The Insolent Representative of PR and Company Etiquette: Sir Kendrick Smithson.

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.

He continued,

“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.

RETRIBUTION.

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.”

JUST END.

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”.

CONCLUSION.

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.

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Paruresis – The Bashful Bladder

Twilight in the city – he liked this time of the day. The bustling crowds and the beautiful girls released like whippets from their office kennels scurrying through the streets on their way to god knows where. It was winter and during those extended evenings he would plan his journey in a carefully co-ordinated route in order to maximise his enjoyment of this urban frenzy.

Total darkness was looming and the full moon presided over the freezing metropolis. He considered as he walked each evening, how promising the delights of his stomping ground were, even though in a few hours he would feel the onset of disappointment that something anticipated yet again did not transpire.

But now was the overture of the evening, and he would enjoy the symphony. The crisp sound of his leather soled shoes clapped on the icy pavement as he made his way passed the bookshop. He compared the sound of his footsteps to those of others around him. To the left he heard the clicking of high heels reminiscent of a young horse about to break into a canter; another young wench trying to catch a tram that had unforgivingly closed its doors. He smiled to himself taking secret delight in her distress. Behind him moving at a pace slightly brisker than his, came the soft patter of children’s sneakers interrupted by an occasional scrunch of one child sliding along the icy pavement.

The street was lined on both sides with bright and busy shops. Pedestrians were abundant meandering like termites following unseen chemical signals that led them in and out through shop entrances, up and down pavements, and wayward ones that seemed to wander aimlessly. The sweet aroma of commerce filled the air!

He turned the corner towards the river and momentarily altered his pace, synchronising his step to keep in tune with the music emanating from a fashion boutique. Crossing the street his pace changed yet again when he fell into step with a woman going before him. This was a game he played while walking – he would pick a pedestrian close by and try to match their pace exactly. Then he would follow someone else who was going in his direction and match their pace. The goal was to see how many people he could seamlessly synchronise himself with before reaching his first destination.

He turned another corner and made his way across the cobbled street, mindful of the fact that slipping on this surface with his leather soles was a hazard to be wary of. This would be the first stop in his itinerary, ‘The Silver Spoon’ coffee shop; even better, there were free tables outside. He could smoke a fag and enjoy the world walking by. Here he ordered an espresso – easy on the bladder, he thought; ‘I still have a lot of stops before I get to Mavericks Bistro!

His breath emerged like steam from a locomotive as he sat sipping his coffee. ‘Bladder still OK’ he mused. Mavericks Bistro was where he chose to have his meal this evening. The toilets were secure, strong cubicle doors ensuring maximum privacy – he needn’t worry about interruptions there.

Sitting there, he viewed the roofline above the bustle of the street and stared at the full moon. Misty clouds traversed its face with haste, like they had somewhere important to go to. In contrast the roof tops stood like battlements, rigid, timeless and oblivious to the transient world below. ‘Perhaps I should start my story with that image’ he wondered as he stubbed out his cigarette and rose to continue on his journey.

He joined the dense crowd of pedestrians and with them crossed the narrow bridge to the far side of the river. He followed them through the narrow walkways that were lit up like oriental bazaars. The symphony was now reaching its crescendo. Music, human voices, laughter, portable generators behind stalls, the din of traffic in nearby streets, distant sirens and a busker playing a didgeridoo, all added to the pleasure he felt by being an anonymous participant in this extravaganza!

He wandered into a new bookshop he hadn’t noticed before. The unpainted MDF shelves were stacked with bargain priced rejects, a kind of ‘straight to DVD bookstore’ he joked with himself. He was beginning to feel the dull discomfort of pressure on his bladder, as he leafed through a book entitled ‘Al Qaeda, Brotherhood of Terror’. It was only €2 so he decided to buy it; ‘Good reading material while I’m eating in Mavericks’ he thought. ‘Maybe there is material here that I can use in my story’.

In Mavericks Bistro he ordered his usual, penne carbonara with a large sparkling water followed by a large latté. It was safe now to fill his bladder to the maximum. In fact it was mandatory that he stressed the organ to its limits because he intended going to the cinema after, and a visit to the loo’s there was out of the question. The reason being, that the locks on the doors were missing! He knew the condition of almost every public toilet in town- he had to, after all he suffered from chronic Paruresis, a profound fear of voiding in public toilets.

As he confidently emptied the copious contents of his bladder carefully into the inner side if the ceramic toilets bowl, behind the solid bolted cubicle door the idea came to him. ‘That’s it, fantastic! My protagonist is an Al Qaeda operative suffering from Paruresis who kills anyone who accidentally witnesses him urinating. The cops will take ages to find a link between the victims and any probable motive for the crime!’

