The theory at our end of the floor is that they're all produced in the same factory. Laura's guess is that there's a company called something like "Romford Robotics" tucked away on a small light-industrial estate well out of sight, although Jaap thinks he may have spotted it when he tried to find the route to Cambridge and got lost on the way.
"Do you suppose they have a product catalogue?" he says, and we reply that we suppose they do and wouldn't it make interesting reading. Then Jaap and Findlay have to go off to price some currency deal, and Laura and I are left to our own devices.
There's not much happening at the moment - everyone's waiting to see if rates can go any lower and trying not to be the first to crack - so we've plenty of time to let our minds wander. And what they come up with is this - the Romford Robotics catalogue with its four most popular lines.
AFX101: Programmed to answer to the names Daryl, Darren or Dwight. Lives in a flat in a new riverside housing development in the Thames Estuary. Average height with sandy hair and squashy, unremarkable facial characteristics. Comes with grey Hugo Boss suit (jacket too large, trousers too short), white shirt with sweat stains under arms, grey shoes and white socks. Bottle-blonde girlfriend is named after Australian soap-opera star and works in the back office of another department. This is our best-selling line, so why not order two?
AFX102: "Trevor" has lank black hair and bloodshot eyes. Lives with long- suffering wife to the north-east of the City, and travels into work by train. Usually travels back home by mini-cab after late-night drinking session. Clothing undistinguished: chain-store suit, clean but ill-fitting because of refusal to accept existence of beer belly. Extra-large memory banks programmed with every known sick joke, racist or sexist slur, or insult to foreigners. Comes with large collection of heavy-duty pornography to put in desk drawer and produce whenever female colleague approaches.
AFX103: "Mikey" is an ideal choice for senior positions. Wears expensive designer suits with extra-wide shoulder pads, but junior models can relate easily to him as he has retained an east London accent. Can be programmed to use your choice of expletives every five words, or more frequently if angry. Likes champagne, but can't pronounce "Moet" properly. Coke habit helps to keep weight down. Lives in house in country once owned by pop star/footballer with gold-plated everything, jacuzzi and indoor pool. Wife is former glamour model with surgically enhanced breasts, who spends most of day drinking and lying around the pool.
AFX104: Wears figure-hugging jackets and tight micro-minis. Is 17-year-old female, and as well as responding to the name "Trace" also answers to "dopey tart", "slapper", "Doris" and "dozy cow" without punching anyone. Lives at home with her mum and dad, who are very proud of her career. Badly affected by alcohol, although tries to keep up with the boys on nights out: may throw up, pass out or end up getting off with someone on the fire escape. Good short-term proposition, as after two years of this she usually comes to her senses and leaves. The price takes account of this probability.
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