Secretarial: The Tempo - Faking it...

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The Independent Culture
I'VE TRIED to blend in, in a little black dress and discreet jewellery, but it's hard in Hennes and diamante when everyone else is in Hermes and discreet touches of real gold.

I don't really know what I'm doing here - no one has ever asked me to come to their Christmas party before, and it's not as if this is the first one I've organised. I've done a good job, if I say it myself. It's been fun having a budget of pounds 200 a head - more than pounds 30,000 to squander on a single party - though having only a week to arrange it was some headache.

But my unemployed artist mates have done wonders: Malachi's cardboard and gold spray-paint, and Rowena and Max's canvases of gondolas, bridges and naked statuary look fantastic, though I hope no one touches them with their Gucci dress. Furthermore, what with all the drink merchants sending me bottles of claret, bottles of Scotch and bottles of vodka in order to suck up, we've a houseful of cocktails for New Year, and enough test canapes in the freezer to feed everyone, as well.

Now, though proud, I'm bored. I don't know anyone. I keep trying to strike up conversations, with little success. I know why. These people introduce themselves with a CV: "Hello, I'm John Marshall of Credit Suisse; just left Citibank." So the moment they cross-examine me, their eyes glaze. They say "The temp? Oh. How..." and drift away.

Sod this for a game of soldiers, I think, and tell the next person that I'm the designer who's doing out the offices next year; that I threw in this party as a freebie. He cheers up. "At last," he says, "someone who can talk about something other than the size of their bonus. I always wanted to be an artist myself. But you've got to live, haven't you? And I defy you to find anyone who can survive on less than pounds 100,000 a year." "Oh, absolutely," I say enthusiastically. "You can't throw a decent party for less than twenty." "Or have a proper holiday. Do you know how much it cost when we went to an Aman resort?" "Funny you should mention them. I've just been doing one of their hotels in Borneo," I say. "Really? Borneo, eh? Headhunters. Must be hard to get the staff." "No," I reply, "I just flew in a couple of dozen people from America." "Really? Hey, Jerry," he cries, "Come and meet..." "Amanda," I fill him in. "Amanda. Brilliant designer. Doing these people's offices next year." Jerry lurches over. "Thought you looked a bit arty for this crowd," he says. "Love the jewels. Very ironic." "Paste is the coming thing," I assure him. "Really? Must tell Susan. She'll be furious."

I'm surrounded by drunken men, regaling them with my stays at Arab villas in St Tropez and the difficulty of getting a Hollywood star to accept anything without frills. "You know what they say," I tell them. "You can take the girl out of the trailer park, but you can't take the trailer park out of the girl." They laugh.

Sixteen glasses of champagne in, I'm having a high old time. Someone called Rolly suggests we get some caviare. Now, this is really living. We weave through the heaving Camillas, Rolly's hand firmly under my elbow. "Tell you what," he says into my ear, "How about we get out of here and try our chances at Titanic? You can tell me how to find someone to do a trompe-l'oeil in my bathroom." Then we stop in front of Obsessive Graham.

"Graham old man!" he cries, as I try to wilt into the background. "Meet Amanda! Lovely girl! Designer. Doing your offices out next year." Graham pauses, and for a moment I think he's going to cut me some Christmas slack. Not a chance. "No she isn't," he says, as Rolly's face drops, "She's our temp secretary. And she's leaving tomorrow."