Recently I had cause to review Mrs. Woodley's pension arrangements pending the great UK Pensions Simplification
of 2006, an event entirely unrelated to the great UK vowel shift of the 15th century, which is itself an event
entirely unrelated to an unfortunate medical condition which prevented my father from going to the cinema throughout
the entire course of 1953 and into 1954, which meant he missed seeing Richard Burton in "The Robe" and, as he used to
say, "for this gift, Dear Lord, let us be truly thankful". But I digress, now where was I ?
Mrs Woodley has a small lump sum saved as a result of some years working in the millinery department of Jenners following
her hasty departure from employment at the slaughterhouse. We must draw a discreet veil over the circumstances of that
sad event, or at least a discreet muslin carcase sack.
In order to determine whether under the new pension rules she could move her pension pot to a more productive home
(my pocket for example) I decided to engage the services of a local chartered accountant. At this point I must once
again deploy a pseudonym - "Mr. Rhesus" came highly recommended for his personable style and his competitive rates. During
an initial encounter in my lounge room (with Mrs. Woodley banished to the scullery to buff-up the Aga whilst we men discussed
matters of high finance) I noticed him using the classic sales tactic of agreeing with and reinforcing everything I said,
a slippery way of building up "empathy" between wolf and gull. When I said "It's a nice day today" he replied "Yes, fifteen
degrees - more than three above the seasonal average", when I said "The Bairns are having a sorry time of it" he said "Yes,
fifty points behind Celtic - relegation looms", and when I said "Martin Luther's doctrinal assertion that justification must
be by faith was at the heart of the Reformation" he replied "Right on Ted !".
At one point during a lull in proceedings I slipped the trusty briar out of my pocket and fired it up. "You don't mind
me smoking do you ?" I enquired. "No", he replied, "Quite the reverse, I am a smoker myself". "I only have a small number
of pipes ... " I started, "I have a small collection too" Mr. Rhesus immediately replied. Somewhat miffed by this constant
parroting of what I said I soon terminated our discussions pleading dyspepsia and we arranged to meet once again at his office
the next day to mull over options for redeploying Mrs. Woodley's bawbees.
The next day dawned bright and clear with nary a cloud on the horizon. Little did I know that the metaphorical storm clouds
were gathering. I arrived at the appointed hour at Mr. Rhesus's office conveniently located above a pawn shop. I installed
myself in a deep leather chair in his office. During preliminary small-talk he noted again his interest in pipe smoking and
said he had something to show me. He rummaged in his desk drawer and produced what looked at first glance to be a cardboard
egg box. At second and all subsequent glances it also looked to be a cardboard egg box, because that's what it was. He opened
it and held it out towards me. In each of the six little egg cups was a crudely made little pipe fashioned from modelling
clay which would have disgraced the sculptural skills of a child of two - bowls had been roughly indicated by small indentations
made in a blob of clay with a finger and the attached clay "stems" were flopping around in all directions.
I was, as you might imagine, totally struck-dumb by this turn of events and I glanced up at Mr. Rhesus just to confirm
that this was some desperate attempt at humour on his part. His eyes told the tale - he was deadly serious - I was dealing
with a mad-man. "This is the pipe I have for everyday use" he said and picked up one little pipe daintily between thumb and
forefinger. The stem, a half-inch long sausage of brown clay reminding me forcibly of the excrement of the Green Iguana, snapped
off and fell to the floor. "Well done !" I said encouragingly, in the absence of any better idea of what to say.
He then began to rummage about below the level of his desk. "Now look at this little beauty !" he said. The cold clammy
hand of fear gripped my heart, liver, intestines and several points South. The hand of fear then warmed slightly when I saw
that it was only a large wooden box he was holding. He opened the lid. I looked inside. There lay a medium-sized coconut with
a drinking straw attached to it. "Mmmm", Mr Rhesus exhaled approvingly, "My Mark Tinsky freehand !". Inspiration deserted
me. "Well done" I said again and got up and left, vowing never to darken his door again.
However, the next day, after due reflection I relented and engaged him to sort out Mrs. Woodley's pension because after
all he was cheap and I'm not made of money.