The phone rang when I least expected it. Someone was trying to get in touch with me. Either that or there was an intermittent fault on the line. I wondered who it could be, assuming it wasn’t a fault. The phone continued to ring and my curiosity increased in direct proportion to the number of times the strident tones rang out. By the seventeenth ring I could stand it no longer.
I immediately recognised the grating burr that normally belonged to Jock Pundy, the florid Scottish-born Marketing Vice-President of my publishers, Pundyhouse Publishing International Inc. I zipped up my trousers. “Don’t tell me. You’ve sold another copy?”
“Got it in one, sonny. Some deluded wee soul sent in a cheque for the full amount this morning. Maybe she didnae read the reviews. Hell, maybe the poor lassie canna read.”
It is always hard to tell with Jock Pundy whether he is joking or not, since much of what he says is unintelligible. I decided that, on this occasion, he wasn’t. “Well, that’s good. Better than last week anyway.”
“Foo’s your wife?”
“How’s my wife?” I repeated, unsure if I had heard him right.
“Aye. Has she read it yet?”
“Well, she’s still here so I guess the answer is no.”
“Dinna worry, ye can always……….” The rest of the sentence was totally incomprehensible.
I didn’t argue. I couldn’t. I didn’t know what he had said. “I wish sales were a bit better,” I said eventually, when I thought he had finished speaking.
“We’re working on it, son. Ye need tae remember most book buyers are weemin. You’re no connectin’ wie them. They want tae mither ye but yer no lettin’ them. Ye need tae get in touch wie yer feminine side an' project that.”
“My feminine side?”
“That’s right, laddie.”
“You don't understand. I’m an engineer.”
He said something which might have been a Scottish expletive. Or he might, just possibly, have been cracking a joke. “How am I going to do that,” I said, disconsolately. I could just picture the guys out on the rig if I started walking round in a funny way and letting my hair grow long. I wouldn’t be safe.
“Leave it tae me,” said Jock. At least I think that’s what he said. “We need tae do a makeover job on ye. I ken this photographer guy. John Ahearn. I’ll get him tae do some new publicity shots tae send oot. Softer focus, kinder, prettier, all that sort of rubbish.”
“When do I have to meet him?”
“I’ll arrange it.”
He did and I received the first of the new publicity shots today. To my surprise I was rather impressed. They definitely showed a side of me that I hadn’t seen before. Maybe I had misjudged Jock Pundy after all. I’ve reproduced one of the stills below for your appreciation. Let me know what you think.