Finance: On the floor

Gill has an endless supply of reasons why it's not possible to speak to him. It's an impressive skill - the money her parents spent on her education wasn't wasted.
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It's been chaos today, and I know why. Rory's secretary Gill has taken the day off to go Christmas shopping, so there's no one to field the calls from his army of girlfriends.

Normally it's all handled so smoothly that no one notices. Actually, we probably wouldn't notice an earthquake if we were really busy, except that it's odds on the FX boys would have placed a bet on one happening and would be celebrating in their usual style. Gill answers all Rory's calls as a matter of course, and has an inexhaustible supply of reasons why it's not possible to speak to him. It's an impressive skill, and shows that all the money her parents spent on her education wasn't wasted.

She's become so good at lying from doing this job that she's even started to make up complete stories for some of the women, just for variety. Unfortunately, none of us knows what she's told to whom, so it's a bit of a nightmare sorting things out in her absence.

Rory has helpfully scribbled up a list of names on the whiteboard where we usually write important market information for the sales team. It's headed "People Rory Doesn't Take Calls From", and at the last count there were 20 names, all definitely female except for "bank manager", who may or may not be. No matter; they're not getting through to him either way.

All this would be a lot more entertaining, of course, if Rory wasn't actually married. "The Mouse", as he calls her, was his childhood sweetheart in Glasgow, and they married young and poor. Since then, Rory's career and income have gone into overdrive, and The Mouse is finding it awfully hard to keep up. She still believes, according to Rory, that it's wicked extravagance to buy vintage champagne when Sainsbury's does a perfectly good sparkling wine for a fifth of the price.

And she's told me herself that she doesn't understand why Rory spends so much on eating out when it's no bother for her to make him a meal at home. Nevertheless, I have a soft spot for her, and I dread picking up the phone and hearing her gentle voice at the end of it. Luckily the next call I take is from my pal Robert, who does something with shares for some fund manager. Usually he can be relied upon for a few witty tales and tasteless jokes, but today he sounds completely glum. "We might as well all go home now," he says miserably. "Imagine being out-performed by a cat."

I'm nervous about asking more; has he been playing weird sex games with his girlfriend, perhaps? But it turns out that the reason for his gloom is something he read in The Independent at the weekend. It seems that, in August 1996, the journos started a portfolio where the choices are made by a cat called Schrodinger picking pieces of dried cat food from a numbered grid, and he's doing pretty well. "I thought you did more or less the same thing yourselves," I say, to tease him. "But seriously, Robert, the possibilities are endless. Why don't you play it yourself, only with Hermes cuff links or Godiva chocolates or shots of single malt?" "Thanks, I feel so much better," he snarls with heavy irony, and hangs up.

So when the phone rings seconds later I assume it's Robert back again, to tell me he isn't really cross and how about a drink later. But it isn't. It's The Mouse. It takes me a few seconds to recognise her, since she's speaking at three times her usual volume. "Oh hello, Mary, you sound perky," I tell her. "What's up?" "Thank you, dear," she replies. "I've just been on an assertiveness course that I read about in Cosmo, and I've decided I need a holiday. Could you tell Rory that I'm flying tonight to somewhere hot for a couple of weeks. He doesn't need to know where."

I'm just wondering how Rory's going to cope with this when Mary drops another bombshell. "Tell him not to worry about me. I've got the platinum card, and that handsome boy from the wine merchants is going to come along and teach me how to appreciate vintage champagne."