Is it ever a good idea to take advice from Bridget Jones? Because that’s exactly what I’m doing – I’m following her example, and I’m starting a New Year diary. New Years are for new starts aren’t they? And it turns out that I, very much like Bridget, need to get a grip on my life.
So here I go:
This diary will help me organise myself, focus my goals and record my (no-doubt extensive!) lessons learnt. No more drinking until I pass out – no more alcohol induced illness in the back of late-night taxis! No more sneaky stockroom snogs with handsome work colleagues!! No, I am saying goodbye to the spontaneous, unstructured approach of my formative years. As it states on my CV: I am Lucy Green; I am efficient; I am conscientious; I am an asset to your team.
Oh God, if I wasn’t already painfully aware of how embarrassingly underequipped I was for the next chapter of my life, my incredibly helpful parents have successfully stressed the point this Christmas. My stocking was crammed with a series of unexpected self-help aids: Jamie Oliver’s ‘Ministry of Food’ (‘to counter your lack of culinary prowess darling’), a box set of The Apprentice complete with Karen Brady’s empowering ‘10 Rules for Success’, and this diary! I assumed that these were designed to inspire the wayward graduate to pull her socks up, get a proper job and finally flee the family home. My suspicions were confirmed when my mother casually left a wikihow article entitled ‘how to get your adult children to move out’ open on my laptop…
Apparently the first step is to ensure they have a job. Well luckily for everyone I have just got one: and it’s a proper job too. I’m starting at a Mayfair Hedge Fund this week in a role that combines Receptionist and PA duties, and although I’m excited at finally embarking on my PA career, I am naturally also beyond terrified!
Frankly, I’m as surprised as anyone, that I got the role. Nobody need know this, but I actually applied thinking that a Hedge Fund was a type of horse racing. Turns out it definitely isn’t, but that a 2:1 from Leeds and glowing reference from an obscure Oxfordshire pub landlady (whose bar I have been reliably managing since graduation) is worth a lot more than I could have hoped.
For the first time in my life I am making a career move: no longer will I eternally re-fold knitwear and jump at incomprehensible Russian commands in the Bicester Village branch of Ralph Lauren. Nor will I sloppily pull pints into cloudy tankards for our village neighbours in the local pub. This is a Mayfair Hedge Fund. This is court shoes and pencil skirts; speedy typing and buoyant efficiency; slick organisation and effortless office charm.
Goodbye undergraduate fancy dress parties, Tuesday night binge drinking, and 4am Subways. I am moving to Clapham, and I am becoming a young professional. Time to grow up, get organized and don’t mess up. Oh god, wish me luck!
16th January 2015
What a week. I keep having those skin creeping, spine shuddering moments where you replay an embarrassing scenario again and again in your mind… and want to jump out of the window! I’ve been feeling pretty confident about my performance so far, wearing appropriate attire; knee length skirts that make me look like a tent, turning up on time, making everyone tea just how they like it (you know…the basics). Office location is fab - lunch breaks are spent window shopping the Bond Street jewellers, picking out my engagement ring (haven't actually snogged anything except my toothbrush for 14 weeks) and ogling the underage Abercrombie models. I'd even impressed the CEO with ruthless efficiency when he asked me to pop out and pick up a birthday card for his wife. I decided to bring back a selection claiming that unwanted ones were returnable. Not true. Nonetheless, although I'm £25 poorer (I hit Fenwicks, DOH!), I’ve made a proactive investment for my future at the firm. CEO, Ed Stirling, now winks at me when walking past (unclear yet if this is in a fatherly manner).
Cut, however, to earlier today, AKA the moment my professionalism was thrown under a bus - it goes a little something like this:
Pricilla, my ageing Office Manager is both lovely and austere in the confusing manner of a school headmistress. I’m just never quite sure where I stand with her. She’s one of those mature thoroughbreds you see galloping around Mayfair in a sturdy court shoe and pastel twinset, facial expression is both a smile and a grimace at the same time - basically she looks deeply constipated, but I'm not about to reveal this to the woman that sits between me and the pay-cheque.
So around lunchtime, she guided me back to the Reception desk (I had left it un-manned for merely a few minutes to nab a freebie diet-coke) and asked me in a motherly tone how I was finding it so far. The constipated face made me think; 'Is this a trick question?'
‘Oh really great’, I enthused, but tried to level with her by matching her semi-distressed facial expression. ‘Everyone’s being so wonderful, I loved the colour of the meeting invite you chose in the diary today and I’m just so excited to be here!’
