Abandon hope of a date in the City

On the Floor

What a lot of puzzled people there must have been on Saturday morning. Having in previous years staggered home from the office on Valentine's Day, bent double under the weight of extravagant bouquets, they will have woken up after a blissful lie-in to be confronted with a bunch of carnations from the local supermarket. That's the problem with conspicuous consumption. There's no point if no one else can see. Why stump up for an arm and a leg's worth when your other half's colleagues aren't around to be impressed by how much you're earning?

Not that I have this problem. No flowers, and even my haul of Valentine cards this year was the same as usual: one from my brother, in capital letters because he thinks I won't recognise his writing that way; one from my mother, with the postmark of her local town; and one from someone else, with "Who am I?" inside. Unfortunately, since I am reading this with a crashing hangover, my response is, "Don't know, don't care, where are the paracetamol?" Actually, I have a dreadful feeling it's from that chap I was so spectacularly rude to last week at one of Giles's matchmaking dinners (and you would have been, too, if you'd had to listen to a two- hour monologue on the oil sector). It's always the same with stockbrokers. You insult them; they think you're flirting.

Sometimes I despair of ever meeting anyone I could go out with. For starters, I'm so shattered by the end of the day that it's all I can do to get home. It costs a fortune in taxis, because every time I stare down into Bank Underground it starts to look like the entrance to hell, and I can almost see that warning "Lasciate ogni speranza voi ch'entrate" above the gate. Clever Dante to predict public transport like that, though.

Once I've made it home, it's even harder work to drag myself out again. Particularly fatal is running a long, hot bath with lots of Aveda smelly stuff in it (to balance out my chakras, apparently) and cracking open a half-bottle of fizz to drink at the same time. I've lost count of the number of times I've woken up hours later in a cold bath to find I've completely missed the dinner party at which there would have been lots of nice men who were dying to meet me. And of the times I have made it to the dinner party, only to fall asleep before the pudding.

Tiredness is a big problem all round in this business. It didn't escape my notice that Saturday was also National Impotence Day, and I expect there were quite a few exhausted blokes who found themselves inadvertently marking the occasion. Strange, then, that no one in government in the past few decades has ever considered that it may be the demands of work, rather than anything else, that is destroying the traditional family.

So I'm definitely not the only person in the City who has problems starting or maintaining relationships. In my team alone there are three broken engagements, two divorces and one separation. The separation, alas, is Rory and the Mouse. We had high hopes that things might work out after the Mouse's pre-Christmas rebellion, when she took off to the Caribbean with the boy from the wine merchant's. Unfortunately, Rory found it impossible to sustain his newly dutiful husband act, so for now she's on holiday in St Lucia and he's sharing a Docklands penthouse with an 18-year-old from the back office. Rory doesn't seem upset by the arrangement. He said he knew it wasn't working with the Mouse when he rolled over to cuddle her one morning and she muttered, "Oh God, it's not Saturday, is it?"

But now I think about it, he's not the only person in the team going out with someone else in the trading room. Makes sense, given that you spend so much time with them. It could be the perfect solution. And then the ghastly Neil pipes up: "Do you realise we're the only ones not going out with another team member? How about it?"

"No thanks, Neil, I never date people from work."

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