Tiers for Souvenirs
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Josiah Oakshott was quietly, and happily, working his way through a series of papers on his desk, when the door burst open and Archibald Thurble was there, framed by the doorway, looking panic-stricken and breathing heavily.
“To what do I owe the pleasure, Archibald?” Josiah glanced up from his work and calmly addressed his employee.
“I just ran into Egbert…” Archibald began.
“Really? I suppose it would be too much to hope that you were driving the forklift truck at the time?”
“You what, Mr. O.?” Archibald scowled.
“Ignore me, Archibald, I was being a little frivolous. I take it Egbert has said something that has upset you in some manner or other?”
“Well, yeah!” Archibald nodded, vigorously, “he reckoned that you…well, he said like…”
“Do spit it out, Archibald. My time is precious to me, if not to others” Josiah glared at his subordinate.
“Well, it’s like this. He reckoned you were weeping and I thought ‘that’s not like Mr. O., there must be summat up’”
“Whilst I am gratified by your concern, I suspect, Archibald, that you may have misinterpreted Egbert’s comments”
“Well, I don’t usually. He’s pretty clear in what he says.” Archibald edged further into the office, “Calls a spade a f…”
“Thank you, Archibald” Josiah interrupted, “I’m sure we are all well aware of Egbert’s clear definitions of garden instruments”
“Yeah, well, I’m just sayin’” Archibald muttered, “he said summat about you being in tears”
“I believe that, what Egbert may well have intended to say, was that I was working my way through the government’s latest iteration of the definitions of the tiers of restrictions as they apply to the areas we serve”
“Nah, that’s not what he said” Archibald shook his head, emphatically.
“That’s as may be, but that was certainly the nub and the gist of our recent conversation when he kindly brought me my afternoon tea” Josiah said, firmly.
“Have you figured them out then?” Archibald enquired.
“The tiers?” Josiah lifted a paper and scrutinised it, “I believe I have a reasonably sound understanding of the implications, yes Archibald”
“I can’t make head nor tail of them” Archibald grumbled, “I mean, we’re supposed to be on a national lockdown at the moment, right?”
“That is indeed correct, Archibald” Josiah nodded.
“But I can’t see any difference! There’s just as much traffic, people are still going shopping, the only real change is, the boozers are shut”
“I have a degree of sympathy with your analysis of the current situation” Josiah confirmed.
“I mean, it’s nothing like that lockdown we had before, is it? Everywhere was like a ghost town, then”
“It has been markedly different; I’m inclined to agree”
“So, how’s things gonna change when we’re in these tiers then?” Archibald took a seat and waited for elucidation.
“Well, in all honesty, Archibald. Not much, as far as I can ascertain.”
“Are they opening the pubs? Only me Nan is going spare being stuck at home”
“I regret that licenced premises will remain closed, in our vicinity certainly, as we, in common with much of the country, are in the highest tier of restrictions”
“Oh strewth! We’ll never hear the last of it. She’s climbing the walls as it is. She reckons, if this goes on much longer, she’s going to emigrate!”
“That seems a rather drastic action, to which destination would she plan to embark?”
“She’s on about the Isle of Wight” Archibald explained.
“Ah yes, they currently enjoy the rare benefit of being classified within the lowest tier, Tier 1, which, rather confusingly, is described as being ‘medium alert’. The Isle of Wight enjoys that privilege along with Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. However, relocation there would not constitute emigration” Josiah peered over his steepled fingers at Archibald, “you do not need to present your passport in order to travel across the Solent”
“It’s just ‘cause she misses the pub culture, you know?” Archibald stared at the ground and shuffled his feet in embarrassment, “it’s just not the same at home, even though the bloke from the off-licence keeps her stocked up. She even tried to start a fight the other night, just to get summat like the same atmosphere”
“I’m sure she must miss the camaraderie of the hostelry. And you, Archibald, how are you coping with the restrictions?”
“Well, it’s not like it’s made much difference, in all honesty, Mr. O.” Archibald began, “I wasn’t seeing much of Electra before, like I told you, ‘cause she was working all hours, and now, with this lockdown and everything, I don’t get to see her at all!”
“Yes, indeed, that must be something of a trial” Josiah agreed, “I had not really considered the impact on those who, whilst in a relationship, are not actually living together”
“It’s a right pain!” Archibald said, with feeling, “the only time our paths cross is if we happen to be at the same crematorium or cemetery, and then it’s only a wave and a glance. It’s no way to go on, is it Mr. O.?”
“I do have a certain sympathy for your predicament, Archibald, but I regret that I see no early end to the situation. However, there is scope for a little more social intercourse at Christmas, apparently”
“When you say ‘social intercourse’…” Archibald began, hopefully.
“I mean ‘social intercourse’, in the sense of being in the proximity of other households for the purpose of family gatherings and so on. I doubt that the SAGE group had any other forms of intercourse in mind, given that they recommend a two-metre distance be maintained”
“Yeah, I guess that would be tricky” Archibald conceded.
“I fear that you will have to continue your courtship by telephone and letter, as we had to do in years gone by.” Josiah smiled kindly at his employee, “you never know, you may find, as the old adage says, that ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’?”
“Oh, me Nan’s been trying that” Archibald stated.
“Trying what?” Josiah asked, against his better judgement.
“Absinthe” Archibald explained, “I don’t reckon it makes her any fonder but she has been seeing little blokes climbing the curtains”
“That must be a concern” Josiah frowned.
“Oh, not really” Archibald shook his head, breezily, “me Mam said that next time me Nan sees them, she should tell her and she’ll get them a duster so’s they can get the cobwebs down”
“There is something to be said for looking on the bright side” Josiah agreed, stifling a chuckle.
“Case of having to, Mr. O.” Archibald agreed, gloomily, “like me Mam says, ‘just when you think you are, you aren’t’”
“Really?” Josiah looked bemused before deciding that the wisest course of action would be to return to his studies, “a motto to live by, I’m sure”
“It’s always served me, Mr. O.” Archibald agreed, taking the hint and heading out of the office.
“That explains a lot” Josiah said to himself as he heard the door closing.
You can find a lot more from Josiah and Archibald in the two books of their stories:
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I enjoyed this piece,
I enjoyed this piece, particularly with its relevance to current events! They seem to have a good understanding of the new tier system!
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Very much enjoyed reading as
Very much enjoyed reading as always and kept me entertained in the early hours of the morning.
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