The Book Of Daft

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Chapter 14

EMAIL 65 – Title: “No Face”

Morning all

I email you with much concern.

I’ve recently been sporting a newly acquired phone (complete with facial recognition) and, thus far, I’ve been very pleased with its all-round efficiency compared to its predecessor (which I believe was made in the 17th century).

Anyway, today, my general sense of satisfaction has been mercilessly obliterated, only to be replaced with what can certainly be described as abject horror.

As I held the screen before me this morning, exposing it to the rugged features of my devilishly handsome face, the phone flashed a message that read: “Face not detected.”

The impact, as you may well imagine (or not), was instantaneous. I felt like I’d been struck down by lightning (and then crushed by a tree which had also seen its fate determined the very same electrostatic discharge).

This phone was made by Huawei. It must be true.

The very same Chinese telecommunications giant have been approached (albeit controversially) by the UK to help build its new 5G network.

These guys don’t make such technological faux pas.

They have detected that I have no face.

This is deeply alarming news.

What does one do when one’s face has disappeared? And where has it gone?

Its disappearance must have been recent, for facial recognition on my phone had previously always been successful.

Did someone steal my face?

If so, besides being most affronted by this heinous act, I cannot also help but marvel at the ingenuity of the task. Stealth is simply not the word!

How do I go about finding my face?

Do I put a notice out? - “Missing face. Last seen on the front of my head”.

I have often heard claims that people can be ‘two-faced’, but I can’t say I’ve ever taken that seriously before.

I always considered the idea to be one too monstrous to consider, and I readily admit that I’d be considerably unsettled if I was to meet someone who had two faces. I’d also be totally confused as to which face I should speak to etc.

I’ve just looked in the mirror.

I appear to have a face.

But I’m naturally in shock and I’m therefore seeing what I need to see. It’s a coping mechanism that has automatically kicked in.

But if I have no face, then surely I have no eyes. So how did I look in the mirror?

I’m confused.

I’m also scared.

But I guess anyone who encounters me will be scared too.

How can I expect them to deal with the prospect of meeting someone with no face?

I have a lot to deal with here, so I ask you, my dear colleagues, to brace yourselves for what you won’t see if you meet me today.

It may well be the case that I often adorn a vacant expression. I can feel you all nodding away at this.

But today I will be vacant of all expression.

Sometimes it can be hard to keep face when all is going wrong, but I can assure you it’s much harder when there is no face to keep.

Help me to face this – Paul

Preamble to email 66

Sometimes one can be punished for simply trying to kind, as the following email shows.

EMAIL 66 – Title: “Don’t Leave a Tip”

Good morning colleagues

Have you recently tipped a waiter, a hairdresser, a taxi-driver, etc.?

Was the recipient grateful, or did their reaction make wish you hadn’t bothered?

For me, it’s definitely the latter and, if you take my advice, I’d refrain from tipping altogether.

You will no doubt be wondering why I take such a negative stance when it comes to the altruistic act of presenting a non-compulsory gratuity to a public servant who has performed their duties with particularly pleasing results.

After all, some of those people are rather reliant on our generosity in order to provide a much-needed boost to their otherwise meagre earnings. Furthermore, some countries make tipping compulsory, so why should I withhold my contribution?

Well, recent experiences are very much to blame.

Perhaps I was simply unlucky, but I have had less-than-satisfying experiences on no less than two consecutive occasions (in two separate restaurants) when I have tried to fulfil my tipping duties.

So, here’s what happened:

On the first occasion, I was indeed most gratified by the quality of both the food and the service, and in keeping with the custom, I considered it appropriate to leave a tip for the restaurant staff.

Even I, as an inexperienced tipper, understood that the extent of the tip should reflect the perceived quality of service that I, the customer, had received – and, as I’ve already said, it had been excellent.

So, I deemed a substantial tip to be appropriate.

Once I’d finished, and then paid for, my sumptuous meal, I stood up to leave. It was time for me to leave a tip.

I could see that one or two of the attending staff were waiting rather close by, and I took this as a sign that they were doing so in anticipation of their expected tip.

I made brief eye contact with one of the waiters and acknowledged him with a nod and a wink.

The attendant returned with a deferential nod of his own, and that felt like my cue to do the necessary.

