Tony Blair the Wilderness Years 26

Tony “Bono” Blair is a bit confused. He believes he is the famed British Prime Minister of the same name, deposed after winning a third term. Things begin to look up for Tony when a letter arrives offering a position with McCreedie construction. Thinking he is taking over as CEO of a powerful NASDAQ company, Tony accepts the offer and travels to Scotland, hoping to meet the people, regain their trust, and use his new career as a springboard back into high office. The new career isn’t all Tony had hoped, and he finds himself building a cement runway at Ardrossan International Airport …

… Tony’s in Paterson’s office … Paterson tells him how to test concrete in the runway … Tony wants to do it his way … Paterson explains the real purpose of the hazardous chemical … Tony’s in a dilemma … and there’s a VIP CEO looming …

You know, there comes a time when a chap needs to get his hand right down the back of his trousers to scratch no matter how big and important he is. The heat from the storage heater in Paterson’s office was so like, making me itch in a very embarrassing place. There was a smell of wet carpet from an orange patch in the corner, and the roof leak sounded like a horse filling a bucket. Apparently, I had to make cool concrete cubey things for some reason.

“Surreal, baby.”

“Please stay in the lab and make these cubes, sir. That’s all I ask, and stay out of trouble. We like CEOs to start where everyone else started, at the bottom.”

I had to number cool concrete cubey things, and then someone would crush them. That way they could tell whether the runway was going to be strong enough for planes, or not. I was in deep do.

“That’s the point of the test, sir, to stop planes crashing through the runway. Have you got that, sir? It’s not rocket science, and it’s a big responsibility.”

It sure didn’t appeal, but Paterson said it didn’t appeal to him either. He didn’t like sitting in a temporary office with the rain falling on him. We were all in the same mess together, apparently, and there was no room for superheroes like me. But I wasn’t going to be held back by a twerp like Paterson. I needed to get out of the lab if I was going to like, meet Mr. Sheep.

“Here’s the real deal, Paterson dude. I’ll make the surreal concretey cubey things, if you allow me out of the lab to test the actual runway itself.”

But in Paterson’s book, that wasn’t allowed.

“We’ve a process here, a schedule.”

“Oh hello, dullo! What’s the point of me only testing wet concrete? Stuff the boring old process. Anything can happen to concrete once it’s put in place.”

“So now you’re the expert in concrete, sir? I know you’re keen to prove yourself, sir, but look.”

Paterson gestured towards a plan. The runway was so large on the plan it made the site look like a perforation on a postage stamp.

“He says we need to test for strength in-situ. What can I do?”

Paterson was talking to the plan, and rubbing his eyes with his palm, looking kind of shattered. Apparently, they couldn’t go digging up concrete to test it. They hadn’t even started yet, never mind tested its strength.

“Be serious, sir. Do you see the scale of the problem, sir? We’re late starting and we’re not getting anywhere slowly. We’re way behind, sir.”

“Oh really. Way to go. Life on the edge. Why the hazardous chemicals?”

Paterson grabbed the phone.

“Plasticiser isn’t hazardous, sir. It’s not even dangerous. It’ll make your bum itch forever, but it’s not anthrax.”

I eased myself backwards and forwards on the edge of the seat. It must have been the plasticiser giving me the sudden embarrassing itch.

“So, how am I going to like, test the plasticiser?”

Apparently, plasticiser didn’t need testing.

“It makes the concrete pour better and essentially faster. Jim can be laid-off sooner to save money, save a fortune especially when no one knows we’re doing it, so think on, sir, and keep it to yourself.”

“Right. So I’m supposed to like, keep schtum.”

“Exactly, sir. We’ve got retarder to stop concrete setting in the mixer, accelerator to make it set faster on the ground, and rubberiser so it doesn’t crack being a bit under-strength because of the plasticiser. Plasticiser weakens the concrete, you see.”

“Weak? Crumbs. But won’t that mean planes will fall through?”

“Not at all, sir. Have some faith in science. The only problem with the plasticiser is we’ve run out.”

He dialled a number on the phone.

“Paterson here. McCreedie, Ardrossan International Airport.”

He put his hand over the mouthpiece.

“Jim Baird. What do you know about him, sir?”

“I’m not stupid. He so like, works the mixer, yah.”

“Slowest plonker I’ve ever seen… Jamie, where’s our plasticiser? …You said that last time… Now listen to me.”

He changed hands with the phone. I looked out of the window and saw Jim struggling to fill the hopper, leaning into the giant shovel. You know, Jim could hardly be thought of as slow. He’d only been there a day, like me.

Stopping the shovel, Jim jumped down from the wooden breakwater and stood next to the man from the Faroes. They both scratched themselves deep down behind, so the fronts of their overalls lifted at the crotch in unison. It must have been the plasticiser doing it. They stopped, sniffed their fingers, and opened cigarettes letting the cellophane blow away.

But I couldn’t stop thinking about the weak concrete stuff. Being a smart cookie, I realised it all made sense. McCreedie was a ruthless organisation run by megalomaniacs who were going to turn Ardrossan International Airport into a killing zone to feed their desire for short-term profit and power. Paterson and Mr. Ferguson were going to escape with the dosh. Covering my backside was now my number one top priority. Weak concrete was weak concrete, and no one would survive an airliner crashing through the runway, big time. Proving they were making weak concrete was what I needed to do before I found myself standing in the runway using flares to avert disaster. I was going to be a hero, the worm that turned, the dude, the daddy.

But Jim and the man from the Faroes threw down their cigarettes and stood to attention, saluting me. I stood up and saluted back, but it wasn’t me they were saluting at all. A navy blue jag rolled into view under the window, its well-inflated tyres pinging gravel. The car door slammed.

“No, no, no, Jamie, now is when we—”

The door burst open, but it wasn’t two jags Johnny, my deputy PM. It was a tall, but not lanky, man with distinguished greying hair resting over the tops of his ears like catkins. He was so like everything I wanted to be. Here was a leader, a decision-maker, someone people looked up to, a man who knew that gravitas meant more than having a serious bottom, although his posterior was proportional to his importance in every respect.

“About this invoice, Paterson. Corporate advice? What in the name of Colonel William O’McCreedie is corporate advice?”

Paterson dropped the phone.

“That’s where—”

Mr. Ferguson sniffed the air.

“Shut up, Paterson. What’s that smell?”

“That’s Tony Blair’s ‘Pour Homme’ aftershave. He’s hiding behind the door.”

“No there’s a tangy whiff. Pear drops.”

I stepped out from behind the door.

“They’re mine, have one bud.”

“Ha! …er… What’s yer name again?”

“Blair’s the name, Tony Blair. Or Bono to you, kiddo.”

“Good God. Not the misunderstood but otherwise visionary ex-PM and leader of the greatest political movement of the twentieth century? Pleased to have you on board, Tony, and I don’t mind if I do.”

“I am working in the lab, Ferguson dude. Getting to grips with the testing.”

Mr. Ferguson popped the pear drop in his mouth, sucking enthusiastically.

“Good fellow. Glad to hear it. Full steam ahead with the testing. Let’s inspect the lab, and see if Tony Blair is everything he’s cracked up to be. Pear drops ‘eh. Cool.”

Tony Blair: The Wilderness Years, the novel, ISBN 1-4196-0573-9

This Blog Is

Dedicated To Me, Tony ‘Bono’ Blair.

Without Me, None Of This Could Have Been Possible.

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