Thank God it's Friday

5th May 2000 at 01:00
Sunday As I leave for Stansted I hope that I've thought of everything I'll need for the next few days. When I get to Charles de Gaulle in Paris a young woman pushes against me, my bags and my laptop, shouting loudly. The train's doors are closing but she and her male companion force them open again andleap for the platform. It has been seconds. My purse is missing and with it all my cash and credit cards. Welcome to the reality of my first "business" trip.

Monday I indulge in a taxi to Orly and work on documents during the 40-minute hop to Toulouse. I meet my French counterpart and head for Toulouse teacher training college, a two-hour lunch followed by a three-and-a-half-hour meeting.

Tuesday I don't get up until 8am and head for coffee and croissants on the Avenue de Wagram. Luxury. I spend the day in my own office on the 25th floor - and at no point am I required to unblock a printer queue clogged by 30 simultaneous impatient key presses. I spend the evening with a bottle of wine, good food and good company.

Wednesday I arrive in the office at 8.45 for an all-day meeting but stragglers from Spain and Belgium ensure hat nothing gets underway until 10.45. Genial Gianfranco from Rome and crisp Claude, the Parisien, brighten up the duller moments as the small room gets progressively warmer and airless. I give a couple of moderately incompetent presentations to a polite but blank reception. I eat supper alone on the Champs Elysees and make the 21:20 flight home.

Thursday A number of gold chains and bracelets are missing from my suitcase; clearly Paris is a hotbed of thieves. I fly to Vienna and hit the sack at 1.30am after a struggle to persuade the laptop to import slides for tomorrow's presentation.

Friday Piles of ham, cheese, breads, yoghurt and cakes arrive in response to my request for a "small" breakfast. I spend the day in another corporate communications meeting, but the presentations go much better. In the evening, there's a concert at the beautiful snowy Schonbrunn Palace. Another weekend stretches before me with no paperwork to do.

Carol Berry is head of modern foreign languages at the Appleton school in Essex. She is on secondment through the Heads and Teachers into Industry (HTI) with IBM in London for a year


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