I thought it was a nuisance call at first. I'd already told the caller that I'd traced his location, and was sending round a group of fanatical Beaker Republican Guard to break his knees, when I realised it was Dolorez, phoning in sick to say she can't work in the Beaker Bazaar.
Heck of a sore throat that must be, I thought, to convert her mellifluous mezzo-soprano to the sort of grumbling double-bass that would be snapped up instantly by a quire of Russian Orthodox clerics.
But, of course, she wasn't actually phoning in with a sore throat. She has a bad back. But there's no way for me, over the phone, to diagnose a bad back. So the hoarse voice was a way of - if you like - secondary diagnosis.
This seems to be a common phenomenon. Anybody with a non-audible ailment, on dialling in, seems obliged to adopt an altered voice as a proxy for their actual problem. A headache will cause you to adopt a slightly soft, squeaky voice - which must be murder on the headache sufferer. A stomach upset caused a halting, kind of shambling way of speaking from the top of the mouth. Back aches and other musculoskeletal problems, the kind of whisky-and-50-fags effect I just had from Dolorez.
But the oddest I ever had was Burton Dasset. Once phoned in sick with no voice at all, and had to communicate in the whistling language of the Canary Islands.
Turned out he had gout.