"I thought you were on holiday."
"I am. But not quite at the moment."
"How do you mean?"
"I got a letter from our Human Resources people yesterday telling me that I had to go for an appointment with Occupational Health this afternoon. I've had to traipse out to the Health Trust HQ at Pardendale for a ten-minute interview with the council's medic. 'Are you fit for work?' 'Yes, I think so.' 'So do I. Cheerio.'"
It turns out that he's been caught in the machine: he had a couple of days off sick with winter vomiting sickness (it's been popular this year) and this triggered a referral to occupational health. It was just his bad luck that HR sent the letter telling him about the appointment was sent to the wrong address.
"I could have rung them up to rearrange the appointment but to be honest it was less hassle to go to the bloody thing rather than spend all morning trying to get through to HR to do the necessary. And at least this way there's no come-back about my not being co-operative and I've got the bloody thing over and done with."
"Did they do this when you came back to work after being off sick with stress that time?"
"Of course not. The whole point of this process is to get the ticks in the Caring Management boxes. It's nothing to do with actually trying to address systemic sicknesses in the organisation."
"You bitter old man."
"If it was really about a caring organisation trying to support vulnerable staff then I'd have had the appointment when I was sick with stress; HR would have sent the letter to the right address; and I wouldn't be wasting a day's leave with the performance."
I couldn't argue with him.