Goodmans Hotel (Chapter 7, page 2 of 12)

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As usual he dominated the conversation. He pressed Lizetta for information about the old codgers and whether any of them was planning retirement. He had heard that one of them was going to hospital every week for outpatient treatment. 'Anything serious?' he enquired, obviously hoping that it was.

'That's not for me to say, or for you to ask,' Lizetta answered.

'Oh come on, what's ailing him? Gout, heart condition?'

'None of those things.'

'What is it then? Bladder?'

'You won't get anything out of me. You may as well drop the subject.'

'We've eliminated a few things. What's left? Cancer? Come on, we're all dying to hear the grisly details.'

Caroline intervened. 'Lizetta is quite right to say nothing. Anyway Mark and I don't want to hear about all this, and I'm sure Vincent doesn't either.'

'Bah! All right, let's hear from one of you then. Mark, sitting there flirting with my wife, what's happening to you in that fast moving high-tech world of yours?'

'For some unknown reason the IT Unit's work has been remarkably stable for the past month or two,' I said, daring to hint that his absence might be the cause.

'You sure? In the States change, not stability, is normal. Except for the very biggest partnerships which have their own IT consultancy arms, the middle-rankers are shutting down their own IT Units and contracting the work out. Could be the new trend, saves employing a gang of expensive technical experts who claim they have to be there for reasons nobody else understands. If it's happening in the States, won't be long before it happens over here. Maybe you should think about a move to one of the companies taking on the work. Jump aboard now before the bandwagon starts rolling.'

This warning may have been typical Peter bravado, but there had been a few articles in business computer magazines recently about companies doing exactly what he described. City firms were constantly being reorganised, merging, or shifting away from old static markets into new expanding ones. We had to adapt in a world of frequent reorganisation where people often changed from job to job. 'Thank you for raising the subject,' I said ironically.

Caroline came to my aid: 'The demand for IT staff is as high as ever, at the moment they're the last people who should worry.' She looked directly at Peter. 'Would it be possible for us to act as though we have come out to enjoy each other's company over a meal, not to bully everyone into submission?'

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