On rare occasions one loses one's sang-froid. This manifests it self normally if one has been out of reach of the laudanum bottle for a while and the old juices start their crave and one's temper starts to fray.
My giving up tobacco probably contributes.
What frays my tether more than anything else is the idiotic getting in my way of slithering around like the stainless steel snake that I am and allowing me to create the appearance of effortless caddishness.
What good is the winning smile, the gleam in the eye and the softly spoken nugget of filth if it looks like one has been seen paddling like billio under the surface to achieve this grace like state of rakish charm?
It lets the side down, chaps, it lets the side down.
I recently had occasion to procure the services of a purveyor of plant blooms for delivery to addresses in London.
Not, I assure you, in some tawdry attempt to apologise for a crime - oh no - more, shall we say, to lay the ground work for the leading astray of a young lady unused as yet to the wiles of my dubious charms.
As my acquainted readers know - once the trap is set, there is no escape and the inexorable drive to depravity and moral turpitude is as inevitable as a French Air Traffic strike on a Bank Holiday.
One would naturally assume that as such an adventure is the very meat and drink to such an establishment - they would be well versed in the motives of such activities, and therefore their handling agents would be well versed in the necessary levels of alacrity and required prejudice to effect their chosen objectives.
Why, should I - the customer - have to chase these Cro-Magnon numbskulls to find out there has been a delivery failure?
This is modern Britain. I am old enough to remember the 'good old days' when everything was nationalised and customers were a nuisance and got in the way. You used to have chase up everyday and be treated with rudeness.
Now - I grant you these people were not rude, they were just incompetent. This I believe to be a factor of the fact we have too few unemployed in this country - but that is one for my economics editor to argue.
In the end. I despaired sufficiently to telephone them to ask them what they were about.
'Have the goods been delivered?' Asked after negotiating their switchboard
'And at what point was I going to find this out?'
'And what were you going to do about it?'
'OK,' applying my knowledge of modern supply chains, 'have you got a failed POD or refusal note?'
'And it says…..?'
'Not known at this address.'
Hmmm……thinks cross check details as subtly as possible without losing the initiative…..
'About 9.30 this morning'
'So five hours ago.'
'Any redelivery attempts made?' Ye gods I am pulling teeth…..
'Check the refusal record against the POD.'
'Yes sir at 13.00.'
'And? Apparently refused again. Wrong address.'.
'OK have you checked the Post code against the RM-PAF records.'
'No sir, hold on' (I hear some tapping)
'The address does verify, sir'.
'OK so we have a crisis of competence from either delivery or reception.'
'Right - what I would like you to do is this. Update the Re-delivery. Set it to fresh batch. Not the ones that have been kicking around the back of the van all day.'
'OK now go to the delivery settings - and put it to FIRAV by 10.00 please.'
'Sir. Ok done that - but there is a surcharge for timed delivery.'
'Only if you haven't cocked up. You have and you will provide this to me for recompense for you failing to achieve your single stated aim - and the fact the address is about 175 yards from your door.'
'OK. I would like a call as soon as the you have a verified POD from the Ship-To, ok?
'Correct answer is 'Yes sir, and we apologise for the inconvenience caused the staggering incompetence of my organisation. It is, afterall your job to deliver flowers. I pay you to go to an adress not 175 yards from your office with said blooms and deliver them. A heruculean task that your organisation has failed to achieve twice one day! It is not the North face of the Eiger, the sunbaked sands of the Serengeti or the frozen wastes of the Siberian Tyga - but two streets away from you. Your drivers do this all the time, and therefore must be suitably versed in getting their items delivered - are they not?
'Good, now go and make it so.'
-click- I had had enough
It is worth mentioning that this conversation was conducted over the wireless telegraphy unit in the Alvis.
I had since arrived at my hotel in the Wirral.
I have been unfortunate enough to have been using this god-awful establishment for the last 10 years.
On not one occasion has it ever been satisfactory, but it is 200 yards from the office.
Check in. I announce my name.
'Can I have your address and business name sir?'
'You mean the details I booked with?'.
'Correct answer is yes, Sir'
'Ah yes, so sorry'. What's your address please sir?
'Same as every time I have used this establishment in the last 3 years.'
I sigh. Yet again the fuckwits of the world have united to confound me. I finally lost my normally polite self, and started to become sarcastic.
'Is there someone here who has not been hired today?'
A frantic scurrying and a Hazel Blears look-alike in glasses appears.
'Hello sir, I am the manager'
'And how long have you worked here? Twenty of your finest North-western minutes?
'Fifteen years sir'
'You have clearly reached your zenith and for that you have my pity. I have been using this place for 10 years, and you still show me the respect of not a regular customer, but of one who has bowled in off the street and demanded the use of your wheelie bin to sleep in. You have not even taken the trouble to learn who I am and thereby create even the slightest impression of welcome.'
'Well'….she looks at her screen taps furiously ' Well N----' you don't know my name'.
In military circles, this is called the 'tipping point'.
'Correct, I do not know your name. It is not my business to know your name, however, You are paid to know me, not me to know you. You have a name badge to allow me to address you with your name should I wish to do so. I also believe that under most circumstances those names should be printed in reverse script so that you can see your name with your face when you look in the mirror, obviating the requirement for you to grapple with the lofty concerns of remembering who your are AND what you look like at the same time. Oh, and it is Mr. D---- to you. I do not recall being introduced to you by my Christian name.'
'I'm very sorry N-- errr…. Mr D----'
'As for service - I have been using a hotel in another city - which I might add costs less per night than this and they have the good thinking to not only check their arrivals list, but they have take the effort of learning my tastes and the chef preparing a recommendation on my evening meal and a personal wine selection. He is normally right. On the other hand the only difference in menus here in the last 10 years is the paper they have been printed on.
Now, I will have a call at 06.30, a Daily Telegraph and pot of strong tea at exactly that time outside my room.'
'There is a small surcharge for the Telegraph sir…the Independent is free…' she tailed off after seeing my face.
''They give the Independent away at every hotel in the country - which is the only reason it has any readership at all. I would not use it to line the cage of a crapulescent budgerigar, certainly less read it. Do I sound like the sort of window licking socialist windbag who would read such trash?'
'I read it sir, it's ok.'
'Quite. My room key please.'
It didn't end there.
Two minutes later I am at reception.
'Do you employ cleaners in this hotel?'
'And they actually clean the rooms, rather than sit about reading Closer magazine and picking their expanding noses?'
'Is your room dirty sir? Let me change it right away.'
'There is a magic combination here - let me try it out'
'Bathroom, Stout, Pubic and Hair.'
'I'm so sorry sir.' I will have your bags moved immediately. Would you like a complimentary drink at the bar?'
'Yes. I will have a large bloody mary with a full teaspoon of Tabasco, three not two, three, twists of black pepper, a single slice of lemon and no ice, plus a celery stick. If this is not achieved to the letter advise the barman I will horsewhip him and have you crucified at noon. Am I perfectly clear?
She smiled - despite the hardships thrown in my way - I am still smiling.
'Yessir' She said with a smile.
'Good. I shall be on the sofa. Carry on.'
She carried on and a half decent bloody mary was duly delivered.
Having to share buildings with the baser forms of commercial traveller is bad enough. But expecting me to tolerate their standards of service is beyond the pale.
One glimmer of good news - is that the few simple blooms I sent to the young lady did indeed make her smile - and the smile of a pretty lady is as narcotic as the beat of an angel's wings or the first sip of champagne at on the train to work.