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A Man of a Few More Words - by Swan Morrison

There'll Be Bluebirds Over The White Cliffs Of Dover

George felt overwhelmed with helplessness. It was the 3rd September 2004 and he calculated that a further five years, six months and eight days of pointless, twenty-first century, employment-related stress remained before retirement.

He recalled his grandfather’s description of this identical feeling when, exactly sixty-five years before, Churchill had announced the declaration of war. A brief calculation confirmed the further coincidence that George’s remaining servitude precisely spanned the duration of that war.

He found himself humming There’ll be bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover as he devised a plan to emulate the coping mechanisms that had sustained his grandfather through those previous dark times.

In George’s mind, the recent departmental reorganisation and sudden introduction of new management mingled with the Nazi invasion of Poland. That weekend, he constructed an Anderson shelter in his garden. Though wartime rations were meagre, he was relieved that Tesco had all commodities in stock and there were no significant queues.

He sought reassurance in recorded speeches by Prime Minister Churchill. The Blitz, however, was relentless: Government guidelines and EU directives rained down with devastating effect. Jones from Finance and Richardson from Highways were both assisted from the council offices in straightjackets - a tragic loss of brave comrades. George reflected that had he not spent every night in his Anderson shelter wearing his gas mask and taking solace from Vera Lynn recordings, he too might have gone mad.

His blackout curtains gave passers-by the impression of great commitment to energy conservation. Neighbours also commended George on his environmental awareness as he dug his garden for victory. The park railings were never recovered.

He ordered facsimile copies of a wartime newspaper to be delivered on corresponding days. Each morning he avidly scoured the pages for news of Allied success.

The challenge by the Local Government Expeditionary Force against destruction of pensions and conditions of service gave hope. Although a military defeat, the heroic evacuation of Dunkirk rallied morale and allowed Union activists to regroup to fight another day.

The newspaper maintained an optimistic stance, although George knew morale on the Home Front was low. Increasing numbers of colleagues remained on long term stress-related sick leave. Mavis in Supplies enquired how George maintained his optimism. ‘It’s the end of the beginning,’ he enigmatically replied - reflecting on that morning’s news of Montgomery’s victory at El Alamein.

Heinrich Bauer in Highways was clearly a German spy. Brazen too - he made no secret of being a native Berliner. George commenced covert operations by feeding Heinrich subtly inaccurate information - leading ultimately to the new M27 link road being constructed over a cliff, into the sea.

The success of the Normandy landings encouraged George that the end was near.

As the Second Army crossed the Rhine, work colleagues enquired about his preferred retirement celebration. All enthusiastically supported his suggestion of a street party reminiscent of VE day.

The 7th May 2010 was the greatest day of his life - a marvellous retirement party and Germany’s unconditional surrender.

Now was time for rest, but not for too long. Experience with Heinrich had given George a taste for covert operations, and he had already compiled a list of those locally with Russian sounding names.

The Cold War had begun.