Of one thing I can rest assured: the morning after welcome drinks last Thursday evening, the head of equities at Salvation Bank would not have been besieged by my
There were no obvious faux pas, crass comments, glaring breaches of stockbroking etiquette, inadvertent farts and I concentrated so hard on every piece of glass in my vicinity that none could have broken. But did I win them over with wit and repartee? Does the Pope shit in the woods?
So no, I did not commit any social howlers, but it was a bit like the beauty pageant in Raqqa — not much on show.
People would have noted my tiny bladder capacity and that after two bottles of wine with no food or water on a hot night, I become very unsteady on my legs and have a habit of repeating myself. I avoided controversial subjects like Brexit or the election and probably generated small donations of pity for my support of Everton, for the way Chaucer Securities treated me and the whole litany of my life’s misfortunes which I enumerated to anyone prepared to listen once the drink set in.
Introductions were made at the bar. Why is it, if one meets a dozen people for the first time you can only ever remember the name of the first person to leave?
I was asked if I had a nickname. What fool would divulge that information? I did. The Bard of Misery is not catchy, though, it takes too long to shout across a crowded trading floor and I doubt it sticks. (Of course, I have earned many other far less flattering sobriquets down the years but there was no way I was coughing up those). People evinced a modest curiosity about the stranger shortly to be in their midst and then drifted off once it became clear that this humdrum individual shuffling into the throng, his hand attached unyieldingly to his bottle of Cloudy Bay, would not pique that curiosity unduly.
There were no women present. I did not ask why, because it would have made the wrong impression or because the answer was an unwelcome truth but for someone like me, still suffering from an acute case of Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, it was something of a relief. This job, any job, is difficult enough as it is without the possibility of sitting within
It would be naive to imagine an all-male trading floor at Salvation Bank but I suspect that standard low-grade City sexism persists whereby most of the professional, high-paying roles are occupied by men and all the secretarial/support roles are the domain of women. I don’t think I would have made three decades in the City if I had been a woman. To be neither attractive nor intelligent is no obstacle to a successful career if male, but it sets a high almost insurmountable hurdle for the female of the species.
“Are you looking forward to starting to work again?” is a question frequently posed and always bluntly answered, “No.”
I enjoy doing not very much except lunching, reading and pottering about the house and gardening much more than the cutthroat world of internal politicking and the degrading practice of pandering to the fund manager’s whims. It’s difficult to swallow that by this time next week, I will already be back in something like a routine and wondering whether I can possibly go out for lunch again without taking the piss.
This time next week, many times already, I will have deliberated, with my finger poised above the Send button, whether what I have written is appropriate or whether someone, desperate to take offence, affects the delicate sensibility of a Jane Austen character and forwards it to superiors or compliance for their personal advancement.
The lucky pen (which brings no luck) is packed, as is the shoe care kit, the toiletries bag and the emergency hip flask of strongly intoxicating liquor. The big Letts diary (let’s lunch mostly), with a five month hiatus is ready for my doodling, the brogues are polished, the first shirt-tie-and-cufflink combo selected (because you only get one chance to make a first impression, a reality which works to my detriment), the first lunch booked — and the second — and my first
I always used to plead with clients (and women) that it takes so little to make me happy, why can’t they do it more often?
I don’t need to be a runaway success at Salvation Bank, I just need to fail slowly and conventionally and not flop without
To paraphrase WB Yeats, “He who writes this knows the cost, For he’s done both — and lost.”