Thursday, 23 December 2010

Post-Breakfast Coffee at Tiffany's. Or In Northwick, To Be More Accurate.

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Thank God today's the last day at work until after the New Year. I don't think I can take much more excitement.

The morning starts badly, when Max informs me that we are not buying each other Christmas presents. Given that I've already bought his, I could have done with this information earlier, and I'm not too impressed that we can apparently afford the gifts he's bought for the girls at work, either.

"Times are hard," he says. "And it's silly to buy something just for the sake of it when we're struggling to pay the bills."

I'm not sure I like his use of "for the sake of it," but I suppose there is a recession on, and we do need to tighten our belts, so I'll just have to see if I can get a refund on the iPod shuffle I bought him from the Apple shop.

Not everyone is being mean about presents, though - as I discover when I arrive at work. As I walk into the lobby, someone grabs me from behind, and puts their hand over my mouth. I panic, and simply can not remember the judo throw Josh taught me, so I resort to kicking backwards instead.

"Hrmph," I say. "Grff!"

"Ssh," says Greg. "And stop wriggling. In here."

Then he pulls me into the loo. The men's loo, for God's sake.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" I say, shaking myself free. "And why do men's toilets always smell so bad? It bloody well stinks in here."

"Only place Vicky wouldn't think of snooping," he says. "And the smell is not important. Look at this. I found it behind the sofa in the Oprah Room."

He puts a small box into my hand. It's satin-lined, and the outside is a very pretty shade of turquoise. Although the box is empty, it's the sort of thing that jewellery comes in.

"What is it?" I say. "I've seen something this colour recently, but I can't think where."

"Probably in the restaurant yesterday," says Greg. "It's the box from Vicky's present."

"Oh," I say. "And your point is?"

This reaction is obviously not what Greg was hoping for, as he rummages in my bag for my glasses, opens the case and then shoves them at me.

"For Christ's sake, Molly - put these on, and then look again," he says. "At the writing on the lid."

"Oh," I say again, and then: "Oh, bloody hell, Greg. Tiffany & Co? Andrew bought Vicky's present from Tiffany's?"

"Yeah," says Greg. "Exactly. And I found it behind the sofa, don't forget. So when did it get there? There's no sign of either of them this morning, so they must have come in here last night after we left. When they were so pissed."

"Shit. I think I need a cigarette," I say. "Or even two."

As I stand outside, puffing furiously in defiance of the dirty looks Joan is giving me from the Labour Party office window, a courier van pulls up at the kerb, and then its driver runs out and enters our building. By the time I've finished my second cigarette, he's on his way out again.

"Seems some deliveries are getting through," I say to Greg, when I walk back into the office. "Just seen a courier dropping something off."

"Yes," says Greg. "For you."

He hands me a parcel and then, pointing at the customs declaration, says:

"It would seem it's from Russia. Probably with love."

Oh, my God. It is from Russia. And from Johnny. As I open the padded envelope, a hand-written letter falls out.


For you, to remind you of me. I don't need to be reminded of you, as you're on my mind more than is good for me anyway. It's very annoying.

Happy Christmas, and see you in 2011. Let's make that our year. 

Johnny x

Inside the box is a pendant on a heavy chain. It's deep green, figured like Malachite, and looks exactly like a miniature Faberge egg. Greg stares at it, open-mouthed - which is not a good look when one is in the process of eating a Twix.

"Bloody hell," he says. "That looks expensive. Who's it by?"

"God knows," I say. "What does it say on the customs declaration?"

"Jean Schlumberger."

Greg looks at me as if this name should mean something to me. It doesn't.

"Who's she?" I say. "I've never heard of her. She's probably the Katie Price of Russia. And this'll be from their equivalent of QVC. Diamonique, or whatever that stuff's called."

"Don't be daft," says Greg. "Johnny's an oil baron. He's not likely to do his shopping on QVC, is he?"

I don't know about that. Johnny does spend a lot of time bored out of his brains in hotel rooms, though I suppose it's easier to imagine him watching porn, than the shopping channels. But there's no time to think about that now, as the phone starts ringing.

It's Vicky, saying she feels too fragile to come to work today - so it turns out that I have been forced into the men's toilets totally unnecessarily, as she couldn't have over-heard anything we said from her bloody house. I'm still glaring at Greg when The Boss phones and says that he thinks he will work from home today, unless we're too busy and need him for anything.

When I tell him that we aren't and don't, Andrew says that he has decided to hold a big public meeting about the cuts, and wants a venue booked and invitations sent out to other regional MPs, as well as to a long list of other dignitaries. ASAP.

"I want it to take place during the second week of January," he says. "So the invites need to go out today."

"But, Andrew," I say. "None of these people are going to be in their offices now until the fourth of January at the earliest. They probably won't even be able to RSVP in time, and I doubt any of them will be free at such short notice anyway. Even if I can find a suitable venue today."

"Stop making excuses," is The Boss' considered response, whereas a slow-motion V-sign is mine. It's a good job he was only on the phone, and not in the office, or I might have had to kill him.

The phones don't stop ringing after that and, what with the endless calls and the pointless public meeting, we have to work flat-out until it's almost time to close. I'm printing the invitations and really looking forward to leaving the office when the phone rings again. Greg is washing up in the kitchen, so I have no choice but to answer it.

"Hal-lo, Molly," says a very loud voice. "S Novym Godom!"

"Oh, hello, Igor," I say. "Ah, S Novym Godom to you, too. Or however you're supposed to pronounce it. Russian isn't one of my strengths, sorry."

Greg raises his eyebrows at this, and then slaps himself on the forehead, sits back down at his desk and types something into Google. Then he stares at the screen for a few moments, before gesturing at me to get rid of Igor.

This proves as difficult as usual, and Greg is practically jumping up and down by the time I finally put the receiver down.

"What on earth's the matter with you?" I say. "You look even more manic than Igor usually does. And that's saying something."

"I've found out who Jean Schlumberger is," says Greg. "Come and look at this website."

Aargh. I've been so harassed that I've completely forgotten about my egg necklace until now, even though I've been talking to a mad Russian. I'll have to thank Johnny once I've looked at whatever the hell it is that Greg is so desperate for me to see.

"So who is she?" I say, as I sit down on the edge of Greg's desk.

"Not she," says Greg. "He. Jean as in the French man's name."

And with that, he points to this.

Can you believe it - two of Andrew's staff being given Tiffany-related presents in the last twenty-four hours? And I'm not at all sure I like sharing any similarities with Vicky - not to mention how the hell I'm supposed to explain my necklace to Max.

"Tell him Igor gave it to you," says Greg. "Max won't know it probably cost a fortune. If he's even interested."

That's the point, isn't it? I know there's no pleasing me, but I can't help feeling I'd rather have had an inexpensive gift from my husband, if only for the sake of it.

Happy Christmas to one and all. And S Novym Godom, whatever that means. No doubt I'll be back in the New Year, unless I've been sacked or have gone to Russia.


  1. Happy Christmas Lara. I'm sure your many readers will miss you while you are away so if anything exciting happens, or worse its all pretty boring, you can always escape to your keyboard.

  2. Thank you very much - though boring's almost what I'm hoping for ;-) Hope you also have a good Christmas and "see" you on the other side!