The conversation was going well. Perhaps one day we'd laugh about my first week in the office over a bottle of wine, "remember when we didn't know each-other"?!
I continued, ‘But how do you think I’m doing? Do you have any advice for me? Any tips for how I could do better?’ Always ask a question in three different ways my posh grandmother used to say, it really ensures people know what you're asking for.
‘Well’, Pricilla started, striding into her booming vocals like Paul Hollywood pacing the bake tent, ‘the best advice I can give you, dear girl, is to uphold the highest standards of precision at all times’. Then increasing her volume even further to speak over the boisterous IR team who were just returning from a client lunch, ‘to have such a thorough attention to detail that you are accused of having OCD – or how does my son put it these days – that you’re accused of being ‘anally retentive’’.
‘Fantastic’, I began, enthusiastically agreeing and raising my voice to match Pricilla’s volume: ‘I'm all over precision, I. LOVE. anal.'!
It just so happened that my triumphant broadcast had coincided exactly with a lull in the IR team’s conversation who were now settled down at their desks and had no knowledge of the context.
Out of the corner of my eye I could see them unified in sideways glances and collapsing into peals of laughter. Pricilla retreated to looking beyond constipated now. I shrank behind my enormous, panelled reception desk with a face like a beetroot.
A few moments later I see an email pop up from Pricilla:
‘Dear Lucy,’ (formal greeting from someone sitting ten metres away – clear sign of a telling off)
‘I think we discussed in your interview that you have to watch your professionalism in front of the IR team as they are predominately male and have a tendancy to get over excited by anything remotely titillating. Whilst I encourage enthusiasm, I suggest that you take greater care over your language. I trust you will have a restful weekend and come back refreshed next week.
Only one person to turn to: FRAN – super-charming flatmate who can talk her way out of, well, prison I reckon.
Forward email to Fran: ’HELP! I’ve massively c*cked up’
I froze; stuck in time; numb as I caught sight of Pricilla’s name in the ‘To’: section whilst the email disappears from my screen. God help me.
Please feel free to never come around.
23rd January 2015
Right, this week I've been grabbing life by the horns, "reaching out", as those crazy Yanks say, to my inner most strength to NAIL IT! It's been amazing getting advice from other PAs who clearly have a much better grip on this work thing than me - I've learned so much from everyone and that there are so many different ways to approach a problem but face it I certainly have!
I've assembled my best lessons learnt and made a fool-proof guide – with these little nuggets. we WILL acclimatise a rosé guzzling, trainer clad Leeds grad to the world of work:
The Office To Don't List
1. Don't ignore anyone; always acknowledge everyone from the cleaner to the CEO - including Garth, the invisible IT man who smells alarmingly of tuna - you never know when you might need that person in your corner (i.e. someone to sort Pricilla emailgate via remote access - true story! Thank you Garth). I now know internal emails can be retrieved AND deleted as long as the recipient hasn’t opened said incriminating email – gulp thank you god.
2. Striking new dress / tie / haircut - don't ignore it on others, assuming you sound like a novice. Acknowledge it and throw them a subtle compliment, because when it comes to compliments suddenly everyone’s interested in what I have to say for a change.
3. Say no to nothing and YES to EVERYTHING: everyone loves a do-er: Yes of course I will get rid of that chewing gum you have trampled into the sole of your shoe. Printing 20 copies of a 300 page double-sided document at 5.59pm? I'd love to!
4. Never ask anyone eating a bacon butty / wearing yesterday's shirt / with an ink-stamped wrist to repeat an order - hungover people prefer the toilet bowl to you right now, get out of their way.
5. Don’t paint your nails at your desk when clients are due in for a meeting and you need to take their coats. In fact don’t paint your nails at your desk period.
Hang on - that spot of pillar box red was on the inside of that Max Mara coat all along, right? ...but that little spec of camel coloured wool fluff definitely wasn't on my finger nail before!!
Oh gosh, this is exactly why my mother says I’m accident-prone - thank goodness I brought the nail polish remover with me too. I just hope they’re in this meeting long enough to loiter in the cloak cupboard and sort it...
30th January 2015
Brilliantly good week:
- Calls cut off: 0 (YES!)
- Calls mis-transferred: 1 (and Garth totally covered for me so effectively 0)
- Clangers dropped: 2 (neither of which contained the word anal)
- Cute couriers: 1 (AND he was delivering cakes. My dream man!)
