CHARACTERS IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER
|JOHNNY ABRAHAMS||Head of News and Current Affairs, BBC.|
|GEORGIE BAINES||Sales Director, Corinium Television.|
|LADY BARNSLEY||A member of the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA), late of the White Fish Authority.|
|BIRGITTA||A comely but bolshie nanny working for the Verekers.|
|HARDY BISSETT||A franchise expert. Late of the IBA.|
|MR AND MRS BODKIN||Rupert Campbell-Black’s couple.|
|BONNINGTON||Chairman of Mid-West Television.|
|HUBERT BRENTON||Bishop of Cotchester.|
|BARON BADDINGHAM||Chairman and Managing Director, Corinium Television.|
|MONICA BADDINGHAM||His wife.|
|ARCHIE BADDINGHAM||His elder son.|
|BASIL BADDINGHAM||Tony’s illegitimate brother, ace polo player, and owner of the Bar Sinister in Cotchester High Street.|
|SEBASTIAN BURROWS||A news reporter, Corinium Television.|
|DAYSEE BUTLER||A very beautiful, stupid PA, Corinium Television.|
|CAMPBELL-BLACK||Minister for Sport. Tory MP for Chalford and Bisley. Ex-member of the British show-jumping team.|
|CAMERON COOK||Producer/Director, NBS, New York. Later Head of Drama, Corinium Television.|
|CHARLES CRAWFORD||Retiring Chairman of the IBA.|
|JUDGE DAVEY||A member of the IBA.|
|OWEN DAVIES||Leader of the Opposition.|
|WESLEY EMERSON||Gloucester and England bowler.|
|SUZY ERIKSON||An American ex-girlfriend of Rupert Campbell-Black.|
|LADY EVESHAM||An early feminist, and non-executive Director, Corinium Television.|
|CHARLES FAIRBURN||Head of Religious Broadcasting, Corinium Television.|
|FRIEDLANDER||American actor and megastar.|
|MARTI GLUCKSTEIN||A brilliant East End accountant.|
of the British show-jumping team.
|HELEN GORDON||His wife. Ex-wife of Rupert Campbell-Black and mother of Marcus and Tabitha.|
|LADY GOSLING||Chairman of the IBA.|
|GRACE||Declan O’Hara’s housekeeper.|
|CRISPIN GRAYSTOCK||Professor of English at Cotchester University and a disgusting lecher.|
|HENRY HAMPSHIRE||Lord-Lieutenant of Gloucestershire-a much less disgusting lecher.|
|SIMON HARRIS||Controller of Programmes, Corinium Television.|
|GEORGINA HARRISON||An undergraduate.|
|RONNIE HAVEGAL||Head of Co-Productions, NBS, New York.|
|HAZEL||A BBC make-up girl.|
|RALPHIE HENRIQUES||An undergraduate at Trinity Dublin.|
|IVOR HICKS||Corporate Development Controller, Corinium Television.|
|JILLY||Yet another Vereker nanny, but for once a dependable boot.|
|BEATTIE JOHNSON||Fleet Street columnist, ghosting Rupert Campbell-Black’s memoirs.|
|GINGER JOHNSON||Financial Director, Corinium Television. No relation to Beattie.|
|FREDDIE JONES||A multi-millionaire in electronics.|
|VALERIE JONES||His wife, a nightmare.|
|SHARON JONES||His overweight daughter.|
|DEIRDRE KILPATRICK||A researcher at Corinium Television.|
|LAVINIA||Patrick O’Hara’s girlfriend.|
|BILLY LLOYD-FOXE||Sports Presenter, BBC.|
|JANEY LLOYD-FOXE||An author and national newspaper columnist.|
|DERMOT MACBRIDE||A playwright and Angry Not-So-Young man.|
|JOYCE MADDEN||Lord Baddingham’s secretary, Corinium Television.|
|MRS MAKEPIECE||A ‘treasure’ who cleans for Valerie Jones and Lizzie Vereker.|
|KEVIN MAKEPIECE||Her son.|
|TRACEY MAKEPIECE||Her daughter.|
|SALLY MAPLES||Head of Children’s Programmes, Yorkshire Television.|
|MIKE MEADOWS||Head of Sport, Corinium Television.|
|MRS MENZIES-SCOTT||Ex-head of the Women’s Institute, a member of the IBA.|
|GERALD MIDDLETON||Parliamentary Private Secretary to Rupert Campbell-Black.|
|DECLAN O’HARA||A television megastar.|
|MAUD O’HARA||His ex-actress wife.|
|PATRICK O’HARA||His son, an undergraduate at Trinity Dublin.|
|O’HARA||His elder daughter.|
|CAITLIN O’HARA||His younger daughter.|
|ORTRUD||Yet another of the Verekers’ comely nannies.|
|CYRIL PEACOCK||Lord Baddingham’s PA and sometime Press Officer, Corinium Television.|
|THE VERY REVEREND|
|FERGUS PENNEY||An ex-Prebendary of the Church of England, and a member of the IBA.|
|PERCY||Lord Baddingham’s chauffeur.|
|PASCOE RAWLINGS||The most powerful theatrical agent in London.|
|BARTON SINCLAIR||Director of|
The Merry Widow.
