During the dog days of summer, when the sun is beating down on the heat-hushed streets, I do not enjoy standing outside a pub, sweating, drinking Mexican lager and inhaling carcinogenic diesel fumes from stationary traffic.
The problem is that there are very few green spaces in the City where one can lounge, feel the warmth of the sun on one’s face and sleep off a hangover’s aftereffects with a ‘half-hour of power’ nap.
Squares and rooftops tend to be concrete and baking. The handful of spots where one can sit
My preference is to avoid the crowds and seek out the secret almost unnoticed delights of the near 50 churches which are concentrated in this tiny area of London. I find a few blades of grass or the end of a bench in St Mary Staining, for example, or the churchyard of Saint John Zachary, the tiny park of St Botolph’s or the garden of St Dunstan’s and soak up the sunshine or snooze.
Then, when the first few beads of perspiration form on brow and upper lip, I seek out the cool, dark and silent, high-ceilinged interiors of these churches which really do provide a refuge for the weary traveller and the careworn stockbroker in the belly of the beast that is London.
Despite my atheism, I will look up towards the holy end and offer a few silent prayers when I’m inside. Not