I started by giving my chair a gentle nudge backwards until it toppled to the floor.

This seemed like a reasonable way to start leaving a tip.

One of the staff responded by walking towards me but I was not yet ready for his warm words of appreciation. I held up my hand, signifying that I wanted him to stop, which he did.

Next, I placed both hands under the table and gave it a hefty shove upwards.

Such was the proficiency of this action that the table gracefully left the floor and very nearly completed a full revolution as it arced through the air, ejecting its previously carefully laid contents to the ground with a satisfying cacophonous clatter.

Inexperienced as I was, I was confident that the tip I was leaving was already making quite an impact on the staff. In fact, the contorted faces of the staff told me that I was leaving more of a tip than any of them were generally used to.

But my generosity was gaining momentum, so I decided to continue giving.

I expect that the tip I’d left for the staff might already have seemed quite sufficient for most but, as several of them rushed over to me, looking wonderfully animated, I decided to temporarily evade them all and exhibit an even greater level of gratitude to these fine people.

As one of them made a lunge in my direction, I deftly side-stepped him and then accelerated forwards into a manic sprint around the perimeter of the restaurant. Hordes of ever-grateful restaurant staff followed behind me as I hurtled onwards, capsizing every table in my path and flinging chairs in all directions.

As I victoriously bellowed out, to no-one in particular, that I could leave more of a tip than anyone who’d ever set foot in this fine establishment, I was caught by one particularly athletic individual, who wrestled me to the floor. One by one, everyone else dived in until what seemed like a mountain of people had formed on top of me.

I was overwhelmed.

I’d never felt so appreciated in my life and, despite the weight of the crush, the adrenaline rush I’d gained from leaving a tip was one to savour.

In the police station later that evening, I was reprimanded and fined.

It turned out that my actions in the restaurant had somehow been completely misinterpreted.

Not only was I baffled by this, but my feeling of euphoria had been entirely flattened and replaced with despair instead.

I’d never felt so unappreciated in my life!

What was so wrong with people that they could turn a considerable act of generosity into a police complaint?

After sitting alone for a while before leaving the police station, a kind lady officer talked to me about my predicament.

She’d noticed the lost, forlorn and confused expression that was etched onto my face and offered an explanation that did lift my spirits a little.

She told me that leaving a ‘tip’ was not at all about trashing an establishment. In fact, upturning tables and chairs etc. was guaranteed to cause much offence.

I had had no idea that offence could be caused in this way whilst leaving a tip, so I listened intently to her words of wisdom.

A feeling of shame washed over me as I continued to listen, yet there was also a growing sense of determination to set matters straight (at least in my mind) by leaving the best possible form of ‘tip’ at the next possible opportunity.

Apparently, after paying the final bill, the procedure for ‘tippers’ was to place a small amount of money (a token gesture, she said) on the table before leaving. She said that people often chose to tip the waiter and that a 10% tip was usually deemed to be an acceptable amount.

This sounded simple enough to me and, along with my newfound clarity, my optimism started to return.

So, on to the second restaurant, merely one week later.

I’d remembered the words of the kind police officer and hoped that the food and service would be of a high enough standard for me to be able to offer a tip.

To be honest, even if I’d been served a plate of melting rubber by a dishevelled, foul-mouthed cretin, I was so determined to test my ‘tipping’ skills that I’d already made the decision to tip, no matter what!

To be fair, both food and service were impeccable once again, and it with a full belly and a warm heart that I left a few pounds on the table, as advised.

I then paused for a few moments while the waiter came over.

He scooped up the cash and thanked me with sincerity, before proceeding to clear the contents of the table.

I was pleased with myself. The advice had been spot on and I’d followed it by the letter. Things were going very well indeed.

I gave myself a moment to consider the advice once more and recalled that most people chose to tip the waiter around 10%.

As the waiter straightened up with his neatly stacked plates and cutlery balanced expertly on his forearm, I crouched behind him and slid my fingers underneath both of his shoes. Thankfully, he was a rather lean and slender man who I probably could have lifted off the ground without too much strain, and so tipping him from this position was fairly straightforward.

As I applied a lifting force to the back of both feet, he did indeed tip, although I couldn’t testify whether it was particularly close to 10% or not. I had the fleeting thought that that kind of accuracy would probably take quite a bit more practice.

