( 1991 Quentin Bristow)

"Oh Hi, I'm the accountant for the group which has that research grant from you. You know, the one for us to collect rock samples and analyse them and write a report for you. Well I was just wondering about the analysis.. I mean.. we are pretty well equipped obviously.. otherwise we wouldn't have taken the job on.. I looked around the lab the other day and saw what there was, it all looked pretty good to me.. well there wasn't that much actually, but what there was was good.. well fairly good that is. Of course it's hard for me to say because.. well you see I really look after the know..the bit that's really important about the project.. not that the scientific part isn't important of course.. I suppose some people would say it's actually more important.

"Sorry?.. Oh you would agree with those people.. me too.. Oh yes absolutely. Anyway.. thing is.. we're a bit strapped for balances, it's not that we don't have any but they are the kind that come in little glass cupboards with little doors that pull up.. and then you mustn't breathe until you've finished. When I first saw them I thought they were some sort of religious icons or justice symbols or something .. with those funny little pans and what-not.

They tell me we are also a bit short on microscopes.. not that we don't have any at all you understand.. it's just that some aren't as good as others.. I mean.. well one or two are missing a few vital bits I believe.. the boys say they should all have the little bits of glass that go in each end of the little tubes.. What did you say?.. lenses.. yes that's what they said. They got very stuffy when I suggested using clear marbles.. well it was only an idea.

They tell me that the K-mart slicer-and-dicer gadget I got them for cutting the rocks into little slices didn't work too well.. Oh, so that's what they look like.. what do you call them again.. thin-sections?.. golly are they ever. Anyway.. thing is I understand you have a really good lab with all the right stuff for really accurate analyses and all that.. I suppose there isn't any chance you could sort of..well.. help us out a bit on the analysis side. Of course we can take care of all the rest, after all - you are paying us to do it!

"You could? Gosh, that's absolutely fantastic! Well that really takes a load off my mind. No question we can take it from there of course. Yes I think we can handle just about everything else... well.. that is.. almost everything. I believe some of your field geologists are pretty familiar with the area where we are going to collect the samples. Of course your people have all the experience in the world.. and this sampling business is just so damned important isn't it.. well that's what they tell me anyway.. I mean if our students mess it up, it'll kill the whole deal, and all that money will just go down the tubes.

How many would we need?.. Oh hardly any really.. I mean just a few.. well you know.. perhaps one or two.. hell I don't know.. I suppose sort of half-a-dozen or so.. um.. well let me just do a quick guess-timate.. er.. ah.. well it depends you see.. Oh on all sorts of things. I suppose off-the-top-of-my-head sort of idea.. well.. about ten I should imagine.. say between ten and twenty.. of course that's pretty much a rough guess.. probably nearer twenty than ten when you get right down to it.

"You really think you might be able to help us out? Boy oh boy.. that'll really put us over the top on this one.. I can't tell you how grateful I am. As for the rest of it.. well obviously there isn't going to be a problem just taking care of the logistics in the field, of course we can manage that.. dammit I wouldn't want you to get the idea that we are going to be taking your grant money and then getting you to do the whole thing yourself! That would be just too outrageous wouldn't it. By the way.. about well.. ah.. the question of sample bags. I suppose your fellows will most likely be.. um..well..sort of.. ah.. probably bringing their own as it were?.. J-u-s-t checking.. just checking.. of course we could provide them, absolutely no problem you understand.

"They will? Marvellous.. first class.. yes yes of course the ball is right in our court for all the rest of it.. yes, we can take care of transport and all that.. we do have some.. er.. a few.. a couple or so.. ah I mean.. um.. one vehicle. It's in absolutely tip-top shape as these field vehicles go.. you know what I mean. You don't know? Well I mean for a truck that's got a few miles on it and doesn't always get all its regular maintenance right on schedule.. I mean as often as one would like.. that is ah.. well.. sort of.. er.. never. Plus there's the odd rust spot here and there.. mostly in a lot of areas.. quite large spots actually.. well I mean two or three of them must be about the size of the doors.. probably seven or eight of them now I think about it.. spots not doors of course..actually it's been quite a while since I've seen it.

The transmission is not as versatile as it was.. it used to be four-speed manual-shift but now its down to two-speed gorilla-shift.. I mean it takes a gorilla to put it into either of the two remaining gears.. Fortunately the tyres are all pretty fair.. not too many patches.. not too many on the outsides that is.. and the ones that are on the outsides are in places where they really aren't a safety hazard or anything.. well most of them anyway.. but then what the hell.. there's a patching kit and a pump in the back.. at least there was last time I looked.. but then as I said, I haven't seen it for a while. You do understand, we could provide transport, but it would sort of.. ah.. well.. take a while because.. you see.. oh of couse I didn't mention that it only has one seat.

"Sorry?.. Oh yes one seat as well as the driver's seat.. the driver's orange-box actually. So you see we would be in for quite a lot of trips with twenty people, plus of course the support staff, cooks and so on, not to mention the supplies and tents and all the rest of the junk.. and that's not the only reason.. the two gears that are left are reverse and bottom so each trip would take for ever.

