I have just been corresponding with dear, dear Freya from Rekjavik about Sålty’s headstone.
As widow-in-chief Freya has firm views on type sizes. Her own name is to be in 60 point gold-leaf Plantaganet Cherokee, she says, while the others are to be listed in descending order of importance, all the way down to Esperanta, who is to be in 6 point Curlz MT.
I assure her that this is understood.
Just as I press ‘send’ my door is flung open.
It is Salty Bob, here for his personal development review.
‘Avast!’, he says.
‘Do put down that lobster pot, dear Dr Bob,’ I say, ‘and take a seat in my new office chair. It is from the John Lewis Trébuchet range.’*
Salty settles himself, lights his pipe, and begins.
‘I am under-appreciated in this institution’, he says. ‘My words have been torn down, night after night, by small-minded technocrats who are jealous of my success.’
I tut, sympathetically.
Salty draws on his pipe and continues. ‘I will have you know that I sit on a number of very important committees, and some of them even have professors on them’.
I nod, understandingly, my finger feeling for the counterweight release button under my desk.
‘And I once received a postcard from a very eminent professor.’
‘Oh yes?’, I say, my finger now ready.
‘It said, “Many thanks for the copy of your epic poem in 19 cantos. I look forward to reading it.”‘
There is a pause while Salty looks into the long distance.
‘You see,’ he says. ‘I am a philosopher-in-exile. An unrecognised genius’.
I press the button.
Salty’s pipe has gone out. He re-lights it.
I press the button again.
I appear to be stuck here with Salty, reviewing his personal development.