We’ve all got our stereotypes: Londers are rude and grumpy; Glaswegians are drunken and stabby; Home Counties types are a bit posh with a secret penchant for doing very naughty things with the neighbours in the bedroom. Not entirely true perhaps, but probably with some basis in fact.
Since her arrival in the UK, Australian New Girl has been utterly baffled by, amongst other things, our penchant in the office for casual French; the country’s constant chilliness; and the amount of tea that Brits drink (frankly, excluding the first, I say she just didn't do her homework). And recently, she also had cause for puzzlement when she realised that Blitz spirit is alive and well in Blighty and frankly, panicking isn't something we do.
The girls and I were sitting in the office one recent lunchtime when the boss rang from outside, on his way to grab a sandwich.
“Hi, Small But Perfectly Formed Agency, Intern speaking… Oh hi… Oh. Really? Oh right… Okay then. Yup, see you later.”
The Intern put the phone down.
“They’ve found some sort of suspicious package nearby, apparently, and closed off our road.”
She peered more closely at something on her screen, and then carried on typing. “He said that if we feel safe in the basement we should stay put, but he understands if we want to get as far away as possible.”
There was a pause before the message sunk in.
“WHAT?!” Screeched Australian New Girl. “You’re fucking KIDDING me?!”
“No, but I’m sure it’s fine,” said The Intern, supremely unbothered.
“But people actually, like, BOMB London,” said ANG. “We should get the shit out of here now.” She got up from her chair, flapping wildly.
The Intern looked up, clearly bemused by the sense of panic and wondering what to do with the increasingly hysterical creature in our midst.
“Look,” I said, looking up from my to-do list – shrunken in my last remaining days from Utterly Heinous and Scary Enough to Provoke Tears to merely Unmanageable, “if you’d feel more comfortable being outside, then you should head out. I’m sure everything’s perfectly fine – if the police thought we were in any sort of danger, we’d have been evacuated by now. But do go if you don't feel comfortable.” I opened a blank document to start writing up an April Fools’ story for a client.
“Let’s get out and get some lunch,” The Intern suggested, her capacity for dealing with flappiness clearly far greater than mine. "We can go and find out what's happening and wait for them to deal with it.”
I don’t blame ANG for being caught a bit off-guard - after all, she's in a new country, in a city that's more likely to have these things happen than most Australian towns. But it did draw rather a marked line under the cultural differences.
As did ringing the newly-retired Father an hour or so later. Whilst I was wandering to Pret, I found him mid-filing.
“Living life to the full there, Pa,” I said as I could hear boxes of paper being heaved around. “Just wanted to let you know there was a bomb scare just outside the office, but they’ve had the robot out and it's defused. Thought I should let you know in case you or Ma saw anything on the news.”
“Well, thank you for that,” he said, clearly with only one ear on the conversation. “I’ll be sure to tell your mother. Probably only after she's seen the news, though. Let her panic a bit first.”
In the end, the incident didn’t even make the news, instead just causing a wee flurry on Twitter before everyone got on with their afternoons. And, in our case, trop de tea-drinking.