Start at the bottom: Neil Start negotiates the tricky currents of office politics

Monday: The penny-a-tub promotion on goldfish food, fronted by Jan Leeming, face of Goldfish Action Group, is proving so successful that I suggest recruiting a marketing assistant.

Chairman David always agrees to anything that looks like progress. New head of finance Diana, Pauline Prescott lookalike and croquet international (spooky or what?), worries about cost-benefit analysis.

Clare, head of policy, argues that money raised by 'Jan's jolly' should be assigned to fundraising, not marketing - so it seems that my department of one is already failing.

Tuesday: David is unable to act decisively on Clare's objections, so he arranges an afternoon session with external mediator Gareth, a former senior manager at the NHS.

I spend two hours with Clare running through my failings. Make mental note that she is clearly not the leaver of the inflatable goldfish as a love token in my bed. Gareth sketches a 10-point action plan to resolve the 'turf war' on an interactive whiteboard. With luck, we should have an answer by September.

Thursday: Called into David's office. Very cloak and dagger. He asks for my opinion on Clare's performance, but I have learnt to keep my views to myself. After mentioning the Chatham House rule, David launches a full-scale attack on Clare and reveals plans to oust her - but he needs my help. Just about to demur when phone rings. Anka, ex-lover, mother-to-be of my child but now Mrs David, calling with bad news about one of his fish, which needs emergency dental work. David is out of the office quicker than Gareth can say "let's go back one step", and Clare's whole future is left hanging in mid-air.

Friday: Still no sign of David, but he sends an email, copied to Clare, instructing me to start a recruitment campaign for a marketing assistant.

I suspect a sub-plot, but am distracted by appearance of miniature inflatable goldfish in top drawer of desk. Label attached. Message too rude to share.

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