- Praise from Pricilla: 3 (once it was even in relation to my professionalism when dealing with an over-familiar client – he was all pink faced and wandering eyes…gross)
My brilliant week began on Monday with RMS, the recruitment agency who got me the job, sending me the most gorgeous box of treats to congratulate me on my new role (delivered by the yummy Cake Adonis courier from Gail’s Bakery). The transformation in my office reputation was instant: from ‘anal girl’ to ‘awesome girl with cookies’ in a Mayfair minute (Holly thank you for your advice, you were so right – forget about compliments, it’s food treats that really wins office friends!). The chocolate brownies are the most amazing I have EVER tasted. Thankfully I didn’t give up chocolate for my NY resolution and neither has the rest of the office by the looks of the empty box. Nice one RMS.
Bolstered by my newfound confidence I tackled this Receptionist and General Office Dogsbody thing head on. I took some risks that totally paid off – I interrupted Pricilla while she was engaged in her favourite activity (chatting to Ed Stirling, CEO & dashing international phenomenon) because I realised that he was going to be late for his next appointment.
Pricilla visibly melts when she’s in Ed’s company. It seems to start with her voice which drops an octave as she unleashes a relentless stream of turbo flattery, punctuated with great braying waves of gafawing laughter. Anyone can see why she would enjoy a casual flirt with Ed – he first appeared on the Forbes list aged 22 and has matured into a sharp-suited, chiseled silver fox since then. He definitely seems to enjoy all this attention too – he shines that winning grin at her and spurs her on. I don’t know who embarrasses themselves more in the process, and I’m undecided as to whether I should try to emulate it myself seeing as they seem to get on so well…I think not, it would only go wrong.
I’m actually beginning to really love Pricilla like a favourite teacher – I find myself striving to impress her, she doesn’t go in for any fluff so you know when she praises you it really counts. My flatmate Fran accused me of having 'Stockholm syndrome' last night as I talked about Pricilla from the moment I got home until we peeled off our mud face-masks before bed. I told her I've never even been to Sweden. Apparently that doesn't matter.
Anyway, my second risky move was a slight overspend on the food budget this week as I included a sneaky box of chamomile tea (Priscilla’s favourite), but she actually came over to my desk to thank me for my thoughtfulness. Yes.
Today though, I am in a very slight pickle. Monday is Pricilla’s birthday, and as the delegated keeper of the office birthday tracker, I have diligently sent my little collection envelope and card around the office three times this week. Only at lunchtime today it has the grand total of £7.52 in it. I feel awful for Pricilla. The collection for one of the IR team last week made over £50! I can’t send it round any more times – it actually came back with less in it after the last circulation. I really don’t think that £7.52 is going to stretch to the £40 Gardenia Diptyque candle I was planning on getting her… added to which, it’s the end of January and I’m completely broke so I can’t even sub too much myself! If I utilize my bottom draw card supply, forego the Itsu lunch, I can push it up to £20 … any ideas anyone?
6th February 2015
I read on my Instagram feed this week that "you should always be yourself, unless you can be a unicorn, then always be a unicorn". Monday made me want to be anything or anyone than myself. Imagine me, my arch nemesis the tube; my face pressed into the underarms of someone's grey suit and generally I'm negotiating my gag reflex against whiffs of morning breath and pits. That's the tube though, the ol road to work! Suddenly a man gets up giving me his seat (unheard of)!! I gave the best cheesy grin I could muster to show my gratitude. Chivalry is not dead after all. The flattery was punctured however by sudden deflation as I realised he must have thought I was pregnant as I caught his sideways glance at my stomach. That’s it, the stone I’ve put on in the last month, is starting to show and tent skirt does nothing for my waist or kankles. Diet needs to be implemented immediately and I spent most of Monday googling 'weight gain due to fast eating'. But let me travel from Monday to previous Friday in one sweep. How dramatically different these two days are in the frame of a working week.
Last Friday I received my first monthly payslip – EVER! Whoopwooo! My first proper payday and the end of dry January conspired to result in one VERY happy Friday. But why did no one warn me about payday office drinks? It started at 4pm (basically February by then) when Ed (can’t help smiling when I say his name) popped the champagne and wandered round the office in a relaxed, cool fashion. He’s the Gray to my Christian. I'll stop there. The buzz within the office rekindled itself in The Mews alleyway, where despite the freeze, everyone had spilled out oozing Friday night excitement. The best thing about being bottom of the office pile is that everyone buys your drinks, tells you how young you are and no one bothers with chat like: "what do you think about North Korea?" Wet February and I are going to get on beautifully.
