This Is Not A
Not a good day today.
I went back into work after three days off sick to be told that one of the more interesting of my colleagues had died suddenly on Thursday afternoon, aged just fifty.
I'd worked with Chris Brandon off and on since I started in the Depratment seventeen years ago, and had always found him to be intelligent, erudite and helpful.
A Londoner by birth, he'd had to forego his desire to work in a library on the orders of his father, who saw the Civil Service as a secure career. I don't think the bitterness ever really left him over that, although Chris himself was a very peaceable man. Another apparent contradiction was the fact that, despite being a leftie of the best sort, he nonetheless read the Daily Mail every day. This was no inconsistency, however: as a leftie of the best sort, he liked reading a paper which was giving Blair a kicking long before the other rags joined in.
He was a source of many entertaining stories about his previous times working - as he called it - "down south", mostly in Luton and Dunstable.
He told one story of the spiritualist church he used to attend down there. One of the stalwarts of the meetings was a sweet old dear - let's call her Hettie - who was also very innocent and, as such, could come out with the most fantastic double entendres - which would have to be explained to her when everyone around her cracked up.
On one occasion, another member of the church had died, and Hettie stood up at the meeting to make the announcement. The departed had left a much-admired musical instrument to the church, so Hettie stood there and said:
"Our friend Henry has passed to the spirit world, leaving us with happy memories and leaving his magnificent organ to the church."
When the inevitable wave of unsuppressed giggles passed through the congregation, she looked up with a pained expression and said:
"Oh, I've gawn an' dunnit again, 'aven' I?"
One of the people Chris worked with was a similar innocent, but she was a Jehovah's Witness. She also had terrible handwriting. She once went to see a taxpayer - as we called them in those days - at the public counter. On returning, she left her notes of the interview on her desk while she went to the lav. Chris took a look at what she had written. What she thought she had written was:
"Taxpayer is a worker in a warehouse, who wants to know if he can claim for protective rubber clothing."
Unfortunately, what it looked like she had written was:
"Taxpayer is a wanker in a whorehouse, who wants to know if he can claim for protective rubber clothing."
The difficulty, as Chris was at pains to point out, was just how to explain to her why when she returned to her desk all her colleagues were in a state of incontinence.
Sadly, Chris' final years were blighted by ill-health, particularly bouts of severe depression, which was unfair on such a conscientious man.
Thanks for all the stories, Chris. Have a good journey.
Christopher John Brandon
Civil servant and cat-lover
b. 1957, d. 10 April 2008