"I have worked with RMS for many years as both a candidate and a client. RMS are very different to other top agencies in that they have a small, focused team who know their candidates and clients so well they are able to make the right matches.

Investment banking

Lucy's Diary

20 March 2015

Recipe for an Office Romance:

Take 1 boy 

Take 1 girl

1 cup of flirty emails

½ lb of creative lunch breaks

1 pinch of photocopier meet ups

2 spoonfuls of secret smiles

And most importantly, although often overlooked:

1 lb of discretion

 

Method: 

1. Put all your eggs into one basket. 

2. Pre-prepare your excuses and have them chilled ready to use.

3. Throughout steps 1 & 2: never neglect your day job.

 

A recipe for love or a recipe for disaster? From observing Ed and Melissa’s over the past month I am leaning towards the latter. It’s undoubtedly risky – as Fran so elegantly put it, “it’s never a good idea to cr*p where you eat”.  I prefer Granny’s version “don’t make honey where you make money”.

Charlie has been a perfect gentleman over the past few weeks, but there has not been any mention of a further coffee / lunch / drink and I am thinking that can only be a good thing. I keep replaying the low points of the evening, over and over again in my head – no wonder there was no follow up, but then maybe it wasn’t a date at all? Who cares, I have way too much to jeopardise now anyway. 

I am really getting into my stride and I’m taking so much pride in my work. I’ve got my processes down, I’ve got some fantastic allies and mentors around me and I’m absolutely loving it.  Although the debacle last Friday was pretty embarrassing, it also taught me to step up, take a deep breath and think my way out of a crisis.  Claire, EA to the CEO, is so solutions focused – I’m learning that’s what I need to be too – she calmly trouble-shoots until she finds the answer; all graceful and unflappable on the surface, while she paddles like absolute crazy beneath. She is a swan. I need to be more like a swan; less like an ugly duckling. 

This week Claire decided to pass on some of her duties on a more permanent basis so I’m now managing the diaries and preparing documents for a few members of the management team. So far so good, but it’s only been four days. They are all completely different characters – I’m feeling a little like I don’t know where to begin.  I asked Claire for any advice and she just said ‘expect the unexpected’.  What does that mean?  

The exciting news is that I’m getting a company mobile so I’ll be accessible to the team 24/7.   Not sure about that, but I can take photos of their expenses with the camera and send them directly to the accounts team and avoid the excel spreadsheet which has got to be easier.  

Being really careful not to bum-call any of my work contacts, or send the wrong text to the wrong person! Has that ever happened to you? Or do you have any top tips of how to use my phone for work – any little cheats that can make my life easier? Share your tips and your stories in the comments section below and you could win a £25 John Lewis voucher!

 

27 March 2015

27th March 2015

 My new mantra: think like a chameleon! OK, so it’s one of Charlie’s favourite David Brent-isms, but I’m actually running with it. I’m becoming a master of reinvention.

 I’m finally starting to understand what my recruitment consultant meant when she kept banging on about character ‘fit’ between a PA and his/her boss. This was my first full week of supporting three different guys, with three wildly different characters and I’m rapidly realising that when it comes to a support role, one size does not fit all. 

 Nigel, Sam and Ben are my three new charges. Nigel is the Legal Counsel at our firm, and a man so methodical he sets a timer for brewing tea. But where his attention to detail is generally in overdrive when it comes to raking over documents, with more everyday tasks like remembering the name of his PA (I’ve been Mary, Diana and Rhonda so far) he seems to lack the same focus. His time keeping is also terrible – hence the tea timer – I always catch him darting into the office, disheveled and late, with a trouser leg tucked into his mismatching socks. This is a sight that might make him sound endearing, but I’ve always been a bit scared of Nigel: he never seems to break into a smile and he sort of peers at me from across the room like an executive meercat.

