Goodmans Hotel (Chapter 4, page 2 of 11)


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Until I joined, the team consisted of three accountants. From our firm there was a partner of Peter's age and a junior who had recently qualified. Representing the smaller firm was a female partner; the news that a woman had been entrusted with such an important role had yet to be broken to the old codgers. Peter was very selective about what he told them, releasing morsels of information bit by bit in bland terms, avoiding anything that might seem new or unusual, so that the merger came to be perceived as a familiar old theme developing at a gradual pace, not as something radical or revolutionary.

To keep us apart from other members of staff we were put in a room on a floor of the building mostly occupied by another company. Our title, 'Business Strategy Unit', gave no clue as to our real purpose. Even to meet old colleagues from the IT Unit for lunch was risky; my evasiveness about my new job increased their curiosity. Of the team members only the female partner was friendly towards me, the Lindler & Haliburton men evidently believing themselves to be on too high a plane to have much to do with a technical IT specialist.

At my first team meeting they made it clear they wanted me to keep to IT issues. In a way this suited me, allowing me to organize my own time and to visit the smaller firm's IT Unit. To maintain secrecy, Peter arranged for me to be introduced there as a consultant brought in to review system security, giving me a plausible reason to ask about all aspects of their systems and procedures.

The atmosphere at the smaller company was much less formal than at Lindler & Haliburton. Everyone used first names, and during breaks people talked about windsurfing and mountain biking rather than playing golf and attending Rotary Club dinners. When the head of the IT Unit tentatively asked if I was married, telling him that I was gay seemed easy and natural. 'Oh,' he said, 'you'll have to let me introduce you to a couple of the accountants here, they deal with quite a few gay run businesses. It's a growing sector.'

By comparison the two Lindler & Haliburton men seemed even more old-fashioned, often discussing cricket scores and visits to relatives at weekends. On my first Friday with the project, after the morning meeting to discuss the week's progress, they invited me to go for a lunchtime drink. This was the first time they had shown any interest in me, and not wanting to be unfriendly I accepted. We walked briskly past several pubs we could have entered, eventually heading down a narrow side street to a seedy little place, gloomy inside with a raised platform in one corner.

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