The case of the ‘window glass’; The head of the office, Carl, a very diligent man, very clever but detached from reality, was a terror for detail, which did not endear him to some of the staff. He made the mistake of ordering glass with the office phone. It was for home, to be fitted at the weekend. A while later, a joker went to another extension of the telephone and called him up, resulting in some of us being party to both ends of the conversation. It went something like this, ‘This is McCalla’s, I understand you were ordering glass, I have your order here, you ordered…’ the joker read back the order exactly. Carl was both convinced and hooked. ‘Is there a problem?’ he enquired meekly. ‘Well sir, my assistant didn’t find out whether it was bedroom glass, drawing room glass, kitchen – and so on.’ the joker said, extemporising as he went. ‘Is there a difference?’ asked the bemused Carl. A fair question – the answer should have been ‘No’, but the self-styled expert was now off at a gallop giving his imagination full rein. ‘Of course there is,’ he said and went on to explain that there was an ingredient in bedroom window glass which encouraged tranquillity, that drawing room glass was a lot clearer as would befit the best room in the house, and so on. It was a virtuoso performance by the joker and the rest of us were enjoying the joke, as much because we could not believe it was possible to convince anyone of such preposterous claims. In the end Carl, who was also parsimonious, settled for kitchen window glass throughout, because while it might not be absolutely first class it was cheap – and he was in charge?
The Audition How often has one heard the saying, when children are almost hysterical with laughter, there will be crying before bedtime. In this office a similar situation arose whereby the jokers overreached themselves and a joke became really hurtful.
Eric, a good engineer, a hard worker, had a private hobby he rarely talked about, he sang in his church choir and entered the occasional singing competition. In some quarters he was not popular. The first I heard of the business was when he came to me, full of pride to tell me that the Musical Director of the local BBC had heard him sing on Sunday, and had offered him an audition. He was like a cat with ten tails. He took the day off and was seen in his best bib and tucker heading for the BBC. Next day he related what had happened. He had arrived, stated why he was there, and that was the end of it. – no audition. I believe the BBC, should have believed his story and secondly, given him a short audition, it would not have wasted too much of their time, and if his voice was as good as it was alleged to be the process might have been productive. In throwing him out, they were contributing to making the joker’s joke more hideous.
Helicopters On the Runway Job we were a small compact staff with offices near the hangers. We worked for the Admiralty and the aerodrome was also a repair facility for the Fleet Air Arm. A helicopter was being overhauled and some of the staff were itching for a flight. As I dined in the Officer’s Mess, I arranged it – nothing more – I didn’t make any conditions – merely asked the pilot if it was possible. He agreed and smiled.
The day dawned, the chaps were lined up, introduced to the pilot, climbed on board and off they went. From time to time I had taken short hops to Scotland in a small plane and I knew what Naval pilots were like, in landing it was best to keep the eyes shut as the plane spiralled down to land in tight circles and fast – the horizon and the land in front of one spiralled – like a top – it was enough to make even a hardy sailor sick. Naval pilots land on the decks of rolling ships, not long runways. I watch the helicopter, the pilot was having a ball, the only thing he didn’t do was fly upside down. Every man jack was green, as they stepped down – I don’t know if any of them even thanked the pilot – he was smiling quietly, as one does when having been generous.