“Good afternoon, Landgrabbers, Customer Services. Ramjeeta speaking. How can I help you?”
“Er Ram... what? (mumbles) must be Welsh or something. Hmm, yes, is that Landgrabbers?”
“Yes Sir, how can I help you?”
“Well, yes, my name is Mr Reginald C. Sole and I’m telephoning about my new store.”
“Your new store, Sir?”
“Yes, well you must know about it. This is the number on the banner isn’t it? I’m telephoning with my questions. It’s not every day that I come into the possession of a new store. That’s the best piece of real estate in town. It used to be the old Technical College, you know. It was an utter waste of time trying to teach that shower from The Cludgie Estate anything technical. Anyway, all the mills are closed down now - who needs a technical college when we don’t do anything technical, anymore? About time that land was put to better use!”
“Real estate, Sir? I’m afraid you must have the wrong number, Sir. This is Landgrabbers - Customer Services.”
“Well, that’s one of the things I wanted to talk about. I’m not at all happy with Landgrabbers.”
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that Sir. Can I help?”
“Well, as I say, we can start with the name, Landgrabbers. I don’t like it! We’ll have to change it.”
“You want to change the name Sir - of Landgrabbers? But, Landgrabbers is an international brand Sir. It's number three in the country. This is Customer Services - I can help you with complaints, about goods, and staff issues...”
“What do I want with goods and staff? Bottom line, woman! Profit! Who cares about goods and staff? I'm phoning about my bottom line. I'm not doing this for the good of my health, you know. I’m not a charity!"
"I'm afraid I can only deal with Customer Service and complaints, Sir. You must have the wrong number, Sir."
"Well, that's the number you had on the banner. 0800******* isn’t it!"
"Yes, that's this number, right enough Sir. But this is Customer Services. You'd need to speak to someone else about changing Landgrabbers’ name...”
“Don't keep saying Landgrabbers! I’ve already said the name will to have to go. It’ll have to be my name on the banner from now on.”
“Your name Sir? The banner - Sir?”
“You must know about the banner! Now, listen carefully. What I want you to do is arrange to have all these rickety old houses along Bart Street cleared out of my way. They’re an eyesore. I don't care about The National Trust, and their pathetic 'listed buildings'. Bunch of damned Luddites! I want them all knocked down. I don’t want them lowering the tone of my new bypass - it’ll lose me business if people have to drive past that on their way to boost my bottom line. Oh yes, and while I remember, we’ll have to round up that shower of Weary Willies that call themselves Councillors, I’ve been waiting for a chance to get my own back on that Jock McPhee since 1972 - and he still owes me a fiver. Get them all into my office, first thing on Monday morning. Get them all lined up for their backhanders and what not. Damned spongers anyway - always on the make. And tell them I want to discuss the new roundabout. Do you hear?”
“Sir, this is Customer Services. I can’t help you with local Councillors - or roundabouts.”
“I could do with a bit less back-chat young lady. Now that I’m in charge, things will have to change. Modern businesses can’t afford to carry dead wood you know. I only want people with a can-do attitude working for me. You hear?”
“Now, get that lot into my office on Monday morning sharp. We need to double the rent and rates on the High Street. I want that place priced off the market. I don’t want anything there but charity shops, and fast-food joints for the school kids. I don’t care if they scatter their chips, and baguettes all over the road, and little old ladies slip and break their arms. And I don’t care if they spit their chewing gum on the pavement, and it chokes the seagulls, and sticks to your shoes. I’ll be doing fast foods in my new store anyway - so I’ll want these places closed down, eventually. And we’ll have to have school dinners stopped. No use that - to my bottom line! Anyway, I won’t be using The High Street anymore. I expect I’ll spend most of my time in Belize now."
“In fact it’s about time that High Street was demolished anyway." It’s past it. It’s been there for a thousand years or more. It’s had its time; now it’s my turn."
"Excuse me, Sir... "
"Well hrmm - I'll let you off, this time. Now, we need to get on to the Council Planning Department to restructure the whole of the Town Centre so that all the traffic has to drive past my new store. I want all the rat-runs blocked off with bollards, so no miserable boggers try to drive elsewhere with my money.”
“Excuse me - Sir!”
“Not again - Gawd damn it woman! What have you been eating? Now, listen to me. Since you mentioned staff, I don’t want my workers drifting off looking for better working conditions - they'll have to put up, and shut up! We’ll need to get my new solicitors to write up some contracts. I know we’ve got the unions by the short and curlies these days, but the damned blighters might try to set up sweetie shops, and massage parlours on The High Street or in their garden sheds. We’re all in this together, you know. I’m only doing what’s right for the country. They’ll sign - if they know what's good for them!”
“What! And another thing, the new name and logo will have to be registered in Belgium, I don’t want to lose any of my hard earned bottom line to the British Treasury; they’ll just waste it on handouts, to a bunch of layabouts and ne’er-do-wells - I’m not a damn philanthropist, you know! I want all the money from my new store filtered out through Belize or Jersey. And I’ll have to get myself registered with my new ‘non-dom’ status - or I’ll lose some of my hard earned bottom line. Another thing - you’ll need to organise a meeting with my new accountants on Tuesday, to deal with my offshore accounts. You hear?”
“I don’t understand Sir, did you say something about a banner?”
“Of course I did - you must know about the banner. That’s where I got this number.”
“Where did you see the banner Sir?”
“Gawd woman, don’t you know anything? As I said - I was driving past the old Technical College yesterday and there it was. It said. "Your new store will be opening this Winter. If you have any questions about your new store telephone 0800..." And, just to prove they were serious, they had a lovely picture of strawberries on the banner too. It reminded me of Wimbledon. I must say I was impressed. They must be psychic. They obviously know how much I like strawberries.”
“We try to please, Sir.”
“Now don’t forget, I want the whole of Bart Street demolished, so I’ll have a clear view from my new Summer residence up on Ponsilburk’s View, of all my profit going around my new roundabout.”
"Sir, I think you misunderstand. When they say on the banner 'your new store', I think they mean it's everybody's new store."
"What! Everybody in Ponsilburk’s View? Joint owners? That’s not cricket! What about my bottom line?”
“Actually Sir, it probably means everyone, who wants to use the store, - Sir.”
“Everyone! Gawd-damn-it woman - owned by everyone that uses it? That's public ownership! They're not a bunch of Communists, are they? What about my bottom line? I want a word with your Superior, young woman! You, haven't a clue!"
“Yes, Sir. Who shall I say called, Sir?”
“Well I must say, I’d have thought you should know that, at least. There’s going be some changes when I take over - I’ll say! This isn’t a good start for you, is it? What’s your name again?”
“Ah yes Ramjeeta. Good! I like that name. And the accent - obviously working offshore. Good! Low wages. That might just be your salvation, young woman. Cheep labour - easy to sack! Good for my bottom line. Now, listen to me, Ramjeeta, my name is Sole. Just say an R. Sole called. They’ll know.”
“Very well, Sir. Unfortunately, my supervisor is out of the office at the moment - but when he returns, I’ll tell him that an arsehole called, about his bottom line.”
Local Democracy and The Markets (The Town Planning of Mr Sole)