I remember it as being one of 'those' weeks.
Sunday was my twenty-second birthday and my mother took me to lunch at The Connaught. On such occasions, my mother likes to take charge. I think that the elderly couple at the next table thought that I was her Toy Boy. Oh well, if it brightened up their outing.
On Monday I got a call from the editor of First Thoughts to say that she wanted to use a piece I'd written entitled 'The Joy of Really Small Pubs'. Not only had I had a great time doing the research, but now I was going to get paid for the pleasure as well. That's what I call a result.
Tuesday wasn't so good. Celine announced that she was moving back to France. This had always been Celine's plan. I'd known that for at least two years. She was only in London to complete her degree. Still, the thought that our Friday night ritual of a cheap-and-cheerful meal followed by a couple of hours of energetic shagging was going to come to an end still put a serious dampener on the day.
And then on Thursday I got the offer of a position at Thompson Mackenzie Fallon.
For the best part of five years -- well, all through my time at university, really -- well-meaning friends and family had been telling me that I needed to try to get into a top-tier law firm.
'From the top, you can always work your way down,' my uncle had said on more than one occasion. And Tommy Mack was about as top as they come. From Tommy Mack, I could spend years working my way down.
When I told Prof Goldberg that I'd been offered the job, he stared briefly into the distance. 'Thompson Mackenzie Fallon,' he said. 'Hmm. Yes. Well done, Mr Fox. Well done.' But then, after a further brief reflective pause, he said: 'I take it that you have, umm, visited the citadel?'
For a moment there, I wasn't quite sure what he meant. Then the penny dropped. 'Oh, yes,' I said. 'The Aldwych building. Yes. Yes, I have.'
'And what did you think?'
'Pretty impressive,' I said.
Prof Goldberg said nothing.
'And pretty stuffy, too,' I added. 'You know ... if I'm honest.'
'Ah, well, it's good that you know,' he said.
He was right, of course. I may have had a pretty decent academic record and the gift of the gab, but I also had a bit of a reputation for hating pomposity. I'd been brought up to respect people for what they did rather than simply for who they were. As I soon discovered, that wasn't necessarily the way that some of the people at Thompson Mackenzie Fallon thought the world should operate.
I had been at Tommy Mack for less than a week when my so-called mentor took me to one side.
'Mr Fox,' he said, 'I would like you to remember that my name is Jonathan Josephson. It is not -- nor has it ever been -- Jonnie Joe. Indeed, while I am your assigned mentor, I would prefer you to address me as Mr Josephson. Are we clear?'
'As a double shot of Absolut,' I said.
'Vodka,' I said. 'You know, pure, clear, triple-filtered. Or is that Jack Daniels?'
Jonnie Joe shook his head. 'Just as long as we both understand each other.'
'Tell me, Mr Josephson,' I said, being particularly careful not to call him Jonnie Joe, 'do you have a small penis?'
A look of absolute horror spread across his face.
'It's OK,' I reassured him, 'I'm not overly blessed myself. But it doesn't worry me the way it seems to worry you. You can call me Freddy, Fred, or even Jeremy -- which, incidentally, is the name on my birth certificate. But I'd prefer it if you dropped the Mr Fox. I keep looking around for my father.
'And your small penis? I wouldn't worry about it. We all get what we get. I gather the secret is to make the best of what you're given. I've heard that there's this woman in Hampstead who gives private, umm, shall we say tuition. Apparently her fees are very reasonable. If you're interested, I could get you her phone number.'
Jonnie Joe didn't actually explode, although for a moment there it looked as though he might. And, a couple of days later, I was assigned a new babysitter.
My new mentor was a senior associate: an Australian named David Wight.
'G'day, Freddy,' he said. 'Call me Dave. Dingo if you like. Although I'd prefer you didn't call me Dingo in front of clients. Might make them nervous.'
'Fair enough,' I said.
Dingo and I got on really well.
It was Dingo who first introduced me to Miss Jones, Sir James Mackenzie's executive assistant.
'Mr Fox and I are fellow travellers,' she said. And then she quickly added: 'On the Central Line.'
Of course. I had seen her getting off the Tube at Holborn a couple of times. 'Oh. Right,' I said. 'Yes. By the way, call me Freddy.'
'Freddy. Yes. Thank you, Mr Fox,' she said graciously. Although she didn't invite me to call her Harriet. In fact, as far as I could make out, no one called her Harriet. Not even Sir James. She was simply Miss Jones.
'She seems very nice,' I said later.
'Steady on!' Dingo said. 'She's old enough to be your mother.'
