During my first week as
Administration Manager at the Home Office, I
familiarised myself with the Department and the
office procedures, and I met all staff.
I began my second week with
a budget review. At once, I noticed an anomaly.
Fifty thousand pounds per annum was unaccounted
for from the staffing budget. Under a related
budget, over a period of years, other untraceable
items appeared. These included two desks, blue
paint, wallpaper, an orange carpet, curtains,
filing cabinets, stationery and, within the past
month, one set of premium quality golf clubs and
a set of solid silver cutlery?
I began to feel as Clyde W.
Tombaugh must have felt when he predicted the
existence and location of the planet Pluto. I had
identified an as yet undiscovered office! Indeed,
in viewing the list of purchases, I visualised
the room and its contents perhaps in the way that
Mendeleev had visualised the properties of
predicted, but as yet undiscovered, chemical
It was early January, so at
4.00 PM, after it was dark, but before everyone
went home, I instructed all known staff to switch
off the office lights. I walked around the
outside of the building, down a narrow alley and
there, at basement level, was light.
I walked down some steps,
opened a door and entered the world I had
constructed in my mind from the inventory.
Hello, said an
elderly, balding man sitting at one of the desks,
Who are you?
Im the Home
Office Administration Manager.
Very pleased to meet
you. He rose and enthusiastically shook my
hand. No one from the main office has come
to see us for years. We sometimes joke that you
must all have forgotten we exist.
George Morris introduced
himself and his colleague, Doris Sims.
What do the two of
you do? I enquired.
This is the State
Execution Administration Department, Doris
proudly informed me.
I must have looked none the
wiser so George went on to explain that they made
all necessary arrangements before and after
No one has been
executed since 1955, I pointed out.
George thought for a moment.
After Ruth Ellis, things certainly became
rather quiet. He beamed at me and changed
the subject. Anyway, were pleased youve
come today, of all days.
Today is the day,
replied Doris, that George and I retire. As
youre the boss, I wonder if you would be
kind enough to say a few words and present the
leaving gifts? Those golf clubs are for George
and the cutlery set is for me.
What could I say? I made a
short speech thanking them for whatever they had
done over the years and presented the gifts. As I
ended, the chimes of Big Ben could be heard
striking 5.00 PM.
Time to leave for the
last time, said George, a tear in his eye.
Ill miss the
old place, responded Doris.
They bade me good luck and
farewell, and departed the office together.
I never saw them again.