Finance: Heinrich, brown suits and the search for a new pay day

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"WELL," SAYS Heinrich brightly. "The obvious thing is to get you right back into a job in the City."

Somehow I stifle the urge to stand up and shout, "HAVEN'T YOU BEEN READING THE NEWSPAPERS, YOU MORON," and settle instead for pointing out that perhaps it won't be quite that simple, what with job losses in the thousands on the horizon. Heinrich, however, being a careers adviser, is made of more optimistic stuff, and he's not going to let a little thing like facts get in the way of his plans for me.

Heinrich is part of the leaving package arranged for me by my ex-employers. The outplacement agency that he runs is apparently one of the best in the country, though you wouldn't believe it from the look of its unprepossessing offices in Bloomsbury.

The idea of the place is that you turn up, sit at a desk with a computer and telephone, and bash out your CV to anyone who might be interested, with Heinrich and his cohorts in the background to encourage and provide advice.

"It's an odd way to get a job, don't you think?" says Laura, who has also found herself out on her ear. "Don't they have friends who can get them one?"

We fall to discussing whom we know where, but we're shushed by a serious- looking, besuited man who says something like can't we see people are working. It's on the tip of my tongue to point out that the whole reason we're here is surely because we're not working, but I somehow restrain myself.

Nevertheless, there's something about the office that makes me want to misbehave, and it's getting to Laura, too. For a start there's the absurd rule that we should wear our work clothes all the time. Now, to me, one of the plus points about being out of work is that you don't have to tart yourself up every morning, but Heinrich disagrees and is plainly disappointed by his new arrivals' rebelliousness. Every time we stroll in in mufti, he launches into a monologue about having the right attitude to job-hunting - and we stand there wondering why we're expected to take careers advice from a man in a brown suit.

Still, one good thing about the place is that we can spend the whole day calling all our friends or e-mailing them terrible jokes and even worse photographs, which makes it much more bearable. Plus, most of the people we know in the City are having a much worse time than us; after all, we already know we've been made redundant, but all they can do is wait and worry. So we get to sleep late, dress normally and have lunch - and they don't.

On the other hand, they don't have to report to Heinrich at the end of a session to show him what progress they've made today. Fortunately all that trading experience has made us both adept at lying, or "bluffing" as we prefer to call it, so we can usually fob him off.

Not that we don't want new jobs in the City, you understand. It's just we're a touch nervous that if we admit as much, someone might come along and say, "Well, you can't have one, so there", and we'd be crushed.

"A bit like love, then," says Laura, at which point I realise that we need chocolate, and we walk out and head for Soho.

We're soon in our favourite cafe watching the world go by, and suddenly we see Rory coming out of a restaurant looking extremely cheery. Both delighted, we wave, and he bounds into the cafe, saying, "Hello, you two. Guess what? I've got a new job. Some place has sacked loads of their traders to set up a meaner, leaner team. And guess who's new chief honcho? I don't suppose you want to join me, do you?"

Laura and I look at each other. "Who's going to tell Heinrich?" I ask her.

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