29th May 2015
Never work with children or animals. Isn't that what they say? Unfortunately it’s half term week and it cannot be avoided - London is stiff with little people.
You can't move for them! Queuing up in Starbucks for their babycinos; hogging London's green spaces at lunch times with their picnic blankets; having screaming fits and flinging yoghurt around on busy commuter trains. I had to take cover behind an estate agent on the 7:45 who took a full strawberry petit filous to the chest.
As two of the three guys I support are Dads, I thought they'd be working from home, or taking time off at least some of the week, but it's been way too busy in the office. Ben's little ones, clearly missing their dad and with a penchant for making mischief have been calling in a few times a day:
'Hello, Bertie good morning, how...'
'No darling, I'm not Daddy, I'm Lucy.'
I must say it's a little disheartening that the child thinks I sound like a 47 year old man with a slight lisp on the phone.
'Rucey...? ...want DADDDYYY!!!'
By this point he is bellowing this down the receiver as if the only reason his father is not coming to the phone is because he can't hear him, so he must shout louder. My ears are still ringing.
Today has been a rollercoaster of its own. Nigel arrived at 8.30 this morning with a very guilty look and his little daughter in tow. We both knew who would be babysitting all day. That early start I'd purposefully come in for was obviously going to come to nothing so I set about gaining the trust of this incredibly cute but painfully shy child instead.
Up to my neck in work as usual, I put my new minion in one of the empty offices with as many coloured pencils and bits of printer paper as I could find and left her to it.
After a few hours I thought I'd better check in on Nigel’s daughter as I'd heard barely a peep out of that office all morning. Popping my head round the door I got the shock of my life when she swivelled round in the chair holding a pair of scissors, happily showing off the new haircut she'd given herself. She looked like Donald Trump in a gale force wind. This is not going to be an easy one to explain...
5th June 2015
Oh Christ! How do you delete an email address from coming up automatically when you're typing it into your Outlook? I was trying to type 'Olivia' to send my friend a happy birthday email complete with a hilarious picture of a cat carrying a birthday cupcake, but instead I've just sent it to 'office' which came up in my auto-addresses!
That means it has gone to everyone in the entire Mayfair office. Dear God! Too embarrassing, I mean I've been here long enough now, I definitely shouldn't be making these mistakes! I have my 6 months review with Priscilla next week where I will learn if I have passed probation or not, so the timing just couldn't be worse...
Silver lining though: thank goodness I didn't go for the pic of the naked hottie wearing nothing but his party hat... Google has quite a choice of hilarious bday images.
I've just tried recalling the email but all I'm getting are 'recall failed' messages which obviously adds to the embarrassment as everyone in the entire office is being harassed by yet another failed email attempt from me! The replies have already started coming in.
Charlie: 'Nice one Lucy. What is it with you and pictures of Cats?'
What is it with me and gigantic public c**k ups?! I so want to stay on here, I love it and I don't want to leave. How can I ride this one out where Pricilla's concerned? I so want to pass that probation!
12th June 2015
Phew! My probation meeting with Priscilla (officially my 'Performance Development Review', but I think that sounds like some kind of test you do on endurance tyres) went like an absolute dream! Actually it was better than I could ever have dreamed, I couldn't believe my ears...
We all know there is a lot for me to work on, and Priscilla and I did go through her list together: triple checking the recipient of my email before hitting 'send' and never leaving children alone with scissors when under my care being just a few. But where I had dreaded that these countless blips on my administrative record would lead to a thoroughly negative meeting, in fact, as Priscilla said, 'everyone makes mistakes dear, it's how you learn from them that is important'. Overall it seems my eagerness to please, my endlessly smiley disposition (even when inside I am absolutely pooping my pants that I've messed up again) and my thorough work ethic have paid off.
I left the meeting walking on air and treated myself to an hour long lunch break. I was feeling the bees knees, bopping along with a spring in my step and grinning at everyone in Mayfair because I am here to stay.
My happiness lasted through to this morning when I was cycling into work, zigzagging up the roads in Mayfair and feeling very smitten with myself, like I owned these streets. I paused briefly at a pedestrian crossing and that's when I heard him, a white van driver who had pulled up alongside me:
'Darling, I can see your panties!'