Naturally, the waiter seemed a little bit embarrassed at my benevolent gesture. He therefore tried to reduce the tip by applying a resistive force.

I smiled with acknowledgement and met his resistance with an extra force of my own, thus tipping him a little more. After doing so, I maintained enough force to achieve momentary equilibrium and then moved one of my hands to his back for improved support.

At this point, I turned towards another member of staff, whose enigmatic expression I took for admiration, to ask if this looked like a 10% tip to him.

However, before he could reply, the waiter gave one more show of force that broke our equilibrium.

We subsequently both tumbled to the floor, and his stack of plates met the same fate as those from the other restaurant just one week previous.

Although I could certainly have taken umbrage at the waiter’s stubbornness, I decided to remain polite and I offered the waiter my hand.

To my absolute disbelief, the waiter angrily swept my hand aside and offered a verbal attack that unsettled me greatly.

This was most unexpected, and my heart rather sank.

The waiter’s remonstrations were totally unjustified and, getting to my feet, I made it clear to him that it was he who was responsible for the calamity that sent us to the floor and destroyed his crockery. I also told him that I was getting a little bit weary of waiters not showing any appreciation for my tips, and that I would be thinking seriously about whether I’d be doing so again!

Henceforth, I was manoeuvred towards the door by a growing posse of disgruntled staff and ejected into the street with such force that I once again found myself bundled to the ground.

As I sat there, staring bewilderedly at the venomous expressions of the restaurant staff, I declared to myself that my tipping days were over.

And they are!

So, there you have it, my dear colleagues.

It might very well be a British custom to tip our much-revered public servants.

But, given the experiences that I have tried to relay to you, I certainly would not recommend it. It simply doesn’t pay…

Consider this my tip to you.

Paul

Preamble to email 67

A nostalgic thought about The Wombles was responsible for the next email.

Those Wombles have a lot to answer for!

EMAIL 67 – Title: “The Joys of Talking to a Stranger”

At the request of one or two colleagues, please find below one final email of mindless mayhem for this academic year.

Have a great summer break, everyone!

Scenario:

I’m at a function.

Family and friends are aplenty but there is also a sizeable smattering of strange faces in the mix.

It is only mid-afternoon but there is already a melee of a queue at the small bar, and I’m no closer to being served than I was ten minutes ago.

A red-faced stranger stands alongside me, and it is evident that he has had no trouble getting served, for he is already much inebriated. Furthermore, he is quaffing his latest pint.

Thankfully, the stranger is a happy drunk. Less thankfully, his glazed eyes appear to be trained in my direction.

I brace myself for the inevitable interaction:

Stranger: Hello, mate

The inevitable had been quick, and I responded with a polite smile:

Me: Hello

I turned my attention back towards the bar, but I knew that, for the foreseeable future, I was a fish caught in a net.

Stranger: Busy here, isn’t it?

Given that I could barely move for people around me, the fact was somewhat self-evident.

However, a brief acknowledgement was obviously necessary:

Me: Yes. It certainly is.

His next comment (or brief sequence of comments) rather caught me off guard:

Stranger: What about Wimbledon, eh?

Me: Wimbledon?

Stranger: Yes, Wimbledon.

Me: I’ve never been there.

Stranger: Me neither.

I understood that the man was clearly drunk, but I was still bewildered by his effort to strike up a conversation about a place that he’d never been to. It all seemed a bit random. However, I’d already deduced that the man was harmless, and he was just trying to be friendly.

I therefore tried to remain jovially accommodating whilst sticking to his chosen topic of Wimbledon:

Me: The Wombles loved it though.

His expression told me that I’d confused him, so I elaborated:

Me: You know – ‘The Wombles of Wimbledon’ from the old children’s television show.

Stranger: Not sure I know of any old children.

I smiled in acknowledgement of my ambiguous statement, and with a tinge of admiration for my companion’s unexpected wit (if that was what it was).

However, rather than correct myself, I waited for comprehension to surface instead. Not being of a dissimilar age to me, I was sure that the stranger would have had at least some familiarity with children’s television of The Wombles era.

His eyes lit up, as I’d rather hoped:

Stranger: Oh, The Wombles!

I was pleased. ‘Contact’ had been made. I nodded in the affirmative:

Stranger: I remember them.

