As I write this, it's lunchtime. I have already had an entire month's worth of angst in a mere four hours, I have to get the diary done in a frantic rush before an office reorganisation happens around my head, and I've just had to make one of the hardest decisions of my life. Against the odds, however, I am wearing my own shoes.
Let me explain. Some Fridays I do the diary at home, sometimes in the office. Today is an office day. I have a meeting at 10:30, so at 9:30 I'm up, dressed, reasonably able to frame and answer simple questions, and poised to depart. All is well -- so well, I decide just to check the office email before setting course for the Piccadilly Line.
If this were a documentary on UK History, the tweedy prof would pause, clasp his hands together and give a histrionic sigh. "King Rupert's army was at its peak of manpower and readiness. Europe lay defenceless before him; his enemies in disarray. Yet it was at this very point, when total victory seemed ordained by God, that his carefully constructed plans began to unravel…"
There were, as it happens, no emails of import, but the instant messaging client woke up as I logged in. "You are going to that interview with the head of HP's R&D Labs, aren't you?" it said.
Ah. I know better than to fire back "What flaming interview?" Instead I kick off Office calendar. It knows as little as I do: "I've got nothing in my diary," I type. A frisson runs across the Internet - presumably using frisson transfer protocol -- followed by a short yet pertinent exchange designed to find out who didn't tell who what and when it didn't happen. Clearly, a meeting has been arranged. Clearly, I'm in the frame. The PRs are ringing the office "just to make sure we'll be there".
Time is short, and so is my temper. I sit down at my desk, extract the PR details via IM and phone up. Nobody at the PR company knows -- well, somebody knows but he's "working at home" today. I'm given his mobile number, which goes through to voicemail.
My options are limited. If I get on the tube to work, I'll probably be underground when they call back and I may miss the meeting. If I stay at home, I'll miss my 10:30. I try and phone my 10:30 -- a chap who operates in the stratosphere of the mobile phone biz -- only to hit his voicemail. I leave an apologetic message, and decide to wait.
It is at this point that a strange, shambling apparition makes its way into the front room. It is my charming teenage son, who 'doesn't have school' on a Friday morning and thus 'revises for his A-levels' through the mystical practice of absorbing the information from his textbooks while he sleeps. A modern miracle -- but what has gone wrong? Why is he, for want of a better word, 'awake'? He clears his throat. He is, I surmise, about to speak and therefore, I further surmise, he wants something of my portable property.
"Dad…" I admire how he makes three syllables of it, dropping the middle one by a fourth. "Can I have the shoes today?"
Now, it may seem odd that a household such as ours has but one pair of shoes. Trust me, it's complicated. Nevertheless, my reply is simple yet forceful, and unambiguously negative. "But I'll lose my job!" he whines.
He has, after a mere eighteen months of nagging, actually got himself a part-time job, which involves weekend and after-hours stuff. Sometimes, he has to be smart and that, his employers state, requires shoes. Not sandals. Not trainers. Shoes. He has never quite got around to buying any, and as we're the same size (13, extra-wide)… well, you see his thinking.
My job has no explicit dress code, but sometimes I feel it sensible to be shod properly. One time might be, for the sake of argument, when I'm off to see the bloke in charge of one of the world's more prestigious research and development labs.
"But if he works in R&D, he'll be fine with sandals!" is my son's counterargument.
There then follows a short yet spirited debate. I manage to hold onto my shoes throughout. Son is reluctantly thrown in the maelstrom of having to think for himself, working out that he can make it out to the nearest shoe shop for mutants and back in time, and is bodily hurled into the warm spring morning air.
We are now well into diary-writing time. Some IMs have been blinking on my screen for a while. "The PR keeps phoning here, wanting to know what's going on!" says one. "Which PR? What's the number?" I IM back. A different number. I call. It's voicemail. "It's voicemail!" I type. "She was on the phone again! Oh, someone's turned up to see you…"
It is my pal, who has been without his mobile all morning for reasons I cannot begin to understand. I can't say where I'll be today, as I don't know when or where I'm meeting HP -- it could even be in Bristol, where the labs are. He is Not Impressed.
I try the PR again, and get through! Hurrah! Apparently, I've been arranged for a midday meeting… in Soho, just half an hour away. Phew.
The rest is almost anticlimactic. I make the meeting, have a very productive interview -- including some interesting stuff about that ol' Itanium, so watch this space -- and on the way back get a call from the lad saying that he managed to sort out the shoe madness without losing his job.
And here I am.
Oh, the hardest decision of my life. Walking out post-interview into Soho Square in bright spring sunlight, on a Friday lunchtime, surrounded by zillions of beautiful people clearly having a fantastic time in the restaurants, bars and cafes of one of the liveliest parts of one of the liveliest cities on the planet, and choosing voluntarily to get on the tube, go back to my desk and write this thing with only a BLT for company.
Never say I don't love you.