In the early evening I attended the retirement party of an unsung heroine, Beverly (‘Bev’) Tempest. In the second half of her career she worked in the private offices of a succession of British Commissioners: first Neil Kinnock, then Peter Mandelson and lastly Cathy Ashton. The administrative term for Bev’s position was ‘assistant’ but that is a frankly misleading and completely inadequate understatement. Colleagues like Bev (of whom, fortunately, there are a good few in the European institutions) are gold nuggets, level-headed oases of calm in periods of excitement, magicians of the appointments diary, soothers of fevered brows, pourers of oil on troubled waters (and of white wine on those long nights), immensely hard workers and, into the bargain, thoroughly nice people. They are also modest and self-effacing and Bev probably won’t be thankful that I have written this tribute (I couldn’t even find a picture of her on the internet). But those for whom she has worked know her true value, which is why Neil and Glenys Kinnock had travelled from London for the occasion and why there were two Secretaries-General and a sprinkling of Directors-General and Directors in her front room this evening.