Published: 02/12/2004, Volume II4, No. 5934 Page 39

Martha has just started a new job as assistant director of modernisation at a hectic primary health care trust. At the end of her second week, she e-mails Mary, a former colleague, who has escaped Down Under.

Hi Mary, Hope all is well with you! Still the palest person on the beach? Hope you do not crack under the pressure of being surrounded by all those tanned surfboys and start leaving off the sunblock.

The ex has just come back from the Seychelles. Brown as anything, but reassuringly wrinkly. Whereas I could pass for...ooh, 38, in a following wind.

Still feel like the new girl at work.

The PEC chair Dr Armani seems to have taken a shine to me, which is a mixed blessing. He perches on my desk, regaling me with hilarious accounts of medical blunders he made when a carefree student, and thrilling encounters with celebrities since he became an important media GP. I usually need to visit the oxygen tent afterwards to clear my lungs of aftershave.

Yesterday, he showed me a magazine article he'd got hold of about 'metrosexuals'. At first, I thought might be inviting me to a swinging party, but it was actually about the new breed of sensitive new men. That programme Queer Eye for a Straight Guy seems to have had a big impact, and not only on the male ability to make sushi. Getting to the top now means being a tiny bit girlie as well as working longer hours than anyone else.

'Have you seen this, Roger?' asked Jenny, always keen to wind up our illustrious workaholic boss, aka director of modernisation. She's his number two, but has all the brains. You could see the colour draining away from his face as he read it. But Jenny just munched her way through her cream cheese bagel, looking innocent. 'Says here you should be more like a woman, using your softer skills and..., ' she said cheerily. 'No, on second thoughts, do not worry about it Rog. It'll never catch on.' He went off to his 'taoism in a business setting' seminar looking crestfallen. Jenny had a little chuckle to herself but I had an uneasy feeling that when Roger is unhappy the rest of the team will soon be following suit.

Love, Martha

Next week: bean bags and fake tears