On the floor

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On reflection, it probably wasn't the best New Year's resolution. The chances of Laura and me managing to not say anything nasty about Neil for a whole year are fairly remote, after all, given his innate annoyingness. On the other hand, I can be pretty determined when I make up my mind about something, so who knows.

It was, as you've probably guessed, one of those resolutions you make when you're at a particularly good New Year's Eve party - only a surfeit of champagne and Class As could have produced the drunkenly benign feelings needed. This one was given by Tom, who happens to be an old pal of both myself and Laura. He's been doing rather well for himself lately as a management consultant, and the latest round of pay rises and bonuses has left him feeling flush and generous. Which is how we found ourselves at Tom's vast flat in south Ken tucking into top-notch canapes and vintage champagne as the old year breathed its last.

The other guests were a hugely varied lot. There were assorted cousins, old school friends, budding film directors and mildly successful northern actors, performance artists, musicians, and lots of men in striped shirts with the top button undone, the classic sign of the City bloke in casual gear. Just my luck, then, that the first person to approach me after I'd said my hellos to Tom was some slimy creep in full regalia: chalky pinstripe three-piece suit, red-and-white striped shirt, red tie with naked woman motif, red felt braces.And he had slicked-back hair.

"Well, it seems to be my lucky evening," he drawled as he came nearer. "The name's Ollie. I didn't know Tom had any pretty female friends. Most of the women here are either barking and arty, or ugly old dykes who work in the City. What do you do?"

"I work in the City, too."

"Gosh," he replied, looking me up and down. "Lucky chap who has you as his PA."

Reader, I nearly hit him. But what with him being a friend of Tom's, I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and explained instead exactly what I do for a living. Yes, he said, he quite understood, and he was a commodity broker himself. But one thing was puzzling him. Why would a girl like me have a job like that? Why would I even want a job like that? I thought about trying to explain. Nah.

"This conversation ends now," I snapped, pirouetting on my high heels (bless you, Jimmy Choo) and stalking away to find someone better to talk to. I tracked down Laura, who was on the receiving end of a monologue about the problems of the modern pig farmer and was only too glad to be dragged away. "I bet his pigs run to the abattoir just to get away from him," she said.

But introducing ourselves to the arty lot wasn't as easy as it should have been. You could almost hear them hiss when we said what we do for a living. When I told my mate Jane about it later, she said that was nothing. Her pal Lucy is an analyst, and only last week someone actually made that crossed-fingers sign at her, in a "get thee behind me, Satan" kind of way.

So Laura and I gave up on them and settled on Tom's squashiest sofa for a good gossip, and suddenly it was six in the morning and time for a trip to our favourite all-night breakfast spot, Rashers. There's a lot to be said for the restorative powers of eggs twice, bacon and bubble with a large coffee, a fact Laura and I only truly appreciated when our plates were in front of us, and we made short work of them.

"God, I feel like a complete pig," Laura groaned happily as the last mouthful vanished. "At least you don't look like one," I told her, "which is more than you can say about..." We looked at each other guiltily. "Neil?" she said.

I thought about it. "Well, it was a stupid resolution anyway. Eight hours isn't bad in the circumstances. Another coffee?" "Yes please, and some aspirin if they have any."

- The Trader

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