Jock Pundy (59), Scottish-born Eastern Hemisphere Marketing Director of sprawling publishing conglomerate Pundyhouse Publishing Inc, flew into Luton airport by aeroplane on Thursday accompanied by assistant/translator Ms Agnieszka Malyszbienczy (23), Polish-born Plumber’s Mate on work experience from the Gdansk shipyard where she was training to be a full-time riveter, ahead of the company’s Autumn Sales Update at the Rits Hotel, London.
There was confusion the following day at the hotel when Pundy discovered that his Press Conference had been double-booked with the Australian Society Of Sewage Engineers. The issue was resolved when the two bodies agreed to share the hall and alternate questions. The Conference Room on the fourth floor of the prestigious Rits Hotel was consequently packed at the appointed hour with financial analysts, agents, booksellers, TV executives and sewage engineers. Wally Ackerman, the Australian-born Director of the Society Of Sewage Engineers agreed to chair the meeting. A handout was given to each attendee explaining that because some delegates at a previous presentation had had trouble understanding the mellifluous tones of Mr Pundy, a translator would be employed to convert the publisher’s thick Scottish brogue into Received English.
At a little after 11.00am Mr Pundy and his assistant entered onto the stage and the excited hubbub in the room immediately died down. Mr Ackerman rose to greet the speakers.
“G’day,” he intoned with a smile, extending his hand in greeting to the rapidly advancing figure of Ms Malyszbienczy.
“Gdansk,” she corrected him coldly, brushing past.
Mr Pundy wore a large salmagundi-patterned bonnet with a plaid scarf wrapped round his face as protection against the Autumn chill, leaving only his eyes visible which gave the somewhat disconcerting impression that he was wearing a tartan burka. Ms Malyszbienczy for her part wore a black corduroy suit with a skirt so brief one delegate later described its virtual non-appearance as “a salutary and deeply-moving experience”. All eyes followed her as she took a seat on the podium beside her boss.
Mr Pundy wasted no time in launching into his speech. “Weel lads, it’s guid tae see sae mony weel-kent faces,” he tintinabulated through his scarf.
“Well boys, eez goot to zee zo meny well-knowed faeces,” translated Ms Malyszbienczy, smiling sweetly at the audience as she spoke, a number of whom felt quite faint at this point.
“Ony questions?” continued Pundy.
Ms Malyszbienczy stared at her boss for several seconds with a puzzled expression on her face. “’Ee is aksing you eef yew ‘ave eny questions,” she announced eventually, a look of triumph on her face.
“How are sales of A Half Life Of One holding up?” enquired a pin-striped analyst.
“Guid, laddie. Aye, canny complain.”
Every eye turned expectantly upon Ms Malyszbienczy. The auditorium was so quiet you could have heard a toilet flush in the adjoining Gent’s lavatory, especially if you had a trained ear like many of those present. “’Ee says ‘Goot’,” Ms Malyszbienczy explained eventually.
“Any new marketing initiatives?” enquired one of the Sewage Engineers, a young man in his late twenties who appeared particularly keen to catch Ms Malyszbienczy’s eye.
“Weel, chappie ye ken aboot ‘Buy One Get One Free’,” responded Pundy, “Weel, wer gonna blast that scheme richt oot the watter. From Monday wir launching ‘Buy one get five free’. Sales will gang through the roof” He turned to Ms Malyszbienczy and awaited her translation.
Ms Malyszbienczy’s eyes widened as she struggled to make sense of her employer’s speech. She shifted uneasily in her seat, swivelling her long, unsheathed legs from one side of her chair to the other. Two hundred pairs of eyes on the floor below swivelled in unison.
At that moment there was a commotion outside the doors of the conference hall. A stream of newly arrived sewage engineers was flooding into the atrium outside. Pressure quickly built up as the engineers jostled for space. Suddenly the doors to the hall burst asunder and a tsunami of cloacal experts surged into the room like effluent bursting out of a blocked storm drain.
As he disappeared beneath the seething, flocculating mass of humanity Pundy was heard to scream out, “Help ma boab!”
“Dobry wieczor,” translated Ms Malyszbienczy, on this occasion incorrectly.