It seems that Neil has been stirring things in my absence. Laura accidentally overheard him saying to Rory that he can't figure out what I do all day, and that he hasn't had to carry out any extra work in my absence. Not surprising, says Laura, as she's been doing it all. The only time Neil's helped her out in the past two weeks is when there's been some really sexy deal to price up, and even then his main contribution has been taking the credit for the work rather than doing any.
So much for the theory that if you're kind to people they'll be kind back. Neil has revealed his true colours, and from now on, whenever I hear him say "I never play politics", I'll know he's really working out where to stick the knife.
Neil and I haven't always been on such bad terms. I can't say I particularly took to him on his first day, but that was partly because he was replacing Robert, who was moving on to better things. Robert is one of those people who are so immensely talented and self-assured that they never have to boost their egos by putting anyone else down, and are consequently a joy to work with. In other words, a tough act to follow.
On the other hand, Neil didn't really do himself any favours with his behaviour. By lunch time of his first day he'd already asked me out on a date, which I turned down on the grounds that I don't go out with people I work with. That much is true, though not the whole truth in this instance. However, I didn't feel it was a good idea to add, "I wouldn't go out with you if you were the last man on earth and you had a paper bag over your head," even though I was starting to think it.
But my diplomatic answer didn't seem to cause Neil any problems. He thought about it for a few minutes and came up with the perfect solution. Why didn't I give up my job, he suggested. Then we would be able to go out together. Luckily, I was so stunned I couldn't speak for a whole minute - I mean, why didn't he give up his job if he was so keen - and by the time I'd recovered, there was Peter from karaoke, aka "the Heavy Breather", on line one with some deal to show me. Who knows what I might have said otherwise.
I rather hoped that would be the end of the matter, but I'd reckoned without Neil's thick-skinned tenacity. Every day for the next four weeks he asked me to have dinner with him, and every day I turned him down. By the end of the first week, he'd started to name the particular restaurant he had in mind, as an added incentive, and over the following days they got steadily more and more expensive. So we moved up from the local Thai place via Mezzo and Bluebird to La Tante Claire in just 21 days. And I still said no.
He made one final attempt to get me to cave in. If he got a Porsche, he said, then would I have dinner with him? Reader, I laughed. And that's when the penny finally dropped with him. I wasn't playing hard to get after all; I just didn't fancy him.
After that, as far as he was concerned it was war. Not full-scale attack, of course, more like guerrilla tactics, where you try to undermine the enemy with every nasty little trick in the book. And if it's true that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, all I can say is, Neil must be a woman in drag.