I turned to him, outraged, thinking he was yet another white van man perve, ready to give him a piece of my mind.
'Your skirt love, it's blowing above your head in the wind!'
Oh god. Minus the scary opener this sweet looking old man was actually a bit of a grandfatherly do-gooder, trying to help a girl intent on displaying her undercrackers to all of town. I had cycled all the way from Clapham without sitting on my skirt, and in this blustery June weather the light fabric must have been lashing all over the place.
When I arrived at work Pricilla was waiting by my desk to have a quick word: she'd seen my bright pink pant flashes from the window of her bus going up Piccadilly and wanted to give me a kind word of warning.
How the mighty fall.
19th June 2015
Um, bit of a situation... I definitely don't want to draw any attention to how stressed I am about this, but Bertie's borrowed my phone to photograph his expenses, and I’ve just remembered that I have a batch of semi naked pictures on there... Honestly I'm such an idiot, who the blazes forgets about the lingerie shots on their phone??
They're perfectly innocent shots as well, but it certainly wouldn't look that way if he did see them. Gee-ed up from passing my probation last week I treated myself to a beautiful new set from Victoria's Secret - I spent my lunch break trying so much on and snapping them all in the changing room mirror on my phone - Fran and I can't make a purchase these days without a whatsapp conference complete with a stream of changing room selfies. Fran told me at the time that flicking through these ones was like window shopping in Amsterdam, and now I've just handed them over to Bertie like I'm sharing some awful 'for your eyes only' shoot for him. Hideous! I need to get that phone back...
Just as I'm about to march over to Bertie and offer to take the expenses (and my phone!) out of his hands and do them for him, Priscilla appears by my desk, blocking my path. She's chasing me to submit my expenses for the three guys I support, so I explain I'm just waiting for Bertie to do his on my app.
'Your app?' Priscilla says, 'My goodness, modern technology! How on earth does that work?'
And before I know it we're by Bertie's side because Priscilla wants a demonstration. Bertie, suddenly on the charm offensive (because he's trying to convince Priscilla she needs to order him a new office chair) can't be more pleased to have the floor to talk her through the app.
'Right let's start at the beginning', as he scrolls his way back through the images of receipts, one after the next.
It was like one of those moments where because the inevitable is happening and you have no power to control it, time slows completely and you watch your worst fears being played out in taunting, harrowing slow mo. Just one swipe too many and there I was in all my semi-nakedness, pouting away at the camera.
Priscilla and Bertie both fell silent. Priscilla looked like she’d been punched in the stomach and drastically winded. Bertie was visibly sweating.
I grabbed my phone and Bertie’s pile of receipts and muttering something about taking the chore out of their hands I scurried back to my desk and buried myself in work. I haven’t been able to look Bertie in the eye since. Needless to say I have deleted all incriminating photos, this will NEVER happen again…
26th June 2015
Is the client always right?
In my appraisal with Priscilla, one of the things she felt I needed to work on was my ability to 'Manage Up'. I nodded enthusiastically, asking when ‘Up’ would be starting with us and how much experience they had in the role...It turns out she was referring to dealing with my superiors. She explained, as I stifled my embarrassment, that excessive 'yes-saying' to the bosses leads you away from your day job and results in counter-productivity. I knew the sorts of things she was referring to instantly:
'Oh yes of course I can walk the equivalent of three tube stops to collect your lunch just because you have a craving for that particular salad!'
'Busy? No don't worry, I'm only preparing the board meeting packs, but I’ll drop that to scour Oxford Street for an obscure nail varnish so that your wife can go to Ascot tomorrow!'
'Absolutely no problem at all, your plumber and I are on first name terms, it will be a pleasure to catch up with him again!'
All lies, naturally. But I'm a born people pleaser and somehow I think doing all the above is what is required to make people think I’m good at my job.
Where clients are concerned I am even worse, more eager to please than Carol Middleton at a Sandringham Christmas. So this week when a client of ours calmly addressed me over the Reception Desk to ask whether I was single and whether I might like to meet his son, I couldn’t stop myself:
‘Of course, that would be absolutely lovely!’
