On the Floor

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So the party season's finally over and the whole team is back at work again, vowing never to drink another drop of alcohol as long as they live. In fact, about 60 per cent of the traders on this floor have given up something for New Year. It's even rumoured that Trevor, the FX boss, has stopped doing coke for the duration. Like all the others who are abstaining from some substance they love, he's now in a terrible temper all the time. "It's like some ghastly fashion article," Laura says. "You know, `Fuses are being worn extremely short this season'."

It's not all gloom and doom, of course. For a start, the days are becoming longer. In a couple of months, we even get to see daylight during the week as well as at weekends, and at ends of the day, as well. Not yet, though. For now all we have to cheer ourselves up is watching Rory change before our eyes from cheating love-rat into husband of the year.

The first indication that things had changed was when Rory took three whole weeks off over Christmas and spent them with his wife. No coming into the office every three or four days to check up on us, no "business trips" to Paris in between with one girlfriend or another in tow. The Mouse's sudden pre-Christmas jaunt to Anguilla with the young wine merchant obviously shook him up more than we realised. Then again, I've often found that people who expect to be able to read others in a particular way are never happy when they find themselves on the receiving end.

Since then, there have been plenty of other signs of transformation to keep everyone entertained. The list of women's names on the whiteboard, the one headed "People Rory Does Not Take Calls From", is longer than ever, for instance. Camilla, Rory's personal shopper from before Christmas, joined the list unexpectedly early on 4 January. The FX boys closed their book on her fall from favour, leaving Chuck 500 quid richer, and set up another one on how long Rory could carry on like this. For a long time, I hope, since one of the other benefits of New Rory is that e no longer demands to be kept company every evening in a succession of sleazy bars and nightclubs, and consequently my vodka consumption has plummeted and all of us get to see our friends more often.

An added bonus of all this is that it's a distraction from what's happening in the Far East markets, a gloomy situation if ever I saw one. Any schadenfreude is spoilt by the knowledge that their misfortune is likely to be our misfortune, too. In the short term, it may mean lots of lovely cheap electrical goodies coming our way, but that'll be small consolation to the people who lose their jobs when the Japanese, Koreans and all close down their overseas plants. Up goes the unemployment - sorry, jobseekers' - bill, and everyone suffers.

Still, the Government can probably claw back some cash from all those malingering disabled people and single parents.

"Hush," Laura whispers, "or someone might notice you're not a capitalist".

True, I say, and we go back to talking about Rory and The Mouse. And then I have a stroke of luck. The phone rings and it's the Mouse herself, the first call from her I've picked up since the holiday.

"So tell me, Mary, what happened?" I ask. "Oh, it was wonderful. Rupert was the perfect travelling companion. And, you know, it's true. There is a difference between good champagne and sparkling wine. I can't think why I didn't notice it before. But then, Rupert is such a good teacher."

I couldn't resist asking if that was all he'd taught her, and she laughed.

"Well, I learnt a lot about clothes and food and interior design ..." The penny dropped. "You mean, Rupert is ...?" "Oh yes," she replied, "he's gay. But I don't think Rory needs to know that, do you?"

The Trader