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Somewhere, not in SW1…

McCall: What’s this? “You are in Alexander Juniper’s Waiting Room. Someone in the meeting will let you join shortly”. Waiting room? Makes him sound like a Harley St orthodontist. That’s a career that might suit him actually, if any dentists were open, and he was remotely qualified. Wait what’s happening now? I’m in, “join meeting with audio”, would probably be more fun to not have audio.

Juniper: Morning Oliver, good to see you have mastered Zoom at the fortieth attempt. It’s only been 10 weeks.

McCall: How’s the dental implant business?

Juniper: What on earth are you talking about? No time for frivolity, we’ve got a lot on today.

McCall: Where’s Janet?

Juniper: Our degree apprentice has a deadline of 10am to submit her last piece of course work for the year. She said she would be joining us later. I hope you’re bringing your A-game this morning.

McCall: I’ve got my trousers on if that is what you mean.

Juniper: Good, it’s very disconcerting watching you sitting there in your bath robe.

McCall: You’re lucky I put on the robe, when mother calls I’m usually in my vest.

Juniper: Yes, how is your mother? Still tormenting ombudsmen up and down the country?

McCall: Our relationship has improved enormously since we are no longer able to physically meet.

Juniper: Speaking of awkward associations, did you see that Sam Gyimah has joined the Halpin consultancy?

McCall: The snake! After all we’ve done for him? That man has got himself into more holes than Charlie Dimmock.

Juniper: Let’s hope he does for our competitor what he achieved for the Remain vote in Kensington.

McCall: I thought we’d got him a slot on the next series of I’m a Celebrity but You’ve Probably Never Heard of Me.

Juniper: I’m afraid coronavirus has stymied that. Besides, I’ve got Jo Johnson expressing an interest in that now, says eating cockroaches and sleeping with worms doesn’t sound so bad after ten weeks of watching his brother’s press conferences.

McCall: If we’ve lost Gyimah, do we still have Skidmore for ZoomFestHEval?

Juniper: He says he’s writing a book about one of the Henrys.

McCall: Henry Ford? Henry Mancini?

Juniper: Lenny Henry? I don’t know. Anyway, first up on the agenda: our government retainer. I’ve got an email from No.10. “Thanks so much for your work on operation Save Dom, seems to have done the trick. However, not sure Barnard Castle eye-test wheeze was your best idea”.

McCall: It’s a lot better than what they had originally. He drove to Barnard Castle to seek medical advice from the ghost of a wise woman. At least it had the virtue of not putting pressure on the NHS.

Juniper: Quite, but on with the next task, they are looking for a new slogan for the next phase of unlocking.

McCall: Report a neighbour, don’t ask questions, spend money.

Juniper: Shop online, nothing to see here, you’re on your own.

McCall: Love Brexit, Hate Corona, Vote Tory.

Juniper: Mmmhh…we’ll maybe come back to that one. They also want us to think about ways to make international students feel welcome in the UK.

McCall: Sack Priti Patel?

Juniper: Perhaps, something with more immediate impact.

McCall: Sack Boris Johnson?

Juniper: If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you got out of the wrong side of bed this morning.

McCall: If it wasn’t for PE I wouldn’t get out of bed at all.

Juniper: Physical education?

McCall: Piers Excoriates.

Juniper: What about, Come to the UK, we’ve finally got round to wearing masks?

McCall: Study in the UK, it’s still better than living at home with your mum and dad?

Juniper: That may be apposite. I think, we’ll leave that one until we are joined by the youth demographic. Next on the list, Universities UK want us to lobby the government over the bailout.

McCall: How about, we are really sorry for all the times we took the mickey, please can we have a handout from the taxpayer?

Juniper: That’s the gist of it, but we need to make the positive case for the contribution that universities will make to the economy after Covid.

McCall: Send everyone to university, it’s not as bad a look as six million unemployed?

Juniper: Again, you convince me, but I wonder if it’s targeted at the right audience.

McCall: Don’t risk losing your seat by bankrupting your town’s biggest employer, bailout the vice-chancellors?

Juniper: Yes, we need multiple messages for different parts of government.

McCall: Take back control, introduce a numbers cap, turn them back into Polys.

Juniper: I’ll save that one for the next time, the Telegraph asks for op-ed.

McCall: What about, 10 steps on the road to recovery with universities?

Juniper: Sounds like a programme for alcoholic professors.