What the blazes was I thinking?? Obviously I have a lot to learn about this ‘managing up’ thing. Our ‘date’ is now lined up for this weekend and I know it is such a terrible terrible idea. I mean what if it goes badly; will that affect our client relationship? But then how much further do I need to keep going along with this just for the sake of the firm?
The client’s always right, right? But are you allowed to romantically snub their family members?
What’s the most bizarre or inappropriate client request you’ve ever received? Enter our competition to share your stories and you could win a £25 John Lewis Voucher – just add your entry in the ‘Comments’ section below for your chance to win! Good luck – we love hearing your stories!
3rd July 2015
So, the date with the client's son... He was about 10 years older than me: early 30s (intriguing); noticeably greying (distinguished) but constantly referencing friends' marriages and babies (utterly terrifying... I'm 22!!)
I also found it absolutely impossible to relax, impossible to get away from the feeling that I was representing the company. After all, that's why I had accepted in the first place. So I had my best 'brand ambassador' hat on: polished, professional persona; effusively positive in my praise of the business whenever it remotely strayed into conversation. I was like a one woman advertising campaign:
'There isn't another hedge fund that I know of that treats its staff quite as well as this one'
'People often think that this sort of working environment would be quite straight and dry - even cold. But I've never come across such an inspiring and vibrant workforce'
At this point my date leaned in conspiratorially:
'Lucy, don't worry, I'm not bugged. It's wonderful that you're so happy in your role, but you're starting to sound a little brainwashed. Shall we order another drink...?'
But I still couldn't drop it: 'I really wouldn't want to work ANYWHERE else.'
Obviously a lie: if Kate Middleton or Karl Largerfield called me up to say they needed a PA, I'd be there in a heartbeat.
Anyway, long story short, I think my gushing, overly-branded positivity had the desired consequence of putting him off. In hindsight it provided a golden ticket out of a sticky situation. And my relationship with the client himself has not suffered for a moment - he's been in this week: smiley, professional, kind as always.
Friday 24th July - First Day of Term
Hello all! Apologies for the silence this end, I'm back from a two week, mojito fuelled, bikini clad sundrenching and really struggling to get back into the mind-set of a Mayfair office worker, with my lunchtime beer cravings and my inclination to spend the vast majority of my time horizontal.
What a bloody brilliant holiday though! It was Fran and my's budget package trip to Crete, and it didn't disappoint: delicious fresh food, free flowing wine, put puts, sandy beaches and an obscene amount of Greek yoghurt. Somehow knowing that it was my hard earned money I was spending over there made it all the more delightful. Magnum ice creams and ouzo for breakfast? Hell yeah, if I want it I'll have it, independence is the best.
After fourteen blissful lie ins, however, the invasive jingling of my iPhone alarm at 7am Monday morning was a particularly rude awakening. And having worn nothing but bikinis for the previous two weeks, my next hurdle was what the blazes to wear!
Skimming over my floaty beach kimonos and denim skirt, I found a trusty old shift dress at the back of the wardrobe and readied myself for its constricting shape. On the way to the office I was struck with sudden anxieties as I stressed over the possible dramas that I might walk into. What if the temp had forgotten to log the expenses or had messed up my inbox filing systems? Or worse, what if the temp had been absolutely incredibly amazing, what if Priscilla didn't want me back because she so preferred the temp?
Priscilla put my mind at rest the moment I saw her. In her matronly way she hugged me to her bosom and scolded me for leaving her for so long. Then in her manner of mixed messages, she followed this extreme familiarity with extreme formality instructing me to 'take up my post' and 'complete my day's work'. This sort of behaviour would have confused me senseless in the early days, but 8 months in, I wouldn't have Pricilla any other way.
In fact returning to the office has been like retuning home, which I'm taking as a sign I must be truly happy here. It hasn't stopped me pencilling in my next holiday dates though... Paris in October anyone?
31st July 2015
Wowzers it really is wedding season isn't it? I was at my cousin's wedding at the weekend and my Facebook has been flooded with brightly coloured beaming wedding guests and pristine white brides all week. 100 likes for the cute flower girls picture, 150 for the bride and her father setting off up the aisle, and they're in the stratosphere for the money shot: the happy couple having their first married kiss.
