And the clock ticks. Sigh.
Pippa Dean is watching Flog It*. Again.
3 minutes ago
*Flog It: A show in which members of the public feign interest in the historical
or antique significance of items when all they really wish to know is their monetary
value before auctioning them off. An interesting parallel with Pippa's life where
friends and colleagues feign interest in the dead horse of a career that she is so
I mean, it's totally possible that tomorrow the diary will look totally different.
All it would take would be one phone call. A text even. Maybe even this afternoon.
Could be any time now! I'll just check my phone one more time. Actually, maybe I
should check my email too, just to stay up to date. Hmmm.
Maybe I could take a peek at Facebook again, just in case there's something there.
Could be that someone is desperate for a cellist, right now, and I could just look
just there at just the right moment.
Well, maybe this afternoon. Or tomorrow...
Rob flipped over the pages of his diary: Lunch with Pippa - today. He turned the
statement over in his mind. It didn't matter which angle he viewed it from, it didn't
really seem that earth-shattering. Not the world's most portentous or significant
diary entry. Hardly something to rival Pepys. Though actually his account of the
Great Fire didn't exactly overdo it with the drama either.“Being unused to such fires
as followed, I thought it far enough off; and so went to bed again and to sleep.
About seven rose again to dress myself, and there looked out at the window, and saw
the fire not so much as it was and further off.” Yeah – real eye for detail that
Rob and Pippa tried to meet up every couple of weeks or so. If nothing else it was
an excuse to write something on an otherwise disturbingly blank line in the diary
– an appointment that needs to be kept, a pretence at activity and keeping busy.
But actually – it was important. Rob prized their meetings very highly and liked
to think she did too. It was a constant, something they could cling to in all the
chaos and uncertainty of their lives, particularly their fragile working lives.
Pippa is Rob's best friend. An odd choice for a best friend really, what with her
being more attractive, more in demand and more popular. Hardly characteristics to
help boost his esteem but somehow they rubbed along pretty well. Helped in no small
part by the fact that for all her many talents she is quite without guile and that
for her, life is effectively just one mystery too many. “And it's no wonder she's
confused,” thought Rob, “she's blessed with a sunny disposition that always imagines
things will work out for the best.” A laudable if somewhat delusional state if their
careers were anything to go by. Still, that didn't alter the fact that when her open
countenance was the one that greeted him, everything seemed none too bad. In fact
for the hour or two they're together there's usually very little Rob would change.
Rob glanced at his watch. 12:43. Good. He was meeting Pippa at One. He couldn't bear
being late. Sometimes he explained it away as a side effect of his job. Turn up late
for a gig and no one gives you a particularly hard time, they just don't book you
again. But in fact it wasn't his work, it was just Rob being Rob. He liked to be
early, not too early as he got restless quickly. Ideally he would be there by five
to one having got the drinks in and got settled. Then Pippa would turn up just a
couple of minutes late occasioning a faint smile from Rob. That was the natural order
of things. Fighting his natural tendency to stop and daydream, looking out along
the river, Rob forced his steps over Blackfriars Bridge. Far from the prettiest of
London's bridges it scored now in two very important areas. One: It was also far
from the most popular, no tourists cluttering the place up and slowing his progress.
Two: its proximity to his destination – The Founders Arms. The pale sun was doing
little to warm the day but although a touch chilly the day was clear and dry. All
the slight edge to breeze would mean that Rob should have little trouble securing
a spot at one of the tables outside the pub, from which vantage point he would be
able to watch the river traffic and get in a few minutes valuable daydreaming before
Pippa was reliably, reassuringly enthusiastic, shaking Rob from his reverie. “Hey,
it's so good to see you. I haven't seen you for ages!” There's that sunny disposition
and open countenance.
Rob snuck a look at his watch: two minutes past one – perfect and well worth a faint
smile. “You saw me last week.”
“But it seems like ages.” That's the trouble with freelancing – time plays tricks
on you. The work-free days pass so slowly. Not days off, mind – as a freelancer you
don't get days off, that's a luxury reserved for the salaried. No, freelancers only
have days without work – failed days.
“So,” said Rob. “What have you been up to in the ages since we last met then?”
“I saw Martin on Tuesday.”
Martin – the traitor. He used to be one of them. “Oh yeah, how's he getting on?”
But he’d changed. Crossed the divide. “He's got a job now hasn't he?
“He's fine. Been there nearly a year now. Since he's got a job and everything I asked
him if he could pass on any other gigs he didn't fancy.”
“That was bold of you! What did he say?”
“He said he never got any work, that's why he had to get an orchestral job.” Then
her face clouded a moment before “Oh, and I've been giving quite a lot of thought
to my life...”
Clearly some revelation was afoot, barely concealing his excitement Rob replied,
“Oh, nice... and...?”
“And I've decided to stop worrying about it. Something's bound to turn up.”
“That's my girl, ever the woman of action. Let fate run its course. 'All things are
for the best in the best of all possible worlds.' Just see what falls into your lap.”
“Precisely.” Pippa paused, “You're not making fun of me, are you?” and was that a
moments indignation Rob glimpsed?
“No, not at all. Well, maybe just a little bit. But then nothing's ever fallen into
my lap that hasn't had to be dry-cleaned afterwards. But you've got a point. I tried
worrying about it once.”
“Yeah, what happened?”
