In search of the golden goose.

They wanted a college accountant and I duly presented myself to the Lodge.

The head porter was expecting me. He led me across the sun-dappled quad and up three flights of a twisty single staircase where he showed me into an oak-panneled interview room. Facing me across a vast and ancient table were three vast and ancient fellows. After ten minutes I began seeing everything in soft-focus. I was falling under the college’s spell. As I was shown out I was unsure how well it had gone, but I was certain I wanted to work there.

Then I had to belt down the M40 to another interview. This was with a US software company near Heathrow, much more appropriate to my background and experience. But as I parked outside the office I hesitated. Did I really want more quarter-end terrors, more 24-hour closes, and more late-afternoon calls from California for figures that had to be there today.

The very thought turned my bowels to ice. By then I’d seen the promised land of Oxford within touching distance. It took three chain-smoked fags and a packet of Rolos just to drag myself through the door.

It went well. But as I walked away I wondered what I’d do if I had to choose between the jobs. One offered high pressure, the other, a stress-free life in pleasant surroundings. One offered heavy business dinners, the other, light luncheon in the senior common room. It was a choice between late nights at the office or seeing the kids grow up, between the airport lounge at JFK or the footsteps of J.R.R.Tolkien. A choice between big bucks or an academic’s salary (with annual cost of living increments).

Tough decision. Not.

A few days later I had a lovely letter from the college. It was so eloquent it took me a while to realise they were telling me to get lost. Final interviews with the software company are next week.

  • James Andrews ACA (a pseudonym) is unemployed. He is writing occasional dispatches for Accountancy Age. Email:

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