party atmosphere. Our hopes were dented by Liverpool’s Luis Suarez’s opening goal but suddenly good old Wayne Rooney gave us false hope. The talk all changed from how useless he was these days to what a brilliant player he is.

Some of course were only there for the food and drink – having very little interest in the football. I noticed Alec Smart our Chief Executive disappear after Rooney scored. He pretends to like football. But I’ve always had my suspicions that his supposed passion is only to ingratiate himself with people and give him a common touch.

Anyway of course, our rekindled hopes were soon dashed as the mercurial Suarez scored again. We watched the rest of the game getting more and more dejected.

Eddie Smooth, our Marketing & Sales Director was apoplectic with fury about the poor performance of the England team. All that money chucked at those lazy, good for nothing, prima donnas. Never done a day’s work in their lives. Not worth minimum wage. And so on. Coming from Eddie of course this is hilarious. Eddie doesn’t appear like a man who has ever worked hard for a living. And it is funny but whenever it comes to spending a fortune on a marketing campaign, results don’t seem to be relevant.

Tony Wall our Finance Director and Liverpool FC supporter, was pleased that Rooney scored but was muttering menaces about Steven Gerrard and Suarez. If you recall, Tony comes from Liverpool and is rumoured to have some kind of underworld connection to Gerrard.

Lyle Clean our unctuous Head of PR claims to be a Fulham fan. Again he sways with the wind depending on who he is talking to. If it is Lord Ambrosia our Vice-Chair it’s all about cricket. And if talking to Sir John Fuller-Pomp, our Chair, then it’s golf.

None of our non-executives were there. Brian Careful dislikes football. Gloria Ewes dislikes it even more so. For her though it is all about the “horrible kit – all that nylon – eugghhhhh! Why on earth would good looking, fit, rich, young men want to dress like that?” It seems to be lost on her that they are only rich because they wear that kit. And they wear that kit because it is practical not because it’s chic or exclusive.

And of course Al Mann has managed to swing an all expenses paid trip to Brazil to watch the World Cup. We are not sure who paid for him but have a sneaking suspicion that it is something to do with his role on the local Council planning committee.

Our reactions at the end of the game were varied. I felt like going home but some others were hell-bent on drinking the place dry. I hung around a while longer wondering when it was okay to slip away.

Then mayhem ensued. That threatened police raid took place. Suddenly there were police swarming all over the place – shoving doors open, grabbing people.

I slowly realised where Alec had gone. He was in his very palatial office with Sheila Gree, our Head of HR, taking advantage of his capacious leather topped desk. And no! They were not playing Subbuteo! Good job it is a very solid mahogany desk. Otherwise it would never have taken the portly frame of Alec! The sight of Sheila and Alec in scoring positions will never leave me. Ever! I already had a rather horrible image in my head with Lyle’s “a pig poking a pigeon”. But I was not prepared for the haunting vision that greeted me when the door was kicked in. I resolved there and then to visit the gym more.

It seemed to take far too long to cover the pair of them up. Eventually however we were all bundled out of the building and into waiting police cars. I had always wondered what it was like to have a policeman shove your head down and push you into a car. Now I know – and wish I didn’t.

I’ve blocked out what happened next. I might build up my strength to tell you about it in a few days. But right now I’m going to have a few stiff drinks because I have just been informed by a police visitation that I can attend work in the morning.

How unlucky am I? I have been off work – on enforced leave – for over 3 weeks. 3 weeks when there has been the World Cup, Wimbledon and now the Tour de France. And lots of glorious weather. Sure I’ve watched a lot of sport and even managed to get a bit of colour into my normally lily-white face and body, but I’ve been scared stiff about what has been happening. Plus England were out of the World Cup at the first hurdle, Murray failed to win Wimbledon, and the Brits are enjoying mixed fortunes in the Tour.