The phone on my desk rings.
"Terry, it's K. We hear you're thinking of changing the match test."
This bemuses me at the time. Later, it will chill me.
"Er, yes, we might be."
K works for Chemtura, one of the biggest producers of flame retardant chemicals in the world. I've met him several times. He's been to meetings at the Department and I've attended a few that he's organised with the other two big flame retardant producers, and their PR company.
He really does call himself K, by the way.
My mind is racing. I don't really want to tell him too much since Steve Owen and I are still looking at options. More to the point, Steve and I have had a few telephone conversations about developing a new match test but neither of us has told anyone else about it. So how does K know? And why is he letting me know that he knows?
Later, I will have a better idea of what's really behind this phone call. For example, if the new test that Steve and I are planning to put together goes ahead, the flame retardant industry will immediately lose up to £80m per year, pretty soon after that rising to £160m per year.
Also, what K knows that I don't is that the USA is moving towards eliminating flame retardants from its sofas - and the population of the US is 5 times that of the UK.
Also, if the UK moves towards eliminating flame retardants, the EU market will be lost too. Chemtura, ICL and Albemarle have been successfully pushing the European Commission to pave the way for the whole of Europe to take up flame retardants in their furniture but if the UK takes the path Steve and I are planning, another multi-million pound market will be lost too.
Also, losing the US, the UK and Europe will stifle their attempts to sell flame retardants into the massive developing new markets like India and China.
Later, when I fully realise just how much is potentially at stake I will not be at all surprised that K had access to the conversations between Steve and I.
But for now, I'm just thinking that I'll be as honest with K as I can, since this is my main approach to any of the Department's stakeholders.
"Well," I say, "we know there's no evidence that flame retardants are a problem but some people think they are, and we thought it would be good to take a precautionary approach."
About now I realise he'd said 'We', not 'I'.
His voice is oddly soft, rather like a Bond villain who's setting me up for a trip to the torture chamber. "But flame retardants have an excellent track record, Terry, and we wouldn't want to compromise safety. The UK Furniture Regulations are the best in the world."
This annoys me a little since he's blurred a dividing line here.
"But the Regulations don't stipulate the use of flame retardants," I say because he's trying to imply that furniture would be unsafe without them.
"Of course," he says, "but some fabrics will never pass the match test without flame retardants."
At this time, I don't know whether or not this is true. So I steer the conversation towards an amicable exit.
Then I phone Steve and tell him about the conversation with K. He too is bemused about how 'we' knew what he and I have been discussing. He also puts me straight about K's last comment.
"Yes, some fabrics might need more flame retardants with our new test. Man-made and synthetic fibre mixes particularly. But overall, there'll still be a massive reduction in FRs and in any case fabric manufacturers will adjust their weaves with the mixed fibres so they don't need so much FRs."
As usual, I don't understand all of what Steve's saying but I get some of it. Which is a big improvement on our earlier conversations.
And so we continue discussing what a new match test might look like, both oblivious to what the flame retardant industry is planning by way of making sure it never goes ahead.