Secretarial: He keeps the adrenaline running

I Work For: Alison Prince works for Jeffrey Archer, author and candidate for new Mayor of London

I believe that Jeffrey is the most exciting person to be working for in London at the moment. In March 1997 I saw a gossip column saying: "Poor Lord Archer's losing his PA." So I wrote to him. I thought that the story was probably untrue, and my note would go straight into the bin - so I nearly fell off my chair when I got a call to say that Jeffrey had seen my CV and note, liked my handwriting, and wanted to meet me.

I knew that I could do the job, having dealt with top-ranking people for the last seven years while working for a small business/government relations body, but I was still fairly nervous. Jeffrey pretty much dominates a room and has a lot of charisma, but we hit it off.

It's hard to be specific about a job that involves the whole of his life, including private parties, politics, his art collection, publishing, business, television, travel and also the overseeing of his household.

I thought that I would be working principally on his books, but the focus suddenly changed when the proposal for a mayor of London was announced. It was just before the 1997 general election and things became frantic.

Since then we've met all kinds of fascinating people and organisations, from the Pearly King to the Pedestrian Association and Trees for London. I've learnt so much more about London and, at his suggestion, I write down everything that I think is wrong with it - from the Tango Christmas lights in Oxford Street, to the overcrowded Underground.

I really appreciate the fact that he chats to me about newspaper stories and asks for my opinions - though preferably not when I am on a deadline. His priorities are slightly different from mine. He likes to clear his desk by the end of the day, which means that mine becomes full again.

He deals with things on a need-to-know basis while I deal with 75 per cent of the mail, ranging from a letter from a Japanese student wanting a signed photo, to an American asking about one of the characters in a book Jeffrey wrote 10 years ago.

I absolutely love the fact that he trusts me enough to allow me to take the pressure off, so that he can concentrate on the bigger picture. He freely admits that he's impatient and wants things to be done immediately. He is very demanding, but it keeps the adrenaline running and I look forward to Mondays because I don't know what the week will hold.

He has a great respect for women but you have to stand up to him; he doesn't suffer fools gladly. He's not a dictator, and I am able to say: "I don't think that's a very good idea, Jeffrey."

He has enormous energy and it's hard to keep up with him; on occasion I've found myself taking notes while following him out through the door. You have to be calm to do this job because it would be easy to panic during the times as awful as the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, when everyone wanted his opinion as a friend of hers, and I had to co-ordinate all the interviews.

I know the person behind the public persona, so when strangers approach him I catch myself thinking, "Good grief, what do they want Jeffrey's autograph for?" You forget that he is looked on as a celebrity.

When he gets attacked I feel personally offended. He inspires all sorts of emotions, but he doesn't deserve to be criticised just for being a bit of a showman.

Perhaps he feels people expect him to be a bit over the top; it's almost as though he is trying to give people value for money. Yet when you see him with his sons or with his wife, Mary, he's completely different.

I've seen him fairly low at one point, but he copes extremely well. He's an open person, and he really wants to do a great job for London.

He's a maverick, yes, but why would you want a dull politician? He knows everyone and loves entertaining, and I've got used to welcoming celebrities such as Michael Caine and Billy Connolly.

I'm here from eight until six or seven at night and am aware that my life sometimes comes second to what he is doing. I'm in awe of his ability to be down to earth and get on with the business of politics, and then to be able to write a best-seller.

When he's writing a book he handwrites the first draft, which I will type up, and then the manuscript will go through a number of rewrites.

He sometimes asks for my opinion about some of his characters, but I've never altered the train of a story. He also practises his speeches, and even jokes, on me - some of which, I have to admit, are funnier than others. I was nervous for him during his hustings speech when he stood as a mayoral candidate, and relieved when he got past the first hurdle.

Having got involved in his world, I think I know him pretty well now. If he were made mayor I hope that I could move with him - we work well as a team, so I don't see why he would want to give that up.

The Archer family is a big part of my life.

Arts and Entertainment
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'