The following is taken from a short-story (University Question Time Comes to Urmston) to be published sometime in 2017. You are invited to see if you can pick up on the clues as the story unfolds and anticipate its ending
University Question Time Comes to Urmston
“If you read the transcript, Wendy Lockinge said “You would think it describes a rather typical broadcast of University Question Time. Most of you will be aware of the programme, and its celebrity moderator and literary figure Mungo Park. You will also note the appearance also of a senior officer Sir Bertie Farm and myself among the panellists.”
The Vice-Chancellor of Urmston University and former Celebrity Detective was teaching a case on forensic analysis of documents, at a Special Forces training centre, somewhere in the West midlands. “If we go through the transcript together, “she continued “you may be able to unravel the mystery it contains.”
Transcript supplied by Granola Television
Mungo Park: Hello and welcome to University Question Time, brought to you by Granola Television. This week we are on the campus of the University of Urmston which is situated just north of the city of Salford, and in the magnificent entertainment hall of Neverlands, in the Students Union building.
Our panellists tonight are Professor Wendy Lockinge, Vice Chancellor at Urmston, Sir Bertie Farm, Vice President of the Association of Chief Police Officers, Susie Yup, last year’s winner of the regional journalists award, Tony Scrivener, also of the University of Urmston, and frequent contributor to this programme, Dr Julian Callender, Director of Research at Meniscus Laboratories, one of the largest hirers of technical professionals in the North West of England, and Dando Llewelyn, the animal rights spokesperson, and a graduate himself from Urmston.
As moderator, I will try to permit free interchange of ideas, while remaining mindful of time pressures, so that we deal with as many questions as possible from our audience.
And our first question is from …
Delia Clutch: Delia Clutch. This week, the owner of Sporting Gear was accused of treating his employees like animals. He said his workers loved their jobs. He then compared them with animals and used an expression I would not be permitted to use here. What do the panellists think should happen to him?
Mungo Park: Thank you Delia. Tony, would you like to take this question to start the programme?
Tony Scrivener: A pleasure. I remember reading the story to which you refer. The self-made billionaire and founder of Sports Direct used rather earthy terminology. I believe the original quote referred to pigs being happy living in their own mess. Perhaps our questioner wanted to avoid the rather fancy scientific and medical terms for members of the even- toed ungulates species, claimed to be living euphorically in a faecal environment.
I suggest he should be forced to wear one of his over-priced products which are allegedly made by infants in non-regulated conditions worse than those he callously attributes to pigs in muck.
Wendy Lockinge: You may be surprised to know that I own and regularly wear an article bought from Sporting Gear. I may sometimes be seen stumbling around our excellent sports track in something that is fit for purpose. It fits me and my purpose anyway. If what the owner of Sporting Gear said was reported accurately, he is perpetrating a stereotype about pigs. Maybe he needs educating. I like Tony’s suggestion. Or he could sign up for one of our programmes on corporate social responsibilities.
Sir Bertie Farm: I hesitate to expressing a view on the basis of a press report I have not read. If there is evidence that a company, any company, let’s say, is breaking the law, an investigation should be set in place. As for pigs, I do not wish to comment, either on the male chauvinist variety or on the quite unfair use of the term when directed at police officers.
Member of audience: Unfair to who? The pigs? [laughter].
Susie Yup: Just because a journalist reports something, it doesn’t mean it is wrong. The press, the so-called Main Stream Media, are all being tarred with the same brush at present. A news story can be distorted, over-simplified, of sometimes later found to be wrong. Quotes, on the other hand are the journalist’s life line to a reality. they are usually accurate, and easy to confirm. I assume the owner of Sporting Gear said what he was quoted as saying. He has a track-record of using colourful language. As someone said about the next President of the United States, he should be taken seriously, but not literally.
Dando Llewelyn: The owner of Sporting Gear was right to compare conditions of his workers with that of other creatures. Some unfortunate humans, just like other animals, are forced to spend their lives in unacceptable conditions. Even today, the pig, which is a highly intelligent animal, is often bred for despicable experiments, in the interests of so-called scientific research
Julian Callender: I must say there are journalists just as there are scientists and business tycoons who deserve to be criticized. And there may even be campaigning student leaders who are as ambitious and self-serving as those found in other professions.
As a matter of fact, I agree with Dando that there are unacceptable practices in parts of the food processing industry. Also, that animal experimentation has been insensitively and at times unnecessarily carried out. At Meniscus, I am doing everything in my power to eliminate animal experiments, and restrict those we carry out so that the animals remain unstressed and suffer no pain.
Mungo Park: Thank you panellists. I wonder what the questioner thinks?
Delia Clutch: I think he should pay everyone a proper wage and give then proper job contracts not zero hours’ ones [loud cheers and applause]. And yes, he should be put in a pigsty to see how he likes working in s**** .
Mungo Park: Thank you Delia. I should remind everyone again this programme will be transmitted before the nine o’clock time for adult viewing, and we are obliged to remove any words considered likely to offend our audience or the broadcasting authorities.
Wendy Lockinge: Can I ask Delia if her interest in pigs is connected with the animal rights movement or maybe the vegetarian cause?
Delia Clutch: Both. I am a vegan. Also, I oppose animal experimentation. There are thousands of pigs given cancer every year from forced smoking of cigarettes. If that is needed to help solve cancer, we should ban just cigarettes. [loud applause]
Mungo Park: We have debated that more than once, and will no doubt do so again. Now, can we have the next question?
Wendy Lockinge gave her audience time to scan the case material. “That’s the start of the transcript. Did any of you see what made me suspicious about what was going on?”
A Christmas puzzle
What do you think might be going on? Do let me know. All replies will be acknowledged (unless there is a silly Denial of Services attack by unknown forces).
New readers may want to learn more about many of the characters in the story by clicking here.