It’s one of your biggest ever mediations. The sums seem huge – to you. You could buy a small country with the cash. The stakes are high. The ranking of the principals is higher and, you are told, their expectations of you, the mediator, are higher still.

Your alarm goes off at a suitably early time. You can relax. Time to respond to some emails and read the local newspaper online. Then have a leisurely breakfast. You get up and shower. Apply the shaving foam and just a slight nick on the neck. Quick wipe with the towel.

Your partner bought you a new shirt on the view that this is one of those occasions when a new shirt is called for. You try it on–strange, it’s a bit big on the collar. You check the collar size. A half size too large. You know you have put on some weight recently but might your partner have consulted you first? You look again at the collar. A red mark–that nick on the neck has opened up a bit. Collar now smeared with blood. No option but to get the other, older shirt out, but it has not survived so well being tucked up tight in that small bag on the flight. Lots of creases.

Still, there is an iron in the wardrobe. You turn it to full on. You need a quick response. There is none. Risking serious burns, you apply first finger tips then full palms to the surface. As cold as ice. There is a sign saying switches off after 30 seconds of no movement. You twist it and turn it but still no heat. You press what looks like a switch beside the max/min dial. No joy. Only after much consideration, do you realise that this is not a switch but the marker for the dial and you are trying to get heat with the dial switched off.

You iron frantically. The collar is slightly off colour. That can be disguised by not taking off your jacket, though today is going to be hot you are told by the weather girl in the background. But what is this rust coloured blemish on the cuff? Did your partner not see that when selecting your shirt for you? Oh well, surely they won’t focus on it?

Cufflinks? Ah, in the toilet bag. You had carefully selected two pairs just in case you needed sartorial flexibility. But, hold on, there are only two cufflinks in the bag. One from each set. More frantic searching. No joy. Nothing for it but to un-package those cufflinks you bought yesterday in the tourist shop for your son–gaudy and cheap-looking. Well, not just cheap-looking, just cheap.

Shoes on. These had been the subject of much discussion back home. No, you can’t wear those comfortable shoes that feel like trainers. Why not? Because they look like trainers. Take one of the other pairs. The one with fewer cracks in the leather. You slip your feet into them. The laces seem very short a little hope of that double bow you prefer. Pull tight on the end of the lace in the right shoe. Snap. Halfway up the lace. Now, you need to be careful not to pull the lace so that it comes out through the eye or you’ll never get it back in. Careful tug on the other end of the lace. Well, you thought it was the other end of the lace. But no, the broken lace is now free completely.

Somehow you manufacture a knot at the break, thread it through the eye and pull it tight. Just enough to complete a half bow of sorts. You take a scissors to trim the excess lace at the knot. By now, you have little time for breakfast, certainly not leisurely. You make your way to the breakfast room, scoff down some muesli and coffee and get ready to meet the parties.

Hold on, what’s this? A bit of muesli in your teeth? Can’t get it out by hand. You go back upstairs on the lift which seems to visit every other floor en route. Quick brush of teeth. Toothpaste on tie. Quick wipe down and back on the lift to the meeting rooms.

You have arranged to meet the lawyers for a quick chat about logistics at the start. This goes well. So well that you get up from the table with a flourish and catch the water glass with your right hand. It falls, breaks and spreads water on one of the lawyer’s carefully bound sets of papers. And, at that moment, his client appears.

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