To use a technical consulting term, I am in the deep doodoo. Convinced that my success with Gulley's Euro strategy would win me a plum assignment, I entered Mr McTone's office with a big smile on my face. My euphoria lasted 27 seconds. He complimented me on a superb job. He hinted at a partnership. Then he gave me a local government account. The touch on the shoulder that means you are next over the side. And it wasn't even a swish London Borough. It was Milton Maynard. I kept telling myself as I drove up the motorway, "It's a nice place. It has a superb shopping centre. Everyone has the wrong idea about it. If all else fails, think of those pretty red balloons." Then I had to pull onto the verge for a short, manly cry. I mean, Milton Maynard! I drove into the city down Pootway, or H5 as it is known to its friends. H5, because it's the fifth horizontal road. Crossed by the likes of V6 and V7 - this was where I was destined, the local government offices of a city that makes Legoland seem disorderly. If this was anything to go by, they would expect me to work flexitime and record my hours. As if I were a worker. One advantage of the Milton Maynard layout is that it's easy to find your way around. I was soon parked outside the council offices, and I have to confess that the initial impression was favourable. I waited in a plush reception, surrounded by enough foliage to equip a garden centre. When the chief information officer, Lucy Livesey, invited me into her sanctum I was equally impressed. This could have been a director's office in a major corporate. Perhaps Milton Maynard council appreciated the better things in life, like expense accounts. I broke the ice with a little joke. "I suppose with a name like yours, you've had offers to appear in Superman." Ms Livesey looked back blankly. "You know, all the important women have the initials LL. Lois Lane, Lana Lang" my voice trailed off under her icy stare. "What's the problem?" Ms Livesey allowed herself a cold smile. "We don't have problems at Milton Maynard. Only opportunities." Now this is a line that I have often used, but the worrying thing about Ms Livesey is she obviously meant it. It's fine to fake sincerity, but it's worrying when it's for real. "What's the opportunity, then?" "We want to keep Milton Maynard ahead of the game. We're going to be the first to introduce an electronic system for charging cars to enter the city. And you will organise it." The cold smile again. "That way, we don't get the blame if it goes wrong." I winced. This was a dangerous opponent. As I left the room to think over the assignment she stopped me. "You'll need this. It's a flexitime form."
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