Guerilla Warfare

Written By: anonymous - Sep• 10•12

Our Rounders win gets a write- up on the intranet under the heading “Litigation Ladies Pummel Property Team.”  It’s accompanied by a grinning photo of Jane and me with a sulky-looking Fergus in the background.  Almost as soon as it’s published we are bombarded by congratulatory messages from all over the firm. It seems that Fergus, is not a very popular boy.

“Well done for teaching those idiots a lesson,” reads a typical e-mail. “I have long thought the Property Team over-rated.” “The second best Property crash in a decade,” says another. “Once again selling promises they couldn’t keep.” And so it goes on. Bad memories of the Credit Crunch are alive and well at CWS.

But one comment is more sinister than the others.

“I see your talents are physical as well as mental….” oils Philip Carlton on one of his (increasingly) regular visits to our floor.

I ignore him, as I try to ignore any irritating wasps.

“Perhaps you could give me some lessons,” he adds.

“I wouldn’t, if I was you,” Selina is back, and she hasn’t forgiven me. “You might find yourself in A&E.”

“Really?” he smirks. “Is she that competitive?”

“She broke my nose.”

“I did not break your nose!” That’s it, I’ve had enough. “We collided; you were as responsible as me for what happened. And besides, you said it was just badly bruised.”

Her eyes are huge and accusing; she looks set to issue a furious response when The Boss appears.


“Yes!” She immediately switches to simpering mode. “Absolutely.”

“Goodo, come on then.”

The three of them sashay off down the corridor; Selina in the middle; her hips swishing from one to the other. A one-woman pendulum.

I have no idea where they are going until later, when Margaret calls.

“Why were you not at the lunch today?” she asks.

“What lunch?”

“The lunch with Carlton, Selina and your boss.”

I feel my stomach lurch. “I think we can probably guess.”

“They were pitching a new idea,” she goes on. “They want us to have CWS written into our insurance policies, to handle our claims.”

Oh, they do, do they? “What did your boss think?”

“He thinks it’s a marvellous idea; but he would, wouldn’t he? You did a great job with the Risk Assessment and now he’s mesmerised by the Simpering Siren.”

I find myself wishing that I had done more than simply bashed her on the nose.

“But it was your work that convinced him – not hers!” Margaret continues. “You should be getting the credit for this – not her.”

For someone so wise, Margaret has a lot to learn about law firms.

“It’s ok,” I tell her. “Giving me credit would only provoke Carlton.”

“That’s not the attitude!” she fizzes. “You can’t let that overgrown lothario keep you down.”

But he has been keeping me down, for months ever since he thought I’d filed a sexual harassment complaint against him (which I didn’t but I should have done!).  I let her go, vowing to even things up and instructing me to make The Boss aware of my knowledge. He returns from lunch looking very pleased with himself. Selina too; she has her cat-that-got-the-cream face on, which makes me hate her even more.  I bide my time, but when I am summoned in later; I let him know that I know what has been going on.

“Margaret Johnson called today,” I say casually.

“Oh?” he looks up in surprise.

“Yes,” I say, flicking my pen between fingers, “She often calls me. We’re quite well acquainted now. She said you took her and Patrick out for lunch today.”

“Er,” he seems uncomfortatble, which is gratifying, “yes, I did. Well, I say, I, it wasn’t really me as much as Philip.”

He gives me an apologetic look, which is (I guess) supposed to explain my lack of invitation.

“Was it productive?”

He stares at me, not knowing how much I know. “Yes, I think so. There’s a chance that we might be written into some of their insurance policies, to help them defend their claims.”

“How marvellous! That would be great!” I know I am overdoing it now, but I can’t stop myself. “I guess my Risk Assessment work must have been good….”

“The Risk Assessment Scheme seems to have been well, received, yes.”

“Great, I’ll look forward to helping with the claims, when they come in.”

This makes him uncomfortable. He avoids my gaze.

“Well, it’s early days yet,” he tells me. “And, besides, there might only be enough work for one person.”

“Oh, I doubt it!” I laugh. “Knowing how some of their traders do business, they are a claims avalanche just waiting to happen. But, you know that, it’s all there in the Risk Assessment.”

