From Jester To King LXXXVI
By Simon Barget
So the job with Berwins wasn’t all champagne and roses. Soon enough the glamour died down. Yes I was glad to be on a job for a hefty wage, but as I remarked aloud to another team member, I wasn’t prepared to do such mind-numbing tasks even for that kind of money. Such a disparity between the gleam of that meeting room and how I was feeling inside. And whilst we were still in that room working out what we needed to do, things weren’t half that bad, everyone packed in shoulder to shoulder, all the key people still in cradling that feeling of importance, and whilst everything was settling down and working itself out, we were supposed to be putting all our clothes away in the meeting room cupboards. These clothes were sitting in little neat squares on the enormous mahogany meeting table. So I went to find mine, but as I go to the left hand corner which is where I know I’d left them, I find Rick Sacks’s clothes there instead, meaning he’d just piled his on top, and whilst he’s sitting back regally in one of the meeting chairs, I realised I was going to have to put his clothes away before getting to mine. They were all branded and I hung them up in the cupboard. And then one of the partners must have decided now was the time, now he could leave, and this was the key man, the one we deferred to, a touch of the suave about him, and so he got up, and as he did, you could see he was going to make sure to say some sort of goodbye to all of us newbies, but though you saw his good intention, the best part of his energy was devoted to going straight over to Milo Alton, the coolest one of the lot, giving him this kind of ‘real’ street farewell and Milo giving him this sort of fist pump in return and I was so pissed off that this partner had only one guy who really mattered to him, meaning that that guy wasn’t me, and I was also pissed off that they had both had this opportunity to feel their own coolness and I hadn’t had it, and it was at that point that something inside me snapped and died and I knew that I was of no importance, what the hell was I doing here, just a superfluity with all the other non-entities. Not to mention the additional problem of surmounting my admiration for Alton himself, so unbelievably handsome and good-natured, so hard not to like him, and when I made advances, he was always reasonably friendly, but you could see that he wasn’t that interested and so I didn’t want to push it. But literally every time I laid eyes on him, I wanted to commune, just say something, I just thought he and I would get along, but something in this recent assignation by the partner showed we were not on the same level that I would have to carry on trying to hide my evident love for the duration, trying to hide my evident crush.
And still we sat round the table, and though this main guy had now left, another partner remained, and as I was still rummaging for my clothes, Ricky Sacks was droning on about one of his holidays as if 1) anyone would be interested, and 2) as if he had the right to harp on about anything in front of one the partners who was about to tell us what the job was about. And yet the gall of it and the partner seemingly being ok with it, showing that if you have guts you can get away with anything.
Then I went away on the ice cruise. And as I was sitting on the boat I hadn’t realised it was the cruise proper instead of just being the preliminary sail up through the canals and into the Thames. There was ice on this canal and we had to plough through it, slowly and ponderously. And the inside of the boat was covered in ice and my fellow traveller was walled up in it, there was a block of it separating me and him, and it was then that I realised that I hadn’t bought any jumpers a long and would I be able to hop off in the city and buy something, I mean I was going to freeze if I didn’t and I bemoaned the fact that I always do things like this, coming ill-prepared, but in any case I had a nice chat with him who was much younger than me but had ideas of being something or someone when he got older which I listened to with the disinterested ears of those who know all endeavour is liable to fizz out at some point.
When I got back to work the whole room had changed and they had us in front of computers and they’d appointed team leaders, unsurprisingly the Swedish manager had chosen the only two Swedes, and when she informed them – one of them being Thom -- Thom next to me couldn’t hide this Cheshire cat grin -- you see even those who you think are completely disinterested in money and status are affected -- and despite the country bias, I was kind of happy for him because he is such a nice bloke. And then I look up to see who I’m working with this time, and to my surprise I see not one not two but three boys from my old school and I wonder what the hell are they doing here in this shitty job, and then I realise that even those who you think are stellar and doing way better than you can be reduced to the same level, or in another sense maybe you’re not doing so badly yourself if they’re there as well, but there seemed to be this force-field between me and them and as much as I tried to reminisce and reinvigorate the bond I couldn’t get anything out of them, although I did wish Mark Feldman a happy birthday, and as I looked at his face as an afterthought I could see how he had aged, really looked older, and even the baby-faced have to show their years at some point eventually.