We now have two new "service champions", as we are to be called. I am champion for children, homes and occupational services and Peter is the champion for transport, resources, IT, personnel and environment. We are struggling to maintain order, dignity, credibility and sanity. Apart from that, we are fine.
Lars, to be fair, saw the need for appropriate, but cheap, induction. He sent us off to the Borders for a two-day seminar. We were allowed to stay for one whole night but told to mind the cost, given the current penchant for media revelations on expenses.
We arrived at the run-down "hotel" after a six-hour bus journey. We went by bus, as Peter already had a bus pass and it would "set the right tone". The hotel was the Scottish equivalent of Fawlty Towers, and had decided to make ends meet by offering cheap conference and seminar rates.
The place was packed. The first part of the event was instantly forgettable, as a succession of local government gurus outlined the way ahead to the Promised Land. By five o'clock we were all but brain dead.
That evening, the bar was packed with members from other courses. They came from a variety of agencies and public bodies, all eagerly seeking receipts, even for packets of crisps and peanuts. Peter introduced me to a new brand of pear cider and, I must admit, I rather liked it.
The evening wore on, and only the course veterans survived to reach party time, featuring the usual songs and party pieces. I can't sing a note but, persuaded by the cider and my own secret showbiz delusions, I offered a "wee joke".
The audience were silent. There was a barber who was offering free haircuts to local businessmen for a week. Day One - a milkman comes in and has a free haircut; next day - six milk bottles at the door. Day Two - a butcher comes in and has a haircut; next day - six lamb chops arrived. Day Three - a fishmonger comes in; next day - six salmon fillets delivered.
I was really enjoying this, but my blurred vision made it difficult to gauge audience reaction. I heard a few sniggers. Day Four - a councillor comes in and is given his free hair-cut; the next day - six councillors were at the door.
I thought it was really funny, but there was no reaction. I asked Peter if he thought it was funny. He said he had found it hilarious, but pointed out that the audience included many councillors from another seminar group. I made my excuses and left. Peter told them I was from Croydon and worked in England.