Here in Fruit Towers there’s an argument, mostly made by people who sit on the fourth floor, that the fourth floor is the best. They’ll also argue that the best seats in the entire building are on the corner desk next to the big window. This is the view from the big window.
Granted, on a grey day like this it's not the best, but in the summer it's something else. The blue skies, the sunshine, the people having fun on the canal, and let's forget the regular duckling sightings. Yep, in the summer there’s definitely a case to be made for it being the best seat in the building. If anyone sat there gets stuck on a problem they can just turn and look outside at the view for a few minutes to think it through.
But recently we’ve noticed something from this window to bring its status down a tad. Something odd. For you see, there under the converted water tower, we think someone’s watching us.
Someone’s there, peeking out from behind the pipes. Either that or our brains are taking the parts that no doubt make up the plumbing system of the flats above and twisting them into the shape of a person. And yet, every time we look outside, for half a second we see a person looking back.
From our side, seeing the outline of someone staring back is only the start of our worries. We're more concerned that one day we’ll look outside and it'll be gone.
When we went up to the roof the other day, we found a secret message next to a ladder on the fifth floor.
There was only one thing for it. Immediately stop all the work we were doing and go looking for the rest of them. After all, why would somebody go to such lengths if they didn't want us to stop working and find them?
The next one we discovered was on the underside of the cereal box lid. We suspect this is supposed to be secret message number 14 but that the '1' has, at some point, fallen off into somebody's breakfast.
Next, on the stairs, message number 9.
We found number 6 on one of the lights above the kitchen.
And number three was, frankly, poorly hidden on the side of a table in a floor five meeting room.
Back down on the ground floor we found the first one and, as fate would have it, this is the last one we could find. Partially because the others are too well hidden but mostly because we'd been looking for them for two hours and it was time to get back to work.
You are welcome, as always, to come into Fruit Towers to look for the hidden messages. But only if you tell us if you find any that we haven't.
A long time ago we held our first AGM*. It went well. People came to see us, they had some free smoothies and we all became friends. So we held another one, and another after that. Things went on like this until our last AGM in 2011. Then, for a few years, we were too busy (we could hardly invite people round when we didn’t have time to tidy up beforehand). This year however we decided it was time to do our best Moloko impression and bring it back.
So, on 10th October, we invited loads of you into fruit towers to find out what we look like, who we are and why we do what we do. We were scared. It had been so long since the last one. Would anyone actually turn up? If they did, would the enjoy themselves? How were we going to hide the three years of accumulative mess inside fruit towers? Turns out the answers were yes, yes and ‘with a LOT of help’.
There were talks from Dan (who’s ultimately responsible for all the important stuff like how we look and sound), one of our original founders, Rich, explained how we got started way back in 1999 (from a hangover, apparently. Makes sense) and our CEO Douglas told everybody about the amazing work of the innocent foundation.
We had tasting sessions (including a couple of brand new recipes) and, in an idea that definitely wasn’t based on a popular BBC TV series, we held a Great British Blend Off. Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry were judges and we even have pictures to prove it. It’s definitely not just Emma and Nick dressed up in frighteningly realistic costumes.
Even the fourth floor stapler was there although, obviously, not actually on the fourth floor.
We had a great day, everybody who came along seemed to enjoy themselves too (or they were just being polite when they told us they had a nice time) and we very much doubt there’ll be another three year gap. We’ll see you next year.
*annual grown-up meeting
As these things often do, it started with a minor act of rebellion. A person pushed by circumstance into an act they never thought they’d be capable of. One morning, driven over the edge by one label too many, they grabbed the fourth floor stapler and took it to the second floor. The world would never be the same again.
It gave them an adrenaline rush. The kind they hadn’t had since they went scrumping for apples as a teenager, clearing the fences at Old Man McCarthy’s farm with a single vault. They quickly put the stapler back, panting for breath. The week went on, they couldn’t get it out of their mind. Nothing else compared. Everyone in fruit towers was talking about it. Who was the daring renegade who’d taken the fourth floor stapler to the second floor?
So they did it again but it wasn’t the same. It wasn’t new. It wasn’t exciting. There was only one thing for it. They took the stapler to Cambridge.
Then they too it to see a donkey. They were out of control.
And then, in a day of madness which will go down in history, they took it to The Ritz.
Meanwhile, the fourth floor was slowly falling apart. Their stapler was missing, nobody knew what to do. Vital documents that needed to be kept together were drifting apart. Desks were filling up with loose documents. It was a disaster waiting to happen.
But the stapler stealer didn’t care. They barely even noticed. But the UK wasn’t enough for them anymore. Oh no. They needed to go further. They needed to go European. And then one day, while thinking about some of their favourite things, inspiration hit them. The answer was obvious. The Sound of Music museum in Salzburg.
But then even Europe wasn’t enough. Almost as if the stapler was being passed from colleague to colleague, America came calling. What better place for someone on the run with a stapler than the land of freedom, opportunity, baseball, tall buildings and Disney World?
Back in England, a hole punch tried to get involved. It didn’t work out. Nobody paid much attention.
Back on the fourth floor, paper was everywhere. With no way of properly filing their work, the staff had descended into chaos. They lost track of time, they forgot to go home, they broke off into two warring factions. One defending the photocopier, the other prized the nice big corner window overlooking the canal.
It was hard for the stapler thief to care about all this from their sauna in Helsinki.
And One Direction helped them remain oblivious to the trouble they’d caused back in the office.
They even took the stapler scuba-diving. Their constant need for adrenaline making them risk the life of the stapler itself* by exposing it to elements that could rust it so easily.
By this point the two tribes of the fourth floor had started to invade the other level of the building. Some say they’re searching for the stapler, others claim they’ve simply gone delirious and would take any stationery in the hope that it would restore order.
As for the stapler? It’s still out there somewhere. Seeing the world in ways many of us can only dream of. We hope it comes back soon, if only for the sake of the fourth floor.
*of course, being a stapler it has no life to put at risk. But still.