The Jacob Marley column: A good credit rating

December 8th, 2014, Published in Articles: Energize

 

Sir

This time of the year, as everything winds down (except load-shedding), as old cracks become jokes and rains traditionally flood coal stockpiles (but water remains in short supply), while rock painted black is peddled as coal, when water seeps into cable casings and maintenance and – particularly – catering budgets, are overstretched, is truly a reflective time.

I sought out the three Ghosts of Christmas, as I usually do in these dire times, to soothe my savaged soul.

As we surveyed the barren landscape crisscrossed with dysfunctional transmission lines and executives playing musical chairs, the rolling blackouts thundering across the veld, the pylons tottering precariously in the soggy ground and the mounting mountain of debt growing at an alarming rate, the Ghost of Christmas Past said almost wistfully:

“Oh, how this reminds me of seven years ago, you know, the beginning of it all. Such anticipation. And then – boom. In true progressive fashion, the modern world wants to capitalise on the great splurge feasts earlier and earlier. And in more spectacular fashion too.”

The Ghost of Christmas Future was in a reflective mood. “If only we knew,” he said wistfully, “if this is the beginning of the end, or the end of the beginning, or the end of the end, we would know exactly what to do. What is there left to do?”

“’S true,” agreed the Ghost of Christmas Present, who was very practical. “We should prepare a list so that nothing is overlooked. Like a good credit rating.” The others stared at him.

Scrooge, who had joined the party, nodded and chipped in: “Two price increases –” and, glancing askance at the Ghost of Christmas Present, added quickly, “and, of course, a good credit rating, too.”

“Three billions wasted,” I added soberly, but the Ghost of Christmas Future cut me short. “You know, this reminds me of something. How about retiring four executives?”

“Why?” I asked.

“Why, because they’re competent, of course,” replied the Ghost of Christmas Future. “Can’t have that if you want to waste three billions, can you now? Besides, their packages will add to the waste. Still, the two price increases ought to ensure a good credit rating. The rest isn’t worth a row of beans.” Scrooge, who was fond of counting them, nodded in sage agreement.

“Indeed, then add the five cables stolen last night,” added the Ghost of Christmas Present, “to balance the four retired execs and the three billion wasted, as long as there are two price increases so that the credit rating remains good, too.”

“What about some really way-out stuff,” suggested the Ghost of Christmas Future, who was on a roll. “Six nuclear stations ought to do that on top of the five cables stolen, four execs retired, three billion wasted, two price increases, and a good credit rating, too.”

“This is really getting catchy,” said the Ghost of Christmas Past. “How about adding seven silos sagging? At least, I mean …”

“Brilliant!” I exclaimed before he could destroy the magic moment.

“Why stop there?” shot back he, “add eight pylons pilfered…”

“Only eight?” frowned Scrooge. “There’s more than just pilfering going on, surely.”

“Oh, don’t worry,” said the ancient Ghost. “It keeps the rhythm going and it sounds like there’s nothing major to worry about. Just like the talking heads on the goggle-box keep telling you there’s no problem. Mercifully, load shedding will usually confirm the worst.”

“It really reminds me of something from the past,” mused the Ghost of Christmas Future. “Eight pylons eh … pilfered, seven silos sagging, six nuclear stations, five cables stolen, four execs retired, three billion wasted, two price increases and a good credit rating too. But what?”

“Get with it,” interjected the Ghost from Christmas Present. “You need the machinery, my man. Boilers and turbines, you know. Nine boilers busted and ten turbines turning, at least.”

“But how do the turbines turn if the boilers are busted?” objected Scrooge.

“Good PR work,’ replied the Ghost of Christmas Present. “At least eleven of them.”

“Ah, I’ve got it!” said the Ghost of Christmas Past. “Eleven PR experts, ten turbines turning, nine boilers busted, eight pylons pilfered, seven silos sagging, six nuclear stations, five cables stolen, four execs retired, three billions wasted, two price increases and a good credit rating too!”

“By George, he’s got it!” I applauded. “But how to round it off?”

“Why, I would have thought that is obvious,” said the Ghost of Christmas Past, now in full stride. “Twelve breakfast briefings! Invite journalists from selected rags once a month to a sumptuous 9-o’clock spread and have a smashing time telling them how well things are going. At the customer’s expense, of course.”

We were all caught up in it now.

“What a vision!” exclaimed the Ghost of Christmas Future, waving his arms and directing the others in the final chorus. “Twelve breakfast briefings, eleven PR experts, ten turbines turning, nine boilers busted, eight pylons pilfered, seven silos sagging, six nuclear stations, five cables stolen, four execs retired, three billion wasted, two price increases and a good credit rating, too.”

As we finished, the lights went out and future was upon us.

And until they are turned on again, I remain,

Sir, your humble and obedient servant

Jacob Marley

 

 

 

 

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