Gladys: Sheila, push my car up to the station for me, will you?
Sheila: No problem, Gladys, but I’ll want fifty pounds off you.
Gladys: Fifty pounds! That’s a bit steep isn’t it? I’ll have to owe it to you.
Sheila: Sorry, but I’ll need the money now. I own that particular station and that’s how much the rent is. You can’t owe money in Monopoly. You either pay up or leave the game.
Gladys: Monopoly? What’s that got to do with it?
Sheila: What do you mean, Glad? We’ve all been playing this game for an hour and a half! You’ve just rolled seven, so I’ve moved your car up to Liverpool Street Station, which I own, so you now owe me fifty pounds. Try and keep up!
Gladys: Yes, I know what we’re doing! I meant, can you push my Renault up to the petrol station for me? I ran out of petrol about a hundred yards short. I thought I had enough to get there, but obviously not! Besides, I’m the top hat and I’m currently in jail, so you’ll be getting no money off me!
Sheila: So whose the car then?
Lil: That’ll be me. Put it back where it was, it’s my go next.
Sheila: Oh, for Heaven’s sake! And why do I have to push your car to the garage?
Gladys: You don’t HAVE to! I was just asking because you’ve got the biggest muscles.
Sheila: Thanks a bundle! I’m not pushing your car. Get a couple of these blokes to do it. There’s loads to choose from.
Lil: In the Purfleet Monopoly and Sudoku League? I think you’ve still got the biggest muscles, Sheila!
Mavis: Gladys, just ask a couple of them at the next break. I’m sure they’ll oblige. Now, can we get on with the game? My dog’s about to hit the waterworks.
Sheila: I know how he feels! If I see one more Chance card…! We’ve got to complete three sudoku puzzles after this as well!
Gladys: And if I win any more beauty competitions, never mind the hundred pounds prize, I’ll be straight on the phone to Vogue!
Mavis: Now, ladies. We’re organising the refreshments for this little soiree, so we might as well join in while we’re here.
Sheila: That’s as maybe, Mavis, but how anyone can arrange an evening of Monopoly and Sudoku and call it entertainment is beyond me. I know we at the WI provide our services on a voluntary basis, but I think even we should be paid for this! It makes pushing Gladys’ car almost appealing!
Mavis: Now, now, Sheila! There are plenty of people who do far more arduous work for little or no money. I’m sure they’d swap places with you.
Gladys: Yes, like Lil’s workforce, for example.
Sheila: What’s that? You got those poor Latvians working for nothing now, Lil?
Lil: Well, not exactly…
Gladys: You told me Clive had asked them all to work for nothing for six months in order to ‘preserve the company’s viability and maintain its profits.’
Lil: Yes, that’s true, but…
Sheila: Then why say ‘not exactly’?
Lil: Well, the overheads involved in shipping in the workers in our friend’s trucks were becoming prohibitive. There was the petrol and maintenance costs, then they insisted on rest breaks and being fed…
Sheila: The ungrateful swines!
Lil: Yes, that’s what we thought, so we’re making them all pay twenty pounds a week towards the costs.
Sheila: I was being sarcastic!
Mavis: Lil, you can’t be serious? Asking these poor people to not only work for nothing, but then to pay towards being shipped in to do their job!
Lil: Well, staff in other firms have been asked to work for nothing and they’ll have to pay their own costs in getting into work. Besides, the alternative is to let them all go, then none of them will have a job.
Sheila: But they’d all be twenty pounds a week better off straightaway! You, on the other hand, wouldn’t have anyone to do the job.
Lil: We have to maintain the profit margin or we’ll go under. And, anyway, Clive’s just booked our winter skiing trip to Canada and the deposit’s non-refundable! We need every penny we can get.
Gladys: But how do these people live? They’ve got to eat, keep warm, they need somewhere to sleep.
Lil: Yes, we know! We’ve thought of that. Another of our friends owns a small hotel just outside Purfleet. He’s given them a room so at least they’ll have somewhere to stay.
Sheila: Well, that’s something, I suppose. How many of them are there, about twenty? The cost of twenty single rooms would be quite high, though, surely.
Lil: No. I mean he’s let all twenty stay in one room. Well, it’s a disused larder just off the kitchen. They can help themselves to leftovers, then do the washing-up to pay for it. It’s a nice little arrangement as long as they keep out of the way of the other guests. He doesn’t want the paying customers upset by having to look at a bunch of freeloaders – his words – and you can see his point.
Mavis: Lil, you really have excelled yourself! Not for the first time, I’m speechless!
Lil: Why thank you. I must admit we were thinking of making it a permanent arrangement, even after the economy picks up. Clive says it’s the way forward if we want Capitalism to survive. I have to say I don’t know exactly what he means by that, but I just go along with…er…girls! GIRLS!! Where are you going?
Sheila: We’re going to retrieve Gladys’ car. We all felt we needed some fresh air all of a sudden.
Lil: Well, wait, I’ll come too!
Sheila: No you won’t. The break’s coming up. You can man the refreshment stall. That’ll be sixteen teas, eighteen coffees and twenty-three ham and cucumber sandwiches, followed by a mountain of washing-up. You never know, do a good job and there might be a place for you in a disused larder just outside Purfleet…rent free!