“Yes, well,” he gives a little cough, “that was before the Risk Assessment was implemented. Now that Selina is on the case, I’m sure the claims will start to tail off.”

I doubt it; if she is in charge they will probably double. Then it occurs to me that that might actually be part of his master plan: send someone really incompetent to implement the recommendations, knowing that she will cock them up and create more work for you! Genius. But I am giving him too much credit.

“Well, let me know when I can help, it would be a shame to waste all that knowledge I have acquired.”

“Yes,” he agrees. “Ok.”

I know he has absolutely no intention of involving me, but at least I feel a small thrill of satisfaction at watching him squirm.

I call Margaret to relay the news. She has some of her own.

“I have spoken to my boss,” she tells me. “If Insurers agree, we are going to try to get CWS written into the policies. The secondee (Selina) will co-ordinate the claims here but if there are any which are too big to be managed in-house, I have asked him to send them to your boss with the stipulation that you assist him with them!”

“That’s really kind of you,” I tell her. “Thanks for thinking of me.”

“Least I could do,” she laughs. “The thought of you hospitalising her has truly made my week! I just wish I could do the same to Carlton, for you.”

“One day, I’m sure you will.”

“You’re right,” she agrees. “I’ve narrowed it down to rat poisoning or genital decapitation. I can’t decide which would be more painful.”

“You’ll probably need to use both and then finish him off with a silver bullet,” I remind her. “Like Rasputin.”

“OF course,” she agrees. “It’s hard work battling evil, isn’t it?”

“It is when they have had years of practice in a City law firm.”

“Yes!” she laughs. “Sod the Army, the Government should just send a squadron of equity partners to Afghanistan. The war would have been over long ago.”

“I doubt it,” I tell her. “Not whilst there were lucrative defence contracts to abuse and opium poppies to harvest!”

She laughs. “I hadn’t thought of that! On second thoughts, we should deploy Assistant Solicitors; if any group knows more about fighting guerrilla warfare it’s them!”

And it’s hard to disagree.









A Competative Edge

Written By: anonymous - Aug• 27•12

I thought I would be in the dog house for injuring Selina but, to my surprise, The Boss seems pleased with my antics.

“Ah, Mohammed Ali!” he greets me. “Injured any more of my team today?”

“Not yet,” I mutter, although if they all keep up these ‘jokes’ I might.

“Don’t look so troubled,” he laughs. “I was quite pleased to hear you had hospitalised Selina; it’s about time you showed a little fighting spirit.”

“I didn’t hospitalise her,” I point out. “There was nothing wrong with her that a packet of frozen peas couldn’t fix.”

“Oh, now disappointing. I thought you had broken her nose?”

“No. But If I had, I wouldn’t have been the first.”

“She’s broken it before?”

“She paid a lot of money to have it reset,” I say, feeling mean but justified. I am fed up with being labelled the bully in this saga.

“Oh!” his eyes are saucer-wide. “Well, well. Then, I’m relieved you didn’t harm it. The Employers’ Liability claim could have been costly.”

Although nothing is broken, it doesn’t stop her taking three days off and then “working from home” for the next ten days.  Jane thinks it’s excellent.

“You’ve got rid of Selina for a fortnight; do you think you could disable Tarquin next time?”

“There won’t be a next time,” I huff. “I’m not playing again.”

“Are you mad?” she exclaims. “You’re our most feared weapon.  No Property lawyer will want to face you.”

But, in fact, she is wrong. As word spreads of my misdemeanour the Property department is queuing up to take part.

“We hear you’re the star player,” sniggers Fergus, as I pass him in the corridor.

“You should know better than to listen to gossip,” I tell him.

“No, really, we’re all quaking in our boots upstairs at the threat of your left hook.”

For a moment I am tempted to demonstrate it but he skips off before I get the chance.

By the time the match rolls round Jane has (somehow) persuaded The Boss to have T-shirts printed with “Litigators Pull No Punches” on the back.

“We can wear them to Court,” he jokes as we line up for a team talk. “Now, no pressure, but if we lose this match I shall personally see to it that your Christmas bonuses are docked.”

“You can’t do that!” Simon protests.

