Old English Lunch


William Overington

The fifth story in The Eutotokens of Learning, which is a collection of stories speculating on a future infrastructure for free to the end user distance education on the internet.

Copyright 1998 William Overington.

"Look Jane, it's no use" said David Albert in despair. Jane Hove looked at him and said nothing.

He continued, "Edith Gatford just does not seem to understand that we are a commercial business. I know she is a good administrator and I have an admiration for the way she sticks out to get what she considers important academic subjects but she seems to live on a cloud. I too take a pride in what I'm doing and I think that she sometimes forgets that. When I go off to meetings to get try to get big advertising contracts I'm not on some kind of holiday, it's hard grinding work. You'll just have to tell her that her idea for the course on Old English is going to have to be scrapped. I can live with the Bessel functions and the optolabe research because John and Henry will largely be getting all that going themselves, but the Old English has got to be done by outsiders and it is just too expensive."

Jane Hove looked rather disheartened.

"Look Jane, I'm not unsympathetic to it all, and I'm not unsympathetic to your personal feelings in being the person to have to tell her, but I've got to go and negotiate a contract tomorrow and that's all that there is to it. If I can't sell advertising space we're in a problem and Old English is the least of my worries."

Jane responded, slowly and deliberately.

"It is not just a question of Old English, it is a matter of the agreement that was made."

"Jane, Jane, I've heard this all before. I have work to do, you have your task, kindly do it!"

Jane felt her jaw drop.

She turned on her heels indignantly and left the room. She would resign. She would not be spoken to like this!

Jane was half way through collecting up her personal items from her desk when she stopped.

'No, I shall not resign' she thought.

'I shall resolve this management problem and gain professional experience in the doing of it. If I was willing to resign I have nothing to lose by staying and trying to solve it. I'll save the day. I'll get Old English included.'

The next morning Jane began to put into action what she had thought out overnight. The key issue was that Old English was too expensive in relation to the interest that it was likely to attract in terms of student numbers. True, advertising was not in learning packages but only in routing pages and indexes but nevertheless if people weren't looking in the indexes then the advertising was not being seen. Yes, Old English could perhaps be grouped with history, the ever popular history, but then it would be strongly subsidised by history and David Albert is just not going to wear it. 'So I'll try to get an individual sponsorship deal for Old English so that it will pay its way on its own. Edith wants Old English; Edith can help get the sponsorship deal. I'll go and see her and ask for her help in getting the sponsorship.'

If Edith Gatford had been puzzled when Jane telephoned her to suggest a meeting over lunch somewhere away from either of their workplaces with the excuse that it would avoid interruptions, she did not show it. So now here was Jane entering La flava floro, a small restaurant where she had not been before in a town half way between their workplaces. Edith had suggested the venue. Jane looked around for Edith expecting to see her, as Edith was always punctual.

"Excuse me, are you waiting for someone?" asked a waiter.

"Yes, I believe a reservation has been made."

"What name please"

"Miss Gatford made the reservation."

"Ah, are you Ms Hove?"

"Yes, is Miss Gatford here?"

"No, she has not arrived yet."

"Are you sure, do you know her?"

"Well, not personally, but no one has arrived that I have not approached."

Jane sensed that something was wrong. Edith was always so punctual.

"May I show you to your table?" asked the waiter.

She wondered whether to go or wait, then she looked at her watch and realized that she was still three minutes early, so she decided to wait.

Just as she was turning to follow the waiter towards the seating area, the swing doors clearly labeled STAFF ONLY swung open and Edith entered.

"Jane, I hope you haven't been waiting long" chirped Edith happily.

The waiter looked confused and puzzled.

'Edith, yes, Edith, punctual with a minute to spare' thought Jane 'but what goes on here?'

"Hello Edith, I thought .... you, from the kitchen? .... err .... shall we .... err?"

The waiter led the way to the table.

"Yes, my sister owns this place, I came over early and have been catching up on family news."

"Your sister?"

"Yes, not obvious is it, married women taking their husband's surname and all that, so the proprietor's name above the door gives no clue."

The conversation remained at superficial level for some time. Jane realized that Edith was just not going to say "What is this all about?" and any move would have to come from Jane. Jane mused as to what would happen if they finished the meal and she just said goodbye as if two old friends had been out for a social lunch together. 'I bet Edith wouldn't even blink' she thought. 'She'd just let me do it. No, I'm just going to have to be the one to go onto the business matter. How am I going to do it?'

"Old English" said Jane out loud and suddenly.

Edith looked surprised, which was unusual.

'Well,' thought Jane 'I don't think I've ever seen her look surprised before.'

"The .... err .... Old English is presenting a few problems at our end" said Jane.

"Ah" said Edith.

"The thing is, IFDEP cannot .... is not .... can't fund the Old English."

"Fine." said Edith.

Jane was quite perplexed at this. She had imagined Edith digging her heels in about an agreement being an agreement and voting procedures and having been to the press conference on that basis and .... fine!

"That's not a problem to you?" asked Jane somewhat cautiously, thinking as she said it that she should have perhaps just accepted that Edith had said "Fine."

"No problem" said Edith.

Jane did not know quite what to do. She had delivered the very message that David Albert had required her to deliver and that was .... fine. Yet this did not seem like Edith, something was up.

A long pause.

"Edith, I've been dreading telling you, I felt professionally embarassed. I almost resigned over the issue."

"Oh don't do that" responded Edith "I have a volunteer to write the course. He wrote in three months ago. He'd like to get some eutotokens so that he can be a member of the society and it's a labour of love for him."

"I'm afraid that IFDEP just won't give him anything. If you can find some other sponsor ...."

"No need. In our constitution is a clause that for every ten eutotokens sold we may issue one eutotoken ourselves directly. We haven't done it yet so I've got quite a fund of eutotokens stored up. I expect he'll get far more eutotokens than he needs for society membership. I'll send him a catalogue with them. The new tableware with the company logo might be ready by then. I'll get a one off collectweight made for him."

"Oh!" said Jane, wondering if this had far reaching implications, far, far beyond Old English.

"So," asked Edith "do you think that IFDEP would be able to find disc space on its server to host a ready prepared free to the end user learning package on Old English as long as IFDEP doesn't have to pay anything towards its authorship?"

'Yes' thought Jane 'I expect that IFDEP will want to find the space.'