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Secretary in a state

Pauline Maddison, director of education in Newham, is looking forward hugely to an all-expenses-paid trip to Paris, won in a newspaper competition - but she very nearly missed out.

Ms Maddison has one of those personal assistants so devoted to protecting their bosses from the outside world that an SAS squad in a tank would be asked to return after making an appointment.

When the competition people at London's Evening Standard newspaper tried to contact Maddison to tell her that, against huge odds, her name had been picked out in a draw, her loyal secretary, who shall remain nameless, refused to put them through. The paper rang repeatedly but was told every time to speak to the press office. Only after days of calls, did the indefatigable PA decide Maddison should be informed.

"I came very close to missing out on this fantastic trip ," said Ms Maddison. "It was a wonderful day. The Eurostar was scheduled to top a record-breaking 180 mph and the champagne was flowing from the minute we got to Waterloo".

The Diary raises a glass of bubbly to the anonymous PA: surely a paragon among secretaries.

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