This in itself was a miracle, given the amount of coffee I drink. Walking to the drinks machine is about the only exercise anyone gets during the day, so it's a journey that we tend to make at least a dozen times between 7am and 7pm. Not that the drink itself is any lure; on the contrary, it's enough to put you off for life. The tea tastes like dirty dishwater, the coffee of paraffin, and the hot chocolate is unbearably sweet. There are rumours that one of the FX boys once drank a whole cup of tomato soup for a bet, but none of them will admit it. Still, it doesn't stop everyone dosing themselves up with coffee throughout the day, which is why we're all jibbering wrecks by the end of the week, with hyperactive brains in worn-out bodies.
So it was Saturday night by the time I felt human again. The evening found me at a gathering of old university pals arranged by Giles, which was thoroughly enlivened by the presence of some of his more in-bred cousins, up from th sticks to defend their right to do whatever the hell they like, and all excited about the next day's Countryside March. Lupin, his mad aunt, had assembled an impressive supply of placards with meaty sounding slogans which she kept parading round the flat. My sensible favourite was "Eat British lamb; 50,000 foxes can't be wrong", but deep down I couldn't help enjoying more such nonsenses as "The last person to ban fox hunting was Adolf Hitler", "Townie MPs keep your noses out of country business" and "Protect jobs; save hunting".
"What's wrong with those?" Giles asked. Well, I pointed out, you can hardly compare Blair with Hitler. Hitler didn't need to hunt foxes, did he, what with all those people to kill to satisfy his blood lust. As for town-dwelling MPs not being able to make decisions on what happens in the countryside, that's fine, just as long as no rural MP minds not being able to stick their nose into urban business either. "Hmmm, I see your point there; not a good argument. But surely you can't fault the jobs thing?"
"Well," I replied, "I expect it's the same argument the slave traders used when they were about to be put out of business, and you have to admit that the concentration camps kept lots of people occupied..." "Point taken," Giles said, and changed the subject to what's happening in the City and whether I thought our place could hold out against a foreign buyer for much longer. It's not a topic I can launch into with any great enthusiasm these days. To me, it seems inevitable that one day soon we'll be trotting off home with our office belongings in a black bin-liner, and the thought makes me gloomy as hell until at least the second drink.
Luckily, Lupin was there to cheer me up with one of her brilliant suggestions. "Don't know what you want to live in London for, anyway," she boomed. "Ghastly place, everyone miserable and dressed in black. Move to the country, that's the ticket." And where, I asked, would I work?
"In London, of course," she said, as if addressing an idiot. "Keep a flat in town for weekdays, then go home to the country for weekends. That's what we do."