“I can and I will. I have twenty quid riding on you to win. I cannot let those limp-wristed conveyancers get one over on us. Let me down and your already miserable lives will not be worth living.”

With that endorsement ringing in our ears we elect Jane as Captain.  If anyone has the necessary skills to crush the opposition it’s her. She immediately gives us a pep talk, telling Tarquin to “stop sucking his thumb and man up,” and Simon to “work as a team player and stop glory-hunting for himself.” That seems to rile them both and when she wins the toss up; she elects to go into bat. She goes first and harnesses that annoyance.

Fergus is bowling. He pitches the first one directly at her head.

“Foul!” she cries at the umpires (Malcolm and John) who glance at each other and shrug.

“Throw again,” Malcolm tells Fergus. “Aim a bit lower than her head.”

“I’ll try,” Fergus laughs, “But it won’t be easy.”

He throws again, a little lower than before. She fires it back, straight at him. He ducks! The ball goes sailing past beyond second base, much to the amusement of the crowd.

“You’re supposed to catch the ball!” they shout as Jane races round to third post.

Fergus blushes furiously.

Simon is next up. He takes up a baseball stance and growls, menacingly at the bowler. Fergus pitches the ball. He misses but races to first post. The backstop flings the ball after him. First post catches it.

“Out out out out!” chants Fergus as Malcolm nods in agreement.  Simon scowls like a troll and marches back to the bench.  Jane slips quietly past fourth post and back to the end of the line.

“Well done,” I tell her.

She nods. “Pity the rest of our team isn’t quite so determined. It looks like it’s down to me and you Hels.”

Unfortunately, she’s right. Tarquin gets run out at third post; Jack falls over on his way to fourth; and the rest of them fail to even make it past the batting square. By the time it’s my turn, there is only Jane and me left.

“You can do it,” she whispers. “Imagine the ball is Philip Carlton’s head.”

That is all the advice I need. As it comes screaming towards me I swing back and hit it with all my might. Being left handed, it sails way out over first post and into the no mans land where they have no fielders.

“Run!” shouts Jane as I fly off the line and round the first three posts. Fergus is screaming for the fielders to send it to fourth post but – too late – I’m there – panting and breathless but one rounder up!

“Yeah!” screams my team. “Go Helen!”

“Well done,” Jane pats me on the back. “Just do that a few more times and we might stand a chance of winning this match.”

Astonishingly I do! Three rounders later (two from me and one from Jane) we are four-nil up. We end with an (astonishing!) total of six rounders before Fergus resorts to more shady tactics and gets us all out.  We switch sides. The boys are sent into the outfield whilst the girls are manning the posts as a delegation approaches.  It’s The Boss, Miranda and Carlton. Great. Just what we need to reverse morale.

“How are they doing?” The Boss asks Malcolm.

“Pretty well,” he tells him. “They are six up.  Helen and Jane are our secret weapons.”

“I always knew they would be!” he laughs. “I have trained them very well.”

All those years of fending off his insults and batting away criticism have, finally, given us an edge.

Olympic Ideals

Written By: anonymous - Aug• 13•12

It has been a frantic few weeks. Liz has, finally, made an honest man of Dan and London has exploded with a frenzy of Olympic excitement. Not that we would know it. Whilst other firms are allowing employees to work from home or stagger their hours, ours has decreed that we should all be at our desks no matter what transport traumas befall us.

“Do you think Londoners ‘worked from home’ during The Blitz?” asks The Boss, when Jane tackles him on the subject.

“No,” she admits, “but that’s because their homes were being bombed out.”

“Then there you go! If they can carry on then so can we.”

“You can’t compare The Olympics to The Blitz!” she protests.

“Why not, we’re invaded by foreigners, our services are disrupted, we’ve lost almost every battle and our politicians keep telling us not to panic. Sounds a lot like 1940 to me.”

Worse, because of the Creepy Nigel and the IT Police, we can’t even watch any of it on our computers. We have to resort to viewing via mobile phones or sneaking down to the foyer (where there is a widescreen TV). It’s a perilous pursuit; we were almost caught screaming for the Men’s Eight to hang on to gold. And when the cycling got started we were hard pressed to do any work.  And once the athletics got underway, we almost abandoned it all together.

