Cokeheads? No, just missing our usual supplier of `the four Fs'

on the floor

It's useless to tell Neil that the reason Laura and I sniff so much has nothing to do with Charlie and a lot to do with having permanent colds. He thinks it's a great joke, and he's not letting go. He may even think it's true, and that he's fantastically trendy to have noticed it, what with it being the sort of thing pop stars do.

It's always the same. Just when you've spent days staring at the screens waiting for a price - any price - to change, and wondering how long it takes to go mad with boredom, the markets decide to go into a mini-frenzy and you've barely time to breathe.

Laura and I had a mad few days at the end of the week. In fact, on Friday neither of us moved from our desks all day, not even to go to the loo. Neil kept on making nudge-nudge comments about us needing to "powder our noses", and wouldn't we feel livelier if we did?

Actually, the only person round here with a serious and completely unmistakable coke habit is Trevor, the FX top dog.

I mean, the man has a nosebleed if he just laughs too hard, and on bad days his eyes look like something from a "Wanted" poster. But Neil won't be convinced, because Trevor - fat, sweaty and ugly - doesn't conform to his notion of what a cokehead looks like.

So what with Neil's wit, and the markets being so busy, Laura practically ran out of the door on Friday evening, with me in hot pursuit. Well, "ran" is rather an exaggeration. "Stumbled blindly, crying `Drink! Drink! Holiday! And in that order'" would be more like it. After two Stolly-and-tonics we were a lot perkier, though, and Laura even managed a catty remark about Marco's new suit, which is, depending on who you ask, either the cutting edge of Italian suit design, or an eyesore.

Laura thinks it makes him look like a pimp, which is a bit harsh. It's just that it isn't the same as what all the other boys are wearing, which is navy and pinstripes, or dark grey. Freddie, for instance, has stripes you'd swear he'd drawn on with chalk, they're so thick.

After another couple of Stolly-and-tonics, Laura was prepared to state that Freddie's suits make him look like a commodity broker - and, happily for Marco, that's a far worse insult than "pimp" in her book.

By the bottom of the fourth S-and-t, we'd noticed how hungry we were and how leery the four suits at the next table were getting, so a quick exit seemed to be in order.

Not quick enough, however, to prevent suit number one from leaning over to me and drunkenly slurring, "Are you wearing stockings?" in what he probably thought was a deeply sexy way.

There are any number of possible replies to this sort of query, some of which don't involve any swear words at all; the best, I've found, is: "No. Are you pregnant/wearing a wig?" depending on whether you think they're more paranoid about their waistline or their hairline.

Luckily I was spoilt for choice with this one, and we managed to escape.

After that, the evening was a bit of a blur. There was food, and more to drink, and a taxi home.

And there was waking up on Saturday afternoon with a hangover, and Harvey Nicks for a late lunch and shopping. Lazy Sunday. And suddenly it seemed to be Monday again, and no Laura to talk to. So this week the job of keeping me sane has fallen to Jenny the Junior, whose duties are referred to as "the four Fs": filing, faxing, photocopying and food. It's what passes for a joke round here, at least among those who don't think "photocopying" really is spelt with an F, and it could have been so much worse, if you think about it.

As well as being the person who fetches our breakfasts - and it's hard to dislike anyone who understands the restorative effects of a bacon roll at seven in the morning - she's also happy to pass on all the hottest gossip.

Not that she's chatty. In fact, most of her sentences are pretty pithy. If anyone asks her what she thinks of Neil, for instance, she'll just say, "He's a wanker", and leave it at that. It's something I think to myself pretty often, but it's good to hear it from someone else.

Mind you, the vile Neil hasn't been too bad this week. It's been busy enough for me not to notice him, and since he wouldn't dream of helping out merely because my assistant's away, I don't need to talk to him at all. So I'm not missing Laura half as much as I thought I would.

And if he does annoy me, it's fine. All I need to do is find Jenny and say to her, "Now, come on, you can tell me, what do you really think of Neil?"

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