I am in a meeting room in a luxurious hotel in the rain forest. Outside the rain is torrential. Through the window I can see what look like two magpies, but ten times the size. I cannot tell whether they are feeding, fighting or mating.
This is an unusual setting for an oil negotiation, but inside the room things are even more incongruous. I am supposedly advising the Ministry. At present however I am engaged in a dogfight with an experienced and able American lawyer named Jim.
England and America both have adversarial legal systems, and the lawyers are trained to fight. This is a classic Anglo-Saxon confrontation, albeit five thousand miles out of place. Jim has lots of points and fights every one. When one reason will do, Jim has ten.
Everything is being translated, which makes things even more protracted and difficult. My colleagues from the Ministry, listening through headphones, are as mystified by this confrontation as I am by the magpies outside. The fact is that the State will set the terms. Jim will have to back down, but he shows no sign of it.
There is a welcome break for coffee. Jim heads straight for me and says “Chris, I want to make sure you have got my point on Clause 3.2.”
In my opinion, coffee breaks can be useful for an exchange of views, but should not be used to continue the negotiation outside the main forum. So I am looking for a way to fend him off, and in a moment of exasperation, and rudeness, I say: “Jim – dealing with you is like dealing with a junkyard dog.”
He blinks twice and looks me directly in the eye: “Thank you, Chris. That is the greatest compliment I have been paid in my entire career. Now, about Clause 3.2.”
Clearly this is going to be a long day.