“Why couldn’t we just have the fortnight off?” Jane grumbles.

Her new-found interest in sport is something of a revelation, although, typically, she enjoys the events that no one else does: weight lifting, wrestling and judo. Alex (by contrast) has shown a predictable interest in diving, dressage and beach volley ball (for men). I like the swimming and the rowing but I’ve also found new interest in Water Polo, which is the sport I think most suited to law firms. Lawyers would be brilliant at it. It’s all about sneaky, underwater tactics, ducking  opponents and hogging the ball.

I (jokingly) suggest to The Boss that we might establish a CWS team.

“I used to play Water Polo!” he agrees. “I was captain for my school.”

No surprise there.

“I thought it might be a good Team activity.”

He laughs! “If you want to hospitalise your colleagues.”

“I wouldn’t mind drowning one or two of them,” I admit.

“Well, there you go! HR would never permit it. But I like your thinking; perhaps we should arrange some sort of Team games……”

It doesn’t take long for him to come up with his proposal.


Inspired by the success of Team GB; we have decided to instil some of the same values of competition and team work into our department.  We have challenged the Property Department to a Rounders match at the end. We have four weeks to transform ourselves into a slick, co-ordinated fighting force. Training will commence on Tuesday evenings at six thirty pm.

This is not, quite, what Jane had in mind.

“Rounders!” she splutters. “It’s hardly the ruthless gladiatorial combat I would have proposed!”

If Jane had had her way we would have been fighting bulls and spearing lions.

“I didn’t propose it, I proposed Water Polo,” I explain. “But as a joke; I never thought he would take it seriously.”

“Water Polo was obviously too expensive for them to fund,” she sniffs, “So you’ve lumbered us with Rouders instead.”

“It might be fun,” I try to look on the bright side. Although I am, also, wondering what possessed him.

“It would only be fun if we were playing against our colleagues,” she tells me, “Not with them!”

Alex is disappointed that we won’t be wearing Speedos.

“Did you really want to see Tarquin in a swimsuit?” I ask him.

“Oh, god no!” he pulls a face. “But I thought we might find some fit opponents to challenge.”

“The Property Department?”

“Yeah, maybe not.”

Just as we think that things can’t get worse; Jeannette appears and distributes fluorescent “CWS” bibs for us all to wear. Pink for Property, yellow for Litigation.  And we’re told to wear shorts, which Jane flatly refuses to do.

“I haven’t worn shorts since I was at primary school,” she declares, “And I don’t intend to do so now.”

She decides to wear combat trousers instead.

Meanwhile, back in the real world of work, Selina and Margaret have well and truly fallen out.

“She’s never here!” Margaret  fumes, “And when she is, she spends all day flirting with my Boss.”

“She has had a lot of clients to ‘entertain’ recently,” I explain. “Helping them watch the Olympics was very important.”

Especially the Beach Volleyball.

“Pah!” she snorts. “It wasn’t called ‘entertainment’ in my day! It’s nothing short of prostitution!” She doesn’t mince her words. “She trots in, wearing skimpy little dresses and high heels and sits on the edge of his desk simpering and swooning at him! It’s like something out of that awful MadMen series.”

Her Rounders outfit is no different. Whist the rest of us cobble together old vests and running shorts, Selina turns up at our first practice session in all over lycra. No wonder all the boys volunteer to be back stop. We divide into teams, Jane on one side, Tarquin on the other. Jane picks me, Danielle, Simon and Clive (and a rag tag band of trainees/paralegals). Tarquin gets Melinda, Malcolm, Selina and Alex.

“Tactics are simple,” she advises. “Hospitalise them. Do whatever you can to put them out of action.”

“Ok,” Simon nods.

“Absolutely,” Danielle agrees.

I say nothing but thank god I am on her side.

We are first to field. Tarquin thinks this is a sign of weakness but he hasn’t reckoned on Jane’s bowling. The first ball goes whizzing past his head but the second finds its mark; hitting him squarely in the unmentionables.

“Ooow!” he’s squeals.

“One down,” she mouths to me. “five to go. You need to speed up your swinging action,” she tells him.