Snap-chatted a bragging pic of my 4th G&T to Fran and she was by my side in a shot. She’s been gunning for a party since I moved in with her last month, so she was charged up and ready to go. From what I remember I managed to remain on fun, but not overly familiar form all night. I can’t, however, say the same for Fran. From the moment she sashayed her teeny skirt and never-ending legs through the crowd which split in honour of her form I knew I was in for trouble. I was embarrassed to draw such attention to my corner but couldn’t resist a quick glance over to Ed to see if he had noticed. Yes he had. Oh god. As the evening slipped away and moved inside, I tried to interrupt the inevitable with a slurred toilet pep talk but I couldn’t pull her attention away from George, IR sales exec extraordinaire. Dashing, yes, but probably out of your life once he’d had his way. Needless to say, she ended up on a Saturday morning walk of shame, and been the talk of the office all week as apparently George awoke with her bra on - apparently, her idea!! Maybe this time he met his match?!
Having spent Sunday lamenting the lack of talent for any harmless office flirtations of my own – other than gorgeous, charming Ed, who everyone must have a raging crush on, one appeared from an unexpected place. Pricilla’s godson arrived on Monday to start his graduate internship programme. Monday was also Pricilla’s birthday and I was well and truly in the good books (thankfully I found an unopened Jo Malone candle my brother’s girlfriend had given me for Christmas, and I figured Fran owed me one so she spent Sunday baking a delicious carrot cake with cream cheese frosting – Pricilla was delighted). She insisted on personally introducing me to Charlie, and I’m not sure if it was just me, but I felt there was an air of Aunt Una at the Turkey Curry Buffet about it… I must be truly in the fold now if she’s attempting a set up with her nearest and dearest?
Charlie is, as Fran would put it:"a babe": sparkling blue eyes, dark, chiselled jaw and smells like Christmas - if Christmas were a MAN dripping in Clinique happy for MEN. God I bet he looks amazing in dark green wool. Zero signs of interest from him but this is definitely work in progress, as is my body reconstruction and googling of 'Fad diets that really really really work 2015'.
13th February 2015
Valentine’s Day tomorrow – suddenly everyone’s round my desk like bees swarming a honeypot making excuses to chat. I realise it’s not me they’re interested in, but the stream of exciting deliveries that have been arriving throughout the morning. The office looks like a gift shop with red floral and confectionary-based shrines popping up all over the place. Everyone is pretending not to care, but clearly they do and the atmosphere’s starting to feel all a bit “X Factor judges houses”. It’s hilarious teasing everyone by delivering the bouquets and balloon clad teddies, seeing their surprised faces as they blush furiously and try to shush the swooning. But unfortunately for me, the more deliveries that arrive the more depressing it becomes. Just to be totally transparent, for once; I’d so love to have a boyfriend today. Nevermind, Jamie-Christian-Dornan-Grey, you could not have arrived at a better time.
Fran is over the moon because a beautifully wrapped and scented, red lace underwear set arrived this morning and she is convinced it is from George. I thought it was pretty NAF with a capitol F and damn pervy for a man 10 years her senior to have such good guess work on sizing. She does however look like a Victoria Secret Model (yes I got a fashion show), which reaffirmed to me of how similar I look to Winnie the Pooh these days. Fran counselled (still donning slutty attire) in our kitchen at 7am that “this is what a sophisticated adult affair is like”. I brand any man who sends lavishly expensive red underwear a dodge-pot: that’s not the kind of stunt a man pulls as a one off – a clear tried and tested formula and I’d bet my dank hanky there were several other girls around the capital waking up to red lacy sets from the same man this morning… oh dear, jealous much?
In other news, I’ve gained another pretty huge lesson learnt for the list: when someone asks you to send roses, never assume the delivery is for their wife. Yesterday, when all was unusually quiet, Ed nonchalantly swaggered over to my desk, (cue: my pounding heart), and dropped a low voice to ask “Can you send two dozen red roses for me”. I looked up at him with a twinkle in my eye thinking how much I hope to have a husband like this dreamboat one day. He was promptly whisked into a meeting before he had finished his request. Ever the keen bean, I set about flexing my initiative and making the order for him. Feeling pretty chuffed with my proactivity, I hit ‘pay now’ with his credit card details to see the 24 beautiful red roses sent safely off to Ed’s wife Joanna in Chelsea. Ed reappeared at my desk presenting me with a Hampstead address scribbled on a post-it note, before skidding back off into the meeting room. Quickly wondering whether it was too late to cancel the order, I called out to Ed in my confusion: ‘Have you and Joanna moved?’
