Start at the bottom

At an awards night, Neil Start wins nowt but a peck on the cheek.

Monday: Anxious weekend spent gloomily considering a new career direction after my secret meeting with a recruitment consultant was discovered by David, the chairman and hitherto my biggest fan at the Goldfish Action Group.

The Sunday papers provided few enticing options: Avon lady, contestant in reality TV show planning to send members of the public to the moon in an old police box, or, as my neanderthal flatmate, Vorderman (he changed his name by deed poll after watching every episode of Countdown for two years) pointed out, the replacement for Richard Whiteley.

It wasn't until late last night that I was able to contact Anka, the Latvian receptionist and my closest ally, but frustratingly still nothing more intimate. She'd been away for the weekend, but once I set her mind at rest that I wasn't seriously thinking about leaving GAG (I took her concern as a good sign), we quickly set to work on devising a scheme to return me to David's good books.

Tuesday: Clever old Anka has managed to bag me one of the four

tickets GAG has been allocated for tonight's charity awards dinner, which is being funded and organised by an oil company anxious to improve its public image after a tanker spill.

It's going to be David, Anka, Jerome, the dull, caravan-loving head of publications, and me. "Your chance to show David you're not a waste of space," Anka told me. It sounded like she was quoting someone, but perhaps it was just her accent.

Wednesday: Mixed results last night. Vorderman lent me a passable dinner suit (we don't say penguin suit at GAG - it patronises animals) and Anka gave me a great bow tie with a flashing goldfish on it - and a peck on the cheek for luck.

David looked mildly surprised to see me when I arrived at the dinner, but Anka explained that I'd won the spare ticket in an office raffle.

After three glasses of cheap champagne and a 30-minute monologue from Jerome on a jack-knifing caravan, David was again able to see my good points.

GAG was up for one award: Best Promotional Video (under seven minutes) for Children (seven to 11) for our Fish Out of Water film on how to care humanely for your goldfish. We won - David received the award from Su Pollard of Hi-de-Hi fame.

To top off the evening, Anka and I took to the dancefloor while David rang home to check with the babysitter he'd left looking after his fish.

We were just getting close when Jerome tapped me on the shoulder to say that David had a fish emergency and wanted to leave. Jerome offered us all a lift home in his Dormobile. I assumed Anka would decline this eminently declinable offer and go home with me. But no, she smiled sweetly and off we went. Vorderman, who claims never to sleep, says she's just playing me along.

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