It’s dark in our house, because of all the election flyers my son Dave 1 has stuck up on the windows. When he’s not sticking up flyers, he’s glued to the TV, channel-hopping for interviews and debates. He hasn’t said much for the past couple of years, but these days he’s become quite chatty, by way of a persona called Monsieur Milly Band. Dave 2 gets to be Nico Surgeon [sic], for which he wears my long-abandoned high heels. “Look, Nico,” says Monsieur Milly, making emphatic hand signs. “Why don’t you just face up to it. I’m never going to go out with you.”
Nico Surgeon is short and ferocious, but her accent veers all over the place, and she often seems to be channelling Nigel Farage. “Do I care, Jessy Loser,” she snarls back. “Go back to your own country and eat some more snails.”
I’m not sure what passers-by will make of the cross-party array of fliers, though. Dave 1 says he wants to be fair; but it could look indecisive. I don’t mind about the darkness because light would show up the squalor. Erik the builder did his back in, and most of downstairs is still a building site. I hold Stepanov responsible. He brought Erik in to replace the rotten floor all those months ago; and then persuaded me to let him start on an extension. Stepanov says he’s too busy to do anything about it. He’s joined a theatre company, and got the part of Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He’s hardly ever here, and when he is he’s practising his lines, or ranting to Dave 1 about the stupidness of the General Election.
Dave 2 clumping around in the high heels reminds me of Raff, the boy in my novel, which I’m meant to be editing, so I can send it back to the illustrious publisher. Meanwhile, at work, my glamorous boss Scarlett and I are still on the mung bean diet. Rhett and Ashley, my co-workers, have both told me I should stand up to her, but it feels easier to go along with it. Scarlett makes job lots of the mung bean stew, and freezes it, and brings in a block of it each day. “Lunchtime, Tasmin!” she calls out at midday, and hands me over the plastic bag.It has been totally freezing in our triangular, white-plyboarded room, so by lunchtime the block has gone only slightly melty. I dutifully take it to the ancient, clanking microwave at the tea point down the corridor, where I hack the block into two pieces and warm up.
So one day I returned with the steaming mung beans to find that Scarlett had called a team meeting: we’d been commandeered to lead an important and highly sensitive operation, she told us, grim-faced. There’d been a takeover, and the management team might not survive. While the power struggle raged, our team would prepare the organisation for every eventuality.
“What are we going to have to do?” asked Ashley, groaning.
“Declutter. Get everyone to smarten up. Write a paper showing how the organisation is poised to deliver the new vision. Apart from if the old lot stay in. Then we need to show how the organisation is poised to deliver the old vision.”
“So we need to write two papers?”
“Yes! It’s ridiculous,” she said. “We’re already stretched to breaking point. I tell you what, Becks is going to have to get up off her scrawny arse and get in here, and pull her weight.” Becks – Dr Rebecca Ferguson – was my line manager, whom I’d never met, because she worked from home.
“Why don’t we just wait until we know which lot it’s going to be?”
“it doesn’t work like that, Ashley. We have to prepare for any eventuality. If the new lot get in, and think the organisation is still in the thrall of the old lot, they won’t trust us, and they’ll cut our wages, and probably sack loads of us. If the old lot manage to hang on in there, but think we would have preferred the new lot, then ditto. And it’s even more of an effing nightmare that that, because they might chum up and form some kind of alliance.”
“Shit,” said Ashley.