The PM's first act on returning to Number 10 was to temporarily pull me off the computing problems at the passport office. "Got a bit of a problem with my personal PC," said Mr B. "The CD-ROM drive doesn't seem to be working. Could you get it fixed?" I pointed out that it wasn't really my job, and anyway I was tied up with the passport office business. "Well, untie yourself," came the instructions. "And I don't expect to hear 'not my job' from a person of your calibre. Your job is to get whatever I want done done." He hesitated for a moment, probably reflecting on the doubtful wisdom of saying "done done". And then he breezed out.
First point of call was IT Support. "I need a new CD-ROM," I said. Sound of air sucked over teeth. "Not possible," said a young man who was surely just out of nappies. "We're reviewing policy to decide whether or not to change the standard to DVD. During the review process, all purchases are frozen." I gritted my teeth. "How long will the process last?" He tutted. "It's difficult to say. The manufacturers keep bringing out new products. We can't get a stable picture. I'd guess between one and two months." I fumed quietly. "Do you realise who this is for?" I said. "It could be the Prime Minister for all I care," he said. "A freeze is a freeze."
Fine. I rang down to our local purchasing supremo. "IT support can't get me a CD-ROM drive," I said. "Pop down to ComputaPlanet and pick one up, will you. The PM's is broken." There was a long pause. "No can do," said our purchasing expert. "It's policy. All PC hardware comes through the central IT function. We save millions that way." By now I was more than a little irritated. I was beginning to wonder if the PM knew what he was dropping me into. Not that he's devious, but ... "I don't want to save millions," I said, "I want to get the PM a new CD-ROM drive. Now." I could almost hear the shrug. "Sorry. I've no mechanism. I suggest you talk to IT Support."
So when the PM came back from his meetings that evening he found me up to my armpits in his PC. Total effort 30 minutes; hardware cost £37.45p.
Of course I was probably losing the country millions of pounds somehow.
But I got the job done.
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