Something in the City

by Tony Greenfield

A genuine record of a conversation with a Sheffield steel merchant – honest – except for the name changes.

Written and published in 1961


‘Good morning, my dear chap. Take a seat. I must just finish these letters then we’ll talk.’

Presses button on recorder.

‘To Maysyurs Fowler and Tortoiseshell Limited. Dear Sirs Yours of the 27th ultimo to hand and we beg to advise you that we are able to meet your order number F stroke 451 stroke A 3 ex stock and will despatch per British Railways forthwith.’

Presses another button.

‘Have a cigarette. Damn that phone. Hullo. Petersdad speaking. Oh hullo dear. No you can’t have the car. No. I don’t give a damn what your mother says, you can’t have it. No I don’t know what time I’ll be home.

‘There it goes again. No peace for the wicked. Hullo. Petersdad speaking. Oh hullooo Jim. Had a good weekend in Norfolk? That’s the ticket. Yes . . . Yes . . . Yes. Oh yes, of course we can supply you. What? Fifteen per cent chromium? You’re all asking for that nowadays. It may take six weeks. OK? Mm …mmm… Yes you’ll get your rake-off. No I won’t bloody well give you 12 percent. You robber you. Ten’s the limit. Fine. See you in the Green Ricks tonight. Yes. Bye.

‘Come on. Let’s get out of here. We can’t talk business in a dump like this.  ‘Of course we can get a drink at this time of the morning. Just climb in the jalopy and we’ll be there in a jiff.  ‘What? Of course my office needs decorating. But who the hell cares?  Clients? Don’t be so damn silly. They don’t come to look at paint on the walls. They come to see my products and if they see what they want and the price is right they buy even if the ceiling’s covered in cobwebs. Where there’s muck there’s brass.  Here we are. No, of course they’re not open yet but they’ll serve me. Morning Nellie. Double gins for two thirsty workers. We’ll split a tonic. Splendid. Let’s sit down over here. Cigarette?

‘Where were we? Oh, yes, that office. Yes I know. It’s in a filthy condition. Anyway, it’s due for demolition in a year or two. Then the old man will have to do something about it. There’ll be plenty of work for you then.

‘Just now I want you to do something about our new range of sizes. I’ve written it all down here for you. Leave you to write it up your own way but you’d better let me have a decko before you send it out. You write the most awful letters. Don’t know how you get away with it. All those prepositions at the ends of sentences. And you must never address letters personally – always to the company. I’ll show you some of mine back at the office. Still, you get results. Don’t know how you do it.

‘Yes, available through all the usual suppliers in the UK and all our foreign agents. Nellie. Two more doubles please and another tonic. We can supply ex stock for orders up to five tons.

‘Nother one? No? Right. Just one more double please Nellie. I’ll down this and we’ll be on our way. Got to see a chap at the King’s Foot at 12 and I suppose you’ve plenty on.

‘Thank Nellie. Cheers. You’ll let me have cuttings will you?

‘By the way I know a chap at Moop and Wipers who might put something your way. Name of Bunn, Felix Bunn. Look him up and say I sent you. He’s a good chap. Went shooting with him last Saturday. Sky was absolutely black with birds. Got two hares.

‘We’d better be off. I’ll run you back to the office and then I’ve got things to do. Have a gasper.

‘Here we are. See you next week old man and don’t worry about that cheque. You’ll get it at the end of this month. Cheery bye.’


Read more about Tony HERE


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