From the Robin Wood Tarot

When I took the job in the Office of the Minister for Circumlocution and Obfuscation, it was with the explicit intention of spending this year with my prime focus on my writing.

Promotion, therefore, was neither sought nor expected. But when it was offered, I was thrilled.

I’ve been given a wonderful opportunity to work as the Minister’s personal assistant, based in his rather grand office at Parliament House when it’s sitting.

This last week was my first in the role, with my first Parliamentary week next week.

I was feeling pretty stroked and stoked at the outset. What an incredible opportunity to land unlooked for in my lap.

It didn’t last. I was running up and down the corridor, hand-holding my replacement in the receptionist job and cleaning out my new office which had been left in a horrible state.

I was already feeling that I’d been dumped in at the deep end when I heard the rumour going around the office.

The rumour is that my new job has been promised to Mandy the regular receptionist on her return from maternity leave. That I’m really just a fill-in and my three months probation will finish just in time for her to come back to work.

It’s all office politics – and I’ve never seen it played so hard and dirty as in a political office.

It goes something like this: June, the Minister’s previous personal assistant, had been engaged in a long and bitter war with office manager Christine.

I can attest that Christine was bullied relentlessly and undermined at every turn by June, who is possibly the most obnoxious person I’ve ever met. She is a big, loud woman who thunders through the corridors of power terrorising even the most senior advisors.

The first time I encountered her was a fairly typical example of the woman.

I heard her coming long before I saw her. A voice shouting from the furthest reaches of the ministerial floor getting louder as she progressed down the hall from the grand ministerial office suite all the way to my desk out the front, getting louder with every step.

“Which of you f***ing tea-leaves has stolen my f***ing pen? The Minister gave me that pen and I want it back.”

Astonishingly, every single one of the Minister’s staff dropped what they were doing and instituted a hunt for the missing pen. When it turned up, on her desk, she offered no apology for accusing her colleagues of theft.

I soon learned that this dreadful woman had a particular target in the form of Christine, the office manager, and had been waging a sustained and ugly campaign against her.

The rest of the Minister’s staff, all of them, are terrified of June, who is known to have the Minister’s Ear. While they tried to alleviate Christine’s misery, they never once stood up for her, as far as I could see, lest the Wrath of June fall upon their heads.

Last week June emerged victorious. Christine resigned and June replaced her as office manager – hence my sudden promotion.

The Minister’s Advisors, who have all at one time or another been on the wrong side of June, have each quietly taken me aside and warned me to be careful.

They say this coup has been a long time in the planning and June’s next obvious move is to get her best friend Mandy, currently off having a baby, into her old chair.

They believe she has no intention of confirming my appointment at the end of the probation period and there’ll be nothing I can do about it, except keep an eye out for another job.

I plummeted from feeling recognised and appreciated to used and abused and it wasn’t nice.

Philotheca is about letting in praise and acknowledgement – hard when you feel you’re being seen as a caretaker for someone widely acknowledged as useless.

Because that’s the other thing. If there’s one thing everyone in the office agrees on, except the Minister obviously, it’s that both June and Mandy are completely rubbish at their jobs.

I’m beginning to think that June has a bit more than the Minister’s Ear.

It’s hard to avoid feeling that everything has gone spectacularly wrong.

The extra responsibilities of the new job – so welcome when it seemed to be a step forward after years of standing still – mean that I’ve failed in my primary purpose too. The one where I was supposed to sit in a cushy government office and write erotic novels in between answering the telephone.

I threw it away in a fit of vanity and my life at work has gone from easy pleasantries to being whispered at every time I leave my desk about the precariousness of my position.

And then I looked at the situation again.

My abilities are acknowledged and recognised – by the departing Christine and by the advisors – and I have at least three months to show them off to the Minister, his Chief of Staff and all those people I’ll be dealing with at Parliament House.

And back in the office, without the bother of the phones, I should have more time for writing, not less.

All I have to do is my best, and trust that the reversed Ace of Wands will right itself in due course.

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