Dusk is falling as we drive home through the narrow lanes in the new Morris. We’ve got Millie with us sitting in the back, now that she’s old enough for an evening out with us. Mind you, having said that, it did go on rather too long. So it’s late – well, it’s midsummer so it’s not dark.
I’m glad it’s done with, what with Sir Douglas going on. He usually goes on a bit, but this evening he was on fine form. I was bored rigid, the brandy was the only thing keeping me alive. But not awake. Those same old stories, and there we are chuckling as if we’d never heard them before.
” … and the boat sank which left us”
“all swimming!” they chime in with me. Turning to look at my wife, she gives me a knowing look.
“Was I speaking out loud again?” I ask.
“Yes, daddy” Millie says from the back seat.
“He’s an old fart” she chirrups.
“Millie!” bursts Charlotte.
“It’s true. He’s told that silly story a thousand times now. And still you daft old duffers don’t tell him to shut up!”
“Millie, your father depends on Sir Douglas for a lot of business”
“Then he should be honest with the silly old duck” she says with reproach “He goes on like some stupid advert! It’s the same time and time again and nobody listens. You only listen because you have to!”
“Millie” I say “It’s not quite as easy as that. When you’re in a senior position as … ”
I change down to third for a hill and the engine grinds a little.
“Henry” – that’s my name by the way “She’s right you know.”
“I know” I respond, solemn now. A crossing in the road. High above a white sign points to the left. Its black letters spelling out Winchester. There’s no traffic coming in the dark to the left or the right and I accelerate across the junction.
“Only” I go on but Charlotte interrupts me.
“Henry, what else can he do? He’s like those advertisers. They’re so scared of getting anything wrong. They’ll only tell you what they know about, and that’s about themselves. Then they’re so scared they’ll get that wrong they can only repeat themselves”.
“And anything else is a threat” says Millie from the back seat. “So they all gaggle together like silly chickens”.
“More to the point, Millie, they never think to ask their customers what they think!”
“I never thought of that! But it makes sense. After all, who are they selling to? Themselves?” she giggles.
“Ahem” I say, serious now “Millie, you’ll be wanting a job in our sales department next!”
“No! With your fuddy-duddy old firm?” with louder giggles. Out of the corner of my eye I see Charlotte looking back at her and smiling.