Inspired by the following Decamot items: Greasy-spoon café, Cormorant, Yokohama, Fisherman, Silo, Sally, iPad, Iceberg, Angel, Bollard
“To be honest, it wasn’t much more than a greasy spoon café, but it was in the right place at the right time and long before Little Chefs were invented”
Paul Lancaster was explaining his early business success to a group of fellow inmates who were sharing experiences in between lectures at the Counter Enterprise College in Islington High Street, one of several CECs established by the Corbynista movement on taking office.
“What’s a Little Chef?” asked Sally Procter tucking into a Yo Sushi lunchtime takeaway treat which would not have been out of place in Yokohama.
“Jamie Oliver” offered Angel Gamble “I met him once – he’s barely 5ft 8 in his stocking feet!”
“Oh very funny!” replied Sally “What was he doing at the time?”
“Showing his audience how to core the head of an iceberg lettuce in 3 seconds”
“Why would you want to do that?”
“Because the record up to that point was 4 seconds”
“That makes sense” said Paul Lancaster “I once leapfrogged over a bollard for a bet”
“That doesn’t sound very enterprising” offered Alec Lom, the fourth member of the group gathered in the canteen which had coalesced around Paul Lancaster, whose shock of grey hair had made him the standout character of the current intake.
“It was in the middle of Park Lane in London in the rush hour with the traffic lights against me”
“Ah” said Alec “I see, and did you win the bet?”
“You bet I did!”
The group all laughed at the unintended alliterative pun, but Angel was keen to return to the subject of the greasy spoon café.
“Where was this establishment Paul?” she asked
“It was literally at the end of the old A1, just off a roundabout. There was a constant flow of customers for our all-day breakfasts from lorry drivers en route to all parts of the UK. I couldn’t go wrong. It was hard work, but it gave me enough money to fund my law degree. The bonus came when Charles Forte approached me to buy the site”
Sally Procter checked her iPad and was surprised to see just how successful Little Chefs had once been. She was even more impressed by Charles Forte who had started his career as an impoverished Italian immigrant selling ice cream off Trafalgar Square.
Paul Lancaster took up the story of his greasy spoon establishment
“Forte was a shrewd judge of location. He bought the site which eventually became the Newport Pagnell service station but I’m not complaining, I made enough on the deal for my purposes. For all I know the government might have earmarked it for a nuclear silo, but Forte took the risk - good luck to him!”
“Come to think of it” chipped in Alec Lom,” Most of those early motorway service stations were more like silos than refreshment parlours – ghastly places compared with their continental equivalents”
A chorus of approval greeted this last remark which was interrupted by the gong summoning them back to the lecture theatre for the afternoon session. It was to be given by a retired fisherman from Grimsby whose knowledge of the mating habits of the cormorant took some believing but, as his audience were to discover, cormorant fishing is a traditional fishing method in which fishermen use trained cormorants to fish in rivers. The cormorant’s neck is deliberately restricted so that it can’t swallow its catch.
At 6.30 all four were summoned to the commissar’s office for a debriefing on what they had learned from the day’s intensive sessions, including the lunchtime chat which had been covertly recorded for the purpose and was available to replay as necessary. Comrade in Chief Jeremy Corbyn himself was acting as temporary commissar and led the discussion.
“In my role as commissar, I am responsible for political education in New Britannica.” He began “You have been chosen for priority treatment because of your close connection to the contaminating influences of capitalism which is not your fault of course but from which we wish to save you. Two of you – Paul Lancaster and Alec Lom have a close connection to a dangerous radical who has gone into hiding but who will be put on trial the moment he is apprehended”
“Are you referring to Stanley Jackson?” said Paul Lancaster who was his right-hand man for many years at two successful businesses.
“I am indeed” replied the Commissar “A dangerous individual who believes in the primacy of the individual”
“I was his publicist” said Alec Lom “But I was self employed and free to walk away at any time. He always paid my invoices on time, so I can’t quite see your angle Commissar”
“Are you not also the son of the late Herbert Lom – Hollywood actor?”
“Yes but what has that got to do with anything?”
“Inherited wealth is an anathema in New Britannica especially when it has been acquired by the cult of celebrity. We need to protect you from your own inheritance.”
Sally Procter and Angel Gamble listened to all this with increasing trepidation. They had never met before. Both had received a letter in the post inviting them to this one-week residential course offering post-election realignment. As they were unemployed they had seen it as a networking opportunity.
Commissar Corbyn turned to them both, a genial smile on his bearded face.
“According to our researches, you both share a great, great, great, great grandfather. Did you know that?”
Both girls shook their heads.
“His name was William Norris and he had two daughters – one married a James Gamble whose ancestors came from Ireland originally and the other married William Procter whose ancestors were from Scotland. They went into business together in Cincinnati, Ohio as Procter & Gamble in 1837; one of the most ruthless capitalist organisations known to man. You both have a genetic link to them which could have profound consequences for you. Even your choice of Yo Sushi for lunch is an indicator”
“Oh, how come?” said Sally Procter, with growing disquiet
“Yo Sushi is the creation of British entrepreneur Simon Woodroffe whose activities have been enthusiastically promoted by the aforementioned renegade”
“So what are you proposing for us?” asked Angel nervously
“Our scientists have developed an antidote to the entrepreneurial gene which restricts its influence. Two tablets a day taken before meals is recommended for ordinary folk but looking at your antecedence we are recommending double the dosage for the first six weeks”
There was a calming hand on Stanley Jackson’s shoulder as he awoke, perspiration pouring from every pore.
“Frosinone!” he shouted, “I must get to Frosinone!”
The calming hand belonged to his niece Kate, a highly trained nurse with years of experience, who had volunteered to look after him following a particularly vicious bout of flu.
“I think you must have been dreaming,” she said quietly “but why Frosinone?”
“It’s where Charles Forte was born. If I take the waters there it will offset the effects of the gene therapy ….
“Take it easy Uncle … you are suffering from a high fever … almost certainly the aftereffects of double pneumonia … just take these two paracetamols – they will help keep your temperature down”
Stanley propped himself up and did as he was requested whilst trying to collect his thoughts
“What’s the date?” he said
“Thursday 12th December – polling day!”
“Have I voted?” he asked
“Not yet” said Kate “But JJ has a car already lined up to take you if you feel up to it”
“Oh I will get there” he replied, “Even if it kills me!”