Take a punt on the post

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The Independent Online

I was up in London the other day, trying to get home again, when who should I bump into but my old friend Adrian Wardour-Street, the high-flying publicist who is to PR what Max Clifford is to Max Clifford.

I was up in London the other day, trying to get home again, when who should I bump into but my old friend Adrian Wardour-Street, the high-flying publicist who is to PR what Max Clifford is to Max Clifford.

He was standing in the middle of a Soho street apparently being sick into his briefcase.

"You all right, Adrian?"

"What? Oh, yes, I'm fine. But there's something wrong with my card printer."

It turned out he had a new toy which had gone on the blink. It was an attachment for a laptop which printed business cards to his own specification.

"See, if you want someone to have your address but not your e-mail address, you can print off one without the e-mail details. If you want someone to have your work details, but not home, ditto. If you have to give a card to someone you never wanted to see again, it will print a completely different name and details. It prints a totally different card every time. I couldn't do without it. Like to have a coffee?"

So saying, he pulled out another machine from his briefcase, squeezed two tiny espressos from it, and sat me down on a bench in the middle of Soho Square. I expressed surprise at him carrying an espresso machine with him.

"All the rage, old boy, or if it isn't, it will be. Now, what did you want to see me about?"

"I didn't," I said. "I just bumped into you and said hello."

Just then his mobile rang.

"Hello?" said Adrian. "Osama! How are you? Could you move out of the cave a bit? You're breaking up."

After a brief chat, he switched off.

"Poor old Osama," he said. "He's desperate at not being in America for the election."

"Who do you think he'd vote for if he had the chance?" I said.

"Oh, Bush, without a doubt," he said. "He wants someone in the White House he can outsmart."

His mobile rang again. He answered it again. He listened intently.

"Won't that mean rewriting the whole Parliamentary Bill?" he said at one point. It was about all he said.

"What was all that about?" I said, when he had finished his call.

"Can you keep a secret?" he said.

"Yes," I lied.

"Thing is, the Government has two big domestic problems this week. One is the new gambling bill, which lots of backbenchers don't like and may vote out. The other is the threat by the Royal Mail to close lots of high street post offices."

"Right..."

"Enter Adrian Wardour-Street with brilliant idea," said Adrian Wardour-Street smugly. "Why not convert all high street post offices into casinos?"

"Oh, Adrian!" I said. "What on earth have post offices got in common with casinos?"

"A lot," he said. "They both have velvet ropes keeping back the punters. They both convert money into symbols, betting chips in one case, postage stamps in another. And they are both a lottery."

"In what sense are post offices a lottery?"

"Oh, pu leeze!" said Adrian, uttering one of the 10 most annoying remarks of the age. "You go into a post office, you post a letter and it's not a lottery? Our idea is that you will be able to bet on which day your letter arrives. Turn posting into fun! Be first past the post! That's going to be one of our slogans. Have a flutter on your letter! That's another. Can you imagine the announcement over the PA - 'Croupier Number five, Please!'. Now, how would you like a sandwich?"

And to my amazement he produced yet another machine from his briefcase. I declined the offer, and headed for the country and sanity.

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