 The first few days of controlling his calendar were a disaster – he was late for every appointment, and I was too timid to interfere. But I’ve realised that Nigel is a man who depends on interruption and now I interrupt him about ten times a day to remind him about his next move.  He is a man of very few words, so I've also learnt to preempt what he might need: I have document folders ready for his appointments, and I deliver him his tea at the same points every day. Admittedly he doesn’t actually say so, but I’m taking his silence as a sign that he likes these little gestures… It can be quite hard to tell. 

 Sam and Ben are at the other end of the spectrum. They work in business development and they're so charismatic they could sell Jordan’s autobiography in an empty room. Unlike Nigel they are not averse to telling me what they want, but what that is will invariably change up to five times within a single hour. 

I’ve spent the week arranging, and rearranging a client lunch that's happening today – chopping and changing with each of their whims. Sam initially briefed me: 12.30pm, table for 4 and it HAD to be a very particular restaurant that he had recently seen on Masterchef. Obviously I was instantly worried about the chances of booking a table with just a few days’ notice, but I soon sensed that Sam does not like to hear worries; Sam likes to see results. 

I busted my bottom for that reservation – after several failed attempts over the phone I took myself round to the restaurant itself. I was on the absolute charm offensive; I splurged to them my predicament and explained that my life was in their hands! 

When I finally succeeded and bowled up to Sam’s desk to let him know the news, however, I was speechless with the response! Sam was not in the office, but I proudly informed Ben and waited to receive my praise: 

 ‘But we’re going to The Wolsey Lucy, it’s the client’s favourite – it’s always The Wolsey’

Pardon? The Wolsey?!

I scooted back to my desk at lightning speed; ate a huge slice of humble pie with the first restaurant and immediately got us booked into the second. After a few time adjustments and table number revisions over the course of the day I had thought we were finally there.

Unfortunately not.

Email from Sam this morning on his way in: 'Really looking forward to lunch Lucy - and seeing whether those Masterchef chaps really know what they're talking about! Thank you for all your hard work securing that table, could you just pop the reservation back ever so slightly as the client will be 10 minutes late' 

OH GOD! Do Sam and Ben not talk to each other?? They only sit about a metre apart! Is there any chance I could get that first reservation back?? HELP

 

02 April 2015

2nd April 2015

I don't usually read my horoscope in the Metro but I did on the train this morning to distract me from the fact I was forcibly pressed against a man with a large gut and an even larger personal hygiene issue. I also needed divine intervention to sort my situation with Sam which was taking over my every waking, and probably sleeping, spare second. So according to my horoscope: 'the winner today will be the person who can make the most of a dysfunctional and difficult situation - not the person who dwells on the negative aspects'. Hard not to dwell on the negativity of criminal BO burning a hole through your sinuses, but the relevance to my current drama was scary.

How did the stars know about my difficulties with Sam? Talk about dysfunctional and difficult, since I cancelled that reservation - on Ben's orders I might add - he has been distinctly unimpressed with me. He even said to me, 'I'm not angry, just disappointed' like I'd just failed a year 7 geography test. Eugh.  I know it wasn't my fault, but I had a burning need to vindicate myself and gain his respect.

I have been quietly working my socks off to try and impress him with about as much interest as a fridge gently buzzing in the background. I had retreated like a kicked puppy to my little corner in order to have a private deep breath, actually the prickling feeling in my eyes had shocked me into the dash for the safety of my reception barrier.  I could not allow that to happen!   Now my horoscope was calling for more positivity - I have been dwelling too much, the stars want action and so do I!

In my Easter excitement I had the answer.  I took a detour on the way to work and bought four luxury dark chocolate eggs, then delivered them to each of the guys I'm supporting, plus my line manager Priscilla. An apple for the teacher. It couldn't hurt, right?

Turns out it could. It went down really well with three out of the four, Nigel even did that weird smile of his that makes him look like a baby filling it's nappy, but for Sam who is evidently still fuming, it was about as uneventful as the recent eclipse. He just grunted and mentioned something about 'preferring white chocolate'. Why did I bother?  It's crazy but his behaviour just motivates me to try harder. How disappointing to discover that I'm a stick not a carrot girl.  Important note to self.

