It is Friday afternoon coffee break in the offices of the stationery-supply company based just off Harrow high street in north-west London, and the talk among the sales force has, naturally, turned to the coming weekend. Most of them, it turns out, will be blamelessly engaged in their gardens, helping their wives with the shopping or watching their children play sport. Not so Andy, who, investigation reveals, is currently booked to spend Saturday afternoon at a music festival in Hertfordshire, Saturday evening in the West End and most of Sunday at a barbecue at his girlfriend's house in nearby Pinner.
It is sometimes hinted to Andy that, at 43, he is getting a bit long in the tooth for this kind of lifestyle and that music festivals, late-night excursions around the M25 and twentysomething lady friends are best left to younger men. Such intimations, he is sure, can be put down to envy.
"You're as young as you feel," he sometimes hopefully suggests – and certainly, Andy does look impossibly youthful. With his full head of hair, taut stomach and vigorous movements, he can occasionally, in the right kind of light, be taken for a man in his early thirties.
Doubtless the failure of middle age to leave its mark on his notably unworn features has something to do with the lack of domestic responsibility. Most of the reps at Staplefords are safely shackled by broods of children and 25-year mortgages. Andy, on the other hand, is still living in a bachelor flatshare, has no known dependents and spends his money on clothes and holidays. There was talk, three or four years ago, of his moving in with Anne-Marie, a young lady no fewer than 18 years younger than himself, but it never came to anything. It never does.
It's 4pm now and most of the staff have stopped even pretending to do any work. Checking his text messages, Andy finds one from Melissa, the 26-year-old current object of his affections: "Is new club opnin 2nite in rIslip ru up 4 it?"
Having not gone to bed before 2am on a single night this week, there is nothing Andy would like better than to spend the evening on the sofa, but within a moment the reply is streaking back: "OK babes CU". As the bands of pleasure-seeking youngsters with whom he spends his leisure time know, Andy is nothing if not game.Reuse content