A few years ago when a government minister’s senior civil servant, a mandarin called Sir Richard Mottram, realised that his department was going to be embroiled in yet another PR disaster, the air turned blue.
‘We’re all f*****’, he reputedly told another civil servant. ‘I’m f***ed. You’re f***ed. The while department’s f***ed. It’s been the biggest cock-up ever and we’re all completely f***ed.’
Some people may have thought that was quite enough expletives in such a short paragraph but I’m afraid I can beat that. Not me personally but a guy who is coming to stay with us next week, a certain Mr Ian Wallace, who must hold the record for the most expletives ever uttered in a single sentence.
Leaving a meeting with his then boss (he worked for me shortly afterwards), he stormed out of the meeting, walked through the open plan office and uttered the immortal line of: ‘F*** it! The f***ing f***er’s f***ing f****ed me’. Now even if you don’t swear I’d urge you to try and work it out – it’s hilarious.
After that Ian became a bit of an expletive legend although his swearing was not a surprise. It was just something he did in the course of a normal conversation, no matter who was in the company.
Given that he started working for me shortly after he was f***ed by his previous boss, J would meet Ian at the many social occasions we had in IBM, so became relatively immune to his constant swearing but it was his other anti-social characteristics which caused a problem one night.
J used to organize IBM skiing trips and such was the success of the annual event, it eventually grew to unmanageable proportions with some 40+ people signing up to travel to some of the best skiing resorts in the Alps. One year we went to a place in Italy called Courmayeur where we’d taken over the whole hotel. Ian just could not make up his mind whether he was going or not and eventually J called a halt to his prevarication and did not book him on the trip.
Consequently, the group set off from London without him and we hit the hotel late evening and after a quick supper we all crashed into our rooms. Sometime during the night there was a knock on our door and when I answered it, it was the hotel night porter saying that a Mr Ian Wallace had arrived and was asking for a room which was impossible because every room was full. Not only that, Ian had actually travelled with one of his sons Ben, who was about 7 at the time. I said that the porter should put them on the sofas in reception but apparently there was some by-law which prevented this. The porter said there was no choice – they had to stay in our room and that he had a folding bed which, without further ado he started erecting in our room.
It was about 2am by this time and J had to get up and go knocking on other doors to see who would be prepared to put up Ben which she was eventually successful in doing. About 3am, everything was sorted out and Ian settled down on his folding bed in a corner of our room and fell asleep. Within seconds there was the most raucous snoring coming from Ian’s bed but not only that, there was a cacophony of other noises coming from both ends of his body.
J nudged me, I nudged Ian but nothing would stop him. He simply fell asleep again and started the noises all over again.
In the morning, J made it clear that as he was my friend I had to sort the situation out and that if he didn’t go – she would!
I then had the delicate task of telling Ian that there was no way he was spending another 6 days camped in the corner of our room and suggested he try the restaurant down the hill as I’d seen a B&B sign outside when we’d arrived the previous day.
That night Ian and his boys arrived at our hotel for a group dinner and said he’d secured the most enormous room in the place I’d suggested and that he was absolutely delighted.
The next morning when we met on the slopes Ian looked a bit bleary eyed.
‘What’s the matter’, I asked him.
‘Tom, you wouldn’t f***ing believe it. The f***ing room they’ve given me is over a f***ing disco which goes on every f***ing night until 3 o’clock and the noise is f***ing unbelievable!’