I'm puzzled. I ask Seth and Lemuel if anyone's been found hiding in one of the cupboard yet.
"Not yet but it's only a matter of time."
"How did it go?" asks Mary.
"Really well," answers Nancy, "there were lots of kids and they were very enthusiastic. We should do it again some time."
"Could you say when they'll be back up and running?"
"I could but it would be bullshit."
"What's the problem?"
"I have an aversion to people standing in puddles while they use electrical equipment."
"We need to bring back all the chairs and tables. And the boxes of stock that got left behind," says T.Aldous.
"Where's all that going then?" asks Seth.
"It's got to come back here. I need to go through it to see what needs to go into the booksale at Dutch Bend."
"Couldn't it go straight there?"
"No, I need to check it out first."
"Where's it all going?"
"There's some room in Kevin's office, it can go there."
"Can I get rid of the bricks then?"
"No, the police may want them for evidence."
"I'm told that you've set the lending stock at Dutch Bend to 'being stocktaken.' That means we won't know whether or not they're really in at the library."
"We didn't anyway: that's why we're doing a stock take."
"Why is there a user manual for the old dumb terminal OPACs out for public use in Helminthdale Lending?"
"Excellent question. Those OPACs were removed a couple of years ago."
"I'm going to remove it."
"I can't understand the point of having it out there."
"Let's not have it happen again."
"They're coming in tomorrow to do it," says Hettie in between chocolate bars.
"Where's that going?" I ask.
"I can make a suggestion," he replies through gritted teeth.
"What laser printer should we be ordering?"
"Have a look on the HP site and tell us which one you want."
"So you'll support any printer on the HP site?"
"It depends on which one you choose, we won't know until you tell us."
"I won't tell you all the details," he says.
"I especially don't want to know about the six-figure underspend in staffing," I reply.
"How do you know about that?"
"Simple mathematics: leaving aside all the confusion as to how many library assistants posts are vacant or are being filled by temps there are six senior posts that were left open for more than two years up to last autumn and three posts still vacant that have been left open more than a year."
"You really don't want to know about the underspend in the IT budget either, do you?"
"No. Especially as over the past decade I've been led to believe there isn't a budget."
"It isn't as big as the staffing underspend."
"I don't understand why the central servicing charge is so enormous, though."
"Ah, that comes from the decision to make the direct labour organisation an arms-length company. In its first operating year it made a two million pound loss, which rather defeated the object, so to avoid a repetition all the client departments' charges went up to make up the shortfall, with yearly incremental increases to keep pace with inflation."
"That would explain it. I wondered why we were paying more to administer the contract than we were on contracted services. Here's one you'll like: there's sixty thousand pounds in one staff budget heading that's there solely to be presented as a saving at the end of the financial year: every year sixty thousand goes in, every year that sixty thousand is taken off us. It's actually headed 'projected saving.'"
"What's the point of that? Why don't they just not give us that sixty thousand in the first place?"
"The danger is that if they did that, next year they'd still take sixty thousand off us but we wouldn't have that money to give up."
"You've been working here too long already: you're starting to understand how the buggers think."
"Well, you can't be too careful. I think the point is that they can use this figure to demonstrate that we're spending enough on staff to satisfy the Audit Commission."
"Ever wonder why our cost per issue is so much higher than Bencup's or Pardendale's?"
"Makes you think."
"This is it..."
"Can't you take him away with you? Please?"
"What's being done about the stock check at Pottersbury Road? The auditors were very critical of the stock figures there."
"It's all in train."
"Well, what's being done?"
"We're organising a stock take over the next couple of weeks and I'm doing a bit of work there and at Dutch Bend on the lending stock, similar to what we've done at Noddy and Gypsy Cream."
"I don't want problems with auditors like I had last year."
"We need to do something about all those empty boxes piled up over there," says T.Aldous.
"Just bend over," somebody mutters.
I popped in to check where we're dumping the computers when we move them tomorrow afternoon. Hettie's just back from her sixth fag break of the morning but still looking frazzled. I decide to cut the tension with a bit of flirting:
"My God but you're lovely when you're angry."
"Oh shit, he's been in already hasn't he?"
Less than a morning is a new record, even for T.Aldous.
"You can't use the training room," says Tilly, "T.Aldous is thinking of having a book sale."
"Where's it going?" asks Seth.
"It'll have to come back here," says T.Aldous.
"Where's it going here?"
"There's some room where you cleared those boxes last week."
"We had to clear those boxes because that is a fire escape and people need to be able to escape the building if there's a fire."
"Well, it'll have to go there then."
"But that's a fire escape, it can't go there."
"Well, it'll just have to go there."
"But what if there's a fire?"
"You're fire warden. You'll be able to get everyone out."
"Can you do me a favour," he asks her, "can you nip out and buy a pump for this balloon?"
"Three blows and I'll have it sorted."
"Oh it's near enough."
"Near enough doesn't really cut it, does it?"
"I can't be arsed. I've only another eight years to go."
"You may as well leave them open. The Queen Mother's still in."
"No surprise there, mate. He's in till ten o'clock every night."
"Why on earth have we got the 1988 Berlitz Guide to Yugoslavia?"
"I guess it might come in handy if 1988 comes back again."
"Ooh no, I wouldn't go there. That's the one that got closed down because the cooks were coming in the curry."
"What?!? Have you any proof of this?"
"I haven't got pictures. It's true, though, it was in the Catty Examiner."
"They call me patronising. Me! Patronising? I think you'll agree with me that I may be many things but not patronising."