Working abroad (from the UK) was a big thing back then. Get a high salary for doing a skilled job in an unhospitable location, combine that with some careful tax planning (oh, my days of scrutinising IR20 for that chapter) and you could end up coming home to ... well, the same life as before, but now with a fat offshore savings account.
And you'd need a repatriation briefing to prepare you for - enough! That was then.
One of my early moves was to get hold of the competition. There must have been, oh, ten books on the market with Working Abroad in the title. I piled them up on my desk, and spent a morning going through them for anything that I might need to add to my contents page.
There were, I realised as I skim-read them, nine synoptic Working Abroads and one ur-text original Working Abroad from which all the others had taken (and lightly paraphrased) the difficult bits (and yeah, okay, I was now comparing those paraphrases for my own Working Abroad).
The original Working Abroad, the best of them, was written by my occasional lunch companion (and, I would like to think, friend) the late Godfrey Golzen. I remember Godfrey fondly. I've just looked him up, and for the first time read his obituary. Cheers, Godfrey. Happy times. Ridiculous, funny, happy times.
I remembered the synoptic Working Abroads when I heard this morning that the Brexit deal - sorry, they're calling it the post-Brexit deal - is actually a copy-and-paste job, mandating the use of archaic browsers and ancient (broken) encryption software. Slabs of old legalese pasted in to bulk the thing out.
Not sure why, but I felt vindicated. Like ... I don't know, like I'd feel if I'd been arguing with atheists and a fully fledged archangel, wings and all, had just joined us at our table. Like I'd been complaining about government, and government had just gone and ... yeah.
Or like I'd, um, recently published a novel purporting to be "an account of the mutated-virus outbreaks of the early 2020s" and now every news broadcast was full of mutated-virus outbreaks. Or have I mentioned that already? Sorry. Marketing, y'know. Supposed to do it all the time these days.
Like that, anyway. How many of our legislators, the people who have just voted this deal into law, commented that it's just the same slabs of text as usual, with a little extra deal-stuff scribbled on the front page? I guess they all noticed, right? And said nothing.
Impressively fat, though, this deal? 1,200-plus pages on who gets to fish where? It would be impossible to spin out that many words of real argument on any subject, however stubbornly the two sides disagreed for the cameras right up to the last minute. So the paste-in was worth it.
I wish I'd had copy-and-paste for my Working Abroad. No need for any original research at all.
Although, here in the real world, where I did actually have to research and write that book, I'm still getting PLR (Public Lending Right) payments for it. Once a year, into the tax return.
So I must have done something right.
Perhaps every major piece of legislation since copy-and-paste was invented - or even before that - perhaps every single law ever enacted contains long stretches of identical text in which you'll find, I don't know, references to ministers using official stage-coaches on official business only.
And just imagine - maybe the entire "rules-based international order" draws its legitimacy from a copied-and-pasted rule stipulating that, oh, I don't know, male pupils at state schools should only wear shorts with their school uniforms in the official Summer months.
What does that say about our civilisation?
Yeah, but would you want to make it up?