I used to work with a lady called Hilary.

When I was in my late 20’s.

She was really old.

Really, really old at the time.

About 50, I think.


Anyhow, what I am about to describe happened more than once…

I have always been an early riser.

And a bit of a control freak.

So I’d always, always be in the office first.

By about 7am.

Then, at about 7.30am.

Hilary would arrive.

She’d always look slightly dishevelled.

I imagined she would have fallen asleep the previous night whilst crocheting.

And woke up the next morning covered in cats.

Then just licked her fingers.

Rubbed her hair down.

And came to work.

Two coffees.

Anyhow, this is what she’d do.

She’d ask me if I wanted a coffee.

I’d say ‘no thank you’ and she’d shuffle off to make herself one.

She’d still be talking to me about something as she left the room.

It’d be a mumble though.

So I’d never really hear.

Then she’d still be mumbling a bit as she came back and placed her cup of coffee – with a great degree of precision – right in the middle of her coaster.

Then she’d sit down.

Then she’d stand up as if she’d suddenly just remembered something and she’d laugh out loud.

Then she’d mumble something at me again and she’d shuffle out of the office once more, processing the thought that had arrived quite suddenly into her head.

She’d laugh as she thought about whatever it was.

A very pleasant lady Hilary.


Not least because, maybe 5 minutes later she’d bowl back in and look across at me and start chatting once more.

About what, I was never sure.

But the funny thing was, she’d have a second cup of coffee in her hand.

Spilling bits of it as she smiled and chatted incoherently at me.

Before stopping, lowering it slowly down towards where she automatically knew where her coaster was, and then suddenly – as the first cup of coffee came into view – let out a startled, “Oh!”

Her head would tilt to me at this point as I sat there silently.

Looking at her.

The sight I saw was Hilary stood there.

Bent over slightly.

With coffee number two hovering just a couple of inches above coffee number one.

Her face was stern at this point.

I wondered if – in her head – I was being blamed for this situation the first time it happened.

But after 5 or 6 seconds she’d break out into some Mr. Bean like mumble-laugh and take the second coffee cup back out to the kitchen.


Hilary was great.

Mad as a fucking fish.

But great.


  1. Paul Crook Reply

    Mad as a fish – where does this saying come from? Apart from fish short memory span actually serving them from going mad with too many memories.

    Prompted some mad as a march hare colleague stories – cats and crazy people, coffee and open plan offices. Knowing being eccentric is what we need for innovation

    Did Hillary take sugar and milk in those quirky cups?

  2. If I had a cup of coffee in my hand every time I went upstairs, or into a specific room, only to find I had no idea why I had gone there, I would have carried an awful lot of coffee.

    And to make matters worse, I don’t even like coffee.

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