Perhaps the long Easter weekend will do us all some good, give some time for rest and reflection. This is my first working bank holiday and you have got to love a four day week! My little weekend holdall is nestled under my desk, reminding me that come 6pm I am flying out of the door and headed home. I'm so excited to return, all poised, professional and smart - I'm wearing my sharpest shift dress. All the gear and no idea? Probably quite accurate. Call me a fraud, but I figured if I look the part, no one need know the sad truth! I just hope they don't think the odour still caught in my nostrils is mine.

Happy Easter everyone - see you on the other side! Xx

 

10 April 2015

10th April 2015

I am a complete embarrassment of a human being – a big fat Easter mess. Having shamelessly gorged myself on third helpings of home-cooked deliciousness all weekend, I'm now the kind of slob who has to undo her trouser button every time she sits down at her desk! It’s not getting any better because I’ve been surviving on a diet of chocolate eggs all week. And on top of that, as I was home all weekend so skipped my usual Sunday washing day, I have no clean work clothes! All I can say is thank goodness for Fabreeze – what a handy little lifesaver.

Tuesday I think was the real low point. In my defence, Monday was my very first bank holiday in my working career and I may have got more than a little carried away… With the sunshine flooding the streets, all of London was out enjoying a cheeky G&T, clustered in beer gardens or under pub awnings. As soon as I arrived back from home, I dashed out to join Fran in Clapham: she is my go-to party girl and miraculous avoider of hangovers extraordinaire. Seriously deadly combination - I get duped every time into matching her drink-for-drink, and every time I find myself the next morning with my head in a bucket while Fran leaps radiantly around the flat, like Darcy Bussell with a point to prove. 

To be honest, if there was a day to be hungover in the office, with the three guys I support all having taken an extra day’s annual leave, I thought Tuesday might just be alright. But I wasn’t counting on Priscilla: I was sitting at my desk, concentrating my foggy little dehydrated mind on keeping my breakfast down, when she paid me a visit. Talking at a gazillion miles an hour she unleashed a verbal deluge of tasks for me and from what I could gather, the general gist of the day would revolve around filing and cleaning and sorting:

'We must make the most of these quiet hours, Lucy, to do our women's work' 

Women's work? You have to forgive Pricilla these remarks; she still thinks it's the 50s. Either that or she's been watching too much Madmen. 

I settled quite comfortably into these mindless tasks, but Pricilla was feeling frisky that morning and she hadn't had all her fun yet. In hindsight I can see she was definitely on to me – even Fabreeze can’t mask those damp morning-after whiffs of gin and she certainly seemed to know what she was up to when she decided to ask me, in the most thorough drawn out detail, all about my favourite cocktails. This was a conversation topic so far beyond Priscilla’s usual remit that for a moment I was convinced I must be hearing things on the old hangover. But no, there she was like a mother hen, pointedly teaching her wayward chick a lesson; probing me on the ingredients of a Porn Star Martini (which she initially mis-read as Porn Star Martin). Why she had to choose that one I don’t know (it reminded me of the time my grandmother asked me why Nicki Minaj wasn’t wearing any trousers) and the awkwardness coupled with the sickness was too much to bear! I had to make my excuses and dash to the loo!

Thankfully I have been able to redeem myself by working double time at the back end of the week. Sam and Ben (the two guys I support in the business development team) have a key client meeting next week so I have been earning my colours researching and preparing documents for them, whilst also getting through all of Priscilla’s ‘women’s work’. I’m so looking forward to the meeting next week as it will be held in the office, and will be my first proper contact with any significant new clients. I’ve asked if I can attend to minute it and I’m hoping if I’m fully on top of everything else I’ll be able to. 

