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The Lawyer's beloved secretary has gone on extended sick leave as the result of some appalling accident at the salsa class she teaches in her spare time, which has put half the class in traction.
It means, of course, that the Lawyer has been assigned a new secretary from the admin pool.
"Do they all sit around in their bikinis, drinking cocktails?" asked Deminimus, when he heard the news.
I've always wondered this myself, but I repeated the manager's mantra that is meant to ward off bad administration support in case it comes flying your way. "No, secretaries are all hard-working, loyal and dependable. Even if they had spare time, they wouldn't spend it having fags at the back door and gossiping, let alone lounging by the admin pool," I said.
Last week, the new secretary arrived. "What's she like? Is she nice?" I asked, which is wife-speak for "will she do your dry cleaning for you instead of me?".
The Lawyer muttered something indeterminate and went off to find out who shot Phil Mitchell. This means that she's either a nightmare or that she's very attractive and he's afraid of letting on that he's noticed.
I followed him to the sitting room. "Really tiny mini-skirt, right?" I asked.
"If only," he groaned.
The next day I had to ring him to sort out some dinner dates and a sniffy voice came on to the phone. "And who shall I say is calling?" she asked, with the emphasis on the "who", as if it would have to be someone pretty special to make it past her.
I let those two tiny words, "his wife", drop into the receiver. They sounded very small indeed. "I'm afraid he's in a meeting," she said briskly. "I can't possibly disturb him. Could you call again later?"
I put the phone down and screamed: "She's a damn gatekeeper!"
Gatekeepers are, of course, just one of the many sub-species of the genus secretaria microsofta, in this case var outlookia. Gatekeepers are the ones who will do anything to stop people talking to their boss, short of you marching in there with a sawn-off shotgun and threatening to blow their head off. The other route is to threaten harm to their dogs, because they're the ones who always have a picture of a fat golden Labrador on their desks.
Much better to have secretaria microsofta accessia, the nice ones who keep toffees on their desks and are happy to be landed with the kids when disaster strikes, viz shopping trip to town for school uniform, supplies etc and Deminimus needing A&E care after spearing himself on a compass.
Of course, secretaria exploria is no good in the office environment - they're the ones forever escaping to the far ends of the building to chat with Sheila in accounts, while the closely-related secretaria wordia doesn't need Sheila because she'll be spending her days talking to you. The Lawyer had one for a week, and by the end he knew the favourite colours of all her cousins' children, even the ones in Canada.
This one won't last, I fear. She cut the managing partner off in mid-phonecall because she had some documents that needed signing, and she's already banned the Lawyer from eating sausage and mash at lunchtime, one of the few things that the poor man looks forward to in his working day.