This has been an interesting year for me. Back in January, I took up a full-time job as director of New Schools Network, the free schools charity, and it’s the first time I’ve worked in an office since parting company with Vanity Fair 20 years ago. It has taken a bit of getting used to.
Until I took this job, I used to work out of a shed at the bottom of my garden. It is not so much a ‘man cave’ as a ‘Toby cave’. The walls are covered with egocentric tat — framed newspaper cartoons, posters of plays I’ve written, pictures of me with famous people, etc. It’s all pretty dog-eared and mildewed, but it serves its purpose which is to let visitors know, in a way which isn’t too obviously vainglorious, what a Big Swinging Dick I am.
When I first arrived at NSN I discovered that my predecessor, Nick Timothy, had based himself at the end of a row of desks — that is, he didn’t even have his own office. That wouldn’t do at all. There were two self-enclosed cubicles overlooking the open-plan space, but one was occupied by the finance director and the other by a separate education charity. I say ‘education charity’ but, in fact, it was just a bloke called Mike with a laptop and a phone. When I discovered he wasn’t paying any rent I switched places with him and took possession of it. It wasn’t much of an improvement. This cubicle had become a dumping ground for unwanted office furniture, not to mention cardboard boxes full of things like envelopes and sticky labels. For the first three months I was too timid to ask anyone to clear it out. (To read more, click here.)