New week, new me: time for a gym membership, juice diet and alcohol detox. I’ve decided four day weeks look great on paper but it usually means doing five days work in less time. It’s even harder when you lose Tuesday to a chocolate, gin coma. Bring back Mondays!

 

 

17 April 2015

17th April 2015

You remember that important client meeting I was so excited about? The one I was hoping to minute, so I could finally sit in on a business meeting and absorb as much information as I possibly can - what does Priscilla say, like a sponge - absorb like a sponge. Well yesterday was the day and having worked on the pitch documents all week, feeling 100% certain that everything was present, correct and pristinely presented I trotted in to work in my new Zara blazer feeling ever so pleased with myself and ever so excited. 

If only. As I am rapidly learning in this job, things rarely go to plan and at my level you just have to roll with it, bounce back smiling and forget all about what you had hoped the day might entail. 

At around 10.30am, thirty minutes before the clients were due, Emma (the CEO's wife) arrived in the office unannounced wielding a miniature Pomeranian in a big white neck cone. We are a Labrador family at home, and I am instantly distrustful of dogs that look like hamsters, but of course I made all the gooey gushing sounds required when presented with teeny beings of any description - babies; handbag sized dogs; home grown vegetables. 

It turned out that old Pommy was in great emotional and physical distress following his recent snip, and as Emma had a meeting in the area and could not bear to think of him pining alone at home, the only thing for it was to bring him in to keep me company. Like she was doing me a favour. 

'He adores Grosvenor Square Lucy, perhaps you could take him up there for a spin round in the sunshine?' 

Lucy Green: Receptionist, occasional PA and Miniature Dog Entertainer. 

My last hope was Sam who was standing by reception when Emma and her hairy side kick appeared, but he just grinned at me, saying that since I'd been so organised for today I deserved to take a nice break in the sunshine and they could manage without me in the meeting. But I want to go to the meeting! Argh, all I could do was take a deep breath and smile through it.

Pommy and I set off to the park, perhaps if we did a few quick laps of the square we could be back in time for the meeting at 11, I could call in a favour from Flora or Charlie, get them to watch the little guy for a while. But I have never come across a more ridiculous beast, dressed in his plastic Elizabethan ruff and even with his little legs pounding away, only capable of moving at a snail's pace. Every time I picked him up to try and speed us along a little, he let out the most sorrowful wimpers, making out to any passers-by that he was being cruelly abused. 

But the end was in sight, I was steaming towards our glassy office front and I could see the clients sitting comfortably in Reception awaiting their meeting - I would be in time! Only then I realised there was a distinctly foul smell following Pommy and I couldn't seem to shake it off. Looking down at my feet I grimaced as I realised I had sunk my foot straight into a pile of fresh dog poo!

What could I do? Sam had smiled at me through the glass, there was no way I could start wiping my foot on the side of the pavement, I was in full view of the clients and it would have been way too obvious! Maybe if I could distract them with a winning smile I could subtly drag the offending foot along the floor as I walked to scrape off the worst of it? 

Off I went, lurching and scraping towards the front door, grinning like a lunatic praying it would pay off. Sam's expression was now a lot more puzzled - was that outrage or concern? Either way it was alarm. I came through the door with little Pommy charging around my legs, excited about all these new people. Sam really kindly introduced me to the clients and happily explained away the situation with Emma's dog, but I was so distracted worrying if the clients could smell the gross mess on the bottom of my shoe that I couldn't really connect with them - I kept doing backwards glances to check to see if I'd left a mucky trail on the pristine white floor of our beautiful reception area. 

The good news was I was back to do the minuting. The bad news was I was going to be installed in a confined space with these important people for the next hour, worrying about the smell coming from my left foot. Stressful times!

Any other day and I wouldn’t have minded in the slightest taking Pommy for a spin, but I really hadn’t realised that sort of thing would be part of my job role. What’s the strangest thing you’ve been asked to do above and beyond your job description?

