There are certain names that inspire confidence.
Imagine the scene. Into the midst of the well padded armchairs the news seeps like sewage into a reservoir.
Rumour, on winged feet, flits from chair to chair, and the room gradually becomes still.
Men who have kedged gunboats off the sandbanks in rivers we will not name, in total darkness and under the barrels of the enemy guns; sit weeping silently. Others who have stared down dust devils dancing over the killing fields of Afghanistan sit blank eyed, staring unseeing at the wall, suddenly broken.
Men who have drunk in squalid bars in Sihanoukville, or the Terminal Bar in New York, or even the Sandgate now drain their glasses, make their excuses and decamp to the gents.
And into the silence somebody drops a name, “Lauderdale.”
Immediately the cry goes up, “Send for Lauderdale. And suddenly there is laugher and shouting for waiters and a clinking of glasses and men rejoice and are glad again.
And Lauderdale appears, suddenly, as if by magic. Where has he been? Nobody knows. How did he enter? Nobody saw him arrive. He is here, it is enough.
In silence somebody hands him the letter. He reads it, his face indecipherable. Then with the letter in hand he leaves the room. He makes no preparations; he ignores the offer of ‘a bracer’ or ‘a stiff one’. He just goes as he is, that is our Lauderdale.
But when he leaves, silence falls, and with it doubt once more returns. “Can he do it?” So whispers one who can tell the Sarbani from the Ghurghakhti by the way they tape the magazines of their Kalashnikovs.
And the well padded armchairs are marinated in sotto voce conversation.
And Lauderdale, what of him?
He knocks on the door, waits briefly for the muffled response, and he enters. Swiftly, silently, gracefully; like a leopard he advances on the desk. The figure behind looks up at him.
“Ah Lauderdale, you wanted something?”
Like a regicide about to strike, Lauderdale raises the letter. “You are to be congratulated Minister. A bold decision if I may say so. None of your predecessors had the courage necessary to take on such deeply entrenched vested interests.”
The Minister’s voice quavers. “Bold, you say?”
“Perhaps a committee Lauderdale, just to round off any rough edges?”
“I shall arrange it at once sir.”
And now you too can play your part. You to can step forward into the breach and help sustain all we hold dear. But all civilisation asks of you, gentle reader, is that you buy the book.