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ROUND AND ABOUT
By Judas Iscariot - Mid-December 2006

The Ghost of Christmas Present once again glides through the tinsel of Falconcrest as some full-timers vie to get the most cards while others use it as an excuse to hit the bottle even harder during the count-down to the winter hols. But amongst the other ranks the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is spreading the rumour that PCS HQ will soon decamp to some dump up North and that Chateau has been secretly sold behind the backs of the staff and the membership.

In fact nothing has actually happened. The union isn't strapped for cash any more than it usually is and Falconcrest isn't up for sale. Well not quite. The Chateau is a prime site and offers from property speculators began back in the 1980s. The latest is an approach from developers who want buy up the whole area including the Falcon pub to build a colossal shopping mall around the station. The plan includes the current Clapham Junction shopping arcade, all the shops in the surrounding buildings, the car park and Falconcrest. The proposed new, shiny shopping centre would be topped by a huge tower block for offices and architect's sketches and plans have circulated for some years. The problem is that previous offers during the Reamsbottom era weren't enough to make the move worthwhile.

The possibility of selling Falconcrest and decamping to the old Revenue building in Victoria was considered but rejected and the IRSF fortress was sold. Now if PCS goes it would either have to find equivalent accommodation in Central London , which would be cost prohibitive or move to the provinces where supposedly, cheaper offices can be found.

In the old days moving out of the metropolis would have been unthinkable for a civil service union that had to negotiate with the central government and where the bulk of its members lived and worked. Regionalisation and IT has made some of that thinking redundant and the Grandees are seriously thinking about flogging the ancestral home but only if the price is right.

But it never is and at the moment the Falconcrest "deal" hinges on the prospective developer finding suitable and similar office accommodation for PCS in the Waterloo or Victoria areas. This is a complete non-starter as properties are much more expensive than what we've already got. Sure, not all PCS central functions need to be at Falconcrest and some, such as despatch could be outsourced but there still needs to be substantial square metres to house the rest. There will be a lot more machinations (not to mention negotiations with GMB) before any sort of contract is signed, which will take some years if at all.

As many of us are aware, the French government recently announced a rise in its terror alert level from "Run" to "Hide". The normal level is "General Arrogance", and the only two higher levels in France are "Surrender" and Collaborate". The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France 's white flag factory, effectively paralysing the country's military capability.

It is not only the French that are on a heightened level of alert. Italy has increased the alert level from "Shout loudly and excitedly" to "Elaborate military posturing".

Two more levels remain. "Ineffective combat operations" and "Change sides".

The Germans also increased their alert state from "Disdain" to "Dress in uniform and sing marching songs". They have three higher levels "Invade a neighbour", "Occupation" and "Lose".

Seeing this reaction in continental Europe the Americans have gone from "Isolationism" to "Find another oil-rich nation for regime change". Their remaining higher alert states are "Attack random countries (ideally those without any credible military)" and "Beg the British for help".

The British are also feeling the pinch in relation to recent bombings and have raised their security level from "Miffed" to "Peeved". Soon though, security levels may be raised yet again to "Irritated" or even "A Bit Cross".

Londoners have not been "A Bit Cross" since the Blitz in 1940 when tea supplies all but ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorized from "Tiresome" to "Bloody Nuisance".

The last time the British issued a "Bloody Nuisance" warning level was during the Great Fire of London in 1666.