The van drive is uncomfortable, not just because I am on a bag containing my cordless drill, but also because a group of executives are accompanying us to the next venue in our, by now inexorable, tour of England's Midlands. Their task is to 'roll up their shirt- sleeves', put their 'shoulders to the grindstone', and get down and dirty with 'the trades' and 'help' us put up the stage. Most of them look chillingly enthusiastic.
"Why?" I ask the slightly flabby executive next to me.
"Team building exercise" he replies "Its Clive, by the way. What's your name, fellah?"
"Mar..n" I mumble, hoping desperately that a name badge is not suddenly supplied. Clive's team all have them - all I can hope is that the illiteracy he obviously assumes of me means that I can be excluded from tagging.
"Nice to meet you chap. No prizes for guessing where you come from, eh? Who do you support?"
"Mooseheads. I'm Canadian. "
Admittedly this is a slightly naughty divergence on my part, so I clarify the situation immediately : "Just a little joke - I emigrated to Canada years ago and now I'm a citizen. Came back here about two years ago."
Clive laughs quickly, and asks the familiar question "Why did you bother coming back here?", with the also familiar accompanying rising tone of incredulity. I explain how after a dissolute life as a rocker's moll, RHB is now a top boffin as a direct result of watching daytime television. Clive is admiring.
"Euroscience - so that's all about EEC policy and suchlike?"
"Sort of, " I concede and then explain how Euroscience is the scientific study of Europe. RHB's speciality is V1 and V2, which, I further explain, are the technical names given to the tiny little microeconomic regions near France - Monaco and Lichtenstein. Clive is fascinated, and even more so when I expand, explaining that I too am headed towards academia, by virtue of being only a part time carpenter, and a full time anthropologist.
"That's brilliant!" he enthuses "And how long do you say these books took you to write? "
In case you, the reader thinks I was being unfair on Clive, I have to admit that I was. There is simply no defence for misleading a perfectly innocent, patronising middle manager by telling them outright lies. Unless of course, they start waffling on about how they themselves also fancy getting some more education, and are thinking of an MBa, and are fascinated by the concepts of 'Quantum Marketing'.
I utter a gutteral noise, which Clive interprets as awakening interest, and he raises his chin slightly in my direction. "Particle Physics...." I manage to gasp."...quantum marketing?? ...but...its not....umph ..." the 'umph' exhalation is because we've just gone over speed bumps and my drill has been triggered, 1500 rpm somewhere near the glutimous maximus.".....thought it was er, physics...quantum stuff..?.."
"That's just it" he enthuses "What makes it all so exciting. They've" ['they'?] have taken the principles of Quantum Physics and applied them to the market. Particularly people........."
Clive explains how in Quantum Physics, "they" have "proved" that if you apply equal forces to two particles which are held in close proximity, then separate the particles by miles, then apply force to one of the particles, the other instantaneously also acts as if the same force had been applied to it. Apparently, in the actual experiment, a single 'molecule' , after being held next to it's best friend and having forces acted upon it, was then flown to the other side of the world - presumably in a special molecule box - and was, literally bombared with 'forces'. By 'they'. Left with no choice, the molecule 'reacted'. That, Clive explains is how particle physics works, and furthermore, is the only way to explain some consumer trends across the world.
"How come, for example, suddenly everyone wanted one of those tamagochi things? It was like, no-one had heard of them , then suddenly, every kid had to have one. Humans just act like quantum particles. "
Depressingly enough, quantum marketing isnt the only thing Clive proves to me. He also introduces the concept of tribal branding, which is, he tells me, straight out of anthropology.
"People act just like tribes" say Clive "and no more so than when they're in a group. Its a really exciting concept, but if you can get under the skin of these ideas, then it takes marketing to the next level".
Obviously, the questions to ask are "Why?", "What next level?", "Why?" (again), and "Are you in the wrong van?", but after a three-quarter of an hour, ten mile journey we reach the venue.
Clive springs out the van.
"Right, chief, where do you want us? We're in your hands? " he asks, rubbing his hands together.
As Clive is, I learn later, one of the future senior managers of his particular retail outfit, I think we are in his hands. Does anyone know any good shipwreck songs?