'I just meant that she seems very nice,' I said. 'I'm not planning to slip her one or anything.'
Dingo just smiled.
And Miss Jones did seem very nice. She was probably in her early 50s. She had pale skin and thick dark hair that made her look a little like someone from a pre-Raphaelite painting.
And she was always immaculately dressed.
I particularly noticed Miss Jones' shoes. She seemed to have an endless supply of Salvatore Ferragamos. I noticed this because Salvatore Ferragamo is also one of my mother's favourite designers.
Miss Jones caught the Tube from Holland Park. My station was Notting Hill, the very next station heading east. And, given the number of trains there must have been on the Central Line in the half hour between 7:30 and eight o'clock on a normal weekday morning, it was surprising how often we ended up on the same train. A least once a week, we even ended up in the same carriage. And I must say that Miss Jones was excellent company for that hour of the morning: interesting and interested without being too demanding or nosey.
I didn't get to travel home with Miss Jones. We junior members of Tommy Mack's professional staff were expected to 'put in the hours'. A nine o'clock finish was almost considered to be a half day for many of the younger solicitors. Fortunately for me, Dingo liked to hold his briefing and debriefing sessions in what he termed Satellite Conference Room Number One and Satellite Conference Room Number Two, a couple of facilities more commonly known as The Harp and The Lamb and Flag.
It was in The Lamb and Flag that I met Pippa.
Dingo and I had had a bit of win. (Well, in truth, Dingo had had a bit of a win. But he'd been decent enough to include me in the celebratory 'debriefing session'.)
'I think a quick thirst quencher, Freddy. Then we'll move on and find some fizz. What d'you reckon?'
'You're in charge, Dingo,' I told him.
'In that case, you can fight your way up to bar and get me a pint of cooking lager.'
'You don't fancy something with a little more class and flavour?' I asked. 'You know ... in honour of the occasion?'
Dingo shook his head. 'Just to wash away the dust, Freddy. And, anyway, I need to do my bit to keep my countrymen in work.'
So, there I was, standing at the bar, collecting a pint of Fosters for Dingo and something a little less like alcoholic dishwater for myself, when, suddenly, a delightful waft of Arpège passed my way.
'Hello,' a woman's voice said. 'Fancy seeing you here.'
I turned to see a very nicely turned-out girl, probably about my age. She looked vaguely familiar. But at that moment I couldn't for the life of me think why.
'I thought an upmarket wine bar would have been more your style,' she said. And then she added, 'Oh, by the way, I'm Pippa.'
'Freddy,' I said. And then I added: 'Excuse me, Pippa, but have we met?'
She laughed. 'Well, we have now, Freddy.'
'I suppose we have, Pippa.' I must have looked a bit bewildered.
'I was temping at your office a couple of weeks ago,' she said.
'Ah. Right. I'm sorry. I thought you looked, umm ... but, yeah ... well, nice to see you again. Are you here with someone?'
She said that she had come in to meet a friend, but that the friend had just phoned to say that she couldn't make it after all.
'Bit of a bugger,' I said. 'Come and join us.'
'Oh no, I don't want to interrupt,' she said.
I told her that any girl who wears Arpège couldn't possibly be considered an interruption.
Pippa just smiled. And when I introduced her to Dingo, he smiled too.
With everyone in such a good mood, we enjoyed our drinks and small talk at The Lamb, and then the three of us headed off to Head Office -- which, of course, is not an office at all, but a rather good wine bar. Still, some people find it useful to be able to claim back a few 'Head Office' expenses.
'What do you recommend, Freddy? Polly Roger or The Widow?'
'Your call, Dingo,' I said.
'Yeah. I know it's my call,' Dingo said. 'But I'm asking you for a recommendation.'
'Well ...' I said, 'the Pol Roger is probably going to be slightly more citrusy -- clean, crisp, and with an almost-savoury toasty spiciness. The Veuve Cliquot, on the other hand, is probably going to be a little more biscuity -- with hints of fresh lime and possibly almonds.'
'And so your recommendation is ...?'
'The Veuve Cliquot.'
'Because you like the dark yellow label,' I said.
Dingo beamed with pride. 'Is the right answer! We'll make a proper lawyer out of you yet. And just one more question in tonight's quiz: What do we need to go with the bubbly?'
'A few oysters?' I ventured.
Dingo suddenly looked really disappointed. 'Oh, jeez, have I taught you nothing, young Freddy? A few? What sort of celebration is that? I'd have said we need at least a dozen each.'
And so, courtesy of Dingo's expense account, we settled down to a bottle of Veuve Cliquot and three dozen plump oysters on the half shell.
