I found poor Maria in tears this morning.
My first thought was that either Lucy had upset her or else she'd broken up with Callum, but thankfully it was neither of those.
She was upset because she'd been given a set of accounts to prepare for a much larger business than she's ever worked on before, and a much more complicated one at that.
It's a factory business, so she has to deal with stock-taking and stock valuation, which she's never done before. The business has a management accountant, who's very switched on, but he was away at the time of the year end stock-take.
"I'm sorry? The management accountant was away at year end?" I interrupted.
"He's a consultant, not an employee," Maria gulped through her tears. "And he left the bookkeeper to do the stock-take and I don't think she counted everything. There's no record of half their raw materials."
"And it's so long since I did a net realisable value calculation. And they've got hundreds of employees, Allie. Some of them are paid weekly and some fortnightly and the managers are all paid monthly. How am I ever going to do the payroll reconciliation? And they're using some kind of strange VAT scheme as well. I just don't know where to start!"
"Come on, let's go and talk to Jack," I encouraged her. "See if he'll let Paul do this one instead, if you're really worried it's too much for you."
Jack listened sympathetically as Maria poured out her woes to him and then said to me, "Can you leave this with me, Allie? Come on, Maria, stop crying and blow your nose. We'll sort this out for you."
I left them to it.
Maria came back into the office about half an hour later looking much happier.
"I told Jack I really didn't think I was capable of doing this," she said. "He thinks I'm worrying about it too much. He said I should break it down into manageable chunks and just tackle one part of the accounts at a time. He suggested if I do the stock for this one, then do another tax return, then go back to the big one and do the payroll reconciliation, rather than trying to do the big one all in one go."
"And does that feel more comfortable?" I asked.
"Yes," she smiled with relief.
"Sounds like you just got in a state," Paul interjected.
"Paul, that's not helpful, be quiet," I began, but Maria was well able to fight her own battles.
"Like you did with that client who said he didn't want to deal with you because you wouldn't let him claim the VAT for his son's new Nintendo Wii?"
"That's different, he was trying to commit fraud!" spluttered Paul, going red in the face.
I headed for the kitchen.