Chapter 19, London, April 2018
In which the principal villain holds court.
Big Harry peered through the haze. He was surrounded by his acolytes at the conference sherry party. Members of the crowd took turns to tell him their troubles and ask his advice. Luigi was complaining that his seminal work on the Economics of the Sicilian Goat-Cheese Industry had run into trouble with the editor of Turkish Economic Papers.
''He has discovered that my mother is Greek," explained Luigi. “The war in Cyprus has ruined my chances. Of course he pretends that my coefficients are not significant but they have been estimated by the two state least squares method so they must be okay."
"That's a tough break, Luigi," Harry sympathized. “Why don't you send it to the New Hellas Review?"
"I can't do that, I've had a row with the editor. He is from the north you know."
"Leave it with me Luigi. I'll see what I can do. Ron Smith owes us a favor since we published his last paper after it had been rejected by five other journals. He might run your piece if you compared the goat-cheese industry in several countries."
"What a great idea, Harry," exclaimed Luigi. "I can get my students to do a country each, using the analytic framework I've developed of course."
"And don’t forget milk - it's an important joint product."
"Right. Well, I must be off. And thanks again." Luigi moved off into the scrum, and Brownnose appeared.
"Hi," grunted Harry. "Siddown."
"Can I get you a drink?" Brownnose asked.
"Just some ice thanks Bob. I've got my own bottle." Brownnose returned to find Big Harry giving advice to Sally-Anne Sampson who was again having trouble with her PhD supervisor.
Brownnose wanted to discuss his own doctorate but he was forced to sit through a discussion about time dependent utility functions. It's amazing how Harry's put up with this crap, Brownnose thought, as he idly watched Doris doing some gentle flirting with a dapper city type, who looked as if he were attending his first big conference.
Brownnose had made his own play for Doris' favors some years before. He had found that she was quick to sink the knee in the groin when he started to come on hard. Still, someone had to crack it and, you never knew, the banker with the fashionable suit might be the one.
"There's no alternative Sally-Anne, you'll have to rework the last chapter."
Sally-Anne glided away, and Bob could finally ask his own question. He was interested in emigrating, but it was impossible to get a job in North America without a PhD. Harry had worked out a deal in which Brownnose could submit his collected editorial contributions, plus a few papers written by his students. But they were having trouble finding a suitable external examiner. "I'll have to do a deal with Dunlop. He submitted a paper to us recently. It's not much good, but I'll hint that if he does the right thing by you we'll return the favor."
"Thanks Harry," Bob replied. "It will be a big load off my mind."
They brooded over their drinks. "By the way, how did the Sydney trip go?"
"We missed the contract - at least for the present. I told Bolivar that he should sit it out. We could have negotiated a deal with the blacks. I got on well with their leader. She doesn't want her people to be in a ghetto forever. But Bolivar sent in the cops. It was a pretty bloody affair, which the cops were winning until nightfall when the blacks doused the lights. The cops were lucky to get out with only a few causalities. But it won't be the end of the matter. I've asked Watson to keep in touch with both sides in case we can help later."
Harry sipped his scotch. "By the way Bob," he remarked, "I like the look of young Dick Saxon in Sydney."
"He's impressive, I agree. He helped a lot in my dealings with Watson."
"I'd like to transfer him to London. Can you set it up?"
"Sure will. We have a vacancy in the T & M division. By the way, how did Watson and Freckel go Downunder?" Brownnose asked.
"It was fine for John since Hobart is his home town. But Hersch was a fish out of water. There aren't too many orthodox Jews in Hobart. And the locals didn't know what to make of their paper."
"Which one did they give?"
"The one on why there should be a market for human babies. Norbitt was worried that if they gave their piece on the exchange rate there would be trouble in the market, so they dropped that. But the one on the baby business nearly got them lynched. The state governor wouldn't let them come to his reception. It was quite funny really. The local economists hadn't had such fun since '85 when some bloke presented a paper arguing for a free market in heroin."
“I heard that poor old Paul Keating gave the Bob Hawke oration at the conference dinner” Brownnose said.
“Yeah, he’s quite frail these days and it was a pretty weak effort. His theme was that he was the brains of the team, poor old Bob was just a front man”.
Harry sipped his scotch. “I knew Hawkie when he was at Oxford. He had a good brain then, and he set a world record for sculling a yard of beer. He was never going to be someone else’s front man.”
“Still, Keating did put international debt and national solvency on the global agenda” Brownnose commented.
“Third world countries have always gone broke” Harry said, “but it’s true that Australia under Hawke and Keating was a rare example of a wealthy country that nearly went under”.
Harry sipped reflectively. “Saved by the boffins at the central bank, is my understanding. They rang the bell and persuaded Keating to say the joint was turning into a banana republic. That was the easy part. He then had to convince the comrades in cabinet to slash government spending and agree to cut the wages of the workers – it was Hawke who had to do the hard sell with them. Karl Marx would have turned in his grave.”
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