For the second time in a week I find myself in no-man’s land. Parilly to be exact. A district of Lyon with no character and even less charm. An irrelevant area of the city wedged in-between the ring road and the mainline to Paris.
This time the company is called SonShyne and they make nothing. It’s a PR company that conduct market research on the behalf of pharmaceutical companies. When a new product is launched, the company wants to see what doctors think about the new drug. Exactly the same as when people in the street armed with clipboards ask you what you think about this or that product. Only this is done globally and if the pharmaceutical company doesn’t like the feedback, the PR company is told to do the research again. And again if necessary. It’s big business. Everybody understands what they have to do…
I seem to have become the permanent stand-by for teachers who mysteriously go missing. The SonShyne teacher was last seen getting into his car last week and hasn’t been seen since. Hence, why I’m walking through Parilly at nine o’clock in the morning.
I eventually find it. No giant sign this week. The opposite in fact: SonShyne written in tiny letters on a small plaque nailed to the wall of a perfectly square four story building that looks like a block of Lego. I ring the bell and wait.
‘Ah bonjour. C’est Philippe. Votre prof anglais. Desole. Je suis en retard.’ My standard patter these days.
‘You’re late,’ a mechanical voice replies.
‘I had bad instructions from the regular teacher. He said you were located in Paris, not Parilly…You haven’t seen him by the way?’
There was a long silence. I feel a sniper’s bullet ripping through my head at any minute.
‘No, we haven’t,’ finally comes the voice. ‘Come up to floor one.’ I hear a click and the door opens.
As I walk up the stairs I start thinking that I once had ideals. But over the past two years I’ve worked for nuclear energy companies, car producers, accountancy firms, missile companies, mining conglomerates, pharmaceutical multinationals, drinks firms, cosmetic laboratories, food manufacturers and the odd chemical refinery. The people who make drugs, booze, weapons, petrol, burgers, anti-depressants, cars, uranium, fizzy drinks and lipstick. Not a bad CV. If you want to work for the Devil.
I open the door and feel an intense fiery heat blow over me. Banks of computers line the room whirring like Mr. Whippy machines on full throttle. Before I can grab a cone to cool me down, I’m grabbed by four men in white coats. I decide not to struggle. They do that in the movies and the hero always gets hit on the head. Why bother. Save your energy for the great escape at the end of the film.
But there’s no heroic ending here as some time later, I’m sitting in a small windowless room opposite a man who has Number One written on the front of his white coat. I have no idea whether this is real or a dream like last week’s episode at CylinDyne. I shudder and apologise to the man – I assume he’s my student – that I have to go home. I’m going insane. He agrees but not before telling me that I mustn’t write anything on my blog about SonShyne.
‘What blog?’ I innocently ask.
‘The one called BLOGLEY.’ He quickly states.
‘Never heard of it.’
‘It’s called BLOGLEY IN LYON.’
He flicks on his computer monitor and I see the familiar header of my blog. He clicks on the ‘About’ link and reads: ‘Blogley in Lyon is the Blog of Philip Ogley in Lyon.’
‘You are Philip Ogley, aren’t you?’
‘No,’ I say. ‘I used to know him. But I think he sold his soul to the devil. Give him a ring. Try 666. That normally works.’
He agrees that I’m ill and lets me go. Another close shave I think as I walk back through Parilly.