“I got a headache. Never again. I mean, we're not doing so bad are we? A little bit
of cash to get us by and time to meet up for important things like lunch.”
“True,” she said, not sounding entirely convinced.
“You don't sound entirely convinced...” Rob observed astutely.
“No, well, it's just that... I always thought I'd achieve something with my life.
That I'd amount to something, be someone. I've got dreams you know – ambition.” This
was passion indeed. So life affirming to see someone with a light in their eyes and
fire in their belly. Not that he hadn't experienced something similar himself, though
the fire in the belly could usually be put down to ulcers and appeased with a crate
load of Zantac. And as for the light in her eyes, in truth that was often there but
was more usually of the 'lights are on but nobody's home' variety. “I've always wanted
to go to a Meeting.”
“'Scuse me?” Fortunately Rob was able to keep the note of disappointment from his
voice at the admission of this great ambition. The sound of derision masked it nicely.
Pippa looked hurt. “Sorry, I was a bit surprised... Explain it to me and I'll try
to make it look as if I think it makes some kind of sense.”
“I know it's not much. I grew out of all that wanting to be a ballet dancer stuff.
I had to give up that idea when I got...” her gaze dropped a little as she searched
for the most appropriate words, “a figure.” (Perhaps the most blatant snaring of
the male imagination ever uttered - made all the more devastating by the simple truth
of the statement, delivered when seduction was the furthest thing from her mind.)
A ballet dancer with a figure – and to think: Rob had always been brought up to believe
that Access was your flexible friend. His mind drifted. Unsure how long he'd been
in that reverie Rob was relieved to discover that when he rejoined reality it was
at least to the sound of Pippa's voice rather than a stony silence and a hard stare
so he still had a fighting chance of returning to the conversation with his fantasy
undetected. “It just seemed so important, so grown-up...”
“Mmmmm, no, yeah, of course...” Rob thought a few initial non committal noises safest
until he could work out what on earth it was she was on about.
“You know, I'd phone up: Can I speak to Jen please? No, she's in a meeting all day...
and somehow, it's a world I've never known and so it seems so exotic... so that's
it really... I want to go to a meeting.”
“Let me get us another drink and then we'll sort this out. But really, meetings?
I've been to them – they're rubbish.”
“What meeting have you ever been to – besides Alcoholics Anonymous?”
“Right, two mineral waters it is...” Rob was a bit peeved by the alcoholic comment
but she looked so crest fallen, gazing at him with those puppy dog eyes, and if you've
ever seen a crest fallen puppy dog, you know how moving that can be. He had to help.
“Well this is a meeting isn't it? An exchange of terribly creative ideas - must be
“It's not the same.”
“Well... it's not official.”
“Yes it is. It's in my diary and everything.”
“I know but it's still not a real meeting. Real meetings have flip charts and overhead
projectors and all that stuff. Don't suppose you have a clipboard handy, do you?”
“I've got an iPhone – that's pretty important.”
“Nope – it's got to be a clipboard. That's like the internationally recognised symbol
for a meeting.”
“Flip charts and overhead projectors? And what are you planning to wear to this mythical
meeting? Shoulder pads and a bat wing sweater? What year do you think this is? I'll
think you'll find that it's mostly powerpoint presentations and laptops these days
but I know what you mean.” Oh god, thought Rob, she's looking at me with those eyes
“What about clipboards and ring binders?” Pippa asked.
“What about them?”
“They must still have those. And it needs to be some light airy office, lots of big
windows, looking out over the city. Not some grotty pub.”
“Hey, this may be a grotty pub to you but it's a world of opportunity for some poor
“What's that got to do with anything?”
“They still make little badges though....”
“For conferences and stuff: they still make little badges.”
“Yes. You're right there.”
“'Jason – Accounts,' that sort of thing.”
Clearly this was disappearing into the realms of wild fantasy but Rob thought he
might as well go along with it, “And yours would read??”
“Just Pippa dot dot dot?”
Her eyes lit up – still it made a welcome change from that puppy dog: “Yeah, you
never know... it could be a whole new way of conducting meetings... it could be a
competition or team bonding exercise.... you could run round the room filling in
people's badges with the job you think might suit them... very hands on.
“Possibly too hands on.”
“Depends where you wear your badge.”
“Why? Where do you wear your badge?” Oh god... Rob thought, now she's winking. Will
somebody save me from this girl's eyes...
“Never you mind...”
“I do mind. In fact I mind so much that I'm gonna have to put this to the test. C'mon.”
“Where're we going?”
“What about lunch?”
“Lunch can wait. First we're gonna hit Rymans in style.”
About 20 minutes and £8.50 later Pippa and Rob were sat down again. It wasn't quite
Canary Wharf but nor was it a grotty pub. Actually, it was still a grotty pub but
at least it could boast the desired air and lots of windows.
“What's that?” he quizzed her.
“OK, and just the other side of that; that big collection of buildings over there...
What do they call that?”
“Right again. Your view over the City.”
“Except it's not over the City, really, is it? More kind of – across at...”
“Don't be greedy.”
“No – sorry.”
“OK. So there's your city view, there's your biro for idle doodling, and there's
your clipboard.” Sadly they were right out of badges, still that little unsolved
mystery would give Rob something to look forward to another time. “I think we're
just about ready to start this meeting, don't you? What's the first item?”
Pippa beamed. “Lunch.”