It's either weddings or engagements. This week has seen a few uni friends arriving back from their holidays with the status update, 'he put a ring on it' - super exciting, yes, but also deeply terrifying for a single career girl who eats ready meals for one. Are we really old enough for all this? As I'm tucking into my cocopops for breakfast in my hello kitty pyjamas it occurs to me that I definitely am not.
On Wednesday at work, Fleur who is one of the other PAs disappeared to meet her man on her lunch break and reappeared with a ring. I had no idea it could happen that quickly, but she's assured me she has been putting in the ground work for months. Priscilla was so excited she was off to Waitrose for some champagne and we spent the afternoon slightly dizzy on bubbles, grinning at the glowing Fleur from our desks.
What a wonderful place to work - I can tell already that August is going to be a lovely month. The CEO is spending a month abroad and the heat is most definitely off. It's a lovely respite after a solid seven months. Now all we need is a little more sun...
7th August 2015
I know I shouldn't complain about the quiet in the office. It should be a chance for me to clear out the stationery cupboard, file the backlog of expenses and clear out my bottom in-tray of non-urgent items which I don’t really know what to do with. But we've got the whole of August to get super organised and career focussed so to escape the stony silence I slip into my favourite fantasy: holidays! I can’t resist the urge to have a quick peep at Facebook and Instagram and be transported into the holiday images of sun, sea, happy smiley faces, which are crowding my News Feed making me beyond nostalgic for my trip away.
This spurred me on to some thorough research on the best fake tan to keep speedily fading self on par with the best of my Mediterranean looking friends with their sun-kissed bodies returning from their private, yachts, villas and chateaus. Next morning I was excited to see my legs had turned a brown which even a lifetime on a beach wouldn't have mustered. The thrill was quickly replaced with horror as I spotted the patchwork of smudged brown on my should-be white palms. Horror turned to panic as the desperate scrubbing with bleach had no impact. I side tracked past Boots on my way in to work 20 minutes early to get the antidote for the fake faux pas. Urrrrgh roll on autumn when I can get some thick tights on and hibernate the hairless, cooked Wall’s sausage bod.
On another note, my constant search for a new style salad is running out of steam and tucking into a bottle of Rose with a punnet of olives and strawberries is becoming the after-work ritual with or without Fran. Whilst the extra lumps and bumps I’d built up around my torso have mysteriously disappeared, I'm regularly waking up in the early hours sweating about my liver and promising myself to stop. And then 8 o'clock comes round and despite trying to distract myself, I crave and then justify with a promise of “just one”.
My pitiful lack of willpower playing on my mind as I stirred the sugar into my cappuccino in the kitchen, I blurted out my Rose obsession to Priscilla. Imagine my surprise to get concern not for me but for her penchant for a G&T with ice and slice. I swear she was salivating as she said “gin and tonton”. The talk of drink had the opposite effect and we agreed to go for a quick one after work to discuss and, after the fizzy water and nuts, we took advantage of the sexy waiter teasing us with happy hour cocktails. The waiter was Charlie’s double which prompted a rendition of Priscilla's disapproval of Charlie’s new girlfriend. I gorged on the systematic assassination of her inappropriate behaviour and dress at the christening on Sunday as well as the wine, which I was quaffing like Ribena, as I feigned concern and gently prodded the nest every time she started to lose steam.
The next bottle anaesthetised the embarrassment recalling the Charlie date fiasco as I staggered back home humming Beyonce's Xo. Next morning’s dry mouth justified with “important work bonding meeting and the need renew my flirtation with Charlie” and anyway, it’s summer, the sun’s shining and while the cats are away, the mice will play.
I’ll start the booze diet in September when they’re back. Definitely.
14th August 2015 - 50 Shades of Lucy...
