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'It was all in zee words for Granite'

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John Ward remembers work days in his Ward's World column...

They say ignorance is bliss but this is not always the case as it could be somebody’s maiden name before they got married, and that’s a different situation.

I was half listening or couldn’t help overhear somebody recently while I was queuing up at a market stall to be served as he was talking in what seemed like gibberish to his partner/wife.

What amazed me was while he was talking in what seemed like incoherent speech, she was replying to him in perfect English so she must be bilingual of sorts but I thought I had a slight grasp of differing accents or languages but this was a new one to me.

Many moons ago in a place of gainful employment, I, or rather we in our department, had the nearest thing to a block of granite in human form as our supposed ‘supervisor’ was so inept with no real idea of the job. However, many suggested this was another case of ‘not what you know but who you knew’ that had got him his position.

He had quite a good ruse as although he had no real idea of the position he occupied, if a tricky question or something he didn’t know cropped up (quite often) he did the following routine.

He would wander over to somebody, become all chatty and then once relaxed ask in the following manner: “Now David, if I said to you – insert the current problem – how would you go about it, from your point of view, say?” as the person would supply their own answer and he would act upon it later.

One occasion proved to be quite entertaining as the new company area manager, Elisabeth, popped in to see us but ‘Granite’ was attending a doctors appointment – or so he said – so we apologised for his absence but as this was a ‘surprise visit’ he wouldn’t be aware of it anyway.

She was quite down to earth, been with the company for ages and had progressed to this position through ability as she went through her normal procedures to see that everything was in order, conferring with us if there was anything not clear, so we got a tick in the box for all being okay.

Over a coffee she let slip that she did not know that Granite was still with us or rather she had heard rumours he had passed away, with my colleague Tim asking what would be the signs to look for as to this condition as in Granite’s case general movement and breathing were down to a minimum.

It was tactfully pointed out that when he was away either on holiday or ill, things carried on much the same if not better without his ‘input’ to which she said “people were more than aware in other areas of the company of this situation” possibly by those who knew he wasn’t dead – or at least clinically so.

However, some things it seems had not changed judging by other things she mentioned in passing as he had a habit of coming out with expressions or mock sayings in faux French to describe something or other, possibly to enhance his position.

If you thought the Derek Trotter character in the TV sit-com ‘Only Fools and Horses’ had it all to himself in such cases, he didn’t as we had the real life, almost breathing at times, version.

One amusing occasion was when he had done something work-wise or in real terms had decided to break into a sweat to do something other than sit on the phone for ages chatting to his wife as he had seen something out of his office window that had caused him concern.

It was quite memorable as he surfaced, came along to us and asked for our attention as he spoke of the predicament he found himself in - I quote: “Tower da France! I cannote beloaf what has happooned! (Rough translation: ‘Large cycle race in France! I cannot believe what has happened!’) brought about by somebody who had parked really close to his car in the car park so he couldn’t or wouldn’t gain access to it.

This was disgraceful, he said, this was the company car park after all and total strangers should not be parking there regardless and he wanted the car moving pronto – or even ‘le pronto’ maybe?

He rang the receptionist and after a moment or two on the phone in which time his facial appearance went from hot and fuming rage to startled and little boy lost in one swoop as he found out it was the company accountant from that almighty structure called ‘head office’ doncha jolly know.

Then he countered that by saying to the receptionist: “Hang on! It’s a common person’s car! I have never met him but our accountant surely drives a prestige type (?) vehicle!” and so on.

This was followed a little while later by the said accountant arriving together with our overall manager to see Granite, then being introduced as it seems he had overheard the conversation in reception and pointed out that the ‘common person’s car’ was in fact the accountant’s wife’s car as the company car, considered to be a ‘mid range common person’s type’ possibly with wooden gear knob, was in for its usual annual service.

The shock didn’t register in Granite’s eyes but after digesting that information and realising he had dropped something of giant clanger, he then went into one of his celebrated mock French expressions: “Wee? Ma goad, Camembert le baguette. Woat wass I thanking?” (Translation: ‘My God – cheese roll – what was I thinking before I opened my stupid mouth?!)

Our manager and newly introduced company accountant stood there almost like statues – they were not alone – on hearing that little gem of Gallic intellectual expression brought to them quite unexpectedly by our department’s beloved leader.

Not much else was said as getting over the shock of hearing that killed useful conversation dead in its tracks as they both shuffled off back to the sane part of the building from where they came from, but somebody did overhear a comment as they did so that sounded like: “Just remind me – we did win the last war – didn’t we?”

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