The small office was silent as Ed turned in slow motion, grimacing at me as he bellowed a “no?” It dawned on me like a lead balloon that my perfect Adonis didn’t in fact slot so neatly into his beautiful White Company family – he must be having an affair! His ranking on my perfectometer has plummeted to bottom place. How very disappointing.
Oh my goodness things are looking up! Flowers have just arrived on my desk and with my name on. Really? Are they for me? Beautiful (and massive!), a lily and rose stunning arrangement! Trying desperately not to let myself get too carried away, they’re probably from my mum, or from Fran feeling sorry for me.
The message reads: ‘Seeing you brightens my day’. No that’s not Fran talking… Ok don’t look too excited, play it cool… I’m acting like this kind of thing totally happens to me allll the time… Last time I received a valentine was at 10 years old in the form of a crucified teddy bear from my older brother.
Aaaaaah – so exciting! Can’t think who they’re from?! Please let it not be Dwayne in accounts, or Garth in IT. Off to the Mews for Friday drinks again tonight so maybe I’ll pick up some clues there…
Need to distract myself from all this until then, let me know all your office Valentine’s experiences everyone – what’s the weirdest gift you’ve had to buy on behalf of your boss on Valentine’s day? Or what’s the funniest thing that has happened? I bet you have some stories!
20th February 2015
Fran, the woman who can’t step outside the front door without breaking another heart, has some serious experience when it comes to mystery admirers. If anyone can help identify the secret sender of the Valentine’s flowers it’s her. On Friday at The Mews, in-between taking generous slurps of her espresso martini, and shamelessly flaring her green cat’s eyes across the bar at George, she managed to brief me on key incriminating signs to look out for. Top of her list: sweaty palms and unnecessary lingering.
A particularly unsexy-sounding combination, right? On those grounds alone I was fretting it must be Garth and his over-familiar tuna breath.
Cut to Thursday morning, however, and Charlie, Priscilla's chisel-jawed dreamboat of a godson, is leaning nonchalantly on the end of my reception desk: unnecessary lingering – tick.
'I’ve been thinking, Luce, our paths don’t cross nearly enough in this office’
‘Oh.. oh really?’
Stop stuttering Lucy, speak normally: ‘…well that’s mostly because I’m stuck behind this massive reception desk. I.. I don’t get to make any paths at all’
‘I know, it’s a real pain. We must find some ways to get you out of there more often. How can I incentivise you to break outside the box a little more…?’
I watch his beautifully square-set face while he thinks and try to ignore the fact he just said ‘incentivise’ and ‘outside the box’ – Charlie’s one great flaw is his penchant for clichéd David Brent office speak.
‘Actually Luce, I don’t seem to have received much post recently…’
Is he suggesting I bring him imaginary letters when I do the post round? That could be fun… Is my face red? My cheeks are burning!
‘Well yes, good point… I mean I’m sure that could change’
He flashes a delicious smile to show me I’ve caught his drift, and shifts his weight onto his other side – I notice his hand has left a warm mark on the varnished wood surface. I’ve never been so pleased to spot a sweaty palm! - tick.
‘Excellent. You see, you’re very much on my radar, Luce’
David Brent speak just got sexy.
‘And I’m also arranging an ideas shower later in the day, you should come along’
Gulp – YES PLEASE
Just at that moment, Priscilla arrived on the scene, bustling along with her morning latte and sweeping Charlie up and out of the way like one of those whirring street cleaner trucks.
‘Morning Lucy, dear’, she cried, ‘do come along Charles, you always were a dawdler’
Were the flowers from Charlie? OMG hope so! I feel as though my heart’s beating through my belly button! Must think of something very witty and sexy to write in his imaginary letters. Texting Fran immediately.
Today I also made another momentous discovery – it all began when Ed asked me to unexpectedly add another colleague onto his ‘working trip’ to Paris this weekend. It was Melissa, Head of Marketing; all glossy Kate Middleton hair plus a racy splash of red lipstick, and never without a breathtakingly high Kurt Geiger stiletto. I obediently set about arranging the travel – booking her onto the same flights and into the same hotel. It was only when I went the extra mile and looked up her home address on the system in order to arrange an airport transfer that the penny dropped.
