Authors: David Nobbs
THE REGINALD PERRIN OMNIBUS
David Nobbs was born in Orpington, the only son of a schoolmaster. He has written many successful novels, including
The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, A Bit of a Do, The Life and Times of Henry Pratt
. He has also written the television series
Rich Tea and Sympathy, The Glamour Girls
Fairly Secret Army
, and the television plays
Cupid’s Darts, Our Young Mr Wignall
. His auto-biography,
I Didn’t Get Where I Am Today
. . . was published to great acclaim in 2003. His latest novel is
Sex and Other Changes
. He lives in North Yorkshire.
Also by David Nobbs
The Itinerant Lodger
A Piece of the Sky is Missing
Second From Last in the Sack Race
A Bit of a Do
Pratt of the Argus
The Cucumber Man
The Legacy of Reginald Perrin
Sex and Other Changes
I Didn’t Get Where I Am Today . . .
The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin
The Return of Reginald Perrin
The Better World of Reginald Perrin
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Epub ISBN: 9781409079798
The Fall and Rise
of Reginald Perrin
When Reginald Iolanthe Perrin set out for work on the Thursday morning, he had no intention of calling his mother-in-law a hippopotamus. Nothing could have been further from his thoughts.
He stood on the porch of his white neo-Georgian house and kissed his wife Elizabeth. She removed a piece of white cotton that had adhered to his jacket and handed him his black leather briefcase. It was engraved with his initials, ‘R.I.P.’, in gold.
‘Your zip’s coming undone,’ she hissed, although there was nobody around to overhear her.
‘No point in it coming undone these days,’ he said, as he made the necessary adjustment.
‘Stop worrying about it,’ said Elizabeth. ‘It’s this heatwave, that’s all.’
She watched him as he set off down the garden path. He was a big man, almost six foot, with round shoulders and splay feet. He had a very hairy body and at school they had called him ‘Coconut Matting’. He walked with a lope, body sloping forward in its anxiety not to miss the eight-sixteen. He was forty-six years old.
Swifts were chasing each other high up in the blue June sky. Rover 2000s were sliding smoothly down the drives of mock Tudor and mock Georgian houses, and there were white gates across the roads on all the entrances to the estate.
Reggie walked down Coleridge Close, turned right into Tennyson Avenue, then left into Wordsworth Drive, and down the snicket into Station Road. He had a thundery headache coming on, and his legs felt unusually heavy.
He stood at his usual place on the platform, in front of the door marked ‘Isolation Telephone’. Peter Cartwright joined him. A West Indian porter was tidying the borders of the station garden.
The pollen count was high, and Peter Cartwright had a violent fit of sneezing. He couldn’t find a handkerchief, so he went round the corner of the ‘gents’, by the fire buckets, and blew his nose on the
special Rhodesian supplement. He crumpled it up and put it in a green waste-paper basket.
‘Sorry,’ he said, rejoining Reggie. ‘Ursula forgot my tissues.’
Reggie lent him his handkerchief. The eight-sixteen drew in five minutes late. Reggie stepped back as it approached for fear that he’d throw himself under the train. They managed to get seats. The rolling stock was nearing the end of its active life and Reggie was sitting over a wheel. The shaking caused his socks to fall down over his ankles, and it was hard to fill in the crossword legibly.
Shortly before Surbiton Peter Cartwright had another sneezing fit. He blew his nose on Reggie’s handkerchief. It had ‘R.I.P.’ initialled on it.
‘Finished,’ said Peter Cartwright, pencilling in the last clue as they rattled through Raynes Park.
‘I’m stuck on the top left-hand corner,’ said Reggie. ‘I just don’t know any Bolivian poets.’
The train arrived at Waterloo eleven minutes late. The loudspeaker announcement said that this was due to ‘staff difficulties at Hampton Wick’.
The head office of Sunshine Desserts was a shapeless, five-storey block on the South Bank, between the railway line and the river. The concrete was badly stained by grime and rain. The clock above the main entrance had been stuck at three forty-six since 1967, and every thirty seconds throughout the night a neon sign flashed its red message ‘Sunshine Desserts’ across the river.
As Reggie walked towards the glass doors, a cold shiver ran through him. In the foyer there were drooping rubber plants and frayed black leather seats. He gave the bored receptionist a smile.
The lift was out of order again, and he walked up three flights of stairs to his office. He slipped and almost fell on the second floor landing. He always had been clumsy. At school they had called him ‘Goofy’ when they weren’t calling him ‘Coconut Matting’.