He left Mavericks Bistro and instead of going to the cinema headed for home to scribble down the first draft of his story.

THE END

 

The Importance of being a cloud!

When Julian was a small boy he wondered about clouds? They had no edges. His uncle insisted that they had lines around them if you examined them closely. Julian disagreed. For him clouds were formations without substance, living organisms that shape shifted in accordance with unseen intentions. They resided in the vast blue ether with total liberty, an ocean beyond the concrete and rigid world below.

Julian would often walk through his uncles fields on the hardened earth. The dry grass was stiff and flat on the barren ground. His oversized Wellington boots wobbled about his bare calves and clay grit found its way inside his socks. The days were long and monotonous. Every summer he was condemned to do penance on this desolate farm. He was sent off by his overworked mother so she could have some relief while he had to endure two long months of tedium.

Still it wasn’t all bad; some of it was enjoyable, like collecting the cows from the upper paddock in the pristine daybreak. He loved to command the all-purpose sheep dog to round up the cows in the early morning mist. Together they would make their way up the grass path past the narrow glen of tall pine trees that led to the upper paddock. Beyond that was the rusted gate, the entrance to a field of mystery; in there existed the void made manifest by the featureless fog. The silence gave way to the hoot of melodic wood pigeons, cooing their well-practiced song. Chilled grey vapor wet his face and hands and dew drops formed on his woolen pullover. The silence waited while shadows formed in the void, they shimmered quickly growing larger and distinct and then the silence was gently interrupted by the muffled rhythm of stampeding cattle. These were the beautiful moments of the day.

Later in the torrid afternoons his uncle would sleep on his car seat couch in the kitchen. The only other company on this lonely farm was the two sheep dogs. Julian would wander for the millionth time through the dilapidated barns that encircled the yard. Inside one- lived the broken tractor rusted and rheumatic. In another- long forgotten piles of straw, rotting molded and encrusted. Chains dangled from the stone walls like shackles in a gruesome secret dungeon. Piled in a far dark, cobwebbed, corner were old sickles machetes and pitch forks, adding to the chamber of horrors theme.

Sometimes the dogs would wander around with him. They would aimlessly patrol the bleak dusty yard and investigate unremarkable features. A pile of cow dung or plastic oil can. The drudgery was relentless. Out of boredom Julian would walk out on to the dirt track that passed for a road on this isolated mountain side. On the far side was a stone wall with a depression that served as a good seat. From here he could see the valley below, hundreds of patchwork fields, grilled under the baking sun. Each one was a slightly different color. The expansive scene was like flaking paint on a crackled old door. He could differentiate greens, yellows and the golden tones from the wheat fields below. As the afternoons advanced long shadows stretched from the ditches and trees that spread like a loose fishing net across the valley floor.

Warm breezes muffled their way around his head while he sat at this spot. His eyes would drift back upwards passing the motionless landscape below until they reached the horizon.

In the distance a torpid haze would give way to the blue ether. He would stare into the emptiness. If he stared long enough he could see tiny amoebas floating before his eyes. He had to concentrate hard for this to happen but the sight was worth the reward. Someone once told him that what he really was looking at were blemishes on the retinas of his eyes, but he preferred the floating amoeba’s explanation.

His attention would wander to the clouds. The best ones were on blustery days. They would sail by like vast armadas. They were armies of shape shifting mythical figures. One day he saw Unicorn transform itself into a Pegasus. It spread its great wings like a swan before him. It turned its head towards him just before it dissolved. Often he would return to his makeshift seat. Day after day he waited hoping it might return. If he concentrated hard enough he could will the clouds to assume the forms he desired.

One evening just before sun set he willed Pegasus to return. The distant horizon was washed with pink, turquoise and brilliant golden yellow. The clouds spread themselves like foam on the surface of the sea. “Return, return, return”, was the spell he chanted softly to the still evening. The dogs stared with him at the horizon yawning and licking their lips in anticipation of the creature’s apparition. The ruby sun descended beneath the horizon. The sky was ink blue and the first stars pierced this infinite void. Julian’s pale shadow stretched in front of him. He turned around to gaze at the full moon. When he looked up he smiled and shouted with joy “Pegasus I knew you would return”.

The wind had picked up to a stiff breeze and the mythic animals wings spread across the night sky just before it turned its head towards him again. It nodded with dignity as it drifted past the mountain peak above the silent farmyard.