The Trader: Coffee helps when he takes the biscuit

'If he comes over here once more to patronise me, I'll kill the little git,' said Laura
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The Independent Online
ONE OUT of two isn't bad. Rory's decision to employ a coffee lady has turned out to be one of the best he's ever made. Mrs Hughes rattles past our desks five times a day dispensing news, common sense and a hot liquid that actually tastes of coffee instead of just smelling of it. The mere clinking of cups is enough to cause a Pavlovian epidemic of smiling.

It's all bad news for the Queen Mother, of course. Frankly, the only thing she could do in this small corner of the kingdom to retrieve her title of "favourite grandmother" from Mrs H is to don the overalls herself, which seems unlikely.

If only anything nice could be said about Simon, Rory's choice as junior salesman. "If he comes over here even once more to patronise me, I'll kill the little git," said Laura on the second day. Now, Laura's a laid- back, sweet-natured girl who wouldn't dream of calling anyone nasty names in normal circumstances. But with Simon, she's been well and truly provoked.

Simon is a pushy youngster. He has absolutely loads of self-confidence, the sort you have only if nothing bad has ever happened to you. Not that we haven't all been there ourselves, of course. There can't be a single person in the country who hasn't walked into their first job after school or college or whatever and been amazed at having to spend the first week or so doing the photocopying instead of being put in charge of the whole company. The difference between most of us and Simon is that at least we had the imagination to see other people with more experience might be wiser than us after all. And it didn't take us until our second job to work it out.

"Employ in haste, repent at leisure," said Jaap, after Laura told him about Simon calling her "babe" and how she'd thump him somewhere sensitive if he did it again. "We may have problems with that one. Let me know if he annoys you again and I'll get Rory to have a word with him."

Laura and I look balefully at each other. Jaap means well - he always does - but I doubt his suggestion will work. Simon's plan for world domination appears to include a sizeable amount of sucking up to our chief honcho, and Rory's loving every minute. "I bet he even laughs at Rory's oh-so- fascinating tales of the Eighties," I said sadly to Laura.

"Not the one about the hurricane, and closing a deal at a restaurant with nothing but a mobile phone, a calculator and a scrap of paper," said Laura. "No one could laugh at that unless they were the biggest brown- noser in the world. Oh. Yes. I see."

If only Rory had a girlfriend. Then he'd be too busy taking her to expensive restaurants to hang around with a fresh-faced boy with sticky-out ears. The chances of that seem slim. The City's a small place, and the number of women who don*t know about Rory's little foibles at first or second- hand is dwindling fast.

Suddenly, barely audible over the dull roar of the trading floor, I hear the sound of teaspoons clanking against each other. Mrs Hughes is back and, despite everything, my mouth muscles slide into "smile" position.

"Here you are, dear. White, no sugar for you," says Mrs Hughes to me, "and the same for you and a small bar of chocolate," she says to Laura. "You look as if you could do with it."

She starts to push away, then pauses and turns to Laura. "Don't let that young whipper-snapper get you down, dear. Something will happen to bring him down to earth. It always does."

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