Friday, 13 February 2009

From the Business World Archive

This interview is reprinted verbatim from “Business World - Sauces (sweet & savoury) Supplement”. The subject of the interview is Sir Lionel Clasp-Hammer, late of Clasp-Hammer Industries and very late to the interview. 

BW: I’d like to ask you about some of your foreign business ventures.I’d like to turn to the thorny issue of Iraq.

LCH: Well Iraq certainly is an issue but it is definitely not thorny. No no. Damn sand can’t support the roses you see. I spent fifteen years trying to grow a Uncle Walter Tea Rose in the middle of the desert and nothing. Not a single thorn. No, the issue you are thinking about is not one of thorns but of custard.

BW: Custard?

LCH: Well that was the venture you see. The ‘failed custard venture’ as it’s now known in the industry. Clasp-Hammer Industries has been left with a huge custard stain all over its name and I’m damned if I can shift it.

BW: Perhaps you could tell us a little about this.

LCH: When I travelled as boy, 40 or 50 years ago, through the Middle East,I always used to see the native folk wandering around staring at their meagre bowls of rice. The rice was fantastic but the bowls were meagre. I vowed to myself – one day I’ll come back here and fill those meagre bowls with custard.

BW: Custard?

LCH: I’d been sponsored by Birds Eye to leave the country for a year. Problem is, you see – good British custard should be two things. A – Smooth and 2 – Yellow. Firstly our decision to place the factory in the middle of a barren desert landscape meant that sand got everywhere. In the factory, in the pipes, in the custard and in my wife.

BW: In your wife?

LCH: Yes. So much sand in fact that we had to send her home to England. Her skin had become like glass paper. She spent the next three years walking bare foot around the manor smoothing down the laminate flooring and skirting board.

BW: Good grief. Is she alright now?

LCH: She’s never been better. However, we can’t let her near a welsh dresser in case the urge comes over her and she whittles it down to a cocktail stick. It’s hell at parties. 

BW: Oh. And the custard?

LCH: She can go near custard alright. No harm in that!

BW: I was referring to the problems in the desert?

LCH: Oh yes. Anyway sand in the pipes, sand in my hat and ultimately sand in my brand of custard and you know you can’t run custard pipelines out of Iraq with that much sand or they think you’re trying to sneak out the desert piece by piece.

BW: I can imagine that would be a problem.

LCH: Indeed it was. UN Sand inspectors had to be called in as Iraq wouldn’t declare it’s sand totals to America which was looking to build a huge playpit for the armed forces. And I, unwittingly, was aiding the enemy. The only problem bigger than this, and I really do mean this, was that the custard was yellow.

BW: Surely that was intentional?

LCH: Well of course. But imagine, if you will, the burning desert scene. The hot bright sun beating down on your factory which you’ve placed 50 miles from the nearest visible landmark. The factory which, in a moment of genius or madness, possibly both, you decided to paint the colour of the custard you are making. 

BW: Ah.

LCH: First sandstorm whips up and we lost the whole bloody thing.

BW: I believe this had deeper implications later on?

LCH: Spot on. The implications did come later on and a lot deeper. Almost 50 feet below the desert surface in fact. It was years later, on the very spot I had first located my factory, when someone was drilling for oil and they hit a custard vein. Seems that the workers who were trapped inside hadn’t noticed, due to the windows already being painted yellow, and they just carried on producing the stuff until the supplies ran out.

BW: Well that certainly seems like a very sorry tale.

LCH: It certainly was a VERY sorry tale and the way I told doesn’t make it any less apologetic.

BW: Any plans to return to the custard industry, Sir Lionel?

LCH: God no, I can’t stand the stuff.

BW: Thank you, Sir Lionel.

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