Quentin Shears is a senior partner at quantity surveyor Newt UK, the Hertfordshire outpost of US multinational GatorCorp. As the year grinds to an end, Quentin usually finds himself undergoing intensive anger management therapy merely to make it through the Christmas party season. This year, however, has found him in surprisingly sanguine mood …
My anger management therapist, Professor Schneer, thinks I’ve made excellent progress this year. Apparently, agreeing to take part in the office Secret Santa for the first time since 2005 - when I was less than gracious in my acceptance of the self-realisation memoir Eat Pray Love - is a “breakthrough”.
Keen to build on this, the professor has asked me to look back over the past year and draw out the “positives”. He seems to think if he can get me, one of his most intransigent cases, to find the bright side of 2010, it would transform his professional reputation and make for a fascinating paper in Profanity Fair: The Journal of Anger Therapy. So here goes - a review of the main events that befell Newt this year, in as upbeat a tone as I can muster …
“Apparently, agreeing to take part in the office secret santa is a ’breakthrough’ in anger management”
1. The unfortunate business with the polar bears
On the face of it, it’s hard to take much cheer from our overseas entanglements. The year started badly, with the news that our flagship sustainability project, Polarplex - the Middle East’s first polar bear sanctuary - was being put on ice, so to speak. Our efforts since then to discover the “new Dubai” have been less than fruitful, despite chief exec John Gatz Jr’s relentless globetrotting. We were excited about possibilities in Kazakhstan for a while (a country that asks Norman Foster to design a tent the size of Berkshire just for the hell of it can’t be short of a bob or two) but the revelations on Wikileaks about John Jr’s paintballing trip with the Kazakh president, the US ambassador and Prince Andrew seem to have put paid to that.
But I suppose there are compensations. I haven’t had to spend half my life in airport lounges, for one thing - or half my salary on those bloody enormous duty-free Toblerones to take back to the office. And at least Assange doesn’t seem to have got wind of John Jr’s clandestine trip to explore the North Korean business park market - a market that was, frankly,oversold to us.
2. The American invasion
This has undoubtedly been one of the year’s most irritating developments. Being deprived of one’s sovereignty is inevitably galling, and the Americans’ can-do attitude, cheerfulness and shiny teeth are an unsettling addition to a British workplace.
But again, if I strain hard enough, I can concede that there are some benefits to finding yourself part of the American Dream. If it wasn’t for their constant, frenzied “imagineering”, it would never have even occurred to us to launch our pest control consultancy division, KillerNewt. Readers may recall that I was initially cynical about this venture, but already opportunities are emerging from Hertfordshire’s filth. All we need is a New York-style bedbug epidemic to sweep Bishop’s Stortford, and we’ll be laughing.
3. Not having any work
It’s going to be difficult to put a constructive spin on the cuts. Our education division started 2010 with the hope of millions of pounds of work from councils. By the end of the year, the closest thing we had to a client was a loose-knit collective of fiercely aspirational parents who were strangely keen on having their children educated in a souped-up shed.
Positives? Well, I suppose in hindsight 2010 was better than 2011 is currently looking, as Newt’s last remaining shreds of business disappear down the drain of Austerity Britain. But the author of Eat Pray Love would probably see that as the start of a transcendental and lucrative journey of self-discovery.
And now I have to nip out for what my wife incongruously calls “retail therapy” - John Jr’s flight socks won’t buy themselves.
As told to Nick Jones