Me: I’m very glad to hear it. They deserve a place in our memories.

A thoughtful nod in return was his response.

Stranger: But they weren’t from Wimbledon!

I didn’t expect that!

Me: Of course they were. They were ‘The Wombles of Wimbledon’.

He descended into deep thought, before offering me an intellectual nugget that was probably more nougat than nugget:

Stranger: No, mate. You’ve got that wrong. They were from Bulgaria.

Another bolt from the blue. If you’ll allow me to use a baseball analogy, he was certainly throwing me a few curve balls here!

Me: They were famously from Wimbledon.

Stranger: Nope. They were Bulgarian.

Potential arguments with a drunk can be dangerous ground but this man was still very much bathed in a happy stupor, so I continued my line of reasoning in the only way that I could think of – I sang the theme tune:

Me: “Underground, over ground. Wombling free. The Wombles of Wimbledon Common are we…”

Stranger: Yes, that’s the one.

Me: So, you agree that they are from Wimbledon?

Stranger: No, mate. They’re from Bulgaria.

Me: But the tune says that they are ‘The Wombles of Wimbledon Common’.

Stranger: …which must be in Bulgaria.

Drink can do strange things and no doubt it can generate strange thoughts. But this Eastern European connection to The Wombles was perplexing.

Me: No. It’s in Wimbledon.

Stranger: So why did they talk about Bulgaria so much?

Me: Did they?

Stranger: Yes, mate.

The penny dropped, and I quietly laughed at the misunderstanding.

Me: Now I understand.

Stranger: Do you?

Me: Yes.

He waited.

Me: The leader of The Wombles was called Great Uncle Bulgaria!

Stranger: Okay

Me: But they were actually from Wimbledon.

He went still, as if someone had pressed his ‘pause’ button, before nodding appreciatively:

Stranger: …except for the great uncle.

Me: No. He was from Wimbledon too. Great Uncle Bulgaria was just his name.

A vacant look passed across his face. Full comprehension was apparently just a little beyond him.

Stranger: Anyway…

He was changing the subject:

Me: Yes?

Stranger: I wasn’t really talking about that Wimbledon.

Again, I was bemused by this latest offering:

Me: You weren’t?

Stranger: No.

Me: Then which Wimbledon did you have in mind?

Stranger: The tennis one.

Me: That’s the same Wimbledon.

Stranger: It can’t be. The Wombles didn’t play tennis.

I decided to concede this in the interest of maintaining sanity.

He looked pleased with himself.

Then he continued:

Stranger: Did you watch it then?

Me: Watch what?

Stranger: Wimbledon.

Me: Oh, the tennis. Yes, I saw some of it.

Stranger: Great stuff, wasn’t it?

Me: Oh absolutely. They’re incredibly talented players.

Stranger: That Dokic is a great player.

I was no expert when it came to tennis, but I was moderately knowledgeable, and I did recognise the name Dokic. I remember her as an Australian player who first came to prominence as a teenager. She was lauded as a prodigious talent with the potential to make a significant impact in the women’s game. However, I wasn’t sure if she was still actually playing the game anymore.

Me: Is she still playing?

Stranger: He’s not a woman, mate.

Me: I can assure you that she is.

The man laughed out loud:

Stranger: Are you telling me that a woman won the men’s championship at Wimbledon?

His laughter was growing more audible, attracting one or two unwanted glances:

Me: Of course I’m not. Novak Djokovic won the men’s championship.

His laughter subsided, and he quickly became more serious:

Stranger: That’s what I said! Dokic!

Me: You mean Djokovic.

Stranger: Yes, Dokic! Listen, mate, I’m not sure you should be getting another drink. You’re deaf as a dodo!

In the interests of not unnecessarily riling a drunken man and so diffusing the current ridiculous argument, I decided to allow him another mini victory.

However, I’ll readily admit that being advised not to have a drink by a man who could barely focus because of the copious quantities of alcohol that he was consuming, did not sit well with me.

Furthermore, it was going against my natural instincts to allow his mispronunciation of Djokovic to go uncorrected.

Then, of course, there was the small matter of his ‘dead’ dodo being ‘deaf’ (which I suppose it would be, when you think about it…)

Anyway, I was the model of restraint (for now) and continued to conduct myself with a certain level of decorum.

