The wicked protagonist of this tale is the PR Executive and advisor on company etiquette for ‘Royal Blend’ Cigarette Co. Ltd which bears the seal “By Royal Warrant to the Prince of Wales”. This fateful personage brought about the humiliation and ruin and ultimate death of Dr Asher Benjamin Balshaw, presiding director of the Research Department of ‘Royal Blend’ Cigarette Co. Ltd situated in its subsidiary in Norfolk.
Ironically Sir Kendrick merits the appreciation of all, because he awakened rousing loyalty and dedication and provided the extraordinary occasion for the events which were to follow. These events have been well documented in the popular media, analysed in scholarly articles, discussed in taverns and coffee shops, spread viral on social networks etc and not to mention rich material for fiction and film scripts alike!
The actions to which all this reported controversy attests can easily elicit the readers empathy in its justification , given the circumstances in which anyone of common righteousness would have no hesitation in seeing.
I follow the story as reported at the time of these events in the mainstream media of the day. I endeavour to relate as much as possible the unadorned facts and allow the reader to draw their own conclusions.
THE INSOLENT PROVOCATION.
In the winter of 1972 just before Christmas, Dr Asher Benjamin Balshaw, presiding director of the Research Department of ‘Royal Blend’ Cigarette Co. Ltd was obliged to receive a representative and board director of the parent company. Custom dictated that he offer the hospitality and entertainment of his home to him along with any other amusements the representative may have proclivities for. Two hundred years of company policy and tradition had fostered complicated and institutionalised rituals of reception to the point of tortured complication.
The board director represented the CEO of the parent company, with whom he held great confidence, a nuance which Dr Asher and his small and veritable army of researches, forty seven in number failed to appreciate at their peril. Dr Asher and his loyal researchers rarely saw or for that matter communicated in any regular manner with the head office situated in London, thus for all intents and purpose his team considered Dr Asher himself to be the living embodiment of ‘Royal Blend’ Cigarette Co. Ltd. Such was the relaxed and laid back vernacular cosiness of this little annex tucked away in the backwoods of Norfolk.
Having described thus, the reason for this official inspection was that the Research Department of ‘Royal Blend’ Cigarette Co. Ltd, under Sir Asher’s charge, were about to present the culmination of nearly two decades of work on their secret and prestigious project , a new cigarette that bore absolutely no health risks while still delivering all the expected satisfactions of smoking. They finally had produced a product that ultimately addressed the complaints of the most ardent passive smoking advocates as their invention had absolutely no ill effects on the smoker or anyone in their vicinity. It was Sir Asher’s and his team’s confident opinion that their innovation would not only restore the glorious heyday of smoking proliferation but would enhance the habit to such an extent that the industry would enjoy hitherto unheard of recompense. Furthermore such was their confidence that all 47 researchers and Dr Asher alike joyously poured their entire personal financial resources into the research project unbeknown to the parent company, with the full confidence that when their product proved to be the success they undoubtedly anticipated, they would be rewarded immeasurably due to the gratitude and appreciation of ‘Royal Blend’ Cigarette Co. Ltd for services above and beyond the call of duty rendered.
Such were the circumstances that occasioned Sir Kendrick Smithson’s visit.
Far from the glamour of London life, being despatched to these inconsequential backwoods of Norfolk seemed to be an offence to Sir Kendrick. Whether it was arrogant aloofness or simple contempt for the inconsequential riffraff which the esteemed Representative of PR Company Etiquette was ordered by the CEO to entertain, one can only speculate but nonetheless Sir Kendrick conducted his mandate most ungraciously. From the moment he arrived he adopted a tone of excessive superiority using every opportunity to make denigrating offhand remarks towards Dr Asher and his staff. Despite such condescension on the PR’s part Dr Asher and his staff remained polite and respectful towards their reluctant guest. They endeavoured to demonstrate and explain in great detail the particulars of their groundbreaking achievement and emphasised the even more remarkable pecuniary rewards all involved stood to benefit from. The more Dr Asher, out of genuine and deserved pride, highlighted these simple facts the more vigorously Sir Kendrick mocked their endeavour with unhelpful objections that were clearly intended on debasing the honour and prestige of the Norfolk operation.
At times Sir Kendrick’s candid tone amounted to nothing more than brazen insolence. His host, presiding director of this Research Department was invariably at a loss for a suitable reply such as the use of wit to diffuse the situation, for in truth in his heart he considered not the use of wit but rather the use of some blunt object instead as an appropriate retort to Sir Kendrick’s impertinence.
On the third morning of this official visit Sir Kendrick’s shoelace became unloose. He requested that Dr Asher be so kind as to tie it up for him citing a bad back as his excuse for not doing it himself. He made sure that this incident occurred while all the Doctors staff was present. The doctor although dumbfounded elected not to exasperate the situation and humbly but with inward indignation complied with his request. While he was doing so Sir Kendrick beckoned one of the researchers to give him a sample of one of the revolutionary new cigarettes to which the man duly complied and also ignited it for him. With the doctor subserviently tying his shoelace Sir Kendrick inhaled deeply the sample cigarette and with an exaggerated exhibition of coughing and spurting flung the burning cigarette on the doctor’s bald head.
