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Mr. Bristow
Bristow vs "The System"  

Bristow is often described as "a rebel". This is a lazy and superficial view. A rebel wishes to bring down the system that he opposes. Now Bristow would certainly like to bring down Sir Reginald Chester-Perry for several personal reasons, such as:

  • The regular appropriation of the Christmas bonus by Sir Reginald to buy himself little gifts like luxury yachts and executive jets.
  • his failure to invite Bristow to join him on his holidays or to social events at Dunwell Manor.
  • his failure to promote, or even acknowledge, however distantly, Bristow.

But these are not reasons to rebel against the company. There is nothing Bristow would like better than to be promoted over the heads of his fellow buying-clerks and to bask in the warm glow of Chester-Perry approval. Until that happens he will assert his individuality by combatting the system in ways that are calculated to advance his cause. His techniques are many and various. Some of these themes are covered in more detail on other pages and there are appropriate references.


Post-boy: Can you, with a clear conscience, do nothing all week and accept your wages on Friday?
Bristow: Can a fish swim?

Long phone calls and letters to Gun & Fames
Bristow doesn't phone G &F to place, or as they quaintly call it, to "urge" orders. He phones to confound and bamboozle their salespeople with silly accents, riddles and long chains of insults and invective. When words fail he can dictate vicious, demoralising letters that provoke massive retaliation. Having a thick file full of name-calling correspondence is far more important than actually taking delivery of the goods in question, whatever they may be. After years of these tactics Bristow can reduce a whole roomful of sales clerks to hysteria and a refusal to do business. Assuming that C-Ps do need the G & F products then this is a major victory to Bristow and a blow against the system.

Chatting with Mary on the switchboard
Highslide JS
Strip 4635 was published in the Evening Standard in April 1975

Chatting to Mary is not only pleasurable in itself, it ties up a phone line and hopefully prevents her from answering incoming calls, one of which may be vital to the future of the company and failure to answer could lead to financial ruin and the impoverishment of Sir Reginald. Result!

Wandering round factory and offices.
There is hardly any good reason for Bristow to leave his desk so the time he spends wandering the corridors is utterly wasted. True, he gets to hear, and spread, all the gossip and he can always find a good home for a cup of tea with the lads in the machine room. And it is necessary to strut the directors' floor, enjoying the hushed wood-pannelled corridors and the thick lush carpeting, because one must get used to it for when the call comes.

The "walkabouts"
In October 2001 Frank Dickens website introduces us to a more organised bunch of timewasters - a whole gang of clerks who drift round the maze of corridors together.

Adopting false names

Keen school-leaver : I started work with the company this morning and I want to get the feel of the place - to know who is who and how they fit into the scheme of things
Bristow : My name is Thirkettle and I'd like to offer you every assistance
from strip 10912

Actually Thirkettle works for Effandee Holdings and is as big as time-waster as Bristow.

Sleep is so integral to Bristow's raison d'etre as a buying clerk that is has a page to itself


Postboy: Still pouring the stuff down, are we, Mr. Bristow?
Bristow: Postboy - in this life of ours we get precious little of what is called quality time, and what little we get I like to spend drinking tea.
Postboy (moving away: Pardon me for living
Big Big Big Bristow Book

See also Tea for more on Bristow's obsession with the mystic brew

Not actually doing any work

Highslide JS
From Strip 3881 published in the Evening Standard in September 1973. This scan is from The Big Big Big Bristow Book

Ah, so now we know why he is content to do very little, and to do it so very well.

Misuse of company property


I've just been down to stationery
Drawn out as much stock as I could carry
Envelopes, both foolscap and quarto, order pads, carbon paper...blotters...pencils...pens, pins and clips
Don't use any of it of course
I'm a compulsive hoarder
strip 641, February 1963

Bristow (like many employees of large companies) regards the firm's stationery supplies as his private hoard. He tops up his personal holdings whenever possible. And at Christmas what better present for Jones than a shiny new pen. The storeman may remonstrate but as long as there are old-fashioned pen nibs that make a nice crunch when you put all your weight on them then Bristow is going to go on using them.

Personal phone calls
If he couldn't make personal calls at work then he would have to use a payphone and that would mean waiting until pay day. Out of the question.

Weakening the foundations of the building

Bristow nearly swoons when he is introduced to the Friends of the Chester-Perry Building, a group of lunatics who are worried that the foundations may be weakened by traffic. His obvious response to this may be seen in strip 4588
Strip 4588 was published in the Evening Standard in March 1976 and in Living Death in the Buying Department. This scan is from the Melbourne Age March 1976

Winding up Fudge

Fudge is the immediate oppressor. More than just the person who embodies C-P management philosophy ("Get on with your work") and care for its employees ("you lazy bungling fool"), he is a permanent impediment to Bristow's quest for sleep, better paper aeroplanes, gossip, sleep, temps to torment, a nice cup of tea and the crossword, and sleep. He must be destroyed. If Bristow's famous dumb insolence look can't do it then perhaps irritating Fudge by discovering where he is going on holiday (Sicily) and asking Mrs Purdy for a bun "Quanto Costa Bella Signora" might. Or not.

Attempting to destroy the House Journal (or at least Hickford's editorship)

Bristow would love to write for the HJ but his articles would be vitriolic attacks on the firm's founder so he remains unpublished. His revenge is to do down both editor Hickford and the Journal at any opportunity.

Undermining the Sports and Social club

Disrupting the smooth running of the S&S is a good way to reduce staff morale and perhaps ease Bristow's path to the top by encouraging rivals to leave. Voting Jones on the committee has to be excellent - "You're the perfect committee man, you've no mind of your own, you like sucking up to people, you're a born 'yes'man, you're easily led", as does a little bit of ventriloquism to start a punch up strip 4903
Strip 4903 was published in the Evening Standard in May 1977 and in Bristow vs. Chester-Perry. This scan is from the Glasgow Evening Times June 1977

Waging vendetta against Mr Gordon Blue

This is rather complex. Bristow scorns the cuisine of Blue on many occasions. He is one of the leading users of tomato ketchup, a substance not yet on the dangerous drugs list but which is sure to get Mr Blue going "Sob" soon after he has presented his latest culinary masterpiece to his stony-faced clientele. Yet he is instrumental in achieving an extra star from the Firms canteen good food guide (in one of the radio episodes). He hears once that Blue might be leaving and is indignant. It is possible that he sees Blue, and his alcohol-enhanced cookery, as a weapon against the directors, and therefore to be lovingly maintained rather than driven away.

Refusing to take part in company events

"The important thing is not to enter and not to be seen sneaking out"
R. Bristow

Intimidating the office cleaners

Highslide JS
Strip 3077 was published in the Evening Standard in February 1971 and in Bristow (1972). This scan is from the Sydney Morning Herald March 1971
Perhaps a dusty office might cause something that makes Sir Reginald jack it all in but it seems improbable. But the cleaners keep the building in good shape so irritating them does seem a suitable response. Bristow's relationship with them is inconsistent. One day he is writing highly critical messages to them (in the dust on his desktop), the next he is leaving out Brain Surgery for Beginners for their attention.

Putting off school-leavers

Bristows attitude to the young hopefuls of dream of becoming buying clerks is quite clear - they are all raving mad. By encouraging them to turn elsewhere he deprives the Company of an influx of naive and impressionable youngsters and makes his own position safer.