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Bristow's Superiors


Highslide JS
Strip 1090 was published in the Evening Standard in August 1964. Apologies for poor quality of scan from microfiche

Young Barker of the Northern Branch, joins the Buying Department very early on (in a series starting in January 1963). Bristow is instantly suspicious since he exactly conforms to the young, dynamic, eager-to-get-on types described in Space at the Summit as the most dangerous of rivals

Highslide JS
Strip 605 was published in the Evening Standard in January 1963 . Apologies for poor quality of scan from microfiche
Fudge introduces Barker

He is a university graduate and clearly well in with Fudge, and his firm handshake and steady gaze, unsettle Bristow to his core. He is right to be worried. Almost at once Barker is promoted to Assistant Buyer. Bristow is mortified. He has been with the firm over eight years and this kid has leaped over him into the very job that he wants. Naturally Bristow plots to bring the upstart down.

His fellow clerks Jones and Hewitt are recruited; Pilkington, partially identified with the management through being the senior clerk is excluded from the conspiracy.They huddle together, with many a "rhubarb rhubarb" planning mutiny but Barker proves a slippery customer. Bristow tries to trip him up in front of Fudge with a complicated question and Barker merely suggests that Bristow sort it out himself. Bristow is able to sabotage Barker's proposed economy drive though, with a flurry of memos supporting it, and seven copies apiece.

Barker soon realises the limits of Bristow's capabilities. The relationship reaches a low point over the tricky question of handwriting (yes, in those days it mattered) - strip 648
Strip 648 was published in the Evening Standard in March 1963. This scan from microfiche has been processed using Picasa filters to enhance the contrast
but they appear to reach a measure of agreement that suits them both. Bristow confesses to his mate, known only as the "new man in the accounts" that Barker is just giving him the simpler jobs. The "new man" thinks this might indicate that Barker does not regard Bristow as very capable. Bristow first reacts with the thought that he is being victimised but then reasons differently.

So I'm being victimised
Barker thinks I’m incapable of harder jobs.
Let him think so..let him think so...let him give me the simple jobs
I should far as I’m concerned the simpler the better.
For the first time in seven years I can cope
strip 662, published in the Evening Standard in March 1963

Despite his keeness and youthful enthusiasm, Barker is gradually beaten by the stubborn stonewall tactics of the old hands. He almost admits defeat in strip 1096
Strip 1096 was published in the Evening Standard in August 1964
. However the war is long and hard.

Highslide JS
Strip 1197 was published in the Evening Standard in December 1964. Scan of microfiche.
Barker's attempts to improve Bristow meet with little success, whether in encouraging more independent thought or vainly berating him over poor timekeeping
"I'm very disappointed in you Bristow" Bristow to himself" Poor old Barker - seems his idol has feet of clay".
He threatens him with dismissal for spending far too long on a simple errand to the legal department. He makes sarcastic remarks when Bristow keeps his window open. And then without warning, in strip 1626 in April 1966 we learn that he is transferred back to the Northern branch. The clerks celebrate on the grounds that this moves everyone one up in the pecking order (to sixteenth, to be precise) before Atkins points out that Barker is still with the firm and therefore still superior to them.

We hear no more of Mr. Barker, not even when Fudge is temporarily kicked upstairs and a new Chief Buyer is appointed. After his departure the Buying Department reverts to a simpler structure; the job of Assistant Buyer is abolished leaving Bristow with a clearer path to his goal of becoming Chief Buyer. There is only the little matter of the sixteen or seventeen men with a prior claim.