Apocalypse – Delayed again

Hearings to Determine the Costs & Delays to Apocalypse™
Examination of witnesses Day 1

Father Christmas (FC) CEO Santa Claus Industries
Chair: Thank you to everyone for attending. This is a series of hearings to determine the reasons for the increasing cost and delays to the end of days, commonly known in the press as Armageddon. We will take evidence from the successful bidder, God, and also today from an unsuccessful bidder to determine what lessons may be learned.
Father Christmas, thank you for attending.

FC: A pleasure.

C: You run an extremely successful image rights business and have subsidiaries, is that correct?

FC: Well, we have overall responsibility for the whole Xmas experience really.

C: This committee has been told that you no longer actually make or deliver presents.

FC: Well, that is technically correct. The manufacturing and distribution elements of the business were cost heavy, and so we were able to rationalize the operation.

C: It might be helpful if you briefly explain how you managed that?

FC: Certainly, though obviously some information is commercially sensitive. We decided to outsource to parents through an exercise whereby we convinced adults that I don’t exist. This allowed us to concentrate on our core businesses, selling and maintaining the brand of Christmas, and of course the Reindeer Meat Pies.

C: Of course. And you were confident of being able to take on the business of an Apocalypse?

FC: We felt we had the experience of a global market and of influencing key demographics into a fundamental shift.

C: So the stories in the tabloid press about the angel of death coming down people’s chimneys at Easter was….

FC: Ill informed speculation. Our plan was to move to a digital platform where the damned and saved alike can engage with salvation but in a virtual environment.

C: So the end of days would have been signified by what?

FC: Well our creative department had already had some ideas but I think we had finalised a simple interface that would provide a bespoke solution.

C: The commissioning Board state in it’s risk assessment that a user would log on and then receive a “Request buffering” message and an egg-timer graphic.

FC: Yes, I think that was it.

C: Forever?

FC: Well certainly a very long time. Long enough to signify an end of creation and to create an immersive ‘Rapture’ experience.

C: But no actual apocalypse?

FC: Well I think it depends on how you choose to view the remit and scope of the project.

C: Well I think the public have a particular expectation of….

FC: That is why we have marketing departments. Sure, we did scope the idea of sub-contracting assessment centres, so we could refer customers for a detailed moral work-up. But both the cost and the customer journey were incompatible with the brand.

C: What do you mean?

FC: Well, with the online portal, a service user receives almost instant existential entropy. The process of applying, getting an appointment for an assessment, attending the assessment, waiting for the report to be produced and so on while having an appealing metaphysical sense of futility and despair was just too far fetched, and bear in mind I myself am a largely fictional character.

C: And you believe the project could have been delivered on time and on budget?

FC: Well it’s always difficult with projects of this size, but we certainly delivered a very similar project for Amazon. In fact the whole online marketplace is very, very close already to the remit of the project. And of course, Ryanair have something of an exceptional record in subjecting people to an apparently eternal damnation.

C: Errr, thank you Father Christmas. I think that’s all we need from you.

Examination of witnesses Day 2

Dr. Foxley (Theologian) FX
Saint Peter (Saint) SP
God (Deity) G
Chair: Thank you for attending this 3rd session on the ‘Apocalypse™’ project. We have already taken evidence from the unsuccessful private sector bidder for the franchise, Santa Claus Industries and it’s CEO Father Christmas. We now wish to examine the project team.

Q: St. Peter, if we could start with the projections from the 2 quarter results, following 2 moderately successful projects…

SP: I hate to take issue so early in proceedings, but I would term them entirely successful.

Q: Well we could quibble about how successful they were but …..

SP: I just think it’s important for the record to be accurate.

Q: Okay. Well in the first place, you were commissioned to provide a plague of Lemurs on Pharaoh, and although there were plagues of frogs, snakes, blood and verucas…..

SP: Boils…

Q: Sorry, Boils, Lemurs came there none. Then there was the issue with the unfortunate young woman in Galilee. You were commissioned to provide a messiah. How your project managed to design a process so wholly unsuited to …..

SP: We felt a virgin birth added a certain gravitas to the situation.

Q: Indeed. And an application and selection procedure was felt to be too…….?

SP: Expensive, yes.

Q: Quite. So now we are looking at your attempts to fulfill the contract for an end of days. The project synopsis seems a little….

SP: Revelation? We were really pleased with the commercial departments take on the concept.

Q: Indeed and perhaps we will discuss the design later, right now I’d like to focus on your failure to deliver. A lot of taxpayers may ask why it has yet to materialise, particularly those taxpayers who find themselves on top of a hill at midnight at new year with a goblet of poison and wearing a sheet and an expression of mild embarrassment. To say the least. What are your thoughts on so many failed attempts?

