Start at the bottom

Neil Start gets hot under the collar over the Latvian receptionist.

Monday: God, it's hot - but as Clare, our head of policy at the Goldfish Action Group, is fond of saying, think how much worse the heat is for the goldfish. After just three weeks here I'm already learning to make the right facial expressions in response to such remarks - furrowed brow for sympathy, slight surprise in the eyes to show that I am thinking afresh with new depth. Deep down I know I'd rather be six feet under in some cool if cloudy pond water.

The GAG objects on principle to air-conditioning - causes global warming, raises sea temperatures, makes it tougher for goldfish (quite a tenuous line of consequences, I know, since they don't go in salt water, but combating climate change is de rigueur for charities, whatever their link with the subject). So you might have thought they'd build an office with windows that open. But no. Subterranean plate-glass walls opening on to the Thames so we are close to the fish. And used condoms, discarded needles and what sometimes look like bits of bodies.

To combat the current heatwave, we are issued with our own eco-friendly bicycle pump. I was puzzled until Anka, our Latvian receptionist, explained: when you're hot, you pump air into your face from the hole at the bottom - remembering not to insert the connection that normally goes on the bike tyre valve. I'm not sure if she's sending up GAG's idiosyncrasies or coming on to me. Either would be fine. But I'm sweating even more.

Wednesday: I answer a call from the police - between pumps - to hear that they are not pressing charges after last week's unfortunate incident outside the Danish Embassy, where our protest at live goldfish being put through a food blender in the name of art ended up with me being put through the mill of the prison system.

Thursday: Still struggling to hook Prince William as our royal patron.

It's my task because my colleagues think I'm posh and must therefore be a regular at Highgrove. I could disillusion them - but then again, if I could somehow pull it off ... The only connection I have with anyone royal is a truly posh girl I went out with at college for about 48 hours until I called a napkin a serviette - or was it the other way round? Perhaps I should have found out before phoning the hon Candida and bagging an invitation to dinner next week.

Hurry over to tell Clare the news. She's busy with a focus group on draft regulations requested by the EU Commissioner on Animal Health Standards (ironically, a Dane) on the correct composition of the gravel at the bottom of aquariums - but she pops out and promptly announces she'll be coming with me to the dinner. "Pass me off as your date," she says casually.

"You and Ann Widdecombe," I mutter under my breath. None too charitably.

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