OH ho – what’s this? A large white envelope from the Scottish Government with “important” written on it. Dead-heading the roses suddenly forgotten, full of curiosity I open it.
“Mr Jamie Stone – Personal”
“Application for the position of chairman of the new single Scotland-wide police force…”
Wow! This was really something! Marked “important” and “personal”, this was clearly a fishing exhibition by Ministers in the Scottish Government.
How kind of them to remember me – in fact there is life after death for an ex-MSP. What a strong hint! – I would have to think carefully before I filled the form out and was then summoned for interview.
In the meantime I would have to attend to the mundane task of finishing the roses – all the same I went about it a little taller than I had been five minutes earlier. Chairman of the police! Did a nice car go with the job? Certainly it would be first class rail travel.
Despite the commonly held belief – the truth is that strings of lucratively remunerated job offers do not instantly fall on the doormats of ex-MSPs.
I know this because I have heard a number of sad stories about people who were my colleagues in Holyrood 17 months ago, but who lost their seats at the last Scottish election.
Life simply ain’t like that – and probably just as well. Because, after all, why should an ex-MSP be treated any differently to anyone else who has just lost a job? You just have to pick yourself up and get on with it.
Hmm – the prospect of an interview – it brought back memories.
My two most successful interviews – out of the many failures, two that actually led to jobs – I subsequently discovered were conducted by men who had drink problems. Indeed way well have been drunk when they interviewed me (which might explain things).
So my years with an oil-related construction company and a Norwegian drilling company were highly convivial – but also onerous in terms of getting my bosses out of whatever trouble their latest exploits had landed them.
Nevertheless it was good news when my first boss eventually lost his driving licence – because I got his car.
The only duty I had during my happy year of the car was to drive the old boy (a retired colonel) back and forth between Nigg and the Royal Hotel in Tain. It wasn’t a problem doing this, but for one small thing; on the way to work, and after a hearty breakfast at the Royal, the colonel would every morning (but only after the Balintore turn-off) belch.
“Lovely breakfast; two eggs, bacon, sausage black pudding” – burp – “Toast and coffee” – burp – “That’s better: my goodness, my head’s sore…”
And the smell. Quite revolting – gah! – it made me feel physically sick. Really I didn’t want quite such up-front knowledge of what the colonel had just eaten.
Opening the window didn’t help –and by the time we turned in at the main gate, my respect for him had again reached its daily low point. Really, his guts must have been in a bad way.
It wasn’t until a couple of years later, after the Conoco TLP had been floated out and the colonel had returned to Surrey, that I realised that all along it hadn’t been him at all.
Indeed you can still smell his burps today – when you drive past the gas flare at the Nigg Oil terminal. Now in the great Officers’ Mess in the sky – colonel, I am sorry – please forgive me.
But the forthcoming police interview…
So last Friday I rang the number on the letter about the police chairmanship and asked the lady who answered if she could tell me who had authorised the letter being sent to me, who was masterminding the fishing trip. She understood – did I mind holding on for a couple of minutes while she consulted her superior?
I held and wondered.
The Cabinet Secretary for Justice John Swinney? I had always got on well with him. Or possibly the Scottish Government’s Permanent Secretary? Or perhaps the Clerk to the Parliament, Paul Grice?
So nice to be wanted.
“Councillor Stone? Yes, I have the answer – the person who asked for the application to be sent to you was someone called Susannah Stone…” My mother. The deflation was as absolute as it has ever been.
When I told Helen Ross, the Highland Council’s ward manager for Tain and Easter Ross, she roared with laughter.
“Aww bless – well at least you know that your mummy still loves you.”