This morning, 8:15AM
'Good morning, Not For Profit Organisation X, Louise Wellington speaking'
'Louise, Jonathan here- I'm still not feeling very well at all- got a really bad cold. Going to have to stay off again today, I'm afraid'.
There follows a very slight pause- so brief as to be almost imperceptible, but just long enough for the unspoken thought - 'you don't sound like you've got much wrong with you to me, you despicable little skiver'- to be transmitted down the telephone lines from the Westside at twice the speed of sound. It's a neat little trick they teach them at management school. Give Louise credit, she's got it down to a fine art, and sure enough I come off the line feeling just ever so slightly guilty- sullied, even- as if the boss has suddenly materialised in the southern suburbs and spied me through the netcurtains semi-undressed and in the course of some unspeakable sexual perversion.
The worst part of this is that I am actually ill, I will have you know. I know this as I spent the best part of yesterday in a piteous state, lying in bed sneezing, snuffling, sleeping fitfully and generally feeling very sorry for myself. In the afternoon I did manage to rise briefly and, in an attempt to satisfy some frankly unusual virus-induced cravings, partake of a lunch made up of a chicken and mushroom pot noodle, a lemsip, and a potato waffle sandwich in white bread. By the evening, I was well enough to struggle down to the living room swathed in a blanket, and, in between sneezes, follow via the wonders of Radio Five Live Extra every kick of the relegation six-pointer at Villa Park, a 'French Legion' inspired Newcastle emerging from a tense battle as victors by the odd goal in three.
This morning I'm feeling slightly better, and did briefly consider going into work, before remembering that there would be very little actual work achieved anyway, given that the entire workforce of Not For Profit Organisation X has been summoned for the afternoon to a gleaming but inaccessible-by-public transport out-of-town Rugby League stadium, where the annual staff conference is being held. If previous years' incarnations of the event are any indication, there will be some combination of the following: an opening, arousing address from the Big Boss only slightly compromised by the unexplained and noisy collapse of lovingly-erected backdrop featuring a twenty-foot graphical illustration of the organisational vision; some kind of hired-by-the-hour motivational speaker imploring us, like an evangelical congregation, to 'turn to face the person next to you and tell them one accomplishment you are truly proud of'; the large-screen beaming of an amateur propaganda video setting the organisation's achievements of the past 12 months to an upbeat indie-guitar backing track; and- as light relief to close the proceedings- a comic musical turn involving the more biddable and less self-aware members of the management cadre dressed up as air stewards. I'm not making any of this up, I assure you.
So- judging that a staff conference jointly choreographed by a crack back-from-beyond-the-grave dream team of Busby Berkely and Joseph Goebbels is hardly an ideal reintroduction to the workplace for a man still not firing on all cylinders, I made the 8:15 call to Louise, and you know what, she can believe me or not- I don't care, it's not as if she can see me sitting at the computer here writing about her in disparaging terms (at least I hope not- apart from anything else she's actually quite a nice boss, all things considered and taking into account some of the vindictive and incompetent bastards I've had the misfortune to report to elsewhere).
Now- if you will excuse me, I am going back to bed, to sleep until early afternoon, or until the cravings for a tin of chicken and mushroom soup and a Lemsip become so strong as to be irresistable. Good day to you all- and no slacking out there now, do you hear me?