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Breaking into Barclays – true tales from an ex-IT support man Episode 18

Not that the following couple of anecdotes about Canary Wharf, although genuine, are actually a first-hand IT experience, but they are still worthy of recounting here. For example, the incident in the works canteen whereby a couple of the security staff were caught in flagrante delicto with one of the canteen staff, causing a couple of dismissals and necessitating a deep clean of the canteen. Or the one where a couple of scallies with the brass front to drive a low-loader up to the gates, asked the security staff to let them in to collect a 100-ton crane, dismantle it in broad daylight (unchallenged - ok, so it was a Sunday, but even so...), load it onto the low-loader and even have the balls to ask the security guard to hold open the gates as they drove out. Unbelievable.
You may recall from a couple of episodes back that the head of the Canary Wharf project in London had all but called me a thief because I had lost my receipts for a trip to New York. At the time of the trip, he wasn't the project head but, about a year later, he was promoted and I felt his gaze on me, like Sauron's eye, prompting me to decide that the time was right to look around for another position. 
My next door neighbour, whom I had known since I was twelve years old, knew I was in IT and he said that a mutual acquaintance was setting up a new business and needed some assistance to set up a mailmerge to send some marketing material out to potential clients. Accordingly, I was asked to go round to see what I could do for him (let's call him Norman - reasons for this may become apparent if you're a Porridge TV series fan...) and during the session at Norman's house he said that he was looking for an IT director to set up the IT infrastructure and support for the product he was selling - it was a networked video-library management database system, similar to the one that was used in Blockbusters but ours was far less expensive, scalable and easier to use. After a brief negotiation we agreed on a salary and company car etc., and I handed in my notice to Canary Wharf with a view to starting a few weeks later.
The new company was the European distribution arm of a San Francisco-based company owned by a couple of very wealthy investors, and an IT guru who was (and the only way to describe him was) batshit crazy. More of him later. 
Anyway, the first day I rolled up to the offices, a floor in an industrial unit in North-East London, got the manuals out and started learning the system. It was based on barcoded stock tied to a networked relational database management system (RDBMS) and was, in fact, very good, and sold as a turnkey package with all PC and networking hardware as part of the package. It even included a computer-connected till drawer. Certainly, it was better than Blockbusters. So, I set myself up in the MD's office as Norman was out touting for business and it was quieter there and, about an hour after I arrived, the phone rang:
"Hello, can I help you?" I asked
"Is Norman there?" the voice at the end of the phone asked.
"I'm afraid he's out at a client's premises. I'm Barry, IT director - can I help or take a message?"
"Nah, s'alright - just tell him Jack called and ask him to call me tomorrow". The call ended.
Now, I might explain at this point that I'd known Norman was a bit of a scallywag, and that his background was less than whiter than white, so I thought I knew what I was getting involved with. I THOUGHT I knew...
I got back to the studying and then the third spoke in the tri-wheel of the company came into the office. I had never met him before, so we introduced ourselves and it turned out that Jeff, as I will call him, was a rival of Norman's in the video industry but they had decided to combine their extensive and in-depth knowledge in video-library management to join forces, with Jeff as the Sales director and Norman as the MD, to sell the system to individual shops as well as chains. We hit it off right away - Jeff admitted his IT skills were less than perfect and I was more than happy to pass on to him what he needed to know, and he taught me some sales techniques, so there was a symbiosis. More of him later...

he next day, Norman drove up and he asked me to get into the car as we were driving to Neath to a new client and he needed me there to be there with technical input should any be required. A few miles onto the M4 motorway and Norman said "I'm about to speak to Jack. You're not in the car." I buried my head in my manuals, while Norman used the car phone to call Jack on the speaker.
"'Allo?", said the voice at the end of the phone.
"Jack, it's Norm," said my companion.
The conversation that followed can only be described as a series of unfinished sentences, interspersed with some Cockney rhyming-slang (usually concerning large amounts of money), and if anyone had asked me what they were talking about I wouldn't have been able to explain, but they obviously knew what they meant. Then there was a lull in the conversation, and Jack asked "Who's this Barry geyser, then?". Norman shot me a glance to keep quiet. "He's my IT director, loads of IT experience."
"IT, eh?" asked Jack. "Can he break into Barclays?"
The question took me aback and I must have spluttered or something, because Norman shot me a dark glance as if to say, shut up. 
The question wasn't answered other than Norman laughing and, a minute or so later, pleasantries having been exchanged, the line was closed and we continued on the journey to Neath. I couldn't resist asking Norman who Jack was. Apparently, he was a major "player" in the underworld in the southeast of England, spending his day flying from the UK to France via the Channel Islands on his own private BAC-111, basically "importing" goods. However, his main business was providing the door staff at most of the night-clubs in the southeast of England. Basically, not someone you'd want to cross. And, Norman added, his question about Barclays was a genuine enquiry.
Like I said, earlier, I thought I knew what I was getting involved with, but it was plainly obvious I didn't. There was a film in 1980 called McVicar, about 
John McVicar, a criminal tagged as Public Enemy Number One, with his fellow inmate, who runs away from prison to reunite with his family. There's a sequence in the film where McVicar hides in a hedge and gets picked up by a car, but no mention was made of who was in the car. I was then informed by Norman that Jack was one of the occupants, while another who SHOULD have been there, but couldn't make it that day, was my business partner, Norman. It was then I realised that he was a bit
more than just a scallywag...As I was also responsible for entering the bookkeeping on a computerised accounting package, I decided to keep a copy for "my own personal records", if you get my drift.
The rest of the day was uneventful, with the client having signed up for a system for his Milford Haven outlet, which was part of a petrol station, and we drove home, with 
a date set a few days later when I was to go back and install the system. The day of the installation arrived and, having loaded the PC and networking hardware into my car the previous night, I drove to Milford Haven to it transpired, this clients house, as the shop was too busy and small for me to work. I pulled into the driveway, the front door opened and I was ushered into the through-lounge, one end of which was completely barren of furniture ready for me to set up the kit. We unpacked the boxes and fired up the machine on the floor in the area below the large bay window. While I was setting up, a beautiful boxer dog came in and sat down next to me, which didn't bother me as I'm a dog person. However, my host, the client, said to me "If the dog lays down on her front with her legs out behind her, get up and quickly move away." No explanation why.

I busied myself setting up the system and scanning in the barcoded VHS cassettes and cases into the system, totally immersed in the work and not noticing that the dog had laid on her front with, as the client had suggested she might, her legs flat out behind her. At this point the client came into the room. "Quick get up and move!" he shouted. I was sitting on the floor and in mid-rise, there was the longest fart I have ever heard a dog emit. A ripper. However, the smell was something else - my eyes were watering and the stench lingered on my clothes for hours. 
I had to drive home with the windows open.
More, MUCH more to follow...