I don't know if Dingo was on a promise that evening (he kept his after-hours cards pretty close to his chest), but shortly before eight, and having consumed his share of the oysters and then some, he was bidding Pippa and me goodnight, and exhorting us to 'keep up the good work'.
'So, what are your plans for the rest of the evening?' I asked.
Pippa smiled. 'I was wondering if you might like to show me your etchings.'
'Etchings. Hmm. Don't think I have any etchings. I've got a couple of watercolours that my grandfather left me. And a Pirelli calendar. But that's about it.'
'Then perhaps you could show me your watercolours.'
'I suppose I could,' I said. 'They're quite, well, racy -- in a sort of Edwardian kind of way. I hope you're OK with that.'
Pippa just smiled.
We caught the tube from Bond Street and we were back at my place within half an hour.
'The watercolours are in the bedroom,' I said. 'I'll go and get them if you like.'
'That's OK,' she said. 'I would be more than happy to appreciate them in situ.'
'Hmm. Yes. Well, why not? I'll just grab us a glass of wine. There's no champagne, I'm afraid. But I have some New Zealand sauvignon blanc, if that's OK.'
'Perfect,' she said.
I poured a couple of glasses of Oyster Bay and led the way to the bedroom.
'Ahhh,' she said as soon as I turned on the light. 'Russell Flint.'
Pippa briefly studied one and then the other. 'And originals too.'
'My grandfather knew him when he lived over in Campden Hill.'
'Very nice. And quite valuable.'
'Oh, I don't know about that,' I said. 'I don't think there's a lot of rarity value. He was, I understand, quite prolific.'
'Oh, no, they'll be worth real money,' she said. 'You know ... at auction. Very desirable.'
And having pronounced on Sir William Russell Flint's saleability, she moved on the next item on what appeared to be her mental 'list of things to do this evening': removing my suit.
Pippa began by opening the jacket and checking out the label. 'Oscar le Chat. Very nice. But with what I have in mind, I think we should put this out of harm's way.'
I guess she had a point. It was my favourite suit.
'And the trousers,' she said, holding out her hand.
'Shouldn't you be ... umm ...?'
'One step at a time,' she said.
I suddenly realised that if we were going to end up doing what I thought we were going to end up doing, it would be my first time since Celine. Just for the briefest moment I felt ... I don't know ... sad? Well, no, not exactly sad. But I did think about Celine. I realised that I hadn't heard from her for a couple of weeks. I wondered how she was. But, by then, Pippa was well into her work. And I had had several glasses of wine. As well as about a dozen oysters. And you know what they say about the aphrodisiac qualities of oysters.
Also, there was no question that Pippa was a good looking young woman. A very sexy young woman. In fact, the fewer her clothes, the better she looked. In a brief moment of clarity, I realised that, earlier, she had been 'dressed to impress'. At The Lamb, and later at Head Office, she had probably looked like another young lawyer or maybe a banker. But, as we peeled away the layers, she looked more and more like a hot fuck.
I'm afraid my cock tends to have a mind of its own. And at that particular moment it made up its mind that it was going to get inside the lovely Pippa, come what may. Fortunately, this also seemed to be her plan.
By the time she had finished removing my lower garments, my cock was standing at attention.
'Mmm. Very nice,' she said. 'And I think I know exactly the right place for it.'
I don't know whether Celine had trained me or I had trained Celine, but even our most urgent rutting had tended to start with a bit of foreplay. But with Pippa, it was straight down to business. Before I knew what was happening, her knickers were on the floor, and she was lying back on the bed, her legs spread, her elegant fingers spreading her blonde fur-covered labia.
'Don't fuck about,' she growled. 'I want you inside me. Now.'
Dingo and I were in a cab on our way to Marylebone.
'So ... where did you and the lovely Pippa end up?'
'Well, we finished off the wine,' I said. 'It seemed a pity to waste good fizz.'
Dingo smiled. 'And then back to your place?'
'Well, yes, as a matter of fact.'
Dingo smiled again. 'Where you ... shall we say "consummated" the new relationship.'
'There may have been a bit of rumpy pumpy,' I admitted.
'And tell me,' Dingo said, 'what did Pippa think of your gaff?'
'I think she approved,' I said.
'But she had some suggestions? A few thoughts on how it might be improved? A bit of redecoration? A little more wardrobe space?'
'Well, yes,' I said. 'Some quite good ideas, actually.'
Dingo nodded. 'I think you've been chosen, mate. I think Pippa is looking for a husband. And you're currently numero uno candidate on her list.'
