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Emma would be able to get slowly drunk while on duty and I would get to enjoy her company while neither of us had to talk to any of the dull men in suits mingling around us. I’d had about three or four rum and Cokes, and Emma had downed the same number of vodka tonics, when I spotted someone wearing a Google shirt heading towards the bar. It was time to put our fake conversation plan into action, pretending to be deep in discussion about something relevant.

"So, I have a theory about this event..." I began, loud enough to ensure that the Google person now standing to our left knew we were talking about work.

"Oh yes?" said Emma, playing along.

"Yes. It occurs to me that Google has hired this big hotel, invited the CEOs of some of its biggest potential rivals: the heads of rival internet companies, the heads of telecoms companies, MPs who are in charge of competition legislation, that kind of thing."

Out of the corner of my eye I could see the Google person eyeing us up. He had even stopped talking to his friend. Good, he had obviously heard me. Our cover was safe.

"Well, it’s a bit Hotel California, isn’t it? How do I know they haven’t invited all these people here just to bump us off? What if they’ve poisoned the canapés to get rid of the competition?" It seemed like a solid enough conspiracy theory to me. Why else would Google invite so many potential competitors to a spa and be so nice to us?

But before poor Emma could answer, the man from Google decided to jump in.

"Hey, buddy," he asked, in a thick Californian drawl. "Did I just hear you say you think we’re gonna kill you?"

His companion – a tall Australian fellow in a suit – piped up as well. "Well that’s ridiculous, mate. That’s stupid. What kind of faakin’ ridiculous, stupid thing is that to say?" He was clearly a bit pissed, but then so was I, so I could hardly say anything. (Although I was doing a better job on that front than he was.)

"Well, you have to admit," I joked, stroking my chin in a sinister fashion. "It does seem very convenient."

"That’s just ridiculous," said the Californian. "Why would we do that? That’s just stupid." The man was clearly taking my allegations very seriously; there had evidently been a huge irony breakdown somewhere. California, probably.

"Ah, yes, but they laughed at Groucho Marx," I pointed out. "Anyway, can’t stop, got to mingle." I wandered off, chuckling at my joke, in search of some more canapés.

The next morning, slightly hungover and, having forgotten to book myself a wake-up call, ten minutes late for David Cameron’s opening speech in which he had promised to lay out his vision for a Britain driven by increasing GWB (General Well Being) rather than GDP, whatever that meant. I ambled up to the reception table to collect my passes to the various events.

"Hello," I said to the woman at the desk. "Paul Carr, sorry I’m late. I think you’ve got some tickets for me."

"Ah, yes, Mr Carr. Really glad you could make it – sorry about the mix-up with the speaking schedule. Actually, would you mind waiting for a moment, my boss wanted to have a quick word..."

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