“You need to work on your aim!” he screams.

Selina is next. She slinks, slowly on to the square and wiggles her bottom at Simon ( who crouched behind). Jane’s eyes narrow murderously.

“Simon!” she orders. “Swap with Danielle.”

He protests, but too late, Danielle has elbowed him aside and taken up position. Jane readies herself for the throw: Pow! It’s a corker, straight to Danielle. Danielle catches it and flings the ball to me.  It seems to all happen in slow motion. I leap for the ball; Selina charges for the base; I snatch the ball from the air, and we both leap for the post at the same time. Seconds later we are lying on the floor; me clutching the post, her clutching her nose.

Jane is screaming “Out, out out!” at the top of her lungs.

“Are you ok?”

“No!” she cries. “My nose!” She moves her hand back to reveal a red, swollen mass.

“I’m sorry!” I gasp as Malcom, Tarquin et al, rush to her aid.

“Stupid cow!” she retorts.

“It was an accident,” I protest. “We both went for the post at the same time.”

“You didn’t have to knock my nose!” she shrieks. “I won’t be able to face anyone for weeks!”

“I’m sure that’s not true,” I soothe, “A bit of ice and some Nurofen will sort it out.”

“If I need surgery!” she goes on, “I’ll sue you! My surgeon is bloody expensive!”

So that’s it! She thinks I’ve messed up her nose job! Oh my goodness! I know it’s not sporting, but I don’t think we couldn’t have hoped for a better result…………









The Big Night (part 2)

Written By: anonymous - Jul• 30•12

The wedding ceremony over, we flood out of the church into the sunshine for photos. Liz seems blissfully happy, smiling and waving at everyone and Dan is grinning like a Cheshire cat.

“It won’t last,” Jane declares, as we watch from afar. “Two weeks in Thailand and they’ll be back home arguing about the remote control.”

But then she produces some confetti from her handbag. Is there romance in her soul after all?

“Lynnette gave it to me,” she says, seeing our astonished look. “She said we had to throw it for luck.”

She hands us a lump of dried rose petals and orders us to get into line. In fact, to get the right shot we throw it four times, as the photographer strains to get the perfect “impromptu” shot.

Meanwhile, the Partners are milling around, looking out of place. Jane takes the opportunity to ask The Boss what he thought of the service.

“It was nice, if you like that sort of thing,” he admits. “But I don’t believe in all that claptrap myself.”

“Didn’t you and Mrs Boss get married in a church?”

He shakes his head. “Chelsea Registry Office. I was in the middle of a trial.”

“How romantic.”

He lets out an involuntary snort. “There are more important things in life, than fancy flowers and Champagne, Jane.”

Like billable hours and monthly drawings.

“If you want my advice,” he tells her, “There is no point to getting married any more. The tax advantages are not what they used to be.”

“And the divorce fees are very high!” Miranda appears and adds, with a titter.

And, since she has probably been responsible for a few, she should know.

Suddenly, we’re being called to the Reception. We bundle into cars and head down the road to country pile where waiters greet us with flutes of Champagne and a string quartet plays quietly on the lawn. We take up a position by a rhododendrons and observe. Alex gives a fashion commentary whilst Jane does a sociological survey of the guests. At some point we are summoned for the “friends’ photo” which involves jumping up and down and generally making ourselves look like fools.

“Why does everything have to be so falsely ‘spontaneous’ these days,” Jane huffs. “What’s wrong with us all standing in a line and looking miserable? In years to come she’ll look at these and think her friends were a bunch of hyperactive loons.”

As opposed to grumpy bores.

Finally, we are allowed into the hall for some food. Jane makes a bee-line for the table plan.

“Oh thank god for that!” she exclaims. “She hasn’t forced those pompous joy-killers on us.”

The Partners are, in fact, seated on the opposite side of the room. We seem to have found ourselves on a table of oddballs and singletons.

“The Naughty Table,” Liz tells us, when we pass her in the line.

And so it proves. Not only do we run out of wine within half an hour, but we manage to spill chocolate sauce all over the table cloth. We make more noise than the other (refined) tables put together and, when the speeches start, we’re all too squiffy to care.