Share your stories in the comments section below and you could win £25 John Lewis Vouchers! 

 

24 April 2015

24th April 2015

This week something entirely unexpected happened... Priscilla added me on Facebook! 

How on earth Pricilla even got on to Facebook is a massive mystery to me. I have to help her set her Excel print area every time she's producing a report, and guess who puts her ‘out of office’ on whenever she's away - how the blazes did she find her way on to the site to even set up her profile? And why does she want to be friends on there?? Doesn't she know it's a world away from your glossy, groomed, articulate and erudite work-friendly profile on LinkedIn? I don't want her to know the truth! 

This is worse than the day my mum joined Facebook. At least she saw me through the extended uni years of unbrushed hair and last night's eyeliner so there were fewer surprises for her. And actually I think I even refused to accept her friend request until third year when I re-invented myself as the bookish art history enthusiast she had hoped I was all along. 

Maybe I just don't reply to Pricilla's request? Is that really rude? I was teetering on accepting last night, but I scrolled down my wall to do a little censor check and those status updates about 'Pommy the rat dog' were far too near the top still. 

I've spent almost five months now adhering to the work rules of regular hours, tidy hair and no afternoon naps - an exercise that has felt incredibly like pretending to be someone I am not at times - and there is no way I want to be found out now! 

I think I need the weekend to think about it - or at least investigate security settings I could employ to make it workable...

In other news Sam and Ben are running the marathon this weekend with one of our clients who is a fitness fanatic. Sam and Ben, with their McMuffin Friday breakfasts, are most certainly no such thing, although from what I can gather this is not the image they have portrayed to the client. So far in this job, I've been a personal shopper, a messenger, a wife shield and a dog sitter as well as a Receptionist / Team Assistant. I have so many different hats already, but I really wasn't expecting my next one: therapist. You see they're both freaking out with nerves, but they don't want to admit it either to the client or to each other, so step up Lucy, the life crutch. 

They've been really sweet actually; I can't imagine how I would feel if I had to tackle a marathon in two days time, let alone if I was going to be running amongst such a laddy, competitive field. I've been trying to fill them both with confidence on the down low and have been researching how to handle it.  One tip which I’m excited about is I’ve managed to get a personalised T-shirt printed with their names on so the crowd cheer them on by name. So if you’re going please cheer on Sam and Ben and to anyone else tackling the beast this weekend, sending so much good luck! I'll let you know how they got on next week...

 

29 April 2015

29th April 2015

There's nothing that makes you feel more like a slacker than nursing a pajama-clad hangover with tea and toast, while your boss motors his way around the London marathon. Two bosses in fact, overcoming their lifelong reliance on burger restaurants and taxis to race each other around the city. Inspiring stuff. And it has led to a remarkably quiet week as they nurse their weary limbs back into office life. 

 I've turned my reception desk into a bit of a snack bar in their honour, stocking it with an array of different treats to celebrate their return to normality after a grueling few months of training. It's going down well with the whole team actually - something my Granny taught me early on in life was that the way to people's hearts is definitely through their stomachs. Her famous pecan pie was instrumental in me learning the elderly don’t always hear buzzers and pecans are remarkably flammable.

 I also took the plunge last weekend and clicked 'yes' on Priscilla's Facebook friend request. I googled whether you should accept your boss as a Facebook friend and was inundated with buzzfeed lists warning categorically against it, but since I never upload statuses to do with hating my job, or to do with my romantic relationships, I figured I could probably make it work. I did spend Saturday morning studying the security settings, however, so now I think Priscilla can just see my profile picture and that's about it. She keeps asking me why there's nothing on my wall - I've told her I just don't use Facebook very much. It's better that way... 