He walked across the threadbare green carpet of the open-plan third floor office, past the secretaries seated at their desks.
His office had windows on two sides, affording a wide vista over blackened warehouses and railway arches. Along the other two walls were green filing cabinets. A board had been pegged to the partition beside the door, and it was covered with notices, holiday postcards, and a calendar supplied gratis by a Chinese Restaurant in Weybridge.
He summoned Joan Greengross, his loyal secretary. She had a slender body and a big bust, and the knobbles of her knees went white when she crossed her legs. She had worked for him for eight years – and he had never kissed her. Each summer she sent him a postcard from Shanklin (IOW). Each summer he sent her a postcard from Pembrokeshire.
‘How are we this morning, Joan?’ he said.
‘Good. That’s a nice dress. Is it new?’
‘I’ve had it three years.’
He rearranged some papers on his desk nervously.
‘Right,’ he said. Joan’s pencil was poised over her pad. ‘Right.’
He looked out over the grimy sun-drenched street. He couldn’t bring himself to begin. He hadn’t the energy to launch himself into it.
To G.F. Maynard, Randalls Farm, Nether Somerby,’ he began at last, thinking of another farm, of golden harvests, of his youth.
Thank you for your letter of the 7th inst. I am very sorry that you are finding it inconvenient to change over to the Metzinger scale. Let me assure you that many of our suppliers are already finding that the new scale is the most realistic method of grading plums and greengages. With the coming . . . no, with the
of metrication I feel confident that you will have no regrets in the long run . . .
He finished the letter, dictated several other letters of even greater boredom, and still gave no thought to the possibility of calling his mother-in-law a hippopotamus.
Another shiver ran through him. It was an intimation, but he didn’t recognize it as such. He thought that perhaps he was sickening for summer ‘flu.
‘You’re seeing C.J. at eleven,’ said Joan. ‘And your zip’s undone.’
Promptly at eleven he entered C.J.’s outer office on the second floor. You didn’t keep C.J. waiting.
‘He’s expecting you,’ said Marion.
He went through into C.J.’s inner sanctum. It was a large room. It had a thick yellow carpet and two circular red rugs, yellow and red being the colours that symbolized Sunshine Desserts and all they stood for. In the far distance, in front of the huge plate window, a few pieces of furniture huddled together. There sat C.J. in his swivel chair, behind his rosewood desk. In front of the desk were three embarrassingly pneumatic chairs, and on the yellow walls there hung three pictures – a Francis Bacon, a John Bratby, and a photograph of C.J. holding the lemon mousse which had won second prize in the convenience foods category at the 1963 Paris Concours Des Desserts. The window commanded a fine view over the Thames, with the Houses of Parliament away to the east.
Young Tony Webster was there already, seated in one of the pneumatic chairs. Reggie sat beside him. His chair sighed. It reclined backwards and had no arms. It was very uncomfortable.
David Harris-Jones entered breathlessly. He was a tall man and he walked as if expecting low beams to leap out at him from all sides.
‘Sorry I’m – well, not exactly late but – er – not exactly early,’ he said.
‘Sit down,’ barked C.J.
He sat down. His chair blew a faint raspberry.
‘Right,’ said C.J. ‘Well, gentlemen, it’s all stations go on the exotic ices project. The Pigeon woman has put in a pretty favourable report.’
‘Great,’ said young Tony Webster in his classless voice.
‘Super,’ said David Harris-Jones, who had been to a minor public school.
Esther Pigeon had conducted a market research survey into the feasibility of selling exotic ices based on oriental fruits. She had soft downy hair on her legs and upper lip.
Reggie shook his head suddenly, trying to forget Miss Pigeon’s soft downy hairs and concentrate on the job in hand.
‘What?’ said C.J., noticing the head-shake.
‘Nothing C.J.,’ said Reggie.
C.J. gave him a piercing look.
‘This one’s going to be a real winner,’ said C.J. ‘I didn’t get where I am today without knowing a real winner when I see one.’
‘Great,’ said young Tony Webster.
‘The next thing to do is to make a final decision about our flavours,’ said C.J.
‘Maurice Harcourt’s laying on a tasting at two-thirty this afternoon,’ said Reggie. ‘I’ve got about thirty people going.’
C.J. asked Reggie to stay behind after Tony Webster and David Harris-Jones had left.
Reggie took a cigar.
C.J. leant back ominously in his chair.
‘Young Tony’s a good lad,’ he said.
‘I’m grooming him.’
‘This exotic ices project is very exciting.’
‘Do you mind if I ask you a personal question?’ said C.J.