Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Tuesday, February 25, 2014 -

The Secret Life of a Civil Servant

by Jacqueline Scott
Published: Dec 27, 2013
Words: 34,745
Category: general
Orientation: mixed
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Part 1: The Preliminaries

Elizabeth Lane appeared to have everything. She was tall, slim and very attractive but without the false 'beauty queen' look. At school she had excelled at everything she did. She was very bright and had no difficulty whatsoever in gaining the necessary qualifications to enable her to go to Oxford University. At games she was always in the first team and she had ended up as Head Girl. In that role she had been popular but no push-over and it would have been difficult to find any teacher or school colleague who had a bad word to say about her.

If there was anything that the staff at her school or her parents worried about at all it was possibly that her single-mindedness in achieving objectives might be a problem if she came across something that she could not achieve. That was a minor worry, however, and not one that had been tested as yet.

She left school in 1968 and going up to Oxford, having sailed through the entrance procedures, she took to the environment with apparent ease achieving a first-class honours degree while finding time to take part in drama and choral singing and make a large number of friends, although few who might be described as close. When she left University it was to take up a job in the civil service and she was one of a number who were placed on a 'fast track' which should lead them to the upper echelons of the service if all went well. Nobody expected anything other than that Elizabeth would reach those echelons quicker than most.

Over the next few years nothing happened to suggest that all of these expectations might be too high and when our story opens Elizabeth was assistant to an Alan Smith, a departmental head in the Foreign Office. One morning, after she had briefed her Head of Department about a particular project in which she was involved, he spoke to her about something else.

"By the way Elizabeth I should tell you that you have come to Sir John's attention. He would like to meet you."

Elizabeth's heart flipped a little at that. Sir John Shrewsbury was the Head of the whole division of the Foreign Office in which she worked and was regarded as something akin to God by those in the individual departments.

"He has heard good things about you and always likes to meet potential high fliers early in their careers, Elizabeth. What usually happens is that he will have lunch with you. I expect his secretary will be in touch shortly. Let me know when she does and I will make sure that you are free. Sir John's lunches can go on a bit on these occasions!"

In fact it was the next day when she received a telephone call from a lady with a cut-glass accent who enquired 'if she would be available to have lunch with Sir John Shrewsbury this coming Friday?'