McCall: Vice-chancellors are rather down on their luck right now, let’s throw them a couple of quid. Accompanied by images of some sad looking senior managers worrying about recruitment figures.

Juniper: The Dog’s Trust strategy? It might just work.

McCall: We could do an Adopt a Professor campaign. “For just £2 per month you’ll receive this university tie and mug set, and receive regular updates from Professor Cuthbertson about his stem cell research”.

Juniper: You could choose from a range on endangered academics, as befits your personality, like in the World Wildlife Fund campaign.

McCall: Which professor will you adopt? Brian is a precarious post-doc researching vital cancer treatments; Sue has a 4-star impact case study on the use of recyclable plastics; Mary brainwashes young people to be a Marxist through her Media Studies modules.

Juniper: This has got legs, I’m going to pin it on the board and see if it sticks.

McCall: Did you really go to the office for the board? I told you that’s not essential travel.

Juniper: Completely necessary for working from home. It gets in the way of the AGA though.

McCall: Speaking of the aga, how is the government response to Philip’s report coming along, one year on?

Juniper: Draft 47, it really is the gift which keeps giving. I’ve sent them back what was really draft six and just renumbered it. Four university ministers later no one can remember any more. A what’s this? Janet is waiting. Click, admit.

McCall: Morning Janet, how are you today?

Janet: I’m finished Mr McCall.

McCall: Must feel good to have completed all your assessments.

Janet: No, I mean, I’m quitting Mr McCall. I don’t see any point in carrying on.

McCall: This is a crisis!

Janet: I know there is a pandemic on and everything, but I just don’t want to pay all that money for online classes. I was thinking of deferring for a year.

Juniper: Janet, you can’t defer! Juniper-McCall has the contract for a recruitment campaign to encourage students to take up their places in September.

McCall: I’m rather proud of it, we’re calling it “Club 18-30: the most fun you can have without touching”.

Juniper: More importantly Janet, if you defer, what is going to happen to us? Who is going to be our assistant associate sub director of youth engagement? Who is going to make the tea?

McCall: Who will help me with my tie? Who knows where the envelopes are kept?

Juniper: What will you do for a year? Have you seen the job market forecasts for university leavers?

Janet: I wrote the job market forecasts for university leavers.

Juniper: Yes you did, and fine job you made of it. Asking your cousins if they were planning on working in Tesco over the summer.

Janet: I just need to do what’s best for me, Mr Juniper.

McCall: Do you have something already lined up? Hold on a minute, I get it. When did he contact you?

Janet: Who? I don’t know what you mean Mr McCall.

McCall: Mr I used to believe in free speech but I’m a Liberal now.

Janet: Well…

Juniper: Janet, how could you?

Janet: They’ve offered me a lot of money.

Juniper: Money isn’t everything Janet.

Janet: Eh?

Juniper: What about solidarity and integrity and doing good work for your community?

Janet: Are you feeling all right Mr Juniper? Have you been outside for some air today?

McCall: I see, I get it.

Juniper: I don’t, what on earth is going on? We are about to lose Janet to a rival.

McCall: No, we are not. Janet knows better than to work for Sam Gyimah, she hates Harry Potter with a passion, and he’d want to talk about it all the time.

Janet: I love that Jay Z Rowling.

McCall: My point exactly. It’s perfectly straightforward Alexander, Janet has finished her course work and now wants to work full-time over the summer to pay the rent on the flat she can’t live in at the moment and is using the Halpin offer as leverage.

Juniper: So, you did bring you’re A-game after all.

Janet: A pay rise and some holiday time would be good Mr Juniper.

Juniper: I think we can do better than that.

McCall: Really? Maybe, I should handle HR negotiations Alexander.

Juniper: Much better than a pay rise, how about a pay cut?

Janet: Sorry?

Juniper: How about we furlough you for a month? Just short of full pay and sitting at home all day watching Bargain Hunters.

Janet: Suddenly I feel inspired about carrying on my degree apprenticeship in university media relations.

McCall: She’s played you like an online game of Scrabble.

Juniper: Sometimes you just have to admire the skills of a greater player.

McCall: OK, furlough starts tomorrow, how does this sound to you Janet: Study in the UK, by the time you graduate we’ll be so desperate for migrant labour that you’ll probably be allowed to stay.

Janet: That’s apposite Mr McCall, but maybe we’ll need different messaging for diverse audiences.

Juniper: And so the student has become the master.

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