Liz’s Dad gets up and gives a lovely talk about Liz being a scruffy urchin who never liked boys.

“I still don’t!” she declares (causing much raucous laughter on our table.)

Then it’s Dan’s turn; he uses the opportunity to thank Jane for being an awful room mate.

“Had it not been for her,” he tells us, “I might not be standing here today. Sharing a room with Jane was the thing which finally made Liz feel sorry for me and allow me to take her out.”

Everyone turns to look at Jane. She smiles and gives a regal wave. “He was a terrible room mate,” she shouts. “I even had to teach him how to make a decent cup of tea.”

“I am grateful!” Liz shouts back and everyone laughs.

Then it’s Natasha’s turn. She gets gingerly to her feet and clears her throat. “Good evening Ladies and Gentleman. I know it isn’t traditional for the Chief Bridesmaid to make a speech, we are supposed to sit quietly and look demure, but Liz has never had friends who are good at that.”

“That’s because I’m not very good at that,” Liz adds.

“No,” Natasha agrees. ”I have known Liz since she was eight years old. She turned up at my showed one morning looking like Orphan Annie – red hair, gingham dress and freckles. I was asked to look after her. We bonded over a mutual love of horror stories. Not the kind of thing most little girls were into at the time. We progressed to Senior School and continued our love of the absurd. Instead of ponies and boys, we were into Indie music and Greenpeace. Whilst our friends were trying on lipsticks and going to nightclubs, we were organising protests and writing to our MPs. Liz has never cared about being popular, she has never been worried about being disliked, and so, I guess the legal profession was a natural choice of career!”

Everyone chuckles at this.  Except The Boss, who scowls over the top of his Champagne.

“When Liz first announced her intention to be a lawyer, our careers advisor sat her down and poured her a drink.”

More laughter.

“Are you sure about this?” he asked her. “It will be incredibly hard to get there, and then, if you make it, you will be shunned and despised for the rest of your life. Wouldn’t you rather be a nurse?” She pauses for more laughter.  “He didn’t know Liz very well. For good of the National Health she became a lawyer. And now, she has made a further sacrifice and married one as well.”

“So no one else has to!” Liz laughs.

“Indeed! And we are grateful!”

More laughter.

The speech goes on in the same vein. Ending with an hilarious review of the Hen Do.

“Windsor Castle has sent a letter.”

She pulls out a piece of paper and pretends to read it. “Dear Madam. Thank you for your letter, which has clarified some of the rumours circulating at Court regarding Her Majesty’s alleged conduct following the Jubilee Water Pageant on 3rd June. Although Her Majesty is rather partial to eighties music (and, in particular, a fan of the great Adam Ant) she was busy dealing with HRH Prince Philip’s inconvenient bladder infection on the night in question and could not have been responsible for the alleged assault at the Relax nightclub. She was a little perplexed by the newspaper stories and is grateful for your apology both to herself and to the local Police force. She understands that the “spearing” of a fellow party-goer was a moment of madness caused by pre-wedding nerves. She sympathises with this (having been married to Philip for as long as she has, the urge to spear him with her sceptre has, apparently, often, been overwhelming). Her Majesty’s advice to you is to buy several homes and keep Corgis. If your husband gets a little excited a little known fact about them is that they are excellent attack dogs. She also finds Dubonnet and gin can be rather helpful.  She thanks you again and wishes you all the best in your forthcoming union and hopes you will accept these small gifts, which should, also, come in handy. Yours sincerely etc”

She puts down the paper and presents Liz with a package containing horsewhip and a pair of ear phones, which makes everyone laugh. She sits down and soaks up the applause for (our: Jane and my’) speech. Everyone agrees it was the best of all.

“I hear you two had a hand in the Chief Bridesmaid’s speech,” Malcolm whispers.

We feign innocence but he isn’t fooled; smiling indulgently he pats my shoulder. “As an employer I shouldn’t really say this,” He says, “But you two are wasted at CWS.”

And don’t we know it.

















THE BIG DAY (part 1)

Written By: anonymous - Jul• 16•12

It’s three days to the wedding of the year.  After a frantic scramble to get her work done, Liz is, finally, ready for her gift presentation.