"Your fellows will have their own vehicles?.. Super.. Gosh.. I say.. that's just too fantastic for words. Now about the tents.. I can give you a categorical assurance that we really do have tents. Some of our people were over in Europe a couple of years ago and they came across some war surplus stuff.. Which war?.. Oh gosh I am not quite sure actually.. there was something stamped on one of the tents in German but it was pretty faded.. something about "Tripoli" and "Afrika-Korps" and then there was something else about "Feldmarschal Rommel".. is that some-where, or some-body?.. trouble is.. I can't absolutely swear that they're waterproof.. and some of them are a bit on the large side I am afraid.. How large?.. well.. sort of fifty-by-fifty I suppose.. no.. not feet - metres. What's that?.. Oh hell no.. wouldn't need a flatbed.. well.. only a small one probably.

"Your chaps all have their own little nylon tents do they? Wow.. that sounds a much better idea.. so no sweat as they say.. Fan-tas-ma-gorical. We can definitely supply the cook.. very competent chap.. real gem.. found him working in an animal hospital.. it seems there had been some rumour that he was a typhoid carrier and after that nobody seemed to want to hire him on. Frankly I don't believe a word of it.. all the animals seem OK on the stuff he cooks.. You don't think it would be a good idea.. well.. maybe you're right.. What's that.. You say you know you're right.. OK.. you know more about this field camp business than I do.

"You do have cooks? Halleluja.. what can I say.. except that I think we have taken care of just about all the little picky details that were bothering me.. the team is so anxious to do a good job for you people you understand and I didn't want to be the one to let them down sort of thing.

I am sure that we can manage now on the report-writing side.. we have all the equipment.. word-processors and so on.. well some of them are a bit sort of beat-up and not the latest kind if you know what I mean.. they're more on the lines of word-printers than word-processors.. sort of direct-action machines.. you put the paper in and then as you hit the keys you see the letters printed out one at a time.. they don't plug in to the wall or anything. What make?. Oh I saw a name like "UNDERWOOD" stamped on one of them.. I picked them up for a song at an office-equipment bankruptcy sale.. I'd never seen that sort of-word processor before.. trouble is that there doesn't seem to be any way to change the letters if you goof-up.. The boys say this could be a real problem because for some reason that I don't understand they have to keep changing stuff and re-doing it when they write these scientific reports.. when I write a report it's usually just two columns of figures with totals at the bottom and as long as the two come out the same everything is hunky-dory.. You agree with the boys?.. Oh dear.. well in that case we may have a problem.

"You could? Wonderful.. just wonderful.. so if we can get the draft to you in long-hand you can get it put on disc.. wow that's going to save us a whole lot of time.. and your time too.. so in a way I suppose you could say it's a matter of enlightened self-interest as it were.. Sorry?.. just self-interest at this stage you think.. What was that?.. a question of trying to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.. Oh come now.. I wouldn't put it quite like that.. Oh - you think I would if I were in your shoes.

"Well that really should do the trick.. and the boys can take care of the actual report-writing.. How many boys are there on the job?.. Gosh.. such searching questions!.. it's as if you didn't think we could do anything.. OK.. OK.. actually you will be happy to hear that we have five scientists assigned to this project.. of course some of them are in a sort of advisory role.. and some others are sort of part-time consultants.. What's that?.. how many full-time?.. well.. one actually.. Qualifications? well.. he is working towards a diploma and stuff.. but you don't need a lot of letters after your name just to write a report do you.

"Sorry?.. you think in this case he really does.. yes I see.. so you think it would be better all- in-all if your people took care of that as well.. more enlightened-self-interest again eh!.. oh .. sorry.. not funny the second time around. Gee-whizz.. I am just almost speechless with gratitude for all the help you're giving us on this.. What's that?.. Oh - you are just plain speechless.

"I was thinking.. I suppose we should talk about setting some decision points and so on.. perhaps the best way would be for us to get together after each phase is finished.. to make sure that you are satisfied with the progress.. so after your people have collected the samples we could set up a meeting to sort of review things.. make sure that they've got the right ones or whatever.. and then meet again to go over the analysis results.. and then meet again for the last time when you've got the report done.. then if you agree with what you have written we can hand over the final version after your people have got it ready.. oh and by the way.. it would be really great if your vehicle could come and pick us up for the meetings but then again when I think about it..maybe it isn't absolutely essential that all of us come to all of the meetings.. in fact it would probably save us both a lot of time if you just mailed the cheque to us when you've finished.

"Well I really can't think of anything else and I'm just so glad that we had this little chat.. and I do want to say in all sincerity that it really has been a pleasure doing business with you.. if there is anything else we can do for you at any time.. remember.. we're only a phone call away.. What's that?.. You'll never-ever forget us as long as you live?.. Gosh.. that's the nicest compliment I've ever had.. I must rush back and tell the boys."