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Correspondent&#39s View

With Christmas just around the corner and more things going on than you can shake a stick at, it is typical that half the office has gone down with flu while the rest are using up the holiday allowance they are not allowed to carry over into next year.

The office is eerily quiet apart from the sound of a colleague coughing up phlegm into a makeshift spittoon. If I have not succumbed to a cold by the end of the week, it will be a miracle.

The problem with so many people out of the office is that you actually have to do some work rather than doing your best to look as if you are when what you are doing is checking the Arsenal website. I must be primed for action at all times. It would be a travesty to miss out on tickets for Everton away.

Despite work piling up, it is important to keep up appearances so cancelling anything is a big no-no. Monday night found me and the boyfriend at the so-bad-it&#39s-laughable We Will Rock You at the Dominion theatre as guests of NTL.

An invite from NTL is always handy as it gives us the chance to complain to Malcolm Padley about the fact that we still cannot get digital TV in our area. NTL may havebigger fish to fry but until its services are available on the Mile End Road, we will continue to be a thorn in its side.

The joys of editorial conference await on Tuesday where I have to sell personal finance to people who are only interested in whether their mortgage repayments will go up.

Manage to get out that another rate rise before Christmas is unlikely before conversation turns to a new contraceptive pill that limits periods to just four a year. The women present are understandably thrilled and the Money list is quickly forgotten.

Tuesday night is the ann-ual CML dinner and, with no believable excuse to get me out of it, I don my gladrags and head for some hotel I have never heard of. It turns out to be a mistake to hop on the Tube and I hope for the best as I get off at Marble Arch, which turns out to be the “wrong” end of Edgware Road.

It also transpires that Edgware Road is as long as a marathon when you are wearing three-inch stilettos, it is starting to rain and you have not got an umbrella.

My schoolgirl error was nothing compared with that of the CML, though, which dec-ides to hold the charity auction after dinner, by which time all the intermediaries have lost interest in, well, everything.

Wednesday finds me trying to make children&#39s savings accounts look like a good Christmas present without sounding like Scrooge. Later, I find myself heading back to the wrong side of town to join M&G to watch tennis at the Royal Albert Hall.

Boris Becker and other golden oldies are picking up their rackets again to raise cash for paternity suits and expensive divorces. Boris certainly looks as though he would rather be anywhere else which is a bit how I feel when we are still there at 11pm.

More colleagues struggle in coughing and spluttering on Thursday, enticed by the prospect of the Independent&#39s Christmas party that evening. No expense is spared on this year&#39s venue – the staff canteen disguised by a heavy layer of smoke, the result of frying burgers and hot dogs in an enclosed space.

Friday night finds me trying to get to Wembley Arena to see Elton John. I take my mum who is horrified at the time it takes on the Tube, the price Direct Line paid for our tickets and how Emma Holyer orders two bottles of champagne without flinching at the cost.

On the way home, I try explaining that schmoozing journalists is an important part of the job but I am interrupted by the cab driver who wants to know whether Elton sang Nikita. His disappointment at being told he did not is palpable.

Melanie Bien is personal finance editor of the Independent on Sunday


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