“Oh, I’m so overwhelmed!” she chokes. “Everyone has been so lovely. Thank you so much for all your generous comments and presents. I had no idea you were all such soppy old romantics at heart!”

Frankly, neither did we. The response has been surprising to say the least; The Boss gave twenty quid, Clive and Miranda a tenner and, even miserable Malcolm donated (an unprecedented) five pounds.  This is quite amazing, I once had a card passed to me which had been to him, Tarquin and Simon; there was 50p in side. Even more astonishingly, he has signed it with an effusive “best wishes”.

“I always knew that Liz was his favourite,” Jane laughs, “He would never do that for me.”

“I don’t know,” I tell her, “The partners might be queuing up to see you married off.”

She smirks, “I might be tempted. If it meant three weeks off work and £200 worth of John Lewis vouchers.”

“You would have to find a willing husband first,” Alex points out.

“He doesn’t have to be ‘willing’!” she laughs. “Just so long as he’s able. That’s always been my motto so far as boyfriends are concerned.”

Which might explain why she never seems to have any.

Meanwhile, the most welcome effect of the wedding is that the office has taken on an almost carnival atmosphere. Liz and Dan have made the generous (or foolish?) decision to invite (almost) everyone in the team. Me, Jane, Alex, The Boss and the partners are all attending the whole thing with the rest coming along to the evening do.  We have, of course, told Liz not to sit us anywhere near our colleagues.

“I can’t believe it’s really happening,” she tells us, as she gathers up her things.

“Frankly, neither can we,” Jane agrees. “You could have any man in the world and you choose him. But it’s not too late to pull out, you know.”

“Jane!” thinking she is joking she punches her on the arm. “I’m so glad you’re all going to be there. I feel like you helped to bring us together.”

That is partially true. Jane was so consistently rude to Dan that Liz felt compelled to defend him.

And, to be honest, since we never leave the building, the competition was limited. He was the only man without a personality disorder and still in possession of his own hair. It was inevitable that someone would fall for him. Then, one evening, after a heavy day of bundle preparation, they fell in love across the late night photocopier…..

“Please don’t put us on a table with the partners,” Alex urges her.

“I’ll try not to,” she agrees, “But I’m not sure I want to inflict them on my friends or relatives either.”

“Then seat them on their own, at the back, as far away from the rest of the guests as possible!”

Smiling to herself, she gathers up her presents and her cards; and heads off to be buffed and bronzed and beautified.

And, before we know it, the big day is upon us.  I have arranged to meet Jane and Alex in a pub near the Church. When I arrive there is a mysterious woman in seated by the window; red dress, red hat, red shoes. I have to look twice: it is Jane!

“Bloody hell!” I exclaim. “What’s happened to you?”

“What are you talking about,” she snaps.

“I have never seen you wearing anything but funereal black before.”

She gives me a cool, sidelong glance. “Even I couldn’t wear black to a wedding.”

“But red! Talk about one extreme to the other.”

“I felt like a change,” she sniffs. “And, besides, red is intense and uncompromising. It reflects my passionate side.  I may wear it more often.”

For the record: I am in pale blue and I’m not sure what that says about me. Alex saves me from having to think about it. He is wearing a grey linen suit, with a matching grey and cream striped tie.

“Foolish choice,” Jane shakes her head. “You’ll be crumpled and damp all day in that gear.”

“I don’t care,” he tells her, “At least I don’t have the same hat as Miranda.”

Her eyes narrow. “What are you talking about?”

“She’s outside, with The Boss, and she has exactly the same hat as you!” He laughs heartily. “You could be sisters!”

More laughter.

“Wait there,” Jane scowls.

She disappears to the Ladies and returns a few minutes later: the hat transformed with the addition of one giant black silk rose.  “This will do.”

“Where did you get that?” I ask as she bundles us out through the doors.

“Flower arrangement, in the toilets,” she whispers.


“Oh, they’ll never notice it’s gone!”

She marches us towards the church where the rest of the guests are gathering. Sure enough Miranda is there in matching hat, teamed with an interesting (and, of course, cleavage enhancing) black and scarlet spotted creation.  The Boss, rather grandly, has his full morning suit on.  Clive and Malcolm are behind in navy, with their wives (mousy women in florals) and Barry has his internet bride in toe.

