The Dean reminded me that the deadline was fast approaching for the submission of grant proposals. I acknowledged his concern that it appeared that I had done nothing to bring a team together, then booked a meeting room in the pub at the end of East Claremont Street, opposite Broughton St Marys Parish Church.
Everyone was late to the meeting: PhD graduate LA, my colleague EH, and the members of the public who had expressed an interest in our idea to develop a proposal about dogs’ use of computers in libraries.
The pub staff were very accommodating – at least at the start of the meeting, bringing us tea, coffee and anything else that we requested. However, when it became obvious that the members of the public were enjoying the act of ‘ordering free stuff’ a little too much, the pub manager pointed out the small kitchen along the corridor and said that we could refill the kettle there to make more drinks.
The plans for the proposal did not even get as far as deciding a name for the new project. The most vocal member of the public was convinced that her suggestion of ‘Running with pigs’ – a phrase from greyhound racing – was the only option. Even when LA, EH and I told her that this was completely unsuitable for a funded research project and would invalidate the rest of the bid no matter its quality, she insisted that we adopt her suggestion. She then threatened to withdraw her support for the research if we did not adopt her proposed project title. The other members of the public announced that they would do the same.
The discussion was going nowhere, so we all started to pack up. There was some confusion over payment for the hire of the room and the refreshment – the bossy woman refused to even consider splitting the costs – but LA kindly picked up the bill in the end.
Out on the street I said to EH and LA that I would take another look at the call and see if anything could be salvaged in time for the deadline, even without the involvement of members of the public. I said this without realising that the bossy woman was within earshot of us, just a couple of paces further down the street. There was no way of knowing whether or not she had heard me, but she did cast me a very dirty look.
Since I was so close to home, I opted to work at my flat for the remainder of the afternoon. However, this plan was soon abandoned when I reached my building. The outside of the flat was unrecognisable: all the plants were gone, and the paint on the front door stripped. Inside, the wallpaper had been ripped from the walls, and the furniture removed. TPR was nowhere to be seen – until I spotted a bundle breathing lightly under a pile of dirty grey blankets.
TPR was pale and empty-eyed, with a huge scar across his forehead. It looked like he had been lobotomised. Was this the bossy woman’s revenge for the rejection of ‘running with pigs?’
Call 999!’ I instructed LA. He did so, but the number was engaged. We would need to transport TPR to the hospital in EH’s car.