4 September It’s back to work after a blissful fortnight in foreign climes. By 9.30am, it seems like I’d never been away from Prangcaster Council’s learning and development nerve centre. Lynda, my fellow L&Der, is on hols, so I spent most of the day trying to meet the Prangcaster telephone answering service standard, which stipulates that no phone must ring more than three times before being answered. Unsurprisingly, I singularly failed to meet this target consistently. Memo to self: must persuade the customer service director to up the limit to five rings. Had a ‘my you’re looking well’ chat with the HRD, whom I hadn’t spoken to for four weeks thanks to cunning holiday planning. Can’t help but notice his behaviour has altered – I swear he’s mirroring my mannerisms. Damn rude, if you ask me.
8 September I’m loitering with little intent in the HRD’s office, awaiting the great man’s arrival for a TNA meeting. He’s one of those odd coves who pins all his certificates to the wall. You know the sort of thing: “This is to certify that Maureen Muck has successfully completed a one-day course in toilet paper arranging”. I once, while in urban guerrilla mood, put my Tufty Club certificate on the wall, but was upbraided sharply for ridiculing serious course achievement. Anyway, while waiting for the HRD, I couldn’t help but notice a new certificate on his wall. It bore the words: “has successfully completed level III in Neuro-Linguistic Programming Competence.” So that’s where he was. And that’s why he’s acting like Marcelle Marceau in a hall of mirrors.
11 September Lynda’s back. We exchange boxes of Greek Turkish delight. It’s a team tradition to buy holiday presents. I ruin her first day back by talking her through the HRD’s plans for a TNA for the accounts department. He wants it done online. “Oh God,” says Lynda. “That means it’ll take 10 times as long.” “Maybe, but it’ll be a major step forward in meeting one of our key objectives – putting technology into training,” I say. After four hours with the Excel for Utter Idiots Guide, we’d composed the name, rank and number line. As Chairman Mao said: “Most important step on journey is first one.”
14 September Here we are at Prangcaster University. It occupies the site of a former golf course, prompting many locals to say they’d swapped a second-rate golf course for a fifth-rate university. Today, we meet the head of management sciences, professor Barry Buck, to discuss mutual benefits. We sit in faculty reception when a wild-eyed man wearing round spectacles, a workman’s jacket, a tee-shirt tucked into Blue Harbour jeans and white trainers comes towards us. Marks & Spencer meets TK Maxx via Oxfam. Is this the man to lead Prangcaster management training into a new certificated era?