“Where’s Mrs Boss?” Alex whispers.

We look around, she is nowhere in sight.

“And what about Miranda’s rich banker friends?”

None of them seems to be here either. Using the element of surprise Jane stalks The Boss until he is on his own. Then she makes her move to find out. “Hello Alistair.”

His face clouds over for a second before he realises that he is, indeed, speaking to Jane.

“Oh!” he laughs. “I didn’t recognise you in colour!”

She smiles tightly. “Monochrome is just for week days; it reflects my attitude to work. Is your wife here?”

He glances, suspiciously at her. “No, she’s not, I’m afraid. She isn’t very well.”

“Oh, that’s a shame,” she observes. “We were all looking forward to meeting her.”

“Yes?” he smirks. “Then perhaps the prospect of meeting you lot contributed to her illness.”

More likely the prospect of meeting Miranda.  As if reading my mind, she appears at The Boss’s shoulder to and usher us all into the Church.

“Are you sure you won’t ignite?” Alex asks Jane as she steps over the threshold.

“We have moved on a lot since then,” she smirks. “We can even tolerate crucifixes now.”

“Bride or Groom.” A grinning usher stands before us with orders of service.

“Both,” Jane tells him. “But we’ll sit on the bride’s side; she needs our support.”

We sit on one side of the church and the partners sit on the other. “To even things up,” Malcolm tells us later.

Dan is standing at the front, looking as calm and debonair as usual. He gives us a cheery wave.

Jane snorts, audibly. “He looks more like Hugh Grant than Hugh Grant in that get up.”

And, to be honest, he does. And his family are equally well turned out. Jane takes a critical swipe at his mother’s hat but generally agrees that they look pretty normal.

“No horrible genetic surprises lurking in there,” she nods.

The same cannot be said for Liz’s side, which is (as she warned us) an assortment of ‘Crazies, hippies and oddballs.”  Her cousin (who was on the hen do) is wearing a cowboy hat. Her gran is asleep and her mother looks like she’s about to have a nervous breakdown.

“So glad you could come,” she whispers, “Unfortunately, Elizabeth is running a little behind schedule.”

“No change there then!” Alex laughs.

She smiles, nervously. “She had a few problems at the hairdresser’s but they managed to get them under control in the end.”

I can well imagine Liz’s wild auburn locks resisting all attempts to tame them.

A few minutes pass; still there is no sign of the bride. The vicar tells the organist to play another round of the Choral Symphony.  Jane flicks through the programme and moans about the hymns.

“I don’t do singing,” she sniffs.

“You sang carols at that Christmas carol concert,” Alex points out.

“I did not sing. I mimed. And then I was asked to collect the donations. You can sing all you like; I shall not be joining in; especially not with All Things Bright and Beautiful.”

Because, in Jane’s world, all things are dark and unpleasant.

Another ten minutes pass. She is now forty minutes late and even Dan is beginning to look concerned. He runs a worried hand through his perfect hair.

“Perhaps she’s changed her mind,” Jane whispers (a little too loudly). “I wouldn’t blame her.”

But, just as we’re all beginning to give up hope, the organ strikes up a chord and she is there: a vision of toile and lace, at the back of the church.

“Bloody hell!” Jane exclaims. “She’s wearing white!”

We are giggling by the time Liz passes us. She gives us the death stare and then glides, regally onward to meet her groom (whose smile has reappeared).  The service is a blur of Jerusalem, prayers and a sermon about marriage. The vicar says they must guard against bringing work home with them (and charging each other by hour, Jane adds).

“Although you both have busy lives and busy minds,” he explains. “You must find time for the important things in life; for each other. True happiness comes from contentment and love. Work is just a diversion; a means of paying your bills. Do not let it distract you from what is really important in life.”

All three of us glance at one another, and then at The Boss, who is shaking his head.

“It’s a pity we work for an atheist,” Alex sighs.

“Sadist,” Jane corrects him.  “Atheists don’t believe in God. The Boss doesn’t believe in life.”

“Perhaps he’ll have a religious conversion?” he suggests.

“Not even God is that powerful,” she laughs.