'Deodorant, sportswear, fizzy drinks, pasta sauces. You name it, we've re-branded it,' says Toby, handing me a complicated looking cocktail as we stand at the crowded bar of the Electric on Portobello Road. We met last week while I was waiting to see my GP about the panic attacks.
'Brand innovation is all about re-inventing brand identity,' Toby slips his large wallet into the back pocket of his mustard-coloured corduroy trousers. 'Communicating that to the customer on an emotional level is key.'
'Right,' I say, desperately trying to concentrate although my mind keeps cantering off in different directions. In fact it's already covered quite a lot of turf including the origin of the word corduroy (which I happen to know is from the French Corde du roi or 'cloth of king'), the YouTube video I watched yesterday of Benton, the Labrador chasing deer in Richmond Park and a random fact I recently read about the average human producing 2 swimming pools worth of saliva in a lifetime.
'...at the moment we're working on a new type of Ragu.' Toby certainly loves his job.
Toby smiles. 'Ragu is so much more than...' He breaks off and waves frantically at a couple who are walking towards us.
'So,' says Justin, after Toby has done the introductions, 'what do you do?'
'I'm a midwife.' I say, resorting to my old trick of inventing new and unusual professions for myself to liven things up a little. Over the years I've developed a whole stable of unlikely imaginary careers ranging from Master of Hounds and owner of a dry cleaners to linoleum sales rep and oncologist.
'I love it,' I say, injecting my voice with as much reverence as Toby managed to muster for re-branding Ragu. 'It's a real privilege to witness one of the most important events in a human's life.'
'How many babies do you think you've delivered?' Charlotte asks quietly.
Toby is staring at me.
Maybe 3,000 was a little ambitious.
'There's a lot of twins around at the moment,' I say quickly. 'IVF and everything.'
Silence swells around me. Justin coughs and Charlotte stares at the floor, blinking rapidly.
'Aaaanyway,' says Toby, 'what's everyone doing for Christmas?'
'I'm sorry,' I say as we watch Justin and Charlotte disappearing back through the crowd.
'You weren't to know,' says Toby. 'They've been trying for 8 years now. It's bloody bad luck.'
There's such genuine sympathy in his voice that for a moment I forget about the branding monologue, the membership to the Electric and the mustard-coloured 'cloth of king' trousers.
'Another drink?' Toby's voice is as flat as my Oh Mon Cheri cocktail.
I shake my head. 'Actually, I think I'll head off as well.'
We say goodbye and make the requisite, redundant noises about meeting up again. Out in the stairs, I pass a couple. The woman is small, tiny in fact and is standing on tiptoes nuzzling the man's neck. It's not until I'm out on the street that I can place her - Wilson's girlfriend.
To be continued next Friday...