During the 1990s one of my secretary’s, Lucy Wastnage, came with me from Namara House as I moved into my new Asprey offices above Garrard in Regent Street. She was considered mysteriously attractive, with a sultry Mediterranean complexion inherited from her Italian father. In fact her father doted on her and rather spoiled her. She was the only one to be photographed with me, sitting on the floor in my new office above Garrard. I felt totally relaxed in her presence and we could not have had a better working relationship. I have to admit, however, that I did indulge her, especially when she and David Tang began courting long before their marriage some years later. The saga of Lucy’s romance began when she was introduced to David Tang by Tania Foster-Brown, whose ex-husband, Guy Salter, worked for Prince Charles when David happened to be a member of the Prince’s Trust. The relationship was a coup de foudre that sizzled with electricity. The two were phoning each other for most of the day, and then continued for the best part of the night. Calls from Hong Kong were therefore monopolizing Lucy’s office telephone line and messages on a variety of topics were clogging the fax machine. Some expressed the tenderness of two people in love, others took the form of quizzes to which each party had to respond. Occasionally Lucy’s sense of mischief led her to give the wrong answer deliberately – such as that Naim would make the ideal companion or was the most accomplished man she could hope to meet. It was part of her teasing technique, designed to raise David’s temperature with jealousy annd exasperation at her contrariness. As the relationship grew in its intensity, David kept her awake at night by telephoning her in a roller-coaster fashion, pitting his well-known limitless energies against hers but eventually reducing her to a walking shadow through lack of sleep.
At this point my indulgence manifested itself in a number of ways. I became much more tolerant with her than usual and turned a blind eye to the flood of outside communications. I was reluctant to spoil a budding relationship that seemed more full of promise than usual; hence my decision to let her travel with David to New York, then on to Mexico, where they stayed on Jimmy Goldsmith’s legendary estate. With further trips on offer, Lucy found herself facing a difficult dilemma. She was reluctant to give up a job in which she was spending some of her happiest times, while the lure of David’s lifestyle and her love of his company were proving too much of a temptation to resist. She had to make a choice, for she could not pursue both paths simultaneously. Her loss was painful for us all. She had become an integral part of a team that had perfected the art of combining serious enterprise with unabashed fun. David Tang showed his appreciation to me by signing a declaration on one of his China Club brochures: ‘This is to confirm that Emperor Naim Attallah is to enjoy free lunches and dinners at the China Club for life.’ Lucy agreed to contribute this memoir to my final volume of autobiography Fulfilment & Betrayal 1975-1995:
Best Friends, Best Days
Lucy Wastnage (now Tang)
They say some of the best days of your life are your school days. I would agree, because I met friends at school who are still my good friends. I would add that some of my other best days were working for Naim as his secretary. Not only did I meet some of my favourite people, I also found in Naim a great man whom I would cherish as a lifelong friend. For this I have to thank Julia Ogilvy (Rawlinson): it was through her that I got the post after I left Harpers & Queen working for Louis Dominguez. Heaven only knows what Naim saw in me when he took me on. I could never claim to be a very conscientious employee; but maybe he saw the loyalty in me.
When I compared my situation with other friends, who all seemed to have such mundane and boring jobs, it made me think how lucky I was. To be working with Naim was always far from boring!
Most days his driver, John, would pick me up from my home before we went on to collect Naim from his in South Street. He’d go to the hairdressers while I waited in the car. Then, in the Namara House days, it would be on to the office in Poland Street, where the building housed a wonderfully eccentric team, including Pickles and a girl named Claudia Ward with whom I sadly lost contact after we moved to 106 Regent Street. With the move the road trips to radio stations to promote Naim’s books ceased, along with visits to The Women’s Press.
At the new offices the atmosphere was more corporate but still always fun. Hattie Beaumont, his cook, moved with us, and she and I regularly had a giggle over what we could divert from Naim’s cooked-lunch allowance for hosting important clients to scoff for ourselves in the kitchen, or even in Naim’s own office while he was in the boardroom. He was always entertaining amazing people like Auberon Waugh, Richard Ingrams or Lord Stockton; or actresses, writers or journalists.
After a year of being Naim’s secretary, I started my relationship with my now husband. We were introduced by Tania Foster-Brown, who also worked at Mappin & Webb (though she was someone I already knew when I started the job). Naim soon became exasperated by the fact that his personal fax number was being used by David to keep sending me faxes; or with me for blocking the telephone line. I’d be on the phone for hours, cigarette in hand, oblivious that none of Naim’s important business calls were getting through to him!
At this point Naim not only put in another fax line for me, he also hired me an assistant called Sarah Winstone. When I look back I was certainly overpaid and any normal boss would have sacked me. But no, for all the girls who passed through his doors Naim was a giver. The pinnacle of his benevolence was for me when he granted me three months’ paid absence to go to Hong Kong and sort out my relationship. If he had not done that, or been so generous in spirit, I might never have married the wonderful husband I’m with today.
Actually I probably came close to getting the sack from Naim a couple of times a day on average. I was always burning holes not only in my own desktop but also in his. There were also happenings like the time I stuck a reception sign on his (the chairman’s) door, then had to try to rip it off again when I heard he was about to take a rather serious meeting with John Asprey and had the whole door falling in! All these things, and more besides, set me thinking how wonderfully lucky I’ve been to have worked for such an amazing man.
Also, when you consider his background, his Middle Eastern origins mean he has always been a very tactile man, a bit like the Italians. To the English, who are so suspicious of people touching them or being openly friendly, I think it all comes across as rather seedy. What outsiders fail to understand is that he is only holding a hand, or giving a friendly hug, or making a slightly naughty insinuation. None of it infers anything more than a show of friendship or a joke. This, I have to say, is one of the reasons why I adore this man: because I know his loyalty has no boundaries as mine have none for him.