Mammaries are made of this

Memories of Ignis Fatuus

Once upon a time... there was a fine, albeit rather expensive, very large page-format six-times a year or so photo and graphic arts magazine called Zoom. Unless my memory circuits deceive me (not unknown) I had somehow managed to scratch enough pennies together to afford an issue that contained examples of work by a photographer called John Thornton. So it was Mr Thornton who was indirectly responsible for my winning a Polaroid camera in a competition run by "Penthouse" magazine back in the day.1 And he was also directly responsible a few years later for my colluding with my first manager in IBM to "get (a little) creative" with the expenses claim I submitted for my first-ever IBM overseas business trip in 1981.

The "Penthouse" competition set as its challenge the task of describing the photo shoot that had led to a memorable (to me, at least) John Thornton picture of an unclad comely young wench with a jet of flame shooting from her mouth, caused (possibly?) by her clutching her upper chesty area:

John Thornton photo

I've yet to unearth the actual magazine page I've tucked away somewhere that contains the text of my winning entry. (My original hand-written draft displeased Christa so she typed up a fair copy for me on that fancy electric machine I'd bought for her.) We sent it off and then both promptly forgot all about it until, several months later, I received a complimentary copy of the magazine with the prize-winning entries printed in it. I do still recall, however, that some witless sub-editor not only managed to concatenate my entry with somebody else's but also (and far worse) managed to mis-spell the name (Ignis2 Fatuus, obviously) that I'd given the lady as "Igris", or "Idris" — I forget which. Either way, they spoiled my joke.

There's a postscript. In March 1981 IBM went to some considerable time, expense and trouble interviewing and testing me before deciding to hire me away from ICL as an experienced technical writer to work on a series of CICS publications. Three months after I'd started work, I got sent on my first overseas business trip — rather insultingly (I thought, though I wasn't going to turn down a week's "holiday" on expenses just a few miles down the autobahn from my in-laws in Meisenheim) I was told to attend an introductory writing course in Boeblingen for a week.

Bored very nearly to tears, and having made all-too-light work of some of the supposedly onerous writing exercises that caused many of my fellow international students (not all of whom had English as either their mother tongue or, in my jaundiced view, their major interest) all manner of grief, I bunked off early one afternoon and took a train into Stuttgart. I managed to find in one of several jolly good bookshops a German copy of Thornton's 1979 book "Pipe Dreams", which was not then available in the UK. It contains, inter alia, the image above that was featured in the competition.

Being unversed in the ways of IBM, not to mention a little strapped for cash (IBM salary, remember) I naughtily paid for the book out of my unspent and saved-up per diem cash expenses, and duly noted this on my eventual claim form, back at the ranch. Oh dear! My manager promptly hauled me in and spent (wasted, in my opinion) nearly an hour helping me disperse the cost among several legitimate (though imaginary) lunches and coffees despite my immediate offer to simply pay the cash and be done with it. Thus I like to think that the first really creative writing I did for IBM in my initial time there was a work of pure fiction :-)



1  The day being some time around 1976.
2  "Ignis Fatuus" being, on a deeper level, a semi-plausible explanation of the "fire" in my opinion.