Monday, 4 October 2010

The Winter Of Discontent Arrives Earlier Than Expected.

The first thing Greg says to me this morning is,

"What on earth's the matter with your face?"

After seeing my expression, it's also the last thing he says to me, until lunchtime when The Boss phones with some news: Marie-Louise has gone off sick.

"So, you'll just have to do my London diary until I can get someone in," he says.

"Why can't Carlotta do the diary?" I ask. "She's in London. That does help, you know."

"She's too busy," says The Boss.

I seriously doubt that. I'm pretty sure Carlotta still takes a siesta every day - something to do with her cultural heritage. But I let it go, as I'm more concerned to find out what's wrong with Marie-Louise. She sounded fine when I spoke to her earlier, but Andrew side-steps the question when I ask him.

"She's probably got personal problems," he says," and anyway, it shouldn't take long to find a replacement. I have a plan."

I really don't like the sound of this. Andrew's plans have a nasty habit of resulting in him shooting himself firmly in both feet. Or in my feet, actually, as one of my unwritten contractual duties is to put myself in the line of fire. Also, he sounds alarmingly smug, so it's obvious he's up to something. But what?

I decide to ring Carlotta and find out what has really happened.

"Ah, the poor girl has just had enough," says Carlotta. "Andrew has been horrible today. Marie was in tears by 10:30am and locked herself in the loo for ages. When she finally came back in to the office, he told her not to be a baby, and then - the very next minute - she said she didn't feel well and was going home."

"Christ," I say. "Sounds as if it must've been bad."

"It could have been even worse," says Carlotta. "When she got home, she sent me an email saying she was going to resign."

"Oh, my God! Why didn't The Boss tell me that?"

My squeak alerts Greg, who decides it's worth risking approaching my desk to find out what's going on, so I share the receiver between us. Hope he thinks the blotches are catching.

"Andrew doesn't know," says Carlotta. "I talked Marie out of it, with stories of what the coalition's going to do to the unemployment figures in the next few months. So now she is just off sick - which still leaves the problem of his diary."

"Bloody hell," says Greg. "I can't understand it. He was miles better on Friday so I thought things were looking up. In fact, he was as happy as Larry all week, especially at conference."

"Pfft," says Carlotta. "Today he is determined to upset everyone. Even though he shouldn't even be here, seeing as it's still Recess. He started to dictate some rubbish to me before I'd managed to take my coat off this morning, then said I was a 'bloody amateur' when I asked him to wait a minute."

"Did he ask you to do the diary, then?" I say.

"Yes," says Carlotta. "I told him: Andrew, if you want me to do that, then you have to write all the articles you promised those people at the fringe meetings yourself. Solo. Then he changed his mind. Sorry, Molly."

Sorry, my arse. Bloody, bloody hell. I wonder if Carlotta's going to get to keep the fees for these articles, like she did with the last one she wrote? I bet she is. The Boss doesn't care about money half as much as he cares about publicity - except when it comes to my salary, of course.

He won't be intending to pay me extra for doing his diary, or approve any overtime. He'll just say I need to "buckle down" and remind me of the clause in my contract that covers "any other reasonable duties." That's all well and good, but I do wish IPSA wouldn't leave it to The Boss to define reasonable. It's not a concept that he's overly familiar with.

So it seems I am doomed to become progressively more undervalued by the minute, given the unpaid hours I'm going to end up putting in until Marie-Louise comes back. I am tempted to write to Derek Simpson and ask him what he's going to do about it. I bet he'll say he's far too busy planning mass strikes, and leaning on Ed Miliband to bother with the likes of me.

I really must cancel my union membership, especially now I know what Derek earns - and about his alleged penchant for Thailand. Maybe I could get Dad to put a word in for me, if he should run into Derek during his next visit? Or maybe Porn-Poon could exercise her charms on my behalf? Though, actually, I'd prefer not to think about her charms and their effects.

Carlotta faxes me through all the urgent diary stuff, and forwards me the diary-related emails. She says she'll send everything else in the post. This does not improve my mood. In fact, I am so cross that I spend five minutes cursing and kicking the filing cabinet. Then I have to spend another fifteen minutes trying to get the bottom drawer to open.

Greg starts laughing, so I try to wither him with a look. It doesn't work, even though my face resembles the Infected more than usual.

"Trying to add repairwoman to your job description too?" he says.

"Shut up, Greg - it's not funny. I haven't got time for this! Not with all the bloody diary stuff to do."

"Cheer up, Mol," says Greg. "Think of all the fun you can have, sending The Boss to the wrong locations."

Huh. I wish I could send the usual suspects to the wrong locations. To far-flung destinations, and with one-way tickets. Maybe Derek could take them with him, next time he goes? Miss Chambers rings just before we close, to complain that the man who owns the local Post Office won't serve her.

"Why not?"

"Because he didn't like me calling him a Paki," she says. Or screams, to be more accurate. "Do something about it. I don't know what this country's coming to."

"Nor do I," I say, though I have a horrible feeling that she is oblivious to sarcasm.

Now I come to think of it, I can't see what Marie-Louise has to complain about. Being a Diary Secretary would be a doddle, compared to casework. Imagine only having to deal with the logistics of room bookings, travel and acceptance letters! And I wouldn't have to deal with Miss Chambers any more. But, of course, I shall do as I'm told, as usual. How I envy that Post Office man his self-respect.

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