Toffee Apple Wrapper Saved From The Flames

It is almost four years since the Hooting Yard website made its debut, and in that time it is fair to say that I have built a reputation as something of an authority on the out of print pamphleteer Dobson. As a result, I find myself fielding a bewildering number of messages on my metal tapping machine from Dobsonists around the world. The range of enquiries is quite astonishing, and evidence of the continued relevance of this towering figure of 20th century pamphleteering. On more than one occasion I have been asked to provide a digest of the calls that come in, and my replies, but I am afraid that is not possible, for after scribbling on the back of a toffee apple wrapper each query and my learned response, I dispose of them in a cauldron of flaming pitch. Otherwise I would be up to my ears in toffee apple wrappers, and lack dignity.

As a special treat, however, I decided to save one sample enquiry from destruction, and duly present it here, together with my reply.

Dear Mr Key, wrote a correspondent from the picturesque Essex seaside resort of Jaywick, I wonder if you can set my mind at rest regarding a biographical detail. Was our Dobson the Dobson of the financial services consultants Pricewaterhousebaileydobsoncoopercooperhateful which, as is well known, attempted an unsuccessful leveraged buy-out of Hubermann’s department store in 1971?

The simple answer to this is : No, he was not. In fact, the very idea of Dobson obtaining a position for which even a vague knowledge of finance was desirable has me laughing like a drain. Interestingly, however, the pamphleteer may have been as qualified as anyone else to adorn the boardroom of the company. I always research my replies to correspondents with thoroughness and rigour, and in delving into this one I discovered some striking facts. Note that the bid for Hubermann’s was unsuccessful: therein lies a clue. What I found, toiling away in the cuttings library of the Pointy Town Bugle & Cruncher, was that neither Pricewater, nor House, nor Bailey, nor the Dobson who was a different Dobson, nor Cooper, nor the second Cooper, nor Hateful had the faintest idea what a “leveraged buy-out” was. Half of them were scurrying about looking for a lever, one like Hazel Blears’ central lever, while the other half were tapping sap from a pugton tree in Bodger’s Spinney. They collected the sap, each in his own pail, and carted it back to their headquarters in time for an important meeting with the Hubermann’s people. As one of the Coopers remarked later from his prison cell, “We couldn’t find the damned lever, our bank accounts were empty, and the police dogs were snapping at our heels, but we had plenty of pugton sap!” Much good it did them.

Well, there you go. I think now you can understand why I burn all those toffee apple wrappers.

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