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A little cheese and a little whine

Remember, Watt, the Dormer’s Head

Herbie Bith-Watt knew that Moth-Egg was a damn fool name for a business, but he’d learned to live with it, just as he had learned to live with the consequences of the many poor decisions he had made over the course of his career. He had learned to live with them all because by so doing he was able to maintain his view that it was better to make a poor decision than to make no decision at all, and if there was one thing Herbie Bith-Watt liked to do, it was make decisions.

Most of his decisions had not been bad. Most had been good decisions, which had enabled him to build a substantial business empire. The decision to outsource the development of his “Chrysalis” brand development to a Chinese graphic designer through a Russian advertising agency hired by a Polish PR consultant did not number amongst these latter, however, but it had left him with Moth-Egg as the name of his main holding company.

Still, that was why he had learned to hire people like Harold March, who now sat opposite him, rambling on in his insipid, lisping voice. Watt hated that voice with a special vitriol, but said nothing, because March was one of the best commercial lawyers in the country, and Watt depended on him to point out some of his more egregious errors of judgement.

“You weally are in vewy happy position, Mr Watt. There is no need for you to completely emtpy the Ingot Oil reserves before you sell the company on. Quite the contwawy, it will work in your favour to sell the company with some, ah, shall we say, liquid assets, if you’ll pardon the pun? and let someone else exploit the more marginal weserves.”

March was not an imposing man. He had no stomach for courtroom drama and had never taken a criminal case in his career. His speciality was a patient, methodical and painstaking way of working through the legal issues in a way that even a judge could understand. He had never lost a case; he was the scourge of taxmen.

“So you see, I think there is no need to concern yourself with this legal action.”

It was a messy story, which had started when Watt had built a shopping mall on the outskirts of York. Built on the banks of the Ouse and named after that river, the Mall had aroused the ire of an influential local radio DJ called, as he understood it, Theo Peel, who had done nothing but make fun of the development since the word go.

This had had little effect. York was a beautiful city, but the council, in Watt’s view, continually confused the concepts of “condemned” and “historically protected” when it came to buildings and the result was a stagnant town centre with no Opportunities for the Modern Shopper (the other thing Herbie Bith-Watt liked to do was Think In Capitals).

So the Ouse Mall had prospered despite Theo’s efforts and Watt had decided to extend it with a theme hotel. Based on the finest traditions of Northern Hospitality, the Dormer’s Head was conceived on a grand scale while retaining the homeliness and warm welcome of much smaller enterprises. It would, of course, boast several bars, with a capacity of over 2,000; and as the only licensed premises for several miles, it was bound to be a profitable venture.

Watt was so pleased with the prospect of the Dormer’s Head that he had gone personally to the ground breaking. Naturally, Theo could not resist the temptation to attend also, and the result had been an unhappy conflagration, doubly unhappy for Watt because he had been foolish enough to make a number of actionably slanderous claims about Theo’s provenance, history, morals and sexual preferences in front of a range of reliable witnesses and indeed digital recording devices.

It was a mistake he would never forget, not least due to March’s constant reminders of it. Remember, Watt… Threats of legal action had landed on March’s desk the next day; but it had taken even that canny lawyer a few weeks to work out Theo’s real agenda.

“You see, he is a member of a consortium which holds an option to purchase 30% of Ingot Oil, should you choose to sell it,” he explained. Ingot Oil was one of Watt’s good decisions, a struggling Welsh company which owned some small fields in Iran. He’d been able to modernise the operation, increase production and drive it to Substantial Profitability. At least, as Sustainable as any business can be which relies on Digging Stuff out of the Ground.

“Now, that consortium is wather afwaid that by the time they come to exercise their option there will be no oil left in the company. But as I say, I think it’s vewy much in your intewest to sell sooner wather than later, because you’ll get a much higher pwice for the wemaining 70%, and save yourself the twouble of we-equipping to exploit the – ah – last gasps, as it were. I’m sure we will have no difficulty convincing him there is no need to wattle the sabre.”

“I don’t see why I should make any concessions to him at all,” said Watt. “I’ve just discovered that the general manager at the Dormer’s Head has signed this Theo Peel fellow to supply the beer. I don’t think he’ll be doing much suing in those circumstances, do you?”

March looked confused for a moment. “Oh, dear me, no,” he said, and quickly flicked through his notes, frowning in concentration. Then he smiled suddenly, and looked up. “Ah, “ he said, “I think I understand your confusion. The party threatening the slander action is not named Peel, but Dumores. His radio show was once likened to a peal of bells, calling the community together, and as a consequence he adopted the somewhat vainglorious stage-name Theo “The Peal” Dumores. Now your genewal manager, on the other hand, has hired Juan Carlos Pielle, a brewer of some note, to supply micro-brewed organic beers to the Dormer’s Head. Two entirely different people, neither of them actually named Peel.”

“Damn it! I thought I had him over a barrel. Are you sure they’re not the same person?”

“Quite sure – but you should calm yourself – there is no need for concern. Juan Pielle makes you lager, and Theo “the Peal” mocks Ouse Mall, and he won’t sue MothEgg if you don’t dwain out Ingot Oil.”

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Filed under: Humour

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My Bookshelf

The Golden Bough
The Value of Nothing
The Fire
A Wolf at the Table
Devil Bones

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