Serial Novel “The Sorrows” - October 27

I think I know why you suggested I pop into the Melbourne office but I don’t think I’ll take you up on it.

So many memories. Of course that’s where we first met. You were fresh from the London head office to sort us all out. All debonair and British. All understated until it came to those monthly budgets. It seems like aeons ago. I guess it is.

You know that’s where I met Anna. A secret office romance that bloomed into a full life and a family. I miss her. I really do miss her.

Let’s not be maudlin. Let’s look on the bright side. It finally stopped raining. Just as I was thinking about building an ark, the rain finally gave out. There’s a fine mist rising over the city.

It was good to step out. Humid as hell but stunning to see how it’s grown. When was the last time you were here? It’s become quite the metropolis, sprawling up and out.

As always everyone wears black. Men, women, children, infants. You see young men huddled together in black boots, black jeans, black puffer jackets, hands thrust into their front pockets. It’s a standard uniform. The preferred brand seems to be The North Face. Yes, even in this cloying weather.

The things we do for brands. Today I saw three Ferraris dash by in the space of three minutes. All rosso corsa. All gleaming, pulsing. My reverie shattered by a homeless woman screaming at the top of her lungs, ‘KILL ME! KILL ME NOW!!’ as they slithered past. A sign of the times, screaming into the void.

Do you know the average age of a Ferrari driver? 63. Do you know what car Enzo Ferrari drove to work? A Fiat 128, one of the world’s first front-wheel drives. Never broke down, never caught on fire. Enzo smoked until the day he died.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to smoke in Melbourne these days. I think it might even be illegal. I can’t see where you can buy a packet. I can’t see anyone smoking. So there’s no one to borrow a cigarette from. In the hotel, every room is non-smoking.

Australia was one of the first countries to ban cigarette advertising, adopt plain-packaging laws. The tobacco companies tried to sue the government. Noble but ridiculous because of course they lost. Governments have a monopoly when it comes to laws.

I know France is thinking of banning petrol and fossil fuel advertising to reduce consumption. No doubt our team in Paris are doing everything to thwart any moves in that direction.

Did you see Publicis is spending millions on exceptional bonuses? Doling out around $50 million to over 45,000 staff to cope with cost of living increases. When I first read the article in Campaign, I thought it was because the staff was exceptional but it was because we’re in exceptional times.

Of course the top four executives - including the chief financial officer - split more than $40 million amongst themselves before tossing whatever was left to everyone else. Exceptional indeed.

Did you see the footage of the Greenpeace protestors occupying the central lobby in parliament after Rishi Sunak was appointed prime minister? A sit-in. How quaint. 30 or so activists shouting for the government to take more action on rising energy bills. Holding a banner with the headline CHAOS COSTS LIVES and the Greenpeace logo.

All fun and games until a parliamentary security guard put his hand over a news camera lens during a live television interview in the foreground. Apparently the broadcasting of protests or disorder in parliament is not permitted. As expected, the revolution will not be televised.

Did you think visiting the Melbourne office would make me want to return to the fold?

I’m a relic. All the young people in PR these days are a disappointment. Not just our firm, mind you.

Did you read about the public relations disaster at the Bureau of Meteorology? It’s called BoM for short. First internally and then colloquially. The last government appointed a CEO as a political favour and to tamper down its profile.

A toxic culture, broken staff, distraught scientists. As a result, the Australian public has been less informed on climate change for almost a decade. So what did they do to deflect attention? They instituted a name change. Spent a couple of hundred thousand dollars. Sent out a barrage of press releases demanding the media no longer use ‘BoM’ and only refer to it as the ‘Bureau’. Which of course led to derision from every newspaper and media outlet, high and low, left and right. Even the new Environment Minster jumped in, declaring that anyone can call it whatever they like, saying the whole rebrand was pointless and stupid and unnecessary.

But at least it took attention away from the real problems while the CEO scrambled for a new job as a new government came to power. The PR youngsters running the campaign seemed genuinely shocked at the ferocious response from the media. Who can blame them? They’ve spent their entire careers sending out press releases that have been printed verbatim by a dwindling press and news media. They haven’t realised they’ve been played.

Meanwhile you have a new prime minister to deal with. Rishi Rish! Voted by just 202 Tory MPs. Don’t you love democracy? Party members he snookered into position after handing Truss the sword she fell upon. Who would have thought Rish had it in him?

Is Cass Horowitz still looking after him?

Free short story every week. No spam, ever.