Secretarial: By e-mail, the dreadful truth

The Temp
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The Independent Culture
HANNAH SEEMS to be over her fluey thing, and Doug seems to be persona grata again. I think that last week's expression of concern was followed up with a visit and some expressions in person. So though when Love Went Wrong, Nothing Went Right last week, it's a case of Love is the Drug this. Honestly, you'd have thought that two people in their thirties would have got used to endorphin highs by now, but these two seem to be permanently stoned now they're back on speakers. Hannah's gone from big- shouldered business suits to floaty summer dresses. She would probably die of hypothermia at the bus stop if she didn't have her lurve to keep her warm. Doug, too, has softened up his style: his hair, which was in a Beckham quiff last week, has turned Hugh Grant this, flopping into his eyes in a fashion that makes you want to get out a stapler and fix it firmly to his scalp.

The thing is, though they are undoubtedly nicer to be around - well, no one likes to be with people whose primary means of communication is bellowing - the resurgence of this love affair doesn't make life easier for me.

I'll be telling Hannah about where things stand on my attempts to set up a meeting with the national sales team or whatever, and I'll realise that she's drifted off into hyperspace. And if I glance across the floor, I'll realise that Doug is walking over to the coffee machine. So I'll stop talking and go back to shuffling bits of paper until Doug has got his caffeine fix and disappeared back round the corner. Then Hannah will heave a sigh and go, "Sorry. Where were we?" and I'll try to rush through the information before he decides he needs to take a photocopy.

The thing is, despite the tantrums, the loving looks, the long lunches, the two of them obviously think they are conducting their affair in the utmost secrecy. They seem to believe that, as long as they don't actually wrap themselves round each other and start humping over the reception desk, no one is going to be any the wiser. Which is a laugh, because the whole thing is the subject of fevered office gossip. There's even a file in the computer system called "Hand", which I presume is an amalgamation of their two names. It's an open file - anyone can access it - and contains a log of the whole thing. Things they've said about each other, things they've said to each other, a mysterious log of the times and dates when the Disabled loo (capacious, sound-proofed and never needed by disabled people - as in most offices, we don't have any) has been in use for more than 20 minutes at a time and - oh, you naughty hackers - a record of every e-mail they've ever sent each other.

"Bit miserable today. Couldn't help thinking about what you said last night. Did you really mean it?" "I keep telling you, you MUST TRUST ME." "Where dinner tonight?" "You know what I really fancy? Going back to yours and getting out the whipped cream(!)" "Don't you dare ever, ever mention your ex-wife again in front of me. I'm not your agony aunt." "Hannah, can you remember where I left the massage oil? I can't find it anywhere." "D. Feeling squeezy. Can you spare 20 mins? See you in you-know-where." "Bloody Pearson wants that report turned round by tomorrow morning. Sorry, darling. Promise I'll make it up to you on Friday." "Squidgybum." "Big boy."

And at the bottom, just above this week's rash of "I love you so so so much", there's a series that makes my stomach leap. "Your temp? Don't be absurd." "Yes you do. I saw you looking at her." "Was looking to see if you were in." "Lying BASTARD." "What on earth would I want with a temp when I've got a real woman?" "You want some soppy little slag who'll do anything you ask." "You're being silly. I couldn't fancy her. She's probably got an IQ of 10." "You're right there. She took 10 minutes to work out how to switch the computer on when she arrived." "And anyway, have you seen the size of her arse? It looks like two bowling balls in a rucksack."

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