Course, I’m an old boy now, and I can’t remember much. Who the hell put this damn rug on my knees? Looks like a skirt. Funny thing though, reminds me of Ray, Ray of Sunshine. Back in the sixties. Ex Army. He was the Chief Messenger at the Ministry when I was the Permanent Under Secretary. Big shabby building down in Southwark.
We had a lady Minister in those days, one of the first Departments. She brought what you might call a Woman’s Touch. Any whiff of a photo opportunity and she’d be there showing her knees, with a trade unionist on one arm, and an industrialist on the other. Course, she was high maintenance. Had to look good and sound good for the BBC and ITV after an all-nighter in the House, or writing speeches until three in the morning. Ray used to get sent out to buy her cigarettes. Sometimes he went out twice in a morning. Sometimes three, when we were busy and the Opposition had filed a lot of amendments. Then, one day, she rang for him.
“Ray,” she said, “the press are here at four, and I’ve forgotten my lipstick. Would you mind?” Course, he went red in the face, but there was nothing for it. Off he went in a taxi, and came back with some red smears on the back of his hand, and a Selfridges bag. The colour wasn’t right – the lady Minister tended to what you might call auburn – but the press didn’t notice. Course, after that, Ray got sent out for all manner of things. And gradually, I think, that going into the department stores, and asking the ladies behind the counters for Women’s Things, got easier. Once the lady Minister spilt a cup of tea, and Ray came back from the shops with a rather fetching dress and jacket combination in pale turquoise. He actually held it up against himself and asked me what I thought.
Course, then he started to smell, in a way – fragrant. I actually caught him once, reading Harpers and Queen, and smoking a cigarette. And you could see that the end of the filter tip was, literally, pink. When he went out on his errands he always seemed to come back with more than had been asked for, said it was for his wife. I didn’t think he was married.
And then, next thing we knew, Ray handed in his notice. I didn’t see him for a few months. Then I was in Soho in, um, a private club, with a Japanese trade delegation. And, course, there he was, Ray of Sunshine, performing, wearing some sort of gold bikini. He was all feathers and sequins, silver boots with high heels, and he sang “These Boots are made for Walking”. Quite well, really. Then he recognised me, and came over, and made a huge fuss of me. Course, the Japs thought it was marvellous. Signed a big aviation deal the following day.
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