'But I only just met her last night,' I protested.
'Maybe,' Dingo said. 'But I don't think that it was by accident. I think the girl has a plan. And I think she's been working on it for a week or two. At least.'
As the cab turned off Wigmore Street and headed for Marylebone High Street, I had to admit that there had been a certain proprietorial tone about the way in which Pippa had 'redesigned' the flat. Maybe Dingo was right.
'Of course, I could be wrong,' Dingo said. And then as the cab swung into the High Street, he added: 'I take it that the lady has arranged a further assignation? And soon, I suspect?'
'Tonight,' I told him. 'And, no, I think you are probably right. I'll have to set the record straight.'
'Up to you,' Dingo said. 'But, either way, you might want to wait until after you've played another round of hide the sausage. I take it that part of the evening was satisfactory?'
'Oh, very much so. I'd give her nine-and-a-half out of ten.'
And so, after a cheap-and-cheerful meal and a couple of glasses of wine -- and another round of hide the sausage -- I did my best to let Pippa down gently. I think she was a bit disappointed. But there was no big drama. And less than a week later, at a nearby wine bar, she just happened to run into Charles, one of the other newish Tommy Mack solicitors.
A couple of weeks after my last encounter with Pippa, my mother came up to town for a weekend of recreational shopping and spot of big city culture. On the Sunday morning she took me to Wigmore Hall to hear the Swandri Quartet performing a couple of pieces by Dvořák and a new piece by Aston Fyre. We were standing in the foyer enjoying a heart-starting glass of sherry when I heard a familiar voice.
'Why, Mr Fox! I didn't have you down as a chamber music aficionado.'
It was Miss Jones.
'Miss Jones,' I said. 'How nice to see you. May I introduce my mother: Laura Hamilton.'
'Harriet,' Miss Jones said softly as she shook my mother's hand.
At that point the bell sounded and we all trooped into the auditorium to find our seats.
'Harriet seems very nice,' Mother said. 'Although perhaps a little more mature than most of your girlfriends have been thus far.'
'Very funny,' I muttered. 'Although she is very nice. She's the Chairman's PA, executive assistant, you know, she looks after him.'
Mother nodded. 'A useful person to know then.'
A month or so after the Swandri Quartet's concert, Miss Jones turned out to be a very useful person to know. In keeping with tradition, several 'first' cuckoos had been reported to the editors of The Times and The Telegraph, the spring flowers were out in all their glory, and one or other of the Tube unions decided that it had been a far too long since they had had a good disruptive strike. And so, suddenly, it was spring. And it was also chaos.
On the Tuesday morning, I managed to get a bus as far as Marble Arch, and from there it was Shanks's Pony. Oh well, at least I didn't live in Uxbridge or Wimbledon or Epping or one of those other places out on the edge of the Tube map.
On several occasions during the day I checked with my favourite news sites hoping to read that the strike had been called off and everything was returning to normal. But no such luck. It looked as if it was going to be a long trek home that evening. And then Miss Jones phoned.
'Sir James has kindly arranged for Cedric to drive me home this evening. I wondered if you might like a lift. Of course, if you have already made other arrangements ....'
'No, no,' I said. 'That would be excellent. Thank you. I was just contemplating a long walk. A ride would be ... well ... excellent. Thank you.'
'Shall we say six-thirty?'
'I'll just have to check with Dingo,' I said. 'But, no, I'm sure that should be OK.'
Dingo was fine with it. (I knew that he would be.) And, shortly after six-thirty, Miss Jones and I were seated in the back of Sir James' Bentley as it edged its way along The Strand towards Trafalgar Square. It wasn't the fastest-ever crossing of the West End, but shortly after seven o'clock we were pulling up outside what appeared to be an Italian restaurant on the edge of Holland Park.
'Perhaps you'd like to join me for a little supper, Mr Fox.'
I didn't know what to say.
'The food here is quite good. Vaguely Tuscan,' Miss Jones said. 'Well, Tuscan based, anyway. And the wine list, too, is rather good.'
'Well, I ... umm ....'
'Of course, if you have other plans ....'
'No,' I said. 'No plans. It's just ... umm ....'
'In that case .... Thank you, Cedric. For everything. Mr Fox and I will bid you goodnight. And I wish you every success for the future. Thank you.'
'Thank you, Miss Jones. And you take care out there,' Cedric replied.
'Umm ... yes ... thank you, Cedric,' I said. 'You know ... for the ride. Much appreciated. I had thought that I would be walking. So, yes, thank you.'
Cedric lightly tapped the peak of his chauffer's cap and smiled knowingly.