Jane puts down her fork for a second and wrinkles her nose the way she does when she's giving something the benefit of all her immense brainpower.
"Mmm," she finally proffers, "but then you've spent four evenings with Rory, as well, and you're hardly in danger of falling for him. You're just bonding with your new colleagues, that's all. Stop fretting about it. Pudding? I'm having one."
Anyway, what with Jane's common sense and the warm chocolate torte with saffron cream, I start to feel a great deal better. After all, I can't be the only person in the City who socialises less with their boyfriend or girlfriend than with the people they work with. Hardly surprising, given the hours we all put in at the office. You'd think some policy-maker somewhere might have noticed that not only do the British have the longest working week in Europe, we also have the highest divorce rate, and maybe put two and two together - but I wouldn't hold your breath on this one.
Then there's the added problem that when you do finally get to meet up, it's often at some dinner party where everyone says: "Oh, we can't have couples sitting next to each other," as if we're all still leisured landed gentry, and you end up talking to some rugby-playing stockbrokers while your jet-setting Frenchman is at the other end of the room trying to look interested in the in-jokes of a couple of Sloaney school-leavers.
"A recent event?" asks Jane sympathetically, and I nod.
"Friday," I say. "It was terrible. We managed five minutes' conversation."
Jane murmurs sympathetically and settles down to tell me of all the dinner parties, weddings and general bunfights where she, too, has been kept firmly away from the boyfriend of the time.
"After six months of that, I knew less about the last one than when I first met him. Every week I forgot more. In the end we just gave up. No wonder so many people fall for someone at work."
Only, naturally, I will not be following suit, as I tell Jane. After all, I point out, I didn't fall for anyone in the last place, and just because the only available male was the odious and deeply unattractive Neil doesn't make my willpower any the less admirable. Jane raises her right eyebrow at this, which means that (a) she doesn't believe me, and (b) that she's been watching far too many Roger Moore films.
"The name's Bond, Jane Bond," I tease, and for a few minutes I manage to stop her talking about people who fall for other people in the office.
But she's a game girl, not easily deflected from the main thread of the conversation, and soon we're back almost where we began, with me pointing out how disastrous it can be to get too heavily involved with someone at work.
"Look at the high drama at the last place, with Rory and Sam," I say. "It was bad enough as a spectator. Imagine being a participant. No, I think it's the worst idea in the world to go out with a colleague, and I'm never going to do it."
"Well, anyway," Jane says sweetly, "there's no danger of that in this case. You've already told me you don't find Jaap the least bit attractive."
"No," I reply decisively, "I don't fancy him at all." And even I believed it.Reuse content