An everyday tale of trust folk, appearing fortnightly

The regional bonding meeting proves to be an intellectual challenge, but that young chap Keane may be the key to the future. Now read on...

By the time of the fifth regional bonding meeting the word 'amalgamation' had still not been uttered. There was plenty of drivel about patient movement patterns, clinical efficiency and management downsizing, but that was nothing new.

Greycoat, his opposite number from St Jude's - a formidable woman who insisted on being called 'Julie' by everyone - and the regional chair were heavily engaged in 'let's see who drops the ball first', or 'he who hesitates is lost forever to management consultancy'.

The Grey One had not started well. He had been unable to find the door in regional HQ's entirely glass construction.

Assorted ushers, commissionaires, clerks and receptionists watched with mounting amusement as he cannoned noisily and painfully into various plate-glass sheets, hoping that one would open automatically to let him in.

Then Julie swept up with a friendly 'Hi, Lamberhurst' and went straight through the door as Greycoat dabbed his nose to stem a trickle of blood.

But once inside, Greycoat was on home ground. As I watched the proceedings from the vantage point of an Italian uplighter in the boardroom, he spread his papers to cover three places - a trick he'd picked up from the late Robert Maxwell.

As the room filled with assorted minute-takers, advisors, management types, semi-retired nurses, doctors and eventually the chair thingy, Braddock, no one sat in Greycoat's three-seat space.

As soon as Braddock began the meeting, Greycoat collected all his papers together and was left as the centre of attention with no one sitting either side. It was neatly done.

Braddock outlined progress so far (none), the breadth of the challenge (huge), and congratulated everyone on their hard work (menacing).

Perhaps they needed to gather primary information from St Jude's and St Giles', he said, adding absent-mindedly that he understood that St Giles' currently had a young chap called Keane working on attachment. Might he by any chance be the information collector?

Julie looked distressed because she didn't know Keane from a purchasing guideline, but Greycoat was in like a flash.

Oh my stars! How percipient! What a sharp brain Braddock had - put them all to shame! Of course, Keane was the obvious person!

That sorted Julie out - and St Jude's too, if I'm any judge.

On the way home the Grey One phoned Tarantino. 'Charles, he's dropped one. It's Keane. Get to work.'

What could he have meant?