Turns out there was a malevolent worm lurking still in the depths of our code, sending smoke signals to the spammers whenever we changed our passwords; spreading its poison; hollowing us out. Our own Worm thinks we’ve killed it now.
I felt there was something similar in my soul as I slogged around the crappy end of Cambridge the other week. The first prospect I met looked about fourteen years old, skinny but plump-jowled, Indian. He steepled his fingers in a doctorly pose of wisdom, and pretended to know more than me about my own business. He wanted me to play the supplicant, and I was too tired not to. His office was horrid like a hospital waiting room, the floor was sticky. I let him win and went on my way.
The second prospect was a jolly decent chap, white-haired, gigantic, with bendy limbs and a long head, like a former county fast bowler. He seemed to have completely forgotten I was coming and was terribly flustered and apologetic, a full stuttering Hugh Grant routine. There was a cricket ball amongst the papers stacked on his filing cabinet, which confirmed by suspicions. I liked the fellow, and he seemed to be enjoying his act, but I was too tired to join in so I let him lose and went on my way. When I got out into the air it had become suddenly cold.
In the dining room of the Premier Inn I sat at a tiny table with my back to the window. There wasn’t much of a view, you see, except for a new build housing estate and the ring road. At the tiny tables either side of me sat other travelling businessmen equally alone, tapping into their iPhones. It was Happy Hour, BOGOF on selected drinks, so we all had two pints of lager each. A Polish man to my right was grimly working his way through a quartet of Stellas. I got out the Kindle while waiting for my steak (mediocre-rare with chips and a Béarnaise sauce). Tyrion was being falsely accused of poisoning Joffrey at his wedding feast. Surprisingly well-written, those pointless escapist absurd mindblowing books. I ate a brownie for dessert mainly because I could claim it back on expenses and took the lift back to my room, where I nodded off in my clothes while watching Chelsea’s millionaires joylessly crush some football team from an Eastern European city I’d never heard of. When I woke in dread around midnight the bathroom extractor fan was shouting at the telly to shut up.
I find solace on Friday afternoons at The Swan, but lately in that lovely pub a new manager has taken over and he cannot abide silence. This is the world’s pity because silence is the main reason I go there, along with the fire and beer. I just want to sip my pint of Gem while the fire cooks my bones and read about Tyrion for an hour. But this chap insists on chit chat. He seems to think a conversationless pub is an abomination against nature. He keeps finding excuses to wander over to my table in the otherwise empty space between the lunchtime crowd and the dinner bookings to make mild observations. He seems to think I share his concern about the pub’s quietness and the effect on his trade of the road closure caused by the landslide up towards Bath, whereas in fact I am very grateful to that landslide and don’t give two hoots about his trade so long as there is just enough to keep the place open for a quiet hour on late Friday afternoons. Sometimes I wish I could do haughty contempt like Dame Maggie Smith or at least gruff glowering unapproachableness like Ned Stark but I don’t have it in me and we end up chit chatting about not much while my Gem somehow evaporates along with my golden hour.
Your toy balloon may fly in the sky but one day it must fall to the ground. And you must know, in the end, when it’s time to descend, but… My tether’s end was hoving into view when I pulled up at the offices of Melanie S in a converted block of farm buildings in semi-rural Hampshire. I dragged myself and my briefcase and my weariness to the door and a Force of Nature opened it. She whirled me inside, breathlessly introducing me to a team of grinning young Greeks and English girls and Asians. I fell in love instantly, with all of them. Melanie was big, wobbly, Nigerian, with a beautiful black barn owl-shaped face, and she was bursting with her own cleverness and youth. I sat and listened while she and her partner Angelos explained how their business worked. It was ingenious and brilliant and, most unusually, working. Their firm had outgrown its premises three times in 18 months. I found my mojo flooding back, drowning the poisonous worm within. I totally got their Thing and I told them how I thought they should put their brilliance into nice clear words. They offered me a job which there was no possible way I would want even if were practical but it was nice to be asked. Angelos shook my hand with Greek vigour and Melanie introduced me to everyone again on the way out and even gave me a smacker on the cheek. On the drive back the sun was out, a sweet October sun through brown trees. I felt a profound contentment with life and the next day I went into the office and wrote my letter of resignation.