Huh! Dodgy Dossier they call it! That is just so unfair! I put quite a lot of effort into that dossier, and I don't think it's dodgy at all!
On the day the whole fiasco started I was called to a meeting by my boss, I tore myself away from a hectic game of Solitaire sauntered down the stairs, threw my hat on the coat stand outside his office, nodded to his personal assistant, knocked and went in.
"Oh! Hello Perkins" he blustered, as I walked over his polar bear skin rug, and presented myself in the traditional stooped and submissive fashion at his old leather covered desk with the dodgy drawers. He spun round in his chair, and in his own special style which I've become a bit tired of lately, he stroked his pussy and said "hello Perkins, I've been expecting you".
I've learned not to rise to it when he makes these jaded old jokes because when I say something out of line he always ends up getting his own back, sending me on a research mission to Afghanistan, or worst of all, making me buy a round of cakes for all the girls in the typing pool. They always taunt me so, and I come away from the "cake sessions" as they call them, with a hurt ego and bruised pride.
I nodded sagely, and gesticulated toward his little side table in the corner of his office that is surrounded by a pair of ancient leather high backed chairs and a standard lamp which has a dim old bulb.
"Yes Perkins, take a seat, I'll be with you momentarily. Now tiddles, drink up" and he put a saucer of milk down for the furry little moggy.
I sat down in one of the chairs, and tried to turn it a little so I didn't feel quite so exposed, but the legs were surrounded by piles of old papers, manuscripts, dossiers, and research work, which when combined with the heavy old legs of the chair meant that I simply strained a bit, relaxed, and then gave up.
The boss offered me a drink, and I suggested that a little Scotch single malt would be rather nice. He decanted a hefty glass for me, and I swirled the contents round, warming it in my hand, savouring the peaty warmth, before sinking a big gulp of the delicious fluid. We exchanged glances, and I noticed that he smirked a little before sitting down opposite me, pulling out a beige dossier that was tied with red ribbon and carried a big stamp that I had seen occasionally around the office; "Top Secret – don't tell anyone what's in this folder or you'll be in big trouble".
"Well Perkins, this is the biggie. I know you've been working on some pretty important projects for the department lately, but I think you'll find this one to be the sort of challenge you just relish!" I looked askance at him to see if I could detect a hint of humour or irony, but all I could see were the big whiskers moistening themselves round the rim of his glass as he gulped a massive swig of the old malt. "Yes, it's a fine old tipple" he said, and wiped his lips with the back of his shirt cuff.
"Should I put my current projects aside for this one immediately sir, or do I have a few days before I need to start?" I responded, when it was clear that despite all reason, I really did seem to be being offered a real project, and not just a bit of mindless copywriting that seemed to have become the norm lately.
"Oh yes, Perkins, there's no time to lose. This is your big chance to make a real reputation in the department. It's not easy, but we want you to write a dossier that will explain why we need to invade Iraq."
"But sir! This isn't exactly a field I have any experience in, surely!" I blurted, spilling my scotch down the leg of my trousers, as I sat up with a jolt.
I regained my composure, wiped my leg with a corner of the table cloth that dangled unevenly near my chair and thought for a second. "How many pages do you want me to write, Sir? And where can I do my background research? Do we have anyone in the department who has any experience in these sort of matters?"
"Well Perkins... oh do use this hankie to dry your leg old boy... we don't have any, how should I phrase this, expertise in this specific area, but I was in the bookshop the other day and there are some great novels by SAS boys from the last Gulf war and I'm sure you will be able to pick up some pointers there. There's also the Internet where I'm sure you can glean some useful stuff to pad out your report".
I learned pretty early on when given a job in this department, that no matter how ludicrous, the last thing you should do is to suggest someone else should get the job, so I nodded, pushed the cat off my lap as he tried to jump up and stood to leave.
"Remember, Perkins, we're expecting a lot of you, so I've made out a big petty cash chitty so you can pop down the bookshop and buy all the material you need. You've got two weeks to write this thing, and make sure you keep quiet about it".
It was nearly lunchtime as I wandered out of his office, and stood waiting for the lift to arrive. One minute, there I was, sitting in my comfortable old office, minding my own business, and the next, here I was plunged into that most uncomfortable of situations, a big two week dossier writing project with only a bellyful of Scotch to ease the pain.
I walked in to my office, checked my email, and looked around. It was a nice old room, one of the ones that missed the last departmental redecoration, so it remained very old school, and my books and papers sat around in dodgy piles gathering dust. Right, time to cash the old Giro, so I walked down the hallway to see Agnes, who is in charge of the old records storage, and also keeps the petty cash tin.
"Hello Agnes, how's things? I've got to cash this chit from the boss. £200 to get some books... research material and the like."
Agnes looked at me over her ornate spectacles. She knew me well, or at least well enough to know that this kind of money was not safe in my hands just before lunchtime. She opened her drawers, got out her key and reached in with her soft fingers, pulling out something I wasn't expecting - a moist bun. "People have been taking advantage of me lately" she said curtly "sneaking in and helping themselves to my little fancies while my back is turned". She looked at me with a tiny grin in the corner of her mouth, and I tried to decide whether she really was the old battle axe that departmental reputation suggested, or whether she just played a role.
I walked out, fingering my wad, before tucking it away safely in my inside jacket pocket. That lady sure was something to reckon with, and I rubbed my thigh where she had jokingly given me a little slap on my way out of her office. She had misjudged it a bit, and slapped my rump a little harder than intended, and I had winced before regaining my composure, flashing her a strong glare and marching out.
So, I'll just pop down to have some lunch, pick up a quick bite and a pint, before going to the library to find some good books - there's no need to get books from the bookshop, I'm sure they will have all I need.
The thing is, you have to see it from my point of view, I'm just a poorly paid bod, expected to sit at a desk all day writing intelligent stuff, but the temptation to pop down to the typing pool and mix it with all the glamorous young ladies is just overpowering sometimes, intoxicating me with tales of their exploits. And then there's the coffee machine, which you have to coax very carefully to make sure you get the right mix of powdered milk.
Ten days passed, with the usual routine of late rising, early lunch breaks, long afternoon shifts down the pub, and early home for tea.
And now it's time to get to work. What shall I put into this thing? I've left it a bit too late to do any background reading, so I'll just put pen to paper and see what I can conjure up relying on my own intelligence, which I like to think is quite substantial...
Oh damn, it's 4:30 already and I can catch an early train home if I rush.