So as I get ready to go, I feel quite bouncy and positive. I put on my new gray cardigan over a short black shirt, and my new Hobbs boots — dark gray suede — and I have to say, I look bloody good in them. God, I love new clothes. If everyone could just wear new clothes every day, I reckon depression wouldn’t exist anymore.
As I’m about to leave, a pile of letters comes through the letterbox for me. Several of them look like bills, and one is yet another letter from Endwich Bank. But I have a clever new solution to all these nasty letters: I just put them in my dressing table drawer and close it. It’s the only way to stop getting stressed out about it. And it really does work. As I thrust the drawer shut and head out of the front door, I’ve already forgotten all about them.
The conference is buzzing by the time I get there. I give my name to the press officer at reception and I’m given a big, shiny courtesy carrier bag with the logo of HSBC on the side. Inside this, I find an enormous press pack complete with a photo of all the conference organizers lifting glasses of champagne to each other, a voucher for two drinks at the Sun Alliance Pimm’s Stand, a raffle ticket to win £1,000 (invested in the unit trust of my choice), a big lollipop advertising Eastgate Insurance, and my name badge with press stamped across the top. There’s also a white envelope with the ticket to the Barclays Champagne Reception inside, and I put that carefully in my bag. Then I fasten my name badge prominently on my lapel and start to walk around the arena.
Normally, of course, the rule is to throw away your name badge. But the great thing about being press at one of these events is that people fall over themselves to ply you with free stuff. A lot of it’s just boring old leaflets about savings plans, but some of them are giving out free gifts and snacks, too. So after an hour, I’ve accumulated two pens, a paper knife, a mini box of Ferrero Rocher chocolates, a helium balloon with Save & Prosper on the side, and a T-shirt with a cartoon on the front, sponsored by some mobile phone company. I’ve had two free cappuccinos, a pain au chocolat, some apple cider (from Somerset Savings), a mini pack of Smarties, and my Pimm’s from Sun Alliance. (I haven’t written a single note in my notebook, or asked a single question — but never mind.)
I’ve seen that some people are carrying quite neat little silver desk clocks, and I wouldn’t mind one of those, so I’m just wandering along, trying to work out what direction they’re coming from, when a voice says, “Becky!”
I look up — and it’s Elly! She’s standing at the Wetherby’s display with a couple of guys in suits, waving at me to come over.
“Hi!” I say delightedly. “How are you?”
“Fine!” she says, beaming. “Really getting along well.” And she does look the part, I have to say. She’s wearing a bright red suit (Karen Millen, no doubt), and some really nice square-toed shoes, and her hair’s tied back. The only thing I don’t go for is the earrings. Why is she suddenly wearing pearl earrings? Maybe it’s just to blend in with the others.
“God, I can’t believe you’re actually one of them!” I say, lowering my voice slightly. “I’ll be interviewing you next!” I tilt my head earnestly, like Martin Bashir on Panorama. “ ‘Ms. Granger, could you tell me the aims and principles of Wetherby’s Investments?’ ”
Elly gives a little laugh, then reaches into a box beside her.
“I’ll give you this,” she says, and hands me a brochure.
“Oh thanks,” I say ironically, and stuff it into my bag. I suppose she has to look good in front of her colleagues.
“It’s actually quite an exciting time at Wetherby’s,” continues Elly. “You know we’re launching a whole new range of funds next month? There are five altogether. UK Growth, UK Prospects, European Growth, European Prospects, and. .”
Why is she telling me this, exactly?
“And US Growth!” she finishes triumphantly. There isn’t a flicker of humor in her eyes. Suddenly I find myself remembering Luke saying he wasn’t surprised by Elly joining Wetherby’s.
“Right,” I say after a pause. “Well, that sounds. . fab!”
“I could arrange for our PR people to give you a call, if you like,” she says. “Fill you in a bit more.”
“No,” I say hurriedly. “No, it’s OK. So, erm. . what are you doing afterward? Do you want to go for a drink?”
“No can do,” she says apologetically. “I’m going to look at a flat.”
“Are you moving?” I say in surprise. Elly lives in the coolest flat in Camden, with two guys who are in a band and get her into loads of free gigs and stuff. I can’t think why she’d want to move.