|SKIP||A beautiful American lawyer.|
|LORD SMITH||An ex-Secretary of the TGWU.|
|DAME ENID SPINK||A distinguished composer and Professor of Music at Cotchester University.|
|PAUL STRATTON||Tory MP for Cotchester. An ex-Cabinet Minister.|
|SARAH STRATTON||His ravishing second wife and ex-secretary.|
|URSULA||Declan O’Hara’s secretary.|
|JAMES VEREKER||Anchorman of ‘Cotswold Round-Up’, Corinium Television.|
|LIZZIE VEREKER||His wife, a novelist.|
|ELEANOR VEREKER||His daughter.|
|SEBASTIAN VEREKER||His son.|
|HAROLD WHITE||Director of Programmes, London Weekend Television.|
|MAURICE WOOTON||A bent Gloucestershire property millionaire.|
Sitting in the Concorde departure lounge at Heathrow on a perfect blue June morning, Anthony, second Baron Baddingham, Chairman and Managing Director of Corinium Television, should have been perfectly happy. He was blessed with great wealth, a title, a brilliant career, a beautiful flat in Kensington, houses in Gloucestershire and Tuscany, a loyal, much-admired wife, three charming children and a somewhat demanding mistress, to whom he had just bidden a long farewell on the free telephone beside him.
He was about to fly on his favourite aeroplane, Concorde, to his favourite city, New York, to indulge in his favourite pastime – selling Corinium’s programmes to American television and raising American money to make more programmes. Tony Baddingham was a great believer in using Other People’s Money, or OPM as he called it; then if a project bombed, someone else picked up the bill.
As a final bonus, neatly folded beside him were the morning papers, which he’d already read in the Post House Hotel, and which all contained glowing reports of Corinium’s past six months’ results, announced yesterday.
Just as he had been checking out of the Post House an hour earlier, however, Tony’s perfect pleasure had been ruined by the sight of his near neighbour and long-term rival, Rupert Campbell-Black, checking in. He was scribbling his signature with one hand and holding firmly on to a rather grubby but none-the-less ravishing girl with the other.
The girl, who had chipped nail polish, wildly tangled blonde hair, mascara smudges under her eyes, and a deep suntan, had obviously just been pulled out of some other bed and was giggling hysterically.
‘Ru-pert,’ she wailed, ‘there simply isn’t time; you’ll miss the plane.’
‘It’ll wait,’ said Rupert, and, gathering up his keys, started to drag her towards the lift. As the doors closed, like curtains coming down on the first act of a play, Tony could see the two of them glued together in a passionate embrace.
A deeply competitive man, Tony had felt dizzy with jealousy. He had seldom, particularly since he had inherited the title and become Chief Executive of Corinium, had any difficulty attracting women, but he’d never attracted anything so wantonly desirable and desiring as that grubby, vaguely familiar blonde.
‘More coffee, Lord Baddingham?’ One of the beautiful attendants in the Concorde Lounge interrupted Tony’s brooding. He shook his head, comforted by the obvious admiration in her voice.
