The password and logon hadn’t been organised and the laptop was sitting, still boxed, on my ‘new’ desk. The blackberry was in need of charging – and had my predecessor’s grubby prints all over it. Tucked into the corner opposite me, a handsome shiny-pated bearded man, wearing a scottish socialist party t-shirt was seated in front of a huge Chavez poster and was hugging a mug emblazoned with Spanish Civil War slogans.
He welcomed me to the madhouse.
I opened my mouth to speak but Bossman appeared – sweaty and heavy-breathing from the stair journey – and whisked me off to his dirty cluttered office to ‘induct’ me. Pictures of him, glad-handing prominent politicians smiled from the walls. I glazed over once or twice – but to no avail. He droned on and on and on. About him. Largely. Him and the party. Him and the job.
He was very light on the precise nature of the job I’d been engaged to do. A bit of organising. A bit of representation. I’d feel my way into what was required. Meet the Branch. Maybe get some employment tribunals thrown into the mix. Members were arseholes – I’d find that out soon enough. And I had to watch myself on that floor because there were some dangerous folk out there.
Back at my desk I smiled at handsome. He smiled back. A little diamond earring twinkled in the light from the open window. I commented on the poster and we chatted about the mug. I admired the earring. He asked where I’d come from and I explained. And he told me about his pathway into ‘the union’.
Turns out he worked with my brother.
Conversation withered with the arrival of a tall striking woman. With her back to handsome she presented me with her smiling happy-mouth and chilly eyes. She was so happy to meet me. It would be fab having another woman in the team. What was my background? Oh yes, she’d heard. Funny me getting the job when I hadn’t done any organising. But never mind she was sure I would be able to get the hang of representation…
She hadn’t finished speaking and I was feeling wrong-footed. Belittled. And I couldn’t understand why.
…if I needed to know anything I’d just to ask her. She’d been here six years. She knew her way about. Just loved the Branch and they loved her. Always had a good laugh when she went to see them. But then, her background was community activism. And she shared so much background experience with the lay activists…
Feeling offended, I broke through the burble of noise and asked where I could get a coffee.
Handsome grinned a big wide grin and pointedly threw her a look whilst saying he’d show me where the canteen was.
We left the room without looking back.