Tom turns sour on Big Apple

The Trader
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The Independent Online

Jane is practically squeaking with pleasure. "You'll come round this evening, won't you? Please," she says. "I've got brilliant news to tell you." So I sigh inwardly, give up the idea of a QNI - that's Quiet Night In for the uninitiated - and all its bubble-bath-and-half-bottle-of-champagne delights, and say: "Yes, of course, I can't wait."

Jane is practically squeaking with pleasure. "You'll come round this evening, won't you? Please," she says. "I've got brilliant news to tell you." So I sigh inwardly, give up the idea of a QNI - that's Quiet Night In for the uninitiated - and all its bubble-bath-and-half-bottle-of-champagne delights, and say: "Yes, of course, I can't wait."

Curiously, by the time I'm on Jane's doorstep my little social fib has turned into truth. I really can't wait to hear what has got my friend into such a fever pitch of excitement. It can't be work; if she'd been promoted, she'd just tell me on the phone so all her colleagues could find out about it, too. So what is it?

"It's Tom," Jane says as we settle down with a bottle of red wine in her huge squishy sofa. "He sent me an e-mail today to say he's coming back."

"What, on holiday?" I ask, though with a nagging feeling I'm missing the point by miles.

Jane confirms my suspicions with one of her most withering of looks. "Oh, do wake up and turn your brain back on," she says. "No, I mean he's coming back to London for good." She pauses, but it's not a restful pause. Jane's hands seem to have developed wings, and they flutter from lap to glass to magazine and back like hyperactive butterflies.

"God, I'm so nervous," she continues, which is something I'd already worked out for myself. "I really like him. When he went off to New York, I was terribly grown-up about it, but now he's coming back ..."

"Why is he coming back anyway?" I say, because (a) I want to know; and (b) if I don't calm Jane down at once, who knows what will happen. It seems to work. Jane takes a deep breath.

"He's gone off New York," she says. "Thinks he'll go mad if he has to stay there a moment longer." I feel my face curling in surprise, because it's a well-established part of the City creed that anyone with ambition must regard a spell in New York as the highlight of their career. I've never heard anyone admit to not liking it. Jane continues: "He says it's absolutely ghastly. Everyone's rude and impatient and, worst of all, he's becoming rude and impatient as well.

"Apparently, he had a bit of an eye-opening moment in a taxi, when he found himself tapping his foot and saying, 'C'mon, c'mon' as if that might actually make the traffic jam disappear. What made it so much more horrible, though, was the fact he's pretty sure he said it in a mid-Atlantic accent."

We laugh at the thought, before I pull myself together and manage to think of a sensible comment. "But, Jane," I say, "Tom must have known how frenetic New York is before he went there to live. It's the one thing everyone does know about the place."

"Oh, yes," Jane replies. "Of course he knew. It's just that he thought that with all that rushing around being busy, everyone must be achieving a huge amount - and that the same would happen to him. Now he says he's realised the only reason everyone's in such a hurry is they're desperately trying to claw back the time they've lost having to ask for a 'tall no-fat no-fun almond latte with an extra shot' instead of just 'coffee'."

Jane sighs happily. "Anyway, he's handed in his notice today, and he'll be back by the weekend. I can't wait to see him." I gaze at my friend's smiling face, then a movement catches my attention. I look down to where Jane's foot is definitely tapping.

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