‘Shouldn’t we be boarding?’ he asked.
‘We’ll be a few minutes late. There was a slight engineering problem. They’re just doing a last-minute check.’
Tony glanced round the departure lounge, filled with businessmen and American tourists, and noticed a pale, redheaded young man in a grey pinstripe suit, who had stopped his steady flow of writing notes on a foolscap pad and was looking apprehensively at his watch.
Boarding the plane twenty minutes later, Tony found himself sitting up at the front on an inside seat with a Jap immersed in a portable computer on his right. Across the gangway next to the window sat the young man in the pinstripe suit. He was even paler now and looking distinctly put out.
‘Good morning, Lord Baddingham,’ said a stewardess, handing Tony that day’s newly-flown-in copy of the
Wall Street Journal.
‘Engineering fault sorted out?’ asked Tony, as the engines started revving up.
Not quite meeting his eyes, the girl nodded brightly; then, looking out of the window, she seemed to relax as a black car raced across the tarmac. Next there was a commotion, as a light, flat, familiar drawl could be heard down the gangway:
‘Frightfully sorry to hold you all up; traffic was diabolical.’
All the stewardesses seemed to converge on the new arrival, fighting to carry his newspaper and put his hand luggage up in the locker.
‘Won’t you be needing your briefcase, Minister?’ asked a male steward, shimmying down the gangway.
Rupert Campbell-Black shook his head. ‘No thanks, sweetheart.’
‘Have a nice zizz then,’ said the male steward, going crimson with pleasure at the endearment.
As the doors slammed shut, Rupert collapsed into the seat across the gangway from Tony. Wearing a crumpled cream suit, a blue striped shirt, dark glasses and with an eighth of an inch of stubble on his chin, he looked more like a rock star than one of Her Majesty’s ministers.
‘Terribly sorry, Gerald,’ he murmured to the pale young man in the pinstripe suit. ‘There was a terrible pile-up on the M4.’
Smiling thinly, Gerald removed a blonde hair from Rupert’s lapel.
‘I really must buy you an alarm clock for Christmas, Minister. If you’d missed that lunchtime speech, we’d have been in real stück. Good of them to hold the plane.’
‘Thank Christ they did.’ Looking round, Rupert saw Tony Baddingham and grinned. ‘Why, it’s the big Baddingham wolf.’
‘Cutting it a bit fine, aren’t you?’ said Tony disapprovingly.
Both men required each other’s goodwill. Rupert, as an MP within Tony’s television company’s territory, needed the coverage, whereas Tony needed Rupert’s recommendation to the Government that he was running a respectable company. But it didn’t make either like the other any better.
‘Bloody good results you had this morning,’ said Rupert, fastening his seat belt. ‘I’d better buy some Corinium shares.’
Slightly mollified, Tony congratulated Rupert on his recent appointment as Tory Minister for Sport.
Rupert shrugged. ‘The PM’s shit-scared about football hooliganism – seems to think I can come up with some magic formula.’
‘Setting a Yobbo to catch a Yobbo perhaps,’ said Tony nastily, then regretted it.
‘I was at Thames Television yesterday,’ said Rupert icily, as the plane taxied towards the runway. ‘After the programme I had a drink with the Home Secretary and the Chairman of the IBA. They were both saying that you’d better watch out. If you don’t spend a bit more of that bloody fortune you’re coining from advertising on making some decent programmes, you’re going to lose your franchise.’
As Rupert leant forward so Tony could hear him over the engines, Tony caught a whiff of the scent the girl had been wearing in the Post House foyer earlier.
‘And you ought to spend some time in the area. How the hell can you run a television company in the Cotswolds, if you spend all your time in London, hawking your ass round the advertising companies?’
‘The shareholders wouldn’t be very pleased if I didn’t,’ said Tony, thoroughly nettled. ‘Look at our results.’
Rupert shrugged again. ‘You’re also supposed to make good programmes. As your local MP I’m just passing on what’s being said.’
‘As one of your more influential constituents,’ said Tony, furiously, ‘I don’t think you should be checking into the Post House with bimbos half your age.’