I would hate anyone to think I have a soft centre. Perish the thought! In fact, I am only publishing this now as Jon Botten is away in Berlin, on holiday with his girlfriend, so he won't read it (they don't have internet in Germany, do they?)
It's probably 18 months since Jon came to work with us in West Kent, and I think we make a good team. He hasn't once threatened to resign! In fact last week we were discussing plans post 2015, so at least he is thinking of hanging around for a few more years. We are, however, like chalk and cheese. Jon is calm, unfazed almost laissez faire in his attitude to the chaos that surrounds him. I, on the other hand, cannot see a smouldering ember without pouring a bucket of petrol on it; after all there's nothing quite like a blazing inferno to clear away the detritus!
However, it's only over the last couple of days that I have realised how much I have come to depend on him, not only to share the burden of our workload, but also as a sounding board for ideas, a smoother of ruffled feathers (both mine and others!) and a friend.
Very early on it was decided that Jon should answer the phone, which is beneficial to both me and anyone who should chance to call and catch me on a bad day. His role soon expanded to include most other forms of human contact. He vets my emails, tones down my sarcasm and corrects my misplaced apostrophe's! Occasionally if we have lots of email, I will dictate replies and he will type. I soon noticed he was typing far fewer words than I was dictating. I subsequently checked the sent items and found he was "auto correcting" my angry ranting as he typed. Quite how he does this without flinching I do not know - but I am (usually) grateful!
So now he is away and I have to answer the phone. Thus far I have done quite well, and have refrained from shouting or arguing with anyone (though it is only Tuesday and I did feel my hackles rise earlier today). The worst are those who call for an appointment with the MP and insist on trying to tell you their life story. I have developed a good way of dealing with this, I say "I am sorry, I am the cleaner and I don't have sufficiently high security clearance to discuss such matters, but I can make an appointment for you..." This seems to work quite well.
I am also opening the post, which I actually quite enjoy, though not as much now that things have quietened down and the Green Ink Brigade have gone back into hibernation. Nothing like a retired colonel writing about 'sodomites and buggers' to put a smile on one's face at 9.30am.
However, every cloud has a silver lining. Without Jon, it's fallen on me to do the daily Costa Coffee run, and I have just spotted the Tom Daley lookalike who is the new barrista; so that's one job Mr Botten might not get back when he returns. "I'll go for the coffee today, Jon....."
So here's a vote of thanks to all the people who we (or at least I) take for granted, our partners, friends, work colleagues and neighbours; all those who enrich or make a difference to our lives but we may not appreciate until they are not around. I suspect I don't acknowledge what they do, or say thank you as often as I should.
Thank you, Jon.
....but hurry up back because I'm about to throw this bloody phone out of the window!