“What incompetent, ill-bred oaf or oafs decided to pass these shit-sticks off as anything resembling a ‘Royal Blend’ cigarette! Are you seriously trying to tell me that you have spent almost two decades squandering company recourses, no correct that, defrauding company recourses, goodwill, and trust and then have the audacity to insult my intelligence by trying to pass off these rolled bits of manure as the fruits of your fraudulent labour? “
He turned on his heel knocking the doctor over in the process, marched over to a nearby table that had several cartons of the new product on show and duly overturned the entire display.
“You Mr Asher and your cohorts are finished, history, caput! I am going straight back to London with the resolute recommendation that you and your entire pathetic charade of an operation will be immediately liquidated and dissolved!”
He was breathless with rage but also grinning and smug, the doctor had had enough, and he exploded. He stumbled several times as he brought himself to his feet and grabbed an impromptu weapon from the assembly paraphernalia (the details of which to this day is not fully known). Suffice it to say he lunged at the offensive representative who unceremoniously fled never to be seen in Norfolk again. With him he carried a graceful flourish of a delicate thread of blood on his forehead courtesy of the doctor’s impromptu weapon.
Shortly after, less than a week in fact the London office convened a board meeting and handed down its judgment on the attacker Dr Asher. He was immediately dismissed with the added humiliation of suffering legal prosecution for the physical attack and civil prosecution for fraud, embezzlement, aggravated damages and a demand for full monetary recompense for extortion of company funds and time. In short the doctor was ruined and shortly afterwards took his own life out of shame, despair, one can only surmise but nonetheless the entire unfortunate incident resulted in his complete downfall and untimely death.
The only note he left (he had no family to speak of as he never married) was to his clerk of works who headed the research team for him, Mr. Oisin Kugan and Irishman who had loyally attended by his side for the previous two decades. Mr. Kugan was beside himself with grief and rage when he read the short suicide note which simply said, “To my devoted and loyal compatriots, I beg your forgiveness”.
THE PRETENDER OF WEAKNESSES.
Dr Asher’s Norfolk operation was shut down, his legacy, reputation and name linked to execration.
His staff was duly dismissed with no compensation or severance and with the threat of litigation if they attempted to object. They were in effect ruined and left destitute and with the added public disparaging of their professional good standing they effectively faced a life of poverty and disgrace unless they were to go to the extreme of assuming new identities. Backed by the London office with its wealth and far-reaching influence Sir Kendrick Smithson unapologetically and vindictively saw to it that all 47 research staff would never work in the industry again. Needless to say the 47 researchers were justifiably enraged and hungered for revenge.
It’s rumoured that the same night that the Doctor committed suicide the 47 researchers met in the countryside at an undisclosed location where in excruciating detail they planned the act that would transpire one year later; whatever the case the researchers acted with well justified delay. What is more widely accepted is that at least one of their meetings took place in an abandoned railway station because of its remote location and seclusion, secrecy was imperative to their intentions, as is often remarked, ‘Revenge is a dish best served cold’.
The researchers craved revenge but it seemed impossible. Sir Kendrick Smithson was a powerful man with great resources at his disposal. How and in what manner could they get to him? This question not only addressed how to access him physically but also what form their retribution should take. Undoubtedly given his crime many felt without hesitation that the only honourable and befitting retribution should literally take on the dictum ‘an eye for an eye’, others preferred more subtle means as in financial and social ruin, the total destruction of his reputation and standing so that he may suffer all the greater the consequences of his conceit .
Sir Kendrick Smithson wasn’t a fool, he knew that the harm he had caused would foster ill feeling and so used his spies from private security firms to closely monitor Oisin Kugan presumed leader of the researcher’s. By chance Kugan discovered this and based his plan for vengeance on that knowledge.
A consensus was reached amongst the 47 researchers on the form of revenge. An ‘eye for an eye’ being unanimous!
Kugan moved to London allowing himself to descend into a life of debasement frequenting cheap brothels, grimy taverns, gambling haunts. On one occasion he was expelled on the street from a cheap brothel, for getting into a fight with some minor celebrity of modest note, he was covered in vomit. This was enough to draw some attention and his picture ended up in a local Tabloid newspaper where he was identified as the supposed loyal friend and assistant to the once distinguished Dr Asher Benjamin Balshaw.
It was reported that one passerby presumably an admirer of Dr Asher Benjamin Balshaw actually spat on Kugan and uttered something to the effect of “So this is what the loyal Kugan amounts to, a pitiful vagrant devoid of self-respect or respect for his colleagues, shame on you”.
When Sir Kendrick learned of this he felt relieved and much safer. “Obviously I was right about that entire gang of washout losers up there in Norfolk, wastrels and bum’s the lot of them” he was reported as having said.
Kugan didn’t stop there he deliberately started sleeping rough and hanging around Euston station (as it was close to Kendrick’s office) and when Kendrick’s spies reported this to him he relaxed completely. It was at this point that he dismissed most of the private security at his home and in comfort and good spirits set about resuming a carefree life of comfort.
