MAN’S WORLD: New girl in the office

Scene: A school classroom in the seventies.

A French lesson is in progress. A teenage boy raises his hand.

“Please, sir, may I go to the toilet?”

A few of his more worldly-wise classmates snigger. The teacher smirks. He senses some sport.

“En francais, if you wouldn’t mind.”

The boy sighs. He knew this was coming. He’s already revised.

“S’il vous plait, monsieur, puis-je aller aux toilettes?”

The teacher looks disappointed. “Very well then. But be quick.”

The boy rushes to the toilet. Locks himself in. Pulls a transistor radio out of his pocket – and listens to the Derby. The race builds to a climax. There is a whoop of triumph from inside the toilet. Fortunately there are no passing prefects…

Fast forward more years than I care to count. There’s a new girl working in my office. And she’s good. Blimey, she’s good. Quick, accurate, motivated – and she can write. Which makes life a lot easier. Because it’s Jessica.

“What are you doing in the summer holidays?” I’d asked her about six weeks ago. “Are you going back to M&S?”

“I don’t think so. I’ve been offered a job as an intern.”

“Where?”

“Manchester.”

“Manchester? That would mean you living away all summer. Are they paying you?”

“Travelling expenses. That’s all. But I need the experience.”

I wasn’t happy. It was the end of Jessica’s first year at university. She sounded exhausted. The candle had been burnt at both ends – and in the middle. We wanted her at home for the summer.

Some home cooking and early nights seemed an appropriate prescription. And I was damned if my daughter was going to travel 80 miles every day so that some company with no scruples could exploit her.

I hummed and hawed for a day. Then, “She can come and work for me,” I said to Jane.

My wife sat down. “That flu bug must’ve hit me really hard. For a minute I thought you said Jessica could work for you.”

“I did.”

“You two couldn’t work together. You’re too alike. You’ll be screaming at each other by the end of the first day.”

“No we won’t. And I can teach her a lot…”

I was right. There is currently no need to cook for Jane: she still has a large slice of humble pie to finish.

Jessica has worked with me for two weeks and I am beyond delighted.

We’ve got jobs done that have been on my list since God was a boy and the office technology has finally arrived in the 21st Century.

It’s hard to be objective about your own daughter, but see above. Were she not my daughter I’d be going home and saying, “We’ve a new girl in the office and she’s really good.”

Except for one small thing... A few reports have filtered back to my wife. What happens in the office hasn’t stayed in the office.

“What did you have for lunch today, darling?”

“Virtually nothing. A mixed leaf salad and a glass of water. I’m starving.”

“So you didn’t have a cupcake?”

“Oh. Well, yes. Technically. Someone brought me one to try. But that was work. I had to eat it.”

“And a fat rascal with your coffee?”

“That was my pudding…”

My wife gives me her Spanish Inquisition look.

“Jessica says you keep checking the horse racing when you should be working.”

Scene: An office toilet. A middle aged man is opening a betting site on his mobile phone. He is interrupted by a text message. ‘How long are you going to be? You said you had to finish that report.’

The man sighs.

He realises there is no escape…