Me: It’s probably just the noise in here making me a bit deaf.

Stranger: No problem, mate.

That wasn’t altogether true, for drunk as my companion was, he was getting away with too many unwarranted ‘victories’ and I was getting increasingly twitchy about it. In my mind at least, that was a problem.

Soon enough, as a matter of personal principle, I was going to have to restore some sense of parity.

The arguments were trivial, but the outcome was, thus far, unsatisfactory.

So, I waited for his next verbal ‘salvo’ with a heightened sense of tactical combat.

His mouth opened, and I braced myself for whatever was to emerge from it:

Stranger: Bit odd though, isn’t it?

Me: What is?

Stranger: The way they score the games in tennis?

I already knew what he was getting at here but, going against the grain of previous responses, I decided to manipulate the conversation to my benefit.

The game was on and, using another sporting analogy, this time in a most fitting manner to the current topic of discourse, I prepared to return his serve!

Me: What’s odd about it?

Stranger: It doesn’t make sense.

The irony of such a remark from such a senseless individual did not escape me, but my battle plan was up and running:

Me: Why doesn’t it make sense?

Stranger: They score 15 for the first point.

Me: Yes.

Stranger: Then it goes to 30 after winning the next point.

Me: Agreed.

Stranger: But then it goes to 40…

Me: Agreed once more.

Stranger: Don’t you find that odd?

Me: 15 is certainly odd.

I was enjoying this now. I should have done this earlier.

Stranger: But what about 30 and 40?

Me: They’re even.

He either didn’t understand my sarcasm or simply chose to ignore it. I suspect that it was the former.

Stranger: But why do the scores go from 15 to 30 to 40?

I’d wondered about this myself before now, and I confess that I didn’t have a satisfactory answer to offer him. However, that no longer mattered, for I was on a mission of self-satisfaction only:

Me: 15, 30 and 40 are particularly important numbers to tennis umpires.

Stranger: Really?

Me: Yes

Stranger: Why?

Me: Because they love them.

Stranger: Eh?

My idea was blooming, and I was going to give it the requisite water and sunshine.

Me: How often, during a tennis match do you hear the umpire call out ‘love 15’?

My intoxicated companion opened his mouth, no doubt to object, but I wasn’t finished.

Me: They are also very likely to call out ‘love 30’ and ‘love 40’ during a match too.

Stranger: But…

Me: They love those numbers a lot!

His mouth remained open, like that of a frog catching flies.

Me: However, given the frequencies with which 15, 30 and 40 are called out, they appear to ‘love 15’ the most.

My stupefied friend stared at me intensely, as if trying to see inside my very soul:

Stranger: You’re winding me up.

I briefly craned my neck to take a quick look at his back:

Me: You are without a winding mechanism, my dear learned friend. Otherwise, I might very well be tempted.

Whilst he was trying to work out the gist of what I’d just said, a lady, who had just been served, said “There you go, Al” as she handed him another pint. He really didn’t need another pint, but he took it anyway with a quick ’’Thanks, love”.

Not only did that exchange give me his name, but also a very valuable addition to my armoury.

I used his name straight away, in an attempt to keep things friendly:

Me: Absolutely no wind-up, Al.

Al thought for a moment, before speaking with conviction:

Al: But they also say ’15 love!’

He gave me a very self-satisfied smile, and I was impressed with his response.

But I was also ready:

Me: Oh, my dear Al!

I tried to sound disappointed in response to what he had deemed to be a small moment of triumph.

Al: What?

Me: They only say it that way round when using it as a term of endearment.

His brow furrowed:

Al: What do you mean?

I pointed at his newly acquired pint.

Al: Why are you pointing at my pint?

Me: You said, ‘’Thanks, love’’.

Al: What?

Me: To the lady who bought you that pint.

Al: So?

Me: You called her ‘love’ as a term of endearment.

Al: Okay.

Me: Tennis umpires are merely doing the same thing, so when they say “15, love” they are simply indicating, in an endearing manner, that a score of 15 has been achieved by the person to whom the umpire is speaking.

Al was struggling for a suitable retort, but the words he found purely served to fuel me further:

Al: Okay then! What about ‘Deuce’ and ‘Advantage’? Have you got any smart answers for those?

