Maria is hoping to start studying for her exams, now that things have settled down a bit for her. Her brother seems to be making a good recovery after he was knocked off his bike, and she and Callum have their relationship on a comfortable footing.
"Which should I do?" she asked me and Paul one morning. "ACA, ACCA, or CIMA? Or AAT?"
That provoked a lively discussion.
Paul is FCCA while I'm FCA, both of us having qualified longer ago than we like to admit.
"ACCA is more versatile," insisted Paul. "You can take that to industry or to practice. ACA is much better suited to practice."
"I don't know what the syllabus is like nowadays," I admitted, "but I have to admit Paul might be right, Maria. Certainly when I did the exams, I remember having to spend a lot of time on audit."
"Audit's a total waste of time. None of our clients are audited now and there'll hardly be any audits left in five years," was Paul's opinion. "Don't waste your time on audit, Maria."
"All of the exams will have some element of audit in them, though, I'm sure of it," I said. "It's good discipline for learning - "
"Paul, don't interrupt, it's rude!" I persisted. "Let Maria make up her own mind. I think it's a good discipline. It teaches you to look carefully and make a balanced judgement."
"Clients don't want audit. They think it's a total waste of time."
"That's as maybe. I still think it's good for you to learn to do audit."
"What's going on in here?" came Henry's voice from the door. "Who's learning to do audit?"
"I asked Paul and Allie which exams they think I should do," Maria explained. "Paul thinks I should do ACCA and Allie thinks I should do ACA. What do you think, please, Henry?"
"ACA will always have the edge for employers," Henry told her, regardless of Paul's face growing steadily redder behind him. "I would go with ACA. Its prestige is the highest."
Paul just managed to control himself until Henry was out of earshot before exploding into a tirade about "silly old fool".
"Maria," I said quietly under cover of Paul's ranting, "have a look at the syllabuses for all four of them and see which you think will best suit what you do now - and what you want to do in the future. And don't let Paul or Henry make up your mind for you. It's your future."
"Thanks, Allie. Cup of tea?"
Paul finally simmered down about fifteen minutes later but was grumpy for the rest of the day, even when Maria offered him a biscuit.
"I don't know why I bother," he muttered. "If the stupid old git doesn't value my qualification I may as well go and work for [the teaching agency he spends a day a week with]. They keep saying they'd be glad to have me full-time."