SP: Well I wouldn’t characterise them as failed attempts. We can’t be held accountable for every prophet up a hill. Obviously we learned lessons from the Von Daniken pilot. Mostly about Swiss authors, and the unfeasability of following the ‘everyone buggers off in a spaceship’ idea. But it was a valuable experience.

Q: And costly.

SP: I think quantative measures betray the intent of the project. Markers were laid down in respect of policy intent. We have a clearer idea of where we are heading and how to bring about the end of everything.

Q: And a talking sheep is a cost effective means to an end?

SP: Well the Lamb of God© is more of a metaphor. I think if you’re going to quiz me on the cost of every metaphor we’ll be here a long time…but I think God will talk about that aspect later.

Q: We apparently have plenty of time…..So let us move on to the 4 horsemen. Quite considerable salaries and bonuses too. Not to mention they are all white men. Not very diverse, this rapture.

SP: Well that’s 2 issues. Dr. Foxley can speak to the HR elements. The remuneration is competetive compared to the private sector.

Q: Well, now that you mention it, we took evidence from Father Christmas as you know and he said…..

G: If I may just interject. Our project would be much cheaper if we could employ 600,000 Bangladeshi children and call them elves……

Q: Thank you God. You will have an opportunity. Saint Peter, so far, you have a talking sheep, a magic book, angels and the mysterious return of the chosen one. Are you not just rehashing Harry Potter?

SP: No. We have all the dead rising from their graves and a judging.

Q: Which has now been downscaled to online self-assessment?

SP: The digital option is a better fit for our undead customer base.

Q: And the salaries of the 4 horsemen?

SP: Well obviously, they are classed as consultants, and the rates are competitive.

Q: Who are Death, Famine, War and Conquest in competition with?

SP: Well, let me just say……

FX: Conquest has taken medical retirement. He’s been replaced by Pestilence.

Q: Quite. They compete with whom?

SP: Well, there’s the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, err……. Pikachu the Pokemon and the TV Meerkat. You know, the”simples” one.

Q: So, potentially, you are telling this committee that visited upon man, cometh the end of days, will be a CGI Meerkat, a Japanese cat thing, a rabbit and a fairy?

SP: No. The meerkat is very, very expensive. That’s what I mean.

Q: So it might have been Death, War, Famine and the Easter Bunny?

SP: Yes, but we’ve made savings.

Q: Thank you Saint Peter. God, can we turn to you now?

G: For as long as the hare shall harken unto the otter.

Q: Is that a yes?

G: Verily.

Q: Good. Father Christmas has said…….

G: The heathen shall smite the ossuary as the devout man shall smite his midden.

Q: I’m not sure I follow.

G: And so ye shall bring unto my house a sack of dog-cloth, a chaffinch therein and a jug-kettle.

Q: If we could return to the matter at hand?

G: Verily.

Q: Thank you for attending. I’m particularly pleased to see you’ve dispensed with the bush disguise. I would like to discuss the delays to Apocalypse™ and wonder whether you feel your executive team are up to the task?

G: It pleases me more if one camel repents than if…….
Q: Just direct yourself to the question. Enough with the circumlocution already.

G: Please yourself. My team are more than capable. We’ve developed a detailed understanding of the brief. But, and it’s a me sized BUT, if the prophets go off into committee every 5 minutes and change the remit, we end up with IT issues and that’s only the beginning. The alpha and no hope of omega. When we started, the remit was to bring to an end all creation. Now there’s judgment, reckoning and resurrection to deal with. We lost a highly capable member of the team in Satan in difficult circumstances….

Q: But you admit that the project will not roll out on time?

G: Who are you? The Mayans?

Q: Don’t be flippant.

G: I’m trying to deal with the apocalypse, but at the same time budget restraint means we’ve lost 3 hosts of cherubim to voluntary release and then we factor in Prayer Reform which means everyone gets a verbal explanation and a mandatory reconsideration of each smiting.It’s getting so as I can’t taunt a leper without 6 people want to know why.

Q: When we look at the spiralling costs associated with this project, and I’m reading from the latest documents here, talking sheep, 60 winged Popes, the angel Rodney and his toilet seat of repentance….

G: If I may just confer with Dr. Foxley a moment….

Q: Certainly

G: I can confirm, it’s now just one Pope, and he’s not got wings. And the angel Rodney is under review. The Lamb of God is done and ready to go. And of course we’re pleased with on line self-judgment.

Q: Are the fraud and error margins accounted for on that?

G: Yes, but we still have work to do on ID security.

Q: Thank you God. I think we can pick up with you next time. Dr. Foxley?

FX: Yes?

Q: You have overall responsibility for the streamlining of staffing levels and HR ?

FX: I do, yes.

Q: And before this you worked for………?

FX: MacDonalds.

Q: Quite a step up.

FX: Not really, these issues are generally the same whichever field you happen to be in.

Q: I meant from serving burgers. You didn’t actually work in HR so much as a drive thru.