He was becoming genuinely argumentative, but I was enjoying myself now. There was to be no turning back:

Me: No smarter than the truth, Al.

He didn’t bother to speak, for I’d made my intent to continue abundantly clear:

Me: You’ve obviously heard of Robinson’s, the fruit drink brand…

Al: Yes.

Me: They’re owned by Britvic now, you know.

Al: What’s that got to do with anything?

Me: Robinson’s have been tournament sponsors at Wimbledon for many a year.

Al: So?

Me: So, it is they who are responsible for the juice.

Al: It’s not that kind of juice!

Me: What other kind is there?

Al: It’s spelt differently.

He spelled it out:

Al: D-E-U-C-E

Me: That’s says ‘deuce’.

Al: I know

Me: Are you are P.G. Wodehouse reader?

Al had no idea what I was talking about.

Me: Jeeves and Wooster were certainly prone to saying things like “What the deuce…?” etc.

Al still couldn’t quite find his tongue, so to speak.

Me: But Robinson’s serving up a glass of ‘deuce’ hardly makes sense now, does it?

Al: None of this is making sense, pal.

I continued regardless:

Me: So anyway, that explains why ‘juice’ is a prominent term used in tennis.

Al: No, it doesn’t

Me: It think it does.

Al: No, it doesn’t. The score goes from 15 to 30 to 40…

Me: Yes, the umpires love those numbers.

Al ignored this and continued:

Al: But ‘deuce’ is called when the score reaches 40.

Me: Only when both players reach 40.

Al: Yes, but why?

Me: Well, by the time both players reach a score of 40 in a game, they will have both done a lot of running around.

Al: So?

Me: So, it’s the perfect time for juice.

Al looked a good deal more perturbed than he had done a few minutes ago.

His patience was clearly wavering:

Al: You’re bloody bananas, pal.

Me: I am no more a piece of fruit than you are, my good friend, although bananas are actually a very good source of slow-release energy for tennis players during a long match.

Al: ADVANTAGE!

He said this word a little too abruptly and aggressively for my liking:

Me: What?

Al: Explain why they use the word ‘Advantage’ in tennis!

Me: Well, that’s all to do with the dilution process.

Al: Dilution process?

Al was started to get very animated now, and I knew that a timely exit might be a wise move.

I was witnessing a gradual transformation from the benign to the potentially vituperative.

But, on principle, I needed to finish what I’d started before seeking the exit door:

Me: Yes. The dilution process. When preparing the juice, you need to be very careful how much water you add to the cordial.

Al’s eyes were widening, and I felt that something unpleasant might be imminent.

But I had to finish!

Me: And when ‘juice’ is called by the umpire, one of the players will usually add a more skilfully measured quantity of water than his/her opponent…

Al waited impatiently for the punchline:

Me: …therefore, giving them the ‘advantage’!

Al’s face hardened as he took a step towards me:

Al: Listen, pal. I don’t like it when someone tries to wind me up!

It was time to put an abrupt end to the conversation.

As Al thrust his accusing forefinger towards my chest, I stepped backwards and watched as the protruding digit jabbed rather too forcefully into the wrong target.

The recipient of the unwanted jab turned to face Al, whilst I quietly and adroitly stepped ‘off-court’.

It seemed that Al had found himself a new opponent to play with.

The new opponent looked like he might start with a forehand smash!

I no longer needed a drink, for my game was over – and I had won: Game, Set and Match!

Paul

Preamble to email 68

Another email inspired by simply signing in one morning at school.

It doesn’t take much for my mind to wander…

EMAIL 68 – Title: “Exclamation Mark”

Good morning, dear educational siblings.

Having recently signed in this morning, I was met with the message, “You have successfully signed in, Paul Hunt!”

Okay, the speech marks were not there, and neither was the comma, but I’m sure you’ll understand why I felt compelled to include them in this email. Not to have done so would have left a small but not insignificant mental scar…

However, the exclamation mark was there, standing tall and proud, as it is prone to do.

…and it got me thinking (as things often do).

Should I feel a sense of honour?

Is the exclamation mark a bold pronouncement of delight that I, ‘Paul Hunt the Great’, have decided, once again, to offer our fine educational establishment the gift of my presence?

