If you asked me what my favourite part of my job was, I wouldn’t hesitate before I told you it’s the clients I work with. I’ve been really fortunate at the NAO in that most of my clients are arms length bodies of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport whose work I believe has incredible cultural and historic value. That doesn’t mean I always agree with their accounting estimates but it does mean I get a little something extra out of it.
It also sometimes means I get interesting anecdotes to tell my friends and family. I even managed to have a blissful few weeks when my younger brothers genuinely thought my job was cool because I was working at Royal Armouries and they have guns there.
I’ve also had opportunities to enjoy all the bustling sights and sounds at the museum. I once spotted someone behind the scenes at The Wallace Collection dressed as an imitation of Madame de Pompadour in the divine painting by François Boucher. I later passed her in a gallery, speaking French with a class of school children which went some way to explaining her presence as something other than an audit-induced hallucination.
One client which provided a lot of noteworthy, unusual moments was Historic Royal Palaces.
Historic Royal Palaces are responsible for opening unoccupied palaces to the public as tourist attractions. Their sites include Kensington Palace, Hampton Court Palace and the Tower of London.
Our audit visit was spent largely at the Tudor palace of Hampton Court, a splendid red brick building complete with large courtyards and beautifully landscaped gardens.
During the summer, the courtyards were full of performers in period dress, including a man who would “die” loudly outside the audit room window every afternoon and have to be carried off by a young Henry VIII. There was also a wine fountain which flowed every day at around 4pm. (Sadly too early for the audit team to partake freely!)
As part of the audit of their heritage assets, I went to three of the London-based palaces and was treated to a personal tour of the Crown Jewels by one of the curators at the Tower of London. As part of this, the curator shared stories about the collection, including that Prince Albert once wore George IV’s jewelled sword to a costume party that he and Queen Victoria were hosting.
Here in the public sector, I’ve experienced some pretty excellent perks.
I also met the Constable of the Tower, who is an ex-head of the army and has acted as an advisor to David Cameron. He shook my hand and, when he asked me not to take away the painting I had come to view, I was able to assure him that I was actually there to check that it hadn’t gone anywhere. I then went into his private on-site residence, known as the Queen’s House, and saw the painting. It was of Thomas More being taken for execution and definitely looked more impressive in his dining room than in the prints I’d viewed before the visit.
Some firms might offer financial perks in the form of gifts and hospitality but, for me, here in the public sector, I’ve experienced some pretty excellent perks I can get for free – and all while still doing my job.