The Early Days of a Better Nation

Friday, June 10, 2011

Paging Lucy Stone

Pyr now have a page up for The Restoration Game and it reminds me of how it all began. In September 2006 Carol and I were waiting for a flight, outside Queenstown airport in New Zealand, when we heard several calls over the PA for a passenger called Lucy Stone. We wondered who she was and why she hadn't turned up and who was looking for her.

Carol looked at me and said: 'That sounds like the start of a novel.'

Being a writer, I wrote it down in a little black book.

That incident is not the only one in The Restoration Game that's based on something that actually happened. Here's another.

In the second chapter, 'The Caucasian Heiress', there's a party in a flat in Edinburgh in 1979, which actually happened three or four years earlier, in Glasgow. A very different long conversation took place on that very sofa in the front hall, between me and Carol. I was really taken with her, but Carol was going out with someone else at the time, and I was just getting over someone, and ... that was it, just a long conversation. I felt very down the following day. I only by chance met Carol again in London in 1979, by which time I'd long forgotten the girl at the party. We only realised a few years ago that that party in Glasgow was when we'd first met, when we were both reminiscing and independently and simultaneously realised: 'Oh! That was you!'

And in that same front hall, in a moment of idle curiosity in 1976, I'd opened a dusty brown envelope addressed to a previous occupant (long gone but ... OK, OK ...) and found to my amazement and amusement an Annual Report of the Ural Caspian Oil Company, all of whose holdings had - it said there in black and white - been 'nationalised by the revolutionary government of Soviet Russia in 1919', but which was still issuing annual reports to shareholders (Dividends for the year: £0.00, yet again) and was still holding out for getting the Caucasian oil-fields back.

I had a dark chuckle about this and thought how quaint and yet how telling it was that these shareholders - the capitalist class in the most literal, prosaic, business-like sense - still hadn't got over the Russian Revolution. They were still in the restoration game.

A little over a year later, and quite without realising it, I was in the same game. And that's in the book, too.

Apart from that it's all science fiction. Really.

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Apologies for the megalink, but it looks like the company did get compensation in the end, albeit that some sharp practice dunned the original shareholders out of their share of the cash.

I dunno, the way things have gone in Russia since 1976, the UCOC very well might be back to paying dividends.

Well, yes ... that's what I meant to suggest: that my view at the time was comicaly mistaken. But given the interesting tale linked to by Richard J, it looks like the shareholders didn't benefit.

To wrap up the tale, the company was dissolved back in 2000. Nobody showed up at the final creditor's meeting.

I actually remember you telling our class at Napier about your little black book :)

I actually bought two notebooks after your talk and have filled them with loads of stuff, but mostly wrote my story ideas in a text file on the computer. Which I would save on Google Docs!

Chris Kouju

Richard - thanks for that interesting story and wrap-up! It explains why when I was researching the book I couldn't find the "Ural Caspian Oil Company". I must have misremembered the name.

That was a beautiful story about when you and Carol first met.

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