In Competition No. 3165 you were invited to supply a job reference for a well-known public figure, past or present, that while seemingly positive reveals the failings of the candidate in question.
Robert Schechter discerns a streak of modesty in Donald Trump: ‘His reluctance to boast about his great wealth has driven him to take drastic measures to conceal his financial records from the public.’ And Brian Murdoch feels that potential employers should note Boris Johnson’s willingness to surrender the spotlight to others: ‘He can delegate and can even keep entirely out of view when necessary.’ Honourable mentions also go to Basil Ransome-Davies and John O’Byrne, and to David Silverman, who made Judas Iscariot sound quite the candidate: ‘He takes nothing on trust, nothing as gospel; nothing as set in stone.’ The winners, printed below, pocket £30 each.
“I am delighted to recommend Anne Boleyn for the role of lady-in-waiting. Anne’s strength is communication, as her skill in the French tongue keeps her popular with the young men of the court. Over the years I have noted how effectively Anne stays on top of royal matters, displaying her assets to their best advantage. Anne always has an eye to the king’s comforts, encouraging him to remove anything fruitless or unproductive from the palace. She adores the Queen and is most eager to see her out on the street, alongside the people who love her. In five years, I expect Anne to be enthroned in a worthy position close to the royal person, a true crowning achievement. Indeed, I can confidently predict that this ambition will be swiftly executed, for Anne has never been one to lose her head in a crisis.Janine Beacham
“One of life’s natural survivors, Christopher Grayling has proved how personal resilience is an essential quality when faced with workplace challenge. Never discouraged, however choppy the waters, he has the enviable ability to surface and move on, remaking his role with unshakeable equanimity. His example of facing down failures and turning disasters into opportunities makes him a valuable team member; colleagues across many departments have learned from his comprehensive skills in taking lateral thinking to a new level — evidenced, for example, in timetabling, security issues (from staffing to reading materials), and infrastructure logistics. He never ceases to amaze co-workers with his innovative approaches; he can float an idea on a pizza box and convince clients (and himself) of its potential success.His strategic planning, coupled with his grasp of intelligence and committee management, is a revelation. His unquestioning loyalty and obedience will take him far.D.A. Prince
“Iain is a quiet man, perhaps the Quiet Man, as he has often, exception proving rule, declared. He used to be a party organiser of some kind but it’s testament to his modesty that neither he nor anybody else mentions it. It’s the same with his literary achievement, a youth spent marching up and down outside the library at Sandhurst paying off when his novel The Devil’s Tune united literary critics. Iain is exceptionally clever; because he’s taken it apart and put it back together again completely unrecognisable, he’s the only chap who knows how Britain’s welfare system works, a knowledge I suspect we’re all going to find invaluable over the coming months. Though quiet, Iain has a wealth of opinions on Brexit, the European Union — all sorts. Considerately, he tends to have them on the national media so one can exercise choice about how many of them you hear.Adrian Fry
“Jeffrey Epstein’s ambition, his sharp eye for profitable opportunities and above all his flair for energetic communication across generations qualify him as a formidable combination of rainmaker and troubleshooter, an operative who is sure to be an attractive asset to any sophisticated, image-conscious employer.This boldly unconventional leader can be trusted to inspire young associates beyond what they knew they were capable of. Furthermore, his network of glamorous, influential and even royal connections is guaranteed to raise the profile of any and all affiliates. His knack for multiplying the wealth of elite clients and facilitating close, profitable social and business relationships has won him international recognition as both a bon vivant and a force to reckon with in the world of finance.A well-known lover and patron of youth, Mr Epstein is also young at heart, with the vigorous, up-to-the-moment outlook so essential to any organisation’s outreach and client procurement activities.Chris O’Carroll
“Tony Blair is ideal for the post of overseeing your fiction department. In this area he has no equal. He has the imagination of Aesop in presenting the commonplace as wonderful. If I describe him as a brilliant transformer, a rival to the god Proteus himself, I am merely reflecting what Tony exudes. The poet is often asked to present the ordinary as extraordinary. Tony does this with ease. Though of course in reality oratory changes nothing, from Tony’s transforming lips fiction becomes fact and his smile turns straw into gold. Do not suppose that he needs praise and encouragement his wonders to perform; his self-esteem is a powerful generator of all the thrust he requires. The deity he surely adores enables him to move mountains in his own way. It will be your lucky day if you get him to serve you.Frank McDonald
No. 3168: the art of saying no
The next challenge is inspired by Jane Austen’s characteristically elegant and tactful 1816 letter in response to James Stanier Clarke, who suggested she make her next novel a royal ‘historical romance’. You are invited to write a response on the part of a well-known writer of your choice, past or present, to an inappropriate suggestion about the future direction of their work. Please email up to 150 words to firstname.lastname@example.org by midday on 22 September.