Friday, 13 August 2010

A Clash of Cultures. Or Do I Mean Vultures?

Today's the day Carlotta and Marie-Louise come here to see Greg and I in action, as The Boss puts it. I'd much prefer to see them in action, but I suspect that this would prove challenging, if the action was supposed to be work-related.

They arrive mid-morning, and Greg is ordered to drive to the station to collect them. Obviously their longer legs are less functional than mine. It's only a five minute walk, and I'd been rather hoping they'd get lost and we could lose an hour or so of their company while we "tried" to find them. Greg had even helped by sending them a slightly inaccurate hand-drawn map, but The Boss's insistence on their being chauffeur driven dooms us to disappointment. Greg says he'd have bought one of those traffic light air fresheners if he'd known he was going to have to give them a lift, just to confirm their low opinions of us, but he didn't have time.

When he brings them into the building, they have to pass Joan from the Party Office in the corridor. Greg says that Carlotta looks her up and down as if she is an exhibit in a zoo. I have to admit that this is a fairly understandable error, but for the purposes of today, Joan is one of us, and therefore entirely beyond criticism, except from The Boss, of course. When Carlotta says, "We just met Jean or whatever her name was," Andrew just grunts and looks disgusted. Honestly, that man couldn't tell who was on his side if his life depended on it.

Both girls stand around, sniffing as if there is a bad smell, and making the place look untidy, until The Boss orders me to make them coffee and suggests they chill out in the Oprah Room until lunchtime. I have a better idea, and suggest to The Boss that it would be a useful learning experience for both Carlotta and Marie-Louise to sit in on today's surgery. They look as enthusiastic about this suggestion as if I'd proposed they jump into a pit of snakes, which makes it all the more satisfying when Andrew says,

"Damn good idea, Molly." But then he adds, "No need for you to come - one of the girls can take the notes."

This wipes the smile off my face, especially when he continues,

"We'll hand them to you afterwards, so you can do the letters." That'll teach me to get creative. There's nothing worse than trying to work from someone else's notes, even if they aren't Andrew's.

The girls look shell-shocked after surgery, and slump back onto the couch, while The Boss holds forth about Steve Ellington's latest assault on one of his neighbours. Andrew appears to be enjoying giving the impression that he dares to boldly meet with the bad, the mad and the dangerous, without a thought for his own safety. Greg yawns audibly, and I decide to interrupt. (There's only so much that anyone can be expected to endure.)

"Um, Andrew - the surgery notes?" I say, without much optimism.

"Ah, yes - here you are." The Boss proffers one piece of A4, bearing his usual hieroglyphics. "The girls have got the rest."

Carlotta looks at Marie-Louise. Marie-Louise looks back at her. Neither says anything.

"You didn't take any notes?" I say. "None?"

"We thought Andrew had it all under control," Carlotta says.

I can't help myself. Before I know it, I say, "Andrew never has it all under control. For Godsake."

I stomp off for a cigarette. Greg tells me later that, while I am outside, Andrew apologises to the girls on my behalf, tells them I haven't been myself recently, and that there is no need to worry, that I will sort it out, because I always do. Humph.

Now I can't even have a drink at lunchtime, as I shall need all my wits about me to save the situation this afternoon. This doesn't stop anyone else, though, and Carlotta and Marie-Louise are legless by the time we stagger back to the office. I like them a whole lot better drunk, actually - especially when it makes them admit that they count the days until Recess, because Andrew reduces one or other of them to tears so often that they're both thinking of resigning.

It seems he takes the same approach in the Westminster office as he does in ours - which is to blame one of his staff in public, whenever he makes a mistake. Makes me feel a whole lot better that, even with all the glamour of the Cinnamon Club, and the other perks, they too feel stressed beyond belief, and can't cope with all the unnecessary work he creates. In fact, when they tell us how long it takes them to travel in and out of work, and what their rent costs, I end up feeling sorry for them. I don't think I could handle spending hours on the tube each day, just for the dubious pleasure of working for Andrew.

It's kisses all round when their taxi arrives to take them back to the train station. I think The Boss has misunderstood the protocol, though - as he goes for everyone's lips, except Greg's. We all wipe our mouths ostentatiously, while going "Psshaw" - but he doesn't seem to notice. He wanders off to do some work at home, while I spend the afternoon phoning all the constituents who attended surgery this morning.

I have to lure them into telling me the full details of what they have already told Andrew - and the girls - in the guise of seeking "clarification of a few points." I don't mind this as much as I had expected to, and, in fact, I feel oddly cheerful when I have finished. It seems Andrew isn't quite as daft as he looks: he's succeeded in raising office morale, though probably not in the way that he intended. Now we're all united in thinking him a complete nightmare.

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