Smoke & Mirrors: Dealing with an ex

The comms chief comes up with a bold plan to deal with his ex-wife and her menacing financial demands.

by Guy Browning,
Last Updated: 24 Apr 2014


Difficult week. Am in financial negotiations with Freya, the soon-to-be ex-wife. You'd think, as somebody with a good corporate background, I'd have the upper hand, but you'd be wrong. Freya works for a big charity NGO called Life Crisis that specialises in aggressive fundraising, so putting my balls in a vice is right up her street.

Her job involves getting incentivised muggers onto the street to baffle young and old with tales of horrific suffering that only their immediate direct debit to Life Crisis will solve. It'll be the mis-selling scandal of the next 10 years, but because they're 'doing good', no one says a word.


More negotiations. Freya's opening gambit is exactly the same as all those big charities: there's a crisis; it was my fault due to a historically exploitative relationship; I must now cough up to make things better; and she is the morally superior being for bringing this to my attention.

It would all be laughable if the law wasn't stacked in her favour. I fully expect none of the males in my kids' generation ever to contemplate marriage as it's now becoming a lot like doing business with Russia - you obviously want to get your hands on their natural resources but you end up with legal tanks on your lawn and a much smaller home.

The day got worse when our bewigged CEO Linton Spivey suddenly announced that we need a major export drive to the BRICs. I took this as a good excuse to research export possibilities with my tidy girlfriend, Concepcion, one of Brazil's finest exports.


Spent morning recovering from a very expensive evening with Concepcion. If I'd known how costly girlfriends were, I'd have thought twice about divorcing. Freya cold-called me again, demanding money.

I've now decided that dealing with my ex is more like trade negotiations with the Germans: you've got a long past together blighted by serious conflict but now you need to deal with them as sensible grown-ups who actually earn more than you do.

Spivey burst in and said we can forget all about the BRICs because he's discovered the MINTs - Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey.

As we haven't yet made any kind of impact with the BRICs I think this might be a bit premature, if not completely impossible.


Freya has sent me a beautifully crafted piece of multimedia direct marketing explaining in detail why I am responsible for everything bad in the world, and how, correspondingly, that will cost me the earth. I admit I wasn't blameless in the marriage. I did sleep with one or two women but I was never deliberately unfaithful.

Of course, she was sleeping with all sorts of bearded aid workers, who are the sexual elite of the third sector. They're the pashmina'd socialists cargo-panting their way round the world on an extended gap year, spreading neo-colonial aid dependency wherever they go.

But I've got to hand it to her. When we split up, her PR campaign against me was faster, wider and more accurately targeted than anything I've ever done in corporate comms. She's unstoppable. God help any part of the world that doesn't want Life Crisis involved.


In desperation, I called my slacker son Henry. He actually picked up, which surely meant he was expecting his dealer to call. I asked him for his advice. He's having a bit of a Zen phase, which suggests new depths of idleness. He said I should be close and present. Helpful. Then I think he fell back into his beanbag, exhausted.

I suddenly had two absolutely blinding ideas. I called Freya and suggested a trial reconciliation. I've never heard a woman so shocked. It's as if I'd suggested we'd be better off leaving Africa to sort itself out. She suddenly got a lot easier to deal with. Then I trotted down the corridor and explained to Spivey that MINTs were yesterday's news and that actually our whole export-led growth should be focused on the SWANs.

I didn't tell him that was Scotland, Wales, Anglesey and Norfolk. But as he has always managed by acronym he agreed immediately. ARSE.

Guy Browning can be contacted at

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