Hampstead. The same Hampstead address that I had dutifully had 24 roses delivered to last week. Weekend ‘work trip’ in Paris? My bottom.
Feeling dirty and sad to be even remotely complicit in their little affair, but cheering myself up with my first little letter for Charlie:
Let’s take this offline. How about coffee Monday lunchtime?
P.S. Can’t wait to touch base. I know you’ll bring 110%.
27th February 2015
This week started with butterflies and anticipation. God, he made me sweat last Friday afternoon, but at 5.45pm, just when I was resigning myself to utter crushing rejection and tearing my hair out, working out how to apologise for my mortifying letter, an email popped up on my screen. Sender: Charlie, subject: touching base.
'Pleased to see you're acting on my feedback, Luce. Coffee on Monday, on me.’
Forget about tent skirts - Monday was a day for over-the-knee boots and contraband bottom skimming minis! A good friend as ever, Fran wolf-whistled as I cluttered into the kitchen for breakfast, and sent me out into the world full of hope, full of excitement, full of Activia - because, as Fran explained, 'no one fancies a bloater'.
When I arrived in the office, however, Pricilla was in the process of sending Ed's EA home to rest - Claire was a walking deluge of sweaty flu symptoms; her face was the colour of wet concrete and it was melting distressingly all down her front.
'Look here's Lucy, I know she's junior, but she's more than functional Claire...'
Functional? Hoping that's a compliment, but feeling ever so slightly like a dishwasher...
'...she can cover for you this week, why don't you hand anything urgent over to her and I will be here to help?'
A snotty soggy briefing ensued, as my dreams of delicious coffee and a delicious lunchtime flirt came to a crushing end.
'One last thing’ Claire finished off, ‘make sure you cover for Ed - he can be careless, look out for and cover up any clues.’
I must have looked blank, because she continued:
‘You know what I'm talking about - the Paris trip: Ed, Melissa' and gave me a look that had me feeling like a small child.
On that finishing note she unleashed an almighty sneeze all over my sexy suede boots – definitely not the kind of fever I was hoping they would inspire…
The week has been a total blur – I’ve been working my socks off arranging Ed's diary, getting in meetings, preparing documents, filing expenses. By far the biggest challenge has been covering up his clues. He strode off the Eurostar on Monday in a thick cloud of Prada Amber; filling the reception area with Miranda's signature scent and beaming like the cat who got the cream.
Seconds later and the phone’s going:
‘Lucy, hello darling, how aare you?’
‘Yes hello, Lucy speaking – so sorry, who’s calling?’
‘Emma daarling, Ed’s wife – you know I’ve been telling him he’s working you too hard, a pretty girl like you, you should be out there having some fun’
‘Haha… well, thank you…’ (I think)
‘Listen, Lucy, Ed’s texted me – he wants me to contact the Paris hotel, he’s left a cufflink behind and I…’
‘The hotel?’ – my mind was racing, I’m sure Ed would have asked me about something like that, not Emma – was she planning on calling the hotel and checking up on him..?
‘Yes darling and I don’t want to bother him, I’ve forgotten the name, he did tell me, just so I can call them – could you…’
‘Oh yes of course! Um, actually, I need to look it up and the line’s going. I’ll call you back.’
‘Emma, sorry the other lines going, thank you – bye now – byeee’
I slammed the phone back into the holder, and took a deep a breath.
I’ve managed to skirt around Emma all week but now Friday’s here and she’s going to ‘drop in’. She’s picking up her moisturizer from Fenwick’s on Bond Street this afternoon. Ed left the office ten minutes ago grinning like a Cheshire cat and smelling distinctly of Prada Amber. What the heck am I going to tell Emma when she arrives?? Should I call Ed?
Can’t wait for today to be over – the emotional stress is exhausting. I feel as guilty as if I was having the affair myself. Why do married people do this to themselves? Charlie’s upgraded our coffee date to cocktails this evening so the boots are back on! 6pm – you cannot come soon enough!
6th March 2015
Last week was a test for me – I had the opportunity to prove I could be a PA and a date with Charlie, and it felt like far too much at once! Maybe it wasn’t a date at all. Either way, I’m feeling like I have ruined both chances and failed the tests. Like old slippers, I’m taking comfort from the high wall of highly polished oak that secures me into the role of Receptionist. I actually am so happy with this role; happy with making teas and coffees, taking coats and making the most of meeting and greeting clients with a big cheesy grin; keeping up that smiley happy voice when answering the phone. If I’m honest, the whole covering for the EA experience made me feel totally out of my depth.