“Hey, hope you’re good. Sorry to contact you out of the blue but I’m a bit stuck. Need a hen party venue – where was your mate’s stag? Lx”
“Luc, great to hear from u! Stag was Barcelona. Fancy a drink to discuss? Cx”
Wooah! Forced myself to wait until next morning to respond with “Yeah sure, when? Lx”
“Tonight after work?” Yes but noooo why didn’t I reply yesterday?! I looked despairingly at my less-than-Friday outfit.
Eeeeeeeeeeeek! This is just what I need to spice up the summer haze. Now what to wear? Obvs I have to get something in lunch break – hit TopShop for a mini and pumps. So glad the fake palms have faded and I’ve built up a great look on the legs. Feeling good and sooo excited watching the clock slowly tick tock tick tock all afternoon and keep having to snap myself out of daydreaming and focus on filing.
I rocked up at the bar 10 minutes late and melted and heart pumped at the sight of his back hunched over a paper with a beer at the bar. The curly bits on the back of his neck made me want to kiss them but I tapped him on the arm as he whirled round and gave me his twinkly smile as his arms wrapped me up like a long lost lover.
I couldn’t help the grin that was pulling from ear to ear as I burst in on Monday morning at a few minutes to 9. This was soon replaced with a panicked frown as I remembered the Chairman was in meeting a client at 8.30. With the guilt of seeing that Priscilla had prepared everything I quickly cranked up the computer, shook out some papers from my filing tray and dashed to the loo to check myself out to make sure everything was in place. I was mortified to see that my skirt had been hitched up by my bag from who knows when on my journey in. And who knows who had had that eye-full. At least no one in the office; I was last in. I slammed the door on the thoughts that tried to flood in of me innocently strutting the streets from Green Park as the Mayfair world looked down on my knickers. The image was replaced with a questioning raised eyebrow from Priscilla. “I’m so sorry! I got stuck on the tube, and my mum called just before I left and then my train was cancelled, and, and … I’ll make up the time tonight!” Oh god. Why didn’t I just tell the truth? She came back with a coffee and went back to her desk without a word. That said more than anything that she was less than impressed. Bang goes the friendship when I need it most. A vibration from my pocket and my hand was there in a flash. “Morning, you looked too peaceful to wake up when I left. I hope you weren’t late. Cx”
As I chew the end of my pen, I start to replay the last 60 hours. I’m either the luckiest or most gullible girl in the world. How could I get from Friday when I thought Charlie was dating a Made-In-Chelsea model to here Monday morning gripping a text from him floating like a bubble that might burst at any moment. No games, no waiting just cut to all-out trashy Jilly Cooper passion. We established early on that Milly was a no-go and had lasted less than three dates ending with a very awkward christening when she clearly didn’t fit in to the family setting. With a clear conscious I relaxed into the evening fuelled with Tequila and talk. That’s it. No solids till after midnight meant everything was soft focus, with a pleasant fuzz in my head. Everything was bigger, brighter and better. We were on the rooftop of his Boathouse studio flat with a Dick Van Dyke view of grubby rooftops that were the perfect backdrop to the perfect evening. It happened when we were lying on an old sun lounger cushion as he attempted to romantically identify the crowds of stars who I could see were silently willing this one to work. And then the kiss. I’ve got it captured in ultraslow motion so I can replay it over and over like reading the kinky bits of Lady Chatterly’s Lover when I was a kid. The first touch of his tongue and I’m a mass of electrons bouncing off the walls as my mind jumps on a pogo stick. Outside I can see I’m calm. I relish every second expecting it to be the last; so happy when it’s not.
“Lucy!” Bang, I jump out of my skin and knock the mug of coffee which hasn’t been touched since she left. How long had Priscilla been standing there?! I felt like she’d seen the whole film unfold by the way she was looking at me. “Penny for your thoughts!” “Oh, eerrr, sorry I didn’t get much sleep last night”. I was truly relieved to hear Priscilla ignoring me and confirming Charlie’s story as her best friend had confirmed he had dumped Milly. Clearly this had not been a great match for either party. I wonder what Priscilla would think of me as a replacement? I’m definitely not intending on finding out. I can’t kill this floaty feeling of perfection just yet. Just as Charlie swept round the corner with the excuse of photocopying needed. All the promises I made to myself of not dating anyone in the office had blown up in my face.