Wednesday, 16 September 2015

The Man Who Sold The British Library

So you’re probably asking how it all came to this. How I got here, when it wasn’t that long ago that I had everything in the world. Well stuff happens. To everyone. All the time.

After I had been working at a blue-chip company in the city for about three years, my partner and I had decided that it was time to start having the children we had promised ourselves (and yeah reading that back, it does sound a little arrogant). So along they came, three boys, instead of the one boy and one girl that we had planned. But you know all about that fact - life’s like that.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way – little Tom, Dick and Harry are the apples of our eyes. So when the first boy started school, April (that’s my wife) suggested that we move up to a larger house, as the three boys were sharing the one room and it wouldn’t be that long when they’d want their own spaces.

So that is what we did, except April (yep, my wife) suggested that we buy a detached property to ‘future proof’ our lives. It had a large garden and a pool, everything you need when you’re a millionaire (which we aren’t by the way). This all came with the assistance of an extremely large mortgage and me selling some of my body organs here and there (okay, that last bit was an exaggeration).

And so we all settled down to a ‘future proofed’ life – except that it wasn’t. It was the Friday before we broke up for our mid-year holidays that Alexis (my boss – my other boss) took me into the office, sat me down and told me that they were letting me go.

I think I was unconscious for a few minutes before Alexis threw a jug of water over me to ‘bring me around’, she said.
“I know this will come as a bit of a shock, but it’s just as hard for me to give you such sad news,” said Alexis (my ex-boss).

There was so much wrong with that statement that I just walked out of her office and left the building. Apparently they would send my personal stuff on to me. I don’t know what made me do it but I told them to leave it all with security and I would collect it from downstairs at a later date. You see, I was already thinking about what April would say and when I should tell her. I guessed that all my chattels turning up at the house would be a reason for her to suspect something was wrong.

I was now standing out on the street – a man who had a house that would only get paid off when I was dead about eight years. I thought about walking into the street and seeing if a bus would hit me – not taking me out completely – just enough of an injury that my ex-company would feel sorry for me and take me back.

In the end, I decided to get drunk.

I was trying to find a nice little pub down Euston Road where I could cause an affray when I noticed a lot of media types heading into a large red building. This building turned out to be The British Library. Yes - it did sell alcohol, so I bought a not inexpensive beer and sandwich and sat in the café area. Next to me were two teenage girls having a conversation with one of their mothers.

“Yes, I am studying, I promise Mum. I am surrounded by books,” she said but the two of them were actually missing school and were hiding in the library, from what I had gathered.

It was enough to give me an idea and I phoned my wife, April. I told her that I was rather busy and that I would be home a little later than usual. I had no idea what I was going to do but she believed it – I also added that she should call me on my phone as the office system was being repaired. Yes it was tiresome I told her and she swallowed it – hook, line and sinker.

I thought maybe I could play for time by phoning new prospective employers from the library – start up an office away from home and that is what I did.

On my third day in the library one of my clients (from my old job) called me on my phone. No he hadn’t tried my office as he wanted to speak to me urgently. Could we meet up?

I suggested the British Library, as I would sometimes pop in there for a snack and coffee. Anyway, he thought it was a really nice idea and so we met up the following day.

He was offering me and my firm a rather large contract. Then I told him that due to ‘differences’ I had split from the company.

“You’re a go-getter, I like it. I like it a lot.”
He said, he needed to talk to his boss but he thought that they might give at least a percentage of the work to me. It was something, but still not enough money to cover the next mortgage payment as well as the household bills.

I decided to phone some of my old clients and see if I could poach them off the company. I contacted about 20 of them and 3 said yes.

Each night I went home to the wife and told her about the hard day it had been at the office.
“They work you too hard,” she said and I said ‘yes’, I had to agree with her.There was Wi-Fi in the library and that meant I could pick up my emails – plus the office still hadn’t taken me of their system.

The thump on the back of the head in the middle of my not inexpensive coffee said it all. 

Alexis had tracked me down to the library and said that if I stole anymore clients she’d take me to court. I said for what? For being good? Then she used her ace card and said she’d tell my wife where I was hiding out. That did it. I would need to find another way to make money. Bank robbery seemed an option.

I went outside to the library piazza for some air and possibly hoping for a miracle – well you know what? Sometimes miracles do happen and so it did that day.

Just off the piazza on Euston Road was a gentleman holding one of those ‘golf sales - this way’ signs. He asked if I could hold his sign while he nipped into the library for a pee. I thought since I had nothing else to do, I would help this poor gent. While I was holding the sign, Alexis happened to walk by with some of the folks from the office.

“I see you’ve found yourself a job then?” Smirked Alexis. I thought about hitting her with the board but that would not have been clever. I also thought about a million things I could have said, but that was about an hour later. It’s a shame it happens that way.

Anyway, now I’m getting to the point of this story. An Asian man, maybe Japanese, or Chinese or something else saw my sign and asked if I was selling. I said I was only holding the board for a gentleman. The man insisted that we talk and he said something to an associate who did all the translating.
“Mister Woo want to know if you sell?”

“Yes,” I said, “What would he like to buy?”

And they pointed up – I thought they meant the Golf Sale sign and was ready to give it up for a few pounds.

No, he said, he wanted the big red building. “He pay good money,” said the associate. And out of their case came several thousand dollars, that I understood was only a first payment and more was to follow.

I know what you’re going to say, it was wrong, really wrong but hey, karma was giving me a break and I took it. We sat at the coffee stand in the piazza and I signed the document which would sell the British Library to Mr Woo.

Now I know you’re getting cynical and saying to yourself that this is all a load of…. Well you know. But they did pass the case over to me full of thirty five thousand dollars. They would come back tomorrow with all the paperwork.

And that dear friends is where I am at this moment, sitting outside the British Library waiting on a couple of gentlemen to come and pay me 50 million dollars for the British Library. I’ll let you know how it goes.

bobby stevenson 2015
wee bobby

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