But let’s not get too depressed, every cloud and all that: on a positive note, it’s helped me appreciate what I’ve achieved in the last month and the surprising news that I really do enjoy being a Receptionist. It may not be a fast-track to better things, it doesn’t have to be a stepping stone and if it is, I’m enjoying being on this stone.
I have, however, been swotting up on hedgefund investment a lot recently – if nothing else it should prolong my previous response to the question “what do you do?” AND enable me to join in passing conversations in the kitchen with a bit more than an update on Made in Chelsea! Setting myself an achievable target keeps me distracted from the emotional roller coaster of last week: my aim is to understand hedgefunds so well that I can get as passionate about my workplace as I do about my MBA level analysis of MIC characters. Now that will be an achievement.
I also need to recount last week’s disaster so I can learn from this sometime when (if!) the failure feeling has faded:
Ed's wife, Emma, came crashing into the office last Friday to seek out her wayward husband. She has the looks of a supermodel and as a top interior designer in her own right, she’s intelligent, and inspiring, and immaculately dressed. Why would anyone do the dirty on such an incredible catch?
'Lucy, gorgeous girl, hello, how aare you? Are you looking forward to the weekend? Of course you’ll have a hot date lined up?'
When Emma speaks she floods her audience with her colossal charm - I had the thoroughly flattering impression that I was the only person on the planet, combined with the eye-aching sensation of looking directly into the sun.
'Haha, it's funny you should say that, yes I do... Tonight...'
Wowzers it had been one hell of a week filling in for Ed’s EA, but the thought of a cocktail with Charlie had been like a fat juicy carrot dangling on the horizon – the peanut butter Kitkat at the end of my spin class.
'Well of course you do darling, look at you. You know I still remember mine and Ed’s first date – I knew instantly that he was the one – you will too Lucy – I did, and it hasn't left me since that day.'
'Oh really? That’s so sweet!' – my heart's breaking for her - maybe she has no idea? Maybe it’s better that way?
'And you know he even bought me a bouquet of roses this Valentine’s Day - he's not done that for years, but between you and I, you know, the spark is still very much alive…’
Oh god this is awkward, not only is this way too much information to know about your philandering boss, but it’s heartbreaking that she clearly doesn't know about my blunder with the addresses… It was truly awful, by this point I was feeling thoroughly uncomfortable; I was absolutely squirming in my seat.
She must have noticed that I was off-centre and vulnerable because suddenly, at that moment, the pleasantries were over and she was stealing in for the kill: 'Now then Lucy: Paris, the hotel - you were going to send me the details?'
'Oh yes.. Um... I' her eyes were blazing upon me now, fixing me to my spot. I felt suddenly sapped and weary in the intensity of her attention; I was grappling for words.
Priscilla must have picked up my distress signals from the next room because all of a sudden she was by my side:
‘Emma – what a lovely surprise! Now, we have so much to catch up on, have you got a mo, let’s have a quick cup of tea?’
And they were off: ‘Lucy we’re popping into meeting room three – block it out for me would you?’
Was I still seeing sun spots or did Priscilla just wink at me over her shoulder?
Either way she had rescued not only me, but the errant Ed too, who had reemerged in his Prada Amber fog, and with a fleeting sheepish smile was able to slink back into his office unseen.
I am learning so much more here than I ever did at Uni! Sometimes I wish I’d done that PA course so I had a bit of formal training to fall back on. I thought I was pretty techtastic but the amount of red ink splattered over the letters and emails this week have shown I’ve got a lot to learn in business etiquette.
Anyway, relieved to have the heavy weight of Emma lifted from my shoulders, the rest of the afternoon flew by and before I knew it I was four martinis down, trying not to slip off my bar stool whilst gazing longingly into Charlie’s eyes.
I’d seen Fran drink a martini once, looking thoroughly sophisticated and sexy. Naturally I decided to emulate it, only I was grossly underprepared for their pure, paint-stripping strength. Charlie had raised a devastatingly attractive eyebrow when I made the first order – an expression that I read as a mark of great respect. And one that I was keen to elicit again and again, so martini followed martini and any nervousness I might have felt was soon blasted out of the water.