On a cold and bitter night in the winter of 1973 just before Christmas the 47 researchers gathered in a small flat near Kensington close to the mansion of Sir. Kendrick.
Two groups attacked the mansion of Sir Kendrick Smithson. Oisin Kugan led the first who were able to disable the security settings on the main gate and quickly gain entry to the mansion itself thanks to the electronic security knowhow of one of the researchers. The second group attacked in a similar fashion from the rear of the mansion.
Sir Kendrick had a permanent security staff of 15 men who were armed with batons and some light firearms. The researchers were armed with homemade smoke bombs, gas masks and cricket bats. The defenders fought bravely through the smoke filled confusion especially given that the chemicals used in the smoke bombs were laced with irritants. None the less 9 of the researchers were severely injured as were two of the defenders. The remaining defenders were eventually overwhelmed and subdued with rope and duck tape.
Sir Kendrick Smithson the reprehensible cause of all that extreme loyalty was nowhere to be found. The attackers searched every inch of the now frantic mansion. They were beginning to despair, perhaps all their efforts and planning were in vain and this scoundrel had once again gained the advantage. Kugan decided to check his bedroom again and noticed that the bedclothes were still warm, they searched again and this time found a narrow back stairs that led to an open yard in the back garden. Standing there in his pyjamas, shivering wielding a poker was none other than the illustrious Sir Kendrick Smithson himself, he was trembling. His forehead bore a scar, the old rubric left by Dr Asher Benjamin Balshaw.
At this moment the 47 researchers went down on their knees to this detested man and declared who they were. They told him that they had come to avenge the ruin and death of their former leader and friend Dr Asher Benjamin Balshaw. Furthermore they demanded ‘an eye for an eye’ by requesting that Kendrick summarily commits suicide. Being a man impervious to the pleas of honour Kendrick burst into tears and protested the ridiculousness of their demand at which point Mr. Oisin Kugan approached with baton raised. Believing that his life was about to come to an end he gushed and pleaded for clemency and launched into an outburst of explicit remorse and confession attesting to his unjust arrogance and malicious humiliation of their master. He pleaded like a bold child who had just been discovered stealing sweets from the larder. It was embarrassing but effective because when he finally finished kneeling there on the frostbitten ground, Kugan said out loud, “Did you get all that?”
From behind the researchers a young man came forward and started discharging flashes from his camera in rapid succession. Unbeknownst to Kendrick the researchers had called the local Tabloid Press and instructed them to come to the mansion for a small but still consequential story that they might be interested in reporting.
“I got it, loud and clear” was the young reporters reply, “Thanks for the scoop guys, I think this will just be the thing to launch my career”.
The following morning the headlines in the local Tabloid read, “CORPORATE BIG WIG PEES HIS PANTS AND ADMITS DISGRACE”. A few days later the story went national. The CEO of ‘Royal Blend’ Cigarette Co. Ltd was quoted as saying, “Further to our inquiries into this unfortunate affair and the injustice done to our former distinguished colleague Dr Asher Benjamin Balshaw, we are outraged to learn of the deception and anguish caused by Kendrick Smithson who has now resigned his position with this company. In his place we are delighted to announce the appointment of Mr. Oisin Kugan and the restoration of our research facility and all staff at our Norfolk branch. Furthermore we are very excited to announce that in the New Year we will be launching our revolutionary new smokeless cigarette which is totally benign to human health and enjoyment.”
Sir Kendrick Smithson declined to press charges against the 47 researchers. For months afterwards he was plagued by Tabloid reporters trying to squeeze every last drop of scandalous information they could from him. In the end because of financial ruin and disgrace he began to sell his story to the press, as time went by be tried to recant his public confession but it was too late. Because of his notoriety he even ended up selling his autograph to passersby on the street in order to make ends meet. In the end even that source of revenue fizzled out as the public eventually grew tired and bored of him as the public always do.
The 47 researchers returned to Norfolk and triumphantly launched ‘Royal Blend-Healthy Blend’ which bears the seal “By Royal Warrant to the Prince of Wales”. In fact it’s reported that the Prince himself has forgone his unhealthy pipe in favour of the new cigarette, it seems to this day all his followers on social media have taken up the habit as well.
In honour of their beloved leader, friend and mentor Dr Asher Benjamin Balshaw, the 47 researchers had erected a sculpture to commemorate this great man outside the restored old train station in Norfolk where previously on that fateful night they first planned in secret their elaborate scheme for justice.
The site has since become a place of pilgrimage for travellers from afar. Amongst those pilgrims it is said was one from London who years before had spat on the face of Oisin Kugan, remorsefully he declared, “When I saw you in a drunken state covered in vomit outside a whorehouse in London that day, I didn’t know that you were plotting to avenge your master, I have come to offer my deepest apologies”.
Thus is the story of the ‘The Insolent Representative of PR and Company Etiquette’. One cannot but be reminded of the ancient tale of the 47 Retainers as described in the Jorge Luis Borges story “The Uncivil Teacher of Court Etiquette: Kôtsukéno Suké”.
Perhaps there are lessons to be drawn here about loyalty, retribution and the true meaning of ‘an eye for an eye’.
I leave it to the reader to ascertain.