ALEXANDRA SHULMAN'S NOTEBOOK: My desk is a disaster zone

ALEXANDRA SHULMAN’S NOTEBOOK: My desk is a disaster zone – but at least it’s all mine

Hot-desking is surely one of the worst inventions of our time. Fortunately, I avoided it during my office career due to a) being the boss and b) not working somewhere the practice was commonplace. 

So I can only imagine how miserable I’d have been deprived of my own sliver of territory.

Last week, a House of Commons data manager called Alison Baker won a case arguing that she had the right to her own desk.

Although most workers won’t have similar grounds for appeal, as Baker needed special equipment, hopefully it’s a small nail in the coffin for this horrible trend.

Desks, after all, are more than a piece of furniture. They aren’t just the place you tap on a keyboard, munch a lunchtime sandwich and watch the day pass.

They are personal spaces, the surface landscaped to our own design, whether cluttered or sparse. Or at least they are if they are yours alone and not shared by whoever might need a landing spot for the day.

My desk at home might be considered by others a disaster zone: piles of paper, loose change, books, jugs of pens, ranks of photographs and notebooks. 

Last week, a House of Commons data manager called Alison Baker won a case arguing that she had the right to her own desk

It doesn’t look efficient and the chaos would give some people a nervous breakdown. But when I sit at it I am in a space where I know I will get work done.

At Vogue, my desk was similarly chaotic. So were those of many other staffers, who were allowed to pile up anything they wanted.

Unlike the poor folk at Tatler on the floor below, who at one stage were forced nightly to clear their desks to a state of pristine blank whiteness.

But at least they didn’t have hot-desking imposed on them, which I see as a crime against humanity that deprives the workforce of stability and individuality.

OK, that might be a bit strong, but having your own desk is a wonderful thing – and one worth fighting for.

Memories just too valuable to tip out

On a related subject, I was attempting to clear space for the Ukrainians due to arrive this week and came across some boxes stuffed with old photographs, scraps of paper, my son’s infant clothes and much of his early schoolwork.

Naturally, I wasn’t able to resist sifting through and going down a nostalgia rabbit hole.

There were my Pitman certificates showing I achieved 45 words-per-minute typing and 80 words-per-minute shorthand (not quite executive assistant level, it must be said); my tragic O-level certificate stating boldly that I achieved only five, at rather dismal grades; old exercise books with scrawled covers; and lovely pictures of my parents holding me in the hospital on the day I was born.

What purpose do these hoardings serve, other than triggering memories when they are stumbled on every few years?

Then again, no way is my past life going to the tip.

So I guess the boxes will sit there until they become a burden for the next generation to deal with.

I’m not sure when the coat became such an important status symbol in TV drama but now no series worth its kitchen island is free from an array of sweeping power coats on female characters.

First there was Nicole Kidman in The Undoing, above. Now, in Netflix’s Anatomy Of A Scandal, Sienna Miller as the wronged wife appears in one chic beige variation after another – her wardrobe making up for the six-parter’s lame dialogue and jarring flashbacks.

I wonder if we’ll be served another coat extravaganza in Ten Percent, the British version of the French hit series Call My Agent coming later this month.

The original was a big hit, but I’ve been sceptical that a series set in a Parisian talent agent’s office can translate to London.

After all, the corpses of TV productions that don’t travel well from country to country are legion. But judging by the trailer, the British series created by John Morton – who worked on the brilliant BBC spoof W1A – may be a very funny exception.

Sorry, but the time’s up for the apology

The hour has come to call time on the power of the apology. In recent years, ‘sorry’ has been regarded as an all-purpose salve without which no wrong can be healed.

Apologise! shrieks the Greek chorus of tribunals, investigations, commissions and commentators.

A few months back, broadcaster Evan Davis discussed on Radio 4 whether the Prime Minister needed to apologise for something or other. ‘Sometimes you have to say it even if you don’t believe it,’ Davis opined. Horribly cynical as that sounds, he may have been right. At least back then.

But if the vociferous reaction to Boris Johnson’s repeated Partygate apologies over the past week are anything to go by, times are changing.

In the political world at least, the once-reliable ‘sorry’ ploy has been clearly been overused and run its course.

How the country went to the doggies

Brexit Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg may yearn for full offices, but he’s got a problem: puppies were bought by the truckload during lockdown. Who will look after them if their owners have to toddle back to work?

Good doggie care has become as expensive – and as difficult to source – as childcare. Canine creches in the workplace, perhaps?

I’m not ready to be called a lovely lady

Maybe I’m mean-spirited, but it was deeply annoying when a young waitress called me and a friend ‘lovely ladies’ recently.

I’m sure she meant well, but it felt like being chucked under the chin by someone who assumed my place in a care home couldn’t be far off.

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