With all that vodka and vermouth sloshing around in my empty (pre-date nerves) belly, it wasn’t long before I’d gone off like a rogue firework. I was flirting like a trooper, leaning in unreasonably close, touching his arm with amorous overfamiliarity and oh god, I remember a truly horrible moment where I attempted to pick my napkin up off the floor with a saucy, meaningful backward glance – only I lost my balance and plowed headlong into the next-door table, spilling all of their drinks, and in my teeny mini no doubt flashing obscenely to the whole bar!
Oh god ground swallow me up – I remember telling joke after joke after joke – in my head, I had never been more hilarious in my entire life – I wish I could remember whether Charlie was laughing with me!
I wish I could remember what happened! Did we snog?? I feel like we got really close, but Fran says I had been delivered home to her in a taxi by 10pm, hugging a Big Mac. I really hope I haven’t messed this up, but I’ve barely seen Charlie all week. Perhaps I’m paranoid and he’s just busy with work….
As my grandmother says, count your blessings Lucy, count your blessings. At least I got home in one piece and I’m loving my job.
13th March 2015
I’m really superstitious about Friday 13th – I get it from my barmy old Yorkshire Grandma who would pour salt around her doorstep and hang a rabbit’s foot from the handle like a little shrine to ward the bad luck away. I left the house this morning with an ominous feeling that this was going to be a very bad day so I was tempted to draw a ring of salt around my reception desk when I arrived at work, just in case. I wish I had now – maybe Granny wasn’t as crazy as she looked. I’ve had a great week collecting compliments from every direction so it had to come to a crashing end didn’t it – sod’s law and all that.
So I arrived at work this morning and set about my usual routine – turning my clunky old computer on and disappearing to make tea and toast while it hauled its whirring self back to life. Only I got a little distracted chatting to Flora in the kitchen about whether we would or we wouldn’t with DI Hardy from Broadchurch – Flora’s argument of sexy Scottish accent and rugged unkempt beard v mine of sneery cynicism and serious heart problem (you could accidently finish him off in the process and the case would never be solved!).
In the course of our fiery debate I completely forgot about my toast, and I didn’t realise the toaster smoking away behind me until it was way too late. The fire alarm was triggered, we were all deafened by the ear-bleeding sound, and everyone was rolling their eyes and making their way out onto the street.
Always one for an over-reaction, Garth was barging his way out of the building with all the office Ipads stacked under his arms. Behind him, all the Board members were shuffling out with faces like thunder – this Friday morning had to be the monthly Board Breakfast didn’t it? I died when I saw them all filing out onto the street, almond croissants and teacups in hand. I knew it was only a matter of time before the toaster was identified as the source and the culprit confirmed as me so I handed myself in to Pricilla. She couldn’t hide her frustration, and I was crawling inside while she publicly listed the implications of my thoughtlessness.
I was feeling awful, determined to do better, to prove to Pricilla I was on top of my game. The domino effect was already in motion by that point though and it was only going to get worse. I had to do without the caffeine hit of my morning cuppa as by the time we got back inside it was almost 10am and the reception needed immediate manning. Around lunchtime I was just thinking to myself that it was an incredibly quiet morning on the phones, when Pricilla strode over – she had been expecting a call this morning from a new stationery supplier she was in negotiations with, but it hadn’t come through – had I taken any messages for her?
The penny dropped – in the fog that clouded my senses I had forgotten to turn the switchboard off night service when we returned from the fire alarm debacle. The phones had been quiet because every call this morning would have been re-directed to answerphone!
I sent Pricilla on her way, took a deep breath, and pressed the voicemail button – 9 messages, oh god, 5 of them from the stationery company exasperated by Pricilla’s hardball tactics, but a handful were from clients as well. Owning up this morning gained me an excruciatingly public dressing down with an order to sharpen my pencil which sadly was not a literal request. Aaagh, I HAVE to use my initiative and problem-solve my way out of this one…
Hang on – no one needs to know the exact time each message was left, right? …I could claim I’d thoughtfully clicked the machine back on when we all headed out for the fire alarm, and that the messages had been left within the hour we spent exiting and re-entering the building! I called Priscilla to let her know the stationery supplier had left a message, and offered to rearrange a new time for a call this afternoon – this gave me the opportunity to apologise profusely to the company without anyone else detecting my error…
Oh dear, the confessions of a wayward PA! I can’t be the only one who’s ever had to wiggle their way out of a mess up though, I’d love to hear your stories – share your own confessions in the comments section below and there could be a £25 John Lewis voucher in it for you!