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Episode 19: VIP Visitors

I get the phone call to go upstairs to meet the Boss five minutes after Rice has a quiet word and just two minutes after the results of a quick Google roll off the printer. Sometimes I think employing Rice was a stroke of genius…

As expected I find the Boss with the lovely Pam at his side. They're both waiting pensively and I know enough to shut the door after me when I enter his office. After all we all know what careless talk can do.

Pam smiles sweetly but her attempt at chit-chat is rudely cut off by the Boss clearing his throat. He can do this on an industrial scale and I make a note to warn health and safety about the noise level.

'Joe,' he begins, 'I've got some important news. I don't want this getting round the building but…'

'We're having a VIP visit some time this afternoon,' I interrupt.

Pam's face drops and the Boss looks suitably deflated.

'How did you…'

'Sir Arthur Minton, our new non-executive member of the board, former politician and friend of government, has decided he wants to visit our charming little site,' I finish.

'It's worse than that,' the Boss moans, 'he wants to drop in on a software development team.'

Pam is shaking her head. 'He tells us he has a special interest in software development.'

I nod sagely. 'Indeed he has,' I agree, passing round some of the output of my Googling. The phrases 'IT', 'fiasco' and 'financial disaster' are arranged prominently in many permutations. Name a government IT disaster and he's had a hand in it. He's cost the British tax payer untold millions. And he's multi-skilled: health, taxation, child benefits - he's been involved in major IT failures in just about every sphere of local and national government.

The one other story that stands out features the only time he ever made an impact in Parliament. He fell down a flight a stairs whilst escorting a party of school kids around the building. He broke a leg, injured a cabinet Minister and made the big news of the day. It was the high point of his political career.

The Boss is primed with the corporate line. 'He's a man of great technical vision,' he intones, managing to keep a straight face.

'I agree. Just look at his thoughts on the subject,' I pass the second lot of pages.

Pam reads out loud: 'There's no future in Windows…The Internet is a passing fad…Object oriented programming will never take off…'

I have to tell them my favourite. 'What about this one "In ten years time all programmers will be redundant and computers will program themselves"'.

'When did he say that?' Pam asks.

'Fifteen years ago.'

'But look at these,' the Boss says, going back to the tales of IT catastrophes.

Pam glances at the headlines again. 'I can see why we fought hard to get him,' she says.

I hesitate then hold back the laugh. She's not joking.

'Don't you see,' she explains, 'he's going to be a real asset. All those contacts, all that inside info…'

'All those contracts we can bid for,' the Boss chimes in.

'So why's he want to come here?' I ask innocently.

'Because he feels he's an IT man and he'd like to meet some of the troops,' Pam tells me, though she sounds as doubtful as I feel.

'And the real reason is?' I persist.

'Photo opportunity. The national IT press will be turning out for this one.'

'Which is why we need to talk to you,' Pam adds pointedly.


'Joe, please, do you best with your people,' she responds. 'We don't want any embarrassing incidents. Please.'

'Such as?'

The Boss looks scathing. 'Like flashing porn on all the screens while the photographers are about. Or letting a fight break out amongst your team...'

'Come on,' I interrupt, 'using hard tabs for code indentation is bound to cause violence…'

'Or all of your people taking a vow of silence and refusing to speak to anybody at all.'

'But we need to concentrate…'

'Please,' Pam flashes those eyes at me.

I try to resist but her smile and those eyes break me down. 'I'll lay down the law,' I whisper.

'Good man,' the Boss tells me, looking relieved.

'Thanks, Joe,' Pam adds huskily. 'We'll both be showing him round. He's expected in an hour. He'll come up here first and then we'll be down after lunch.'

When I get downstairs the office is in ferment.

Alison's in first. 'Will he be bringing Nadya with him?' she demands.

When I look blank I get handed a some more Google results. 'British Peer Marries Hungarian Porn Star' was one that I'd missed. The graphics of Nadya, particularly the girl-on-girl shots, are well, graphic. I decide I need to do my own research on this.

I get to my desk to find an email from Alison with a list of interesting web sites. The note attached informs me that Nadya is her all time favourite adult star. So do I know whether Nadya will be joining him?

Rice wanders over a moment later with another update. Apparently there was more to the broken leg incident in Parliament than was reported in the papers. It looks like our Sir Arthur was indeed escorting a party of visitors to Parliament, a group of sixth-form girls in school uniform. He seems to have been slightly over-friendly and there are rumours that he was pushed down the stairs by them. Hence his rather quick departure from politics to the lucrative world of government IT contracts.

I get another mail from Alison with a picture of Nadya and Arthur on their wedding day. She looks like his sexy grand-daughter. He looks like he's just won the lottery. So, Alison demands, do I know if Nadya is going to be visiting? There are flowers and chocolates on her desk already…

When the black limo pulls up outside we all rush to look out of the window. Alison is deeply disappointed to see no sign of Nadya, but then brightens up when she spies Sir Arthur's very leggy and short-skirted personal assistant.

'Come on,' I tell everybody, 'calm down now. Let's try and keep a lid on things, OK. No fighting, spitting, pulling hair or making farting noises. OK?'

I get a murmur of assent as they all sit back at their desks. I use the time profitably by finding out more about Nadya. The image and movie downloads that Alison sends my way are particularly educational.

We all hear the commotion outside and then all hell breaks loose. There are raised voices, people rushing about, the siren of an ambulance and then a crush of photographers. But no visitors for us. We all rush to the window to see an ambulance rushing Sir Arthur away.

Alison bursts into tears and bins the flowers and starts tucking into the chocolates as the female personal assistant is spirited away in the limo that follows the ambulance.

I take the opportunity to go upstairs to find out what's happened. Pam and the Boss are together in his office. She looks flushed and he looks like he's lost the plot completely.

'What's the story?' I ask.

'He's a dirty old man,' Pam spits angrily.

Having seen the pictures I can't dispute that. 'But what happened?'

'He fell down the stairs,' the Boss informs me. 'Looks like a broken leg.'

Pam looks at the Boss. 'And if he ever touches me again I'll break his other leg,' she promises…

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