FX: Not sure I follow. Burgers, people. People, burgers. Aren’t they all part of creation?

Q: Well yes but your strategy for rationalising the heavenly host included offering them little apple pies?

FX: It was a worthwhile offer.

Q: Their contracts had a clause for eternal salvation.

FX: Yes but these are difficult times, and who doesn’t like little apple pies?

Q: Hmmm. What about the diversity of the horseman, or indeed any of the angelic hordes. It’s all very white and male.

FX: We have an accelerated development programme to try and reach minorities, like women and such.

Q: Sorry? Females make up a majority of creation.

FX: In a way, in a way. But the uptake on the programme was really very poor.

Q: You disguised the application form as a knitting pattern?

FX: It was a ‘fun’ approach. All women knit. They knit the pattern and hey presto, application form.

Q: Not all women knit.

FX: True but you wouldn’t want to employ one that doesn’t, would you? Same with people of odd ethnicity.

Q: Odd? What do you mean odd?

FX: Different then. Look, it’s important that people understand that heaven is not for everyone. It has certain standards.

Q: Those of the Daily Mail, or UKIP or the golf club?

FX: Exactly. Indeed. The golf club is a good example. Heaven requires a collared shirt, members only, wives admitted Thursday afternoon only.

Q: Who did you replace on the project team?

FX: I joined shortly after Satan left.

Q: Thank you Dr. Foxley. That will be all.

Facebook excerpts

In what universe is it acceptable to have a whip round and get a card and flowers for someone who is essentially moving desks ?
I say we end this sycophantic, mawkish cobblers now and ban workplace collections. Leaving ? I’ll buy you a pint if you weren’t too annoying but until then, I refuse to congratulate you on moving 30 feet, or down a flight of stairs.
Apart from that, I’m as happy as a cat with two tails.

Can’t believe I’m in bed and it’s not fully dark. When I was little, this was never, ever going to happen. I was determined that when I was in charge of bedtime, a key measure would be darkness. [sigh] on the other hand my inner child is keeping me awake and celebrating the wonders of wifi.

I’ve decided my dream job would be to be the person who sits in a small yet airy office and reviews the search terms people type in and manually offer suggestions. With the additional option to order air strikes for abuse of the apostrophe and text speak. To top it off, my only colleague would be a monkey who through personal, non anthropomorphic choice, wears a trilby.

It’s the small, fabulous, immaculately dressed bits of life that you miss the most when they’re not there. Like walking past a shop window and seeing a fleeting reflection of yourself that you are never able to replicate.
Everything you thought you might have been or had the potential to be captured in small glances. That, my friends, is life.

Not saying I’m an old romantic at heart, but I like this wot I rote.

I hadn’t noticed the space on the banister end before. The suddenly glaring, empty space where a coat should have been hanging. It was around the time I noticed that it wasn’t there that I began to realise that a number of items are missing, items that have never been there, but nonetheless are missing. A lipstick stain on a tea cup was the first clue. It just wasn’t there. Then there was the absence of the indent in the cushions where you had been sitting. Your shoes weren’t placed neatly together and my arm wasn’t aching from being around you while I tried to behave and not watched ‘your programmes’. Your scent wasn’t lingering on my shoulder. I climbed the stairs with dread, retracing steps we have not taken. No emergency moisturiser in the bathroom. No 3rd best mascara, just in case. I opened the bedroom door and discovered the space for your spare clothes was now full of mine. And always had been and it looked wrong. And I thought about all the times I have not kissed you good morning. All the times I haven’t silently padded round the bedroom so as not to wake you, and I missed them. Then I went back downstairs, the way I don’t first thing, to make you tea. And I looked out at the garden and noticed where we haven’t sat and talked until it was dark. And then I remembered. I’d forgotten that my heart had to break, for you to repair it. I had to waste time in order to treasure every precious second. And it was fine. You just weren’t here yet.

There is nothing one can do when a colleague, with a look of dread seriousness, in the middle of an unsolicited lecture on their garden and muscular-skeletal issues says, “of course, what with one thing and another, I just can’t manage to trim my bush anymore, I can’t reach so I have to get my husband to do it”.
Nothing one can do except giggle like a 9 year old for the rest of the day.

took 3 days before I was able to get to the end of the story without weeping. 2 weeks later the same colleague announced, with equal seriousness that she was frustrated by her husband’s inability to locate her clematis. I kid you not. Just to shine a light on the postscript, which deserves it’s moment. (Names changed to protect identity)
“So, I said to him, I said Jim, I want you to tend my Clematis. But he’s no idea. None. Just stands there, poking at my trellis with grubby fingers. I even cut out a picture from a magazine, but he’s only good for digging holes.”

Sorry to report that someone fell victim to my April Fool this morning. Just for the record I am not taking hormones to allow me to donate an ear to my cousin Sue. And women do not have 27% of their Oestrogen in their ears as a reserve.