Start at the bottom

Confined to the office, Neil Start wonders if he's out of his depth.

Tuesday I've been withdrawn temporarily from what David calls "on-the-surface duties" on account of the cracked ribs I suffered while wearing the GAG goldfish costume at last week's lobby of Parliament. Instead, he has submerged me in the newsletter that goes out to all Goldfish Action Group members. The lead story is about Barington Baluchre III, a pedigree goldfish in Arbroath that is going strong at the age of 42 on a diet of ground-up Fisherman's Friends and Vimto. That would make me 63 if I got one now - not that I'm thinking about it. Honestly.

My first task on the newsletter was to sub-edit Pond Life, the question and answer section of the newsletter, where the emphasis is on liberating goldfish from tanks and rehabilitating them in the wild using a programme based on Joy Adamson's success in returning the lion cub Elsa to the jungle in Born Free.

Wednesday Clare, the head of marketing, nobbled me in the lobby. Like almost everyone else in this office, she seems to wear at least one item of orange clothing every day, by way of solidarity with what she calls our "client group". Today, she had painted orange stripes in a wave pattern on her forearms. They help her commune with the fish soul-to-soul, she explained when I found myself staring at them for too long.

Meanwhile, she said, GAG needed to recruit a big-name royal patron for the charity to move it on to the "next level". It had occurred to her that Prince William had plenty of time on his hands now he had left college.

And, since he and I were the same age and I was "posh", why didn't I devise a plan on how to get access to him so as to be able to personally enthuse him for the cause?

I'm not quite sure where Clare thinks I come from - a bungalow in Budleigh Salterton in case you're curious - but all that kept flashing through my mind were pictures of William out hunting - hardly the most natural supporter of animal rights.

Still, I'm new, so I tried to sound keen - Clare's one of my line managers.

"How do we know that William's attracted to goldfish?" I asked. Clare could evidently pick up vibes, and she knew William was on her frequency.

"I just know you'll pull it off," she said, floating off back to her desk. "And anyway," she added as a parting shot, "he's spent his life living in a goldfish bowl."

I was still trying to work out if I'd been set my first career development goal or sent up when Anka, the receptionist from Latvia who had been listening in from behind her desk, smiled reassuringly at me.

"Don't worry," she said. "She'll forget she ever asked. She always does. Goldfish have a memory span of nine seconds, and that's how we do it here too."

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