There's no use thinking about a holiday, either. It's a well-established rule that only people with children can go away in August. You can always tell who they are, even if they don't have photos of the little darlings wedged into the only free corner of their desk. They're the ones who bounce around for three weeks before the summer trip, boasting about the villa's marvellous pool with views of the Italian/ French/ Spanish countryside and how good their kids are at swimming.
Then they vanish for a fortnight to reappear in a state of shock, the result of spending more hours with their offspring than they do in the rest of the year put together. "Staying at home with the kids isn't the soft option I thought it was," they mutter bemusedly. "Still, it was a jolly nice place, and Rufus only tried to drown his baby brother twice." And they amble back to their desks, happily checking the cricket scores and the state of the markets.
The rest of us are chained to our desks with nothing but Mrs Hughes's new line in iced coffee to keep us going. "I wouldn't mind so much if any of us actually had any children," Laura says as we take a rare lunchtime stroll outside. "All I'd like is a week in Dorset on the coast, so I could get some sea air and a bit of colour in my face. But Rory won't budge: no children, no time off in the school holidays. He can be so illogical at times."
And we sigh and shake our heads, and hurry back to work. Still, we remind ourselves later over another iced coffee, there are compensations. For a start, there are no small children anywhere; it's as if the Pied Piper has waltzed into town and whisked them away. I haven't seen a toddler tantrum in the supermarket for days - well, not by a toddler, anyway - so shopping's almost fun.
Evening travel's not so good. By then, every foreign teenager in London has dragged themselves moodily out of bed and gone to sulk in some other part of town, preferably with a large group of other grumpy teenagers. They wouldn't admit to having something as uncool as hobbies, but if they did they'd have to put down standing in front of ticket barriers and carrying large bags in the evening rush hour. The only consolation is that other cities around the world are crammed with British teenagers doing exactly the same.
"Were we really like that, too, at that age?" Laura asks me as we struggle on to an overcrowded carriage to go home. "Afraid so," I reply. "There was one particular school trip to Paris. But that's another story."
The next morning, Rory comes over to tell us something. "Right, you lot, I've decided to take the next two weeks off. I can't stand it here. Try not to miss me too much, won't you?" And with that he goes calmly back to his seat.Reuse content