Or maybe the exclamation mark is not at all an exclamation of the complimentary kind.

Am I being taunted by a potentially wounding sarcasm?

Is the exclamation mark simply an expression of amazement that I, ‘Paul Hunt the Imbecile’, have actually managed to press the sequence on on-screen buttons in the correct order?

Or perhaps the exclamation mark is simply a symbol of exasperation that I, ‘Paul Hunt the Unwanted’, has had the brazen cheek to once again turn up to a place of work that simply wishes that he would not?

I’ll stop there, as the possible connotations are too much for me to bear.

Perhaps you, my dear colleagues, can let me know if you too are greeted by an exclamation mark as you arrive to work and, if so, how do you interpret it?

Paul

Preamble to email 69

Would steal a box of teabags from a pregnant woman?

Well, someone did, and this was my version of coming to the rescue.

EMAIL 69 – Title: “A Plea for Our Tea”

Good morning fellow drinkers of tea, coffee and/or alternative liquid refreshments.

I write to you this morning with a tale of woe (no, not ‘whoa’).

Picture the scene:

A pregnant lady (although I don’t suppose any of you could have mistaken this tale for that of a pregnant man…), out of the goodness of her heart, brings in a jumbo bag of Tetley’s tea.

The tea is to be shared with her fellow staff room users and, for that purpose, shall be kept in a designated staff room cupboard.

The lady, given her current state of impregnation, is entirely needful of her comforts, and a morning dose of Tetley’s tea forms part of a daily ritual that keeps her going during a busy working day.

In summary, the tea cupboard is a beacon of hope and sanctuary to her, and in fact, to all who benefit from the treasure that resides within.

But, ladies and gentlemen - today, after an act of wanton cruelty, the cupboard stands emptea!

The merchandise has gone.

A moment of silent contemplation please…

It is now that I ask you to delve through the memories of your most recent tea-drinking revelries.

Is it possible that you have shared an unexpected pot of Tetley’s tea with a new, seemingly philanthropic companion?

If so, it is likely that your host was our felon, and I am sorry to have to be the breaker of such affecting news.

Now, I know what some of you are thinking.

You think I’m jumping to conclusions.

Of course, it is perfectly plausible that a colony of ants, partial to their Tetley’s, have marched through the staff room, accessed the tea bags, and subsequently rolled them off to their nest.

The tea bags were, after all, of the circular variety.

Naturally, I have considered this, as well as other possibilities.

However, I am a man of instinct, and I trust my senses. Very rarely do they let me down.

So, dear colleagues, I declare to you with confidence that we have a klepteamaniac amongst us.

I therefore ask for renewed vigilance in all matters pertaining to the drinking/preparing of tea around our school.

The villain will, of course, now know that we are onto him/her.

They will probably try to evade capture by removing the evidence as quickly as possible.

But you won’t find the booty in any receptacle, for I can assure you that a tea-stealing thief is also a tea-drinking thief.

Despite the huge risk, the perpetrator will not be able to resist preparing just one more brew. It would not be acceptable for a tea thief to acquire a plunder like this without ingestion.

So, there will be one more brew – and it shall be a special brew.

A fugitive in possession of such a hoard of stolen teabags will not allow many to go to waste. He/she will not be able to bear that.

And such a quantity of tea bags would demand one humungous brewing vessel – a veritable witch’s cauldron of a teapot!

That wouldn’t be hard to miss, so if that is your plan, tea snatcher, we’ll find you…

The alternative plan might be to brew a less conspicuously sized cuppa – in which case the resulting concoction is likely to be potent enough to dissolve steel.

The bottom will surely fall through such a plan, for the poor cup playing host to such a brew would disintegrate.

The floor beneath our assailant’s feet would then melt away as soon as the fast-plummeting lava arrives with its deadly kiss.

Best of luck in pouring that concoction down your throat, tea thief!

We therefore issue one final plea for the return of our tea.

And if you fail to comply, I can assure you that bags of trouble will be brewing for you…

Paul

P.S. Whilst we’re at it:

Can we politely request the return of staff room cups that have been borrowed on indefinite loans?

Thanks to those who have returned cups, but we do prefer them to be returned clean and algae-free.

Preamble to email 70

The email explains the title, so I’ll just let you read this one.

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