Heads are going to roll. Is mine going to be one of them?

on the floor
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The Independent Culture
The only problem with weekends is that they're several days too short. No sooner have you caught up on your sleep and started to rebuild your crumbling social life than it's 6am Monday morning and time to go to work again.

Not that this past one was a particularly relaxing weekend. It certainly should have been, given that I'd gone up to see my parents. They live in a pretty village where the only loud noise is the church bells on Sunday morning, and the air smells of something other than petrol fumes. Not only that, my mother is of the firm opinion that city (and, indeed, City) life is some kind of endurance test and that its participants need to be mollycoddled at any opportunity.

But I hadn't realised that my father's older brother, the ever-tedious Uncle Edward, would be there to spoil the atmosphere. Uncle E has just taken early retirement from a small but successful firm of solicitors and, in the absence of paid employment, has created a new position for himself: expert on "real work", and how young people today don't know what that is.

In vain I point out to Uncle E that this is because most of them haven't been able to find "real work" of the sort he's talking about. The "job for life and a nice pension at the end of it" world doesn't exist any more, even in his profession, as he would realise if he actually listened to people instead of just talking at them. He's particularly scornful about the kind of thing I do, partly, I suspect, because he can't classify it. In his mental world, banking is a profession, a good job, a job for life in which you steadily climb the pay and promotion ladder. He can't square that with the fact that at the age of 25 I have a company car and, since the last pay rise, earn more than my father.

This, plainly, cannot be "real work", and Uncle E keeps on muttering about what on earth they'll be paying me if I go on like this until I'm 60. It's OK, I say to him, the chances of that happening are so remote that you'd be better off putting your money on William Hague to lead the Tories to victory at the next election. What with mergers, downsizing, redeployment and regrouping, I'll be lucky to make it to 30 unscathed.

Redundancy has been on everyone's mind recently, and Laura and I keep finding our conversations drifting that way even if we start off with something harmless like the weather or what's new at Harvey Nichols. It's hardly surprising, what with Travelers Group taking over Salomon Brothers, Dean Witter teaming up with Morgan Stanley, and now Barclays announcing the sell-off of BZW. There'll be heads rolling all over the place, and we're a tad nervous about being next.

Laura thinks that if she is made redundant she won't look for another City job, but I don't believe her. The main reason she gave up on publishing - which is what she went into when she left university - was because she was fed up with having to be grateful for the pittance she was paid each month. So she became PA to Rory, who noticed her latent talent for trading - the result of childhood years of being dragged to race meetings by her horse-mad parents - and promoted her.

As for me, I always tell Laura I'd stick the redundancy cheque in the bank and go straight out to look for another trading job. Unfortunately, whenever I say that the first person my eye falls on is Marlene, who does complex things with deutschmarks, and I find myself thinking "Please don't let me end up like her!" Not that there's anything terribly wrong with her, and she's extremely good at her job and everything. It's just that she feels she's very good at everyone else's job as well, and her every sentence starts "You should" or "You should not".

It's hard to tell how she'd react if she were made redundant. Laura thinks she'd just refuse to believe it and stride back to her desk saying, "You should not make jokes like this. It is not funny." I'm not so sure. She's so brittle, she could just crumble.

Anyway, it's impossible to know how anyone will react until it happens. My old pal Roberta was "let go" a couple of weeks ago and she wept buckets even though she'd been hating the job for months. Now she just wishes she'd chucked them first, so her pride wouldn't be so dented.

The big honcho Rory has a story about one man he knew who was so traumatised by being dumped that he managed to hide his redundancy from everyone for more than six months. He bought his company car, and drove off in his suit to the library every day, and his wife only found out when they weren't invited to the office Christmas party.

But then, there are some people who might consider that one of the good things about losing your job ...

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