 Priscilla, on the other hand is a prolific Facebooker. In just under a week I am an expert on her every move - how she just finished The Miniaturist for her book club; the flan she's been perfecting; her bumper crop of home grown radishes; and relentless updates on her husband’s ongoing struggle with irritable bowel syndrome. It's quite endearing really - like a window onto the future, seeing as the rest of my newsfeed is full of annoyingly loved up couples and The Lad Bible.

 Not too much else to report this week. Just wrap up warm folks as polar winds are on their way. And bring on the bank holiday! Although I certainly won't be making the same mistake as last time – keeping low like the temperatures. 

 

08 May 2015

8th May 2015

There are three things you should never discuss at work: your sex life, your bowel movements and politics. I knew the first two, obviously. I've now learnt the third. 

With this being my first election I've actually been eligible to vote in, I've recognised that my bright-eyed bushy-tailed curiosity into how everyone is planning to vote has fallen on a less than appreciative audience. I was asking like such a little keen bean mainly because I don't have a clue which way to go - I don't feel remotely mature enough for this kind of decision making! I wanted to sample some opinions, see what everyone else thought was important and impressive. the blank stares and silent outrage of my colleagues has put a prompt stop to my investigation  though. No one reveals their political colours at work.

I should have taken a leaf out of Priscilla's book - she's been far more interested in canvassing the delights of our new baby Princess, than the policies of any political party. She's insisted on coronation chicken sandwich fillings all week, the Royalist's lunchtime stalwart eaten 'in baby Charlotte's honour'. And she can't complete a conversation without mentioning the little Princess at least once. Charlie and I have turned it into a bit of a game, divying out points for the most unrelated segways into her new favourite topic - we were both in awe when she transitioned from updating her email signature into pondering on whether Kate and Wills would have any more children, in under 2 minutes. When I pointed out in passing, however, that little Charlotte shares her name with a type of potato, it went down like a lead balloon. 

We didn't realise the extent of Pricilla's dedication though, until Fran and I were working our way through the BBC news reels online while doing our make up yesterday morning. I had noticed Pricilla's hair had not been quite so 'set' this week, and had wondered what on earth she was doing with a glut of Union Jack flags in her handbag, but I never suspected this... There was a clip on the website about the 'superfans' who camped outside the hospital for the days leading up to the birth and guess who's little face popped up for a split second in one of the shots! She was dressed in a Geri Halliwell cast off in the background behind one of the interviewees, looking absolutely smitten with herself and waving her flags around with signature gusto. Instantly screen-shotted to Charlie for maximum points. If I'm completely honest I've had a lot to thank Pricilla for this week - it's been absolutely lovely to have an excuse for a cheeky, under-the-radar flirt with Charlie again... 

 

15 May 2015

Dear Lucy, 

It's really not in my nature to write in for advice - actually it's not in my nature to seek any advice of any kind as I cannot abide other people's opinions. Ever (Why would I need advice when I have such a bottomless supply of arrogant presumptions to rely on?).

But I find myself experiencing a strange new sensation - I think it may be remorse.  It's making me feel uncomfortable, like I’ve eaten some bad falafel ; I'm brimming with all this awkward extra energy and I don't know where to direct it, and it's just damn embarrassing really.  I mean it's not very macho is it; a grown man, striding around the place, unable to look his PA in the eye, side-stepping any 1-1 conversation with her in case the big fat elephant in the room, the unsaid apology, rears its ugly head and forces me to admit weakness. 

My PA is a bit of a rabbit caught in headlights, granted she is a recent grad with little life experience, but she tries bloody hard. That's one thing I do know about her - she's a born people pleaser and she goes out of her way to keep myself and the other chaps as happy as possible. I wish I had some way to show my appreciation without looking like I'm trying to show my appreciation...

So what I need help with is how do you say sorry without admitting too much weakness? How do you apologise and still stay on top? 

Yours sincerely,

Sam

 

Reply from me to Sam:  You will be a Man if you just apologise!  

Arrrghh!  SUCH a therapeutic exercise!  I mean, perhaps that’s what’s going on… perhaps he’s wrestling with his ego trying to work out how to apologise?   Ha but I like to fantasize.  Its Friday now and rather than looking me in the eye when he's talking to me he's addressing an invisible dwarf who lives in his shoe.

At the beginning of the week I was faithfully preparing the presentation and supporting documents for an important pitch Sam & Ben had on this week. Sam had given me particular instructions as to what to include and I had followed them to the T. Half an hour before the meeting and Ben asks to do a quick check through of the packs that I've had lovingly printed and bound through a local supplier to ensure their presentation is up to the mark. Just when I’m giving myself a solid pat on the back for doing such a thorough job all hell breaks loose: the client’s financial report is missing.

Sam and I are both sitting with the checklist he created for me in front of us – we both know there is no mention of this particular document anywhere on the list. I know he knows that too - I saw him glance down at it while Ben was frantically leafing through the pack one last time. But does he admit it was his mistake? No of course he doesn’t.  Admit failure to Ben?  Never! He’d much rather stand in the background whilst Ben tears a strip off me and he nods and blushes like an Edwardian debutante.

I don’t know what’s more annoying, having to shoulder the blame for something you haven’t done, or having the culprit further torture you with blatant avoidance tactics. It’s so unfair! 

Have you ever had to take the rap for something outside your control? Or had to endure a boss incapable of an apology? We love hearing your experiences – please share them and you could win a £25 John Lewis voucher.

 

22 May 2015

22nd May 2015

The Office Charity Bake Off

Two heavy weights of the bake tent are preparing to lift the lids off their cake carriers and to reveal their lovingly crafted sweet treats to the world. The air is buzzing with anticipation, made all the more heady by the thick wafts of icing sugar clouding the breeze. Everyone’s awaiting Ed Stirling’s arrival with baited breath: CEO and sometimes Bake Off judge. From the back of the assembled crowd a rogue tummy issues an expectant gurgle, and all eyes are fixed on the tins...

In the blue corner, gripping her Emma Bridgwater spotted container and panting with all the adrenaline of a proud mother on the rugby side-lines, is Priscilla. Mother baker supreme, lifelong devotee to Mary Berry and by all accounts last years' wronged runner up. 

In the red corner, teetering in her signature stilettos and pencil skirt combo, but with the casual addition of a skimpy frill-edged French maid's apron is Melissa. Reigning champion and (not so) coincidentally current extra-marital squeeze of Ed, CEO. 

Nobody would have predicted what happened next. 

Pricilla unveiled a glistening, perfectly caramelised tart tartin – a solid staple, but notoriously difficult to achieve such perfection; the crowd gasps in appreciation. Meanwhile Melissa is wafting herself seductively over a cut glass cake stand displaying an array of pristinely crafted petit-fours, like a chic Parisian Nigella. The male interns in the front row drop their jaws to the ground: they are visibly salivating. 

I glance at my school girl’s effort nestled between the glistening products of our two baking titans and groan with embarrassment. My roughly cut brownie chunks are charred black around the edges and yet still liquid inside – oozing obscenely all over their soggy paper plate. How is that even possible, for something to be both burned and raw?? 

No-one was more shocked than me when we returned back an hour later to see the winning rosette balanced on top of my sad brownie platter. I heard Melissa even ask whether it had accidently slipped off her cake stand onto my plate and I have to admit, the same thought had crossed my mind… I don’t understand, was it some kind of pity prize? I feel like such a fraud, and although outwardly kind I can see both Pricilla and Melissa are (rightly!) churning inside. 

What was Ed thinking? The office has loyally scoffed the lot and I am so worried my under-baked disaster will have given them all food poisoning! Paul Hollywood definitely wouldn’t have gambled on that, he would have pronounced them ‘raw’ and advised Mary not to eat them. Oh god, what if the whole office is ill over the bank holiday weekend?? I’m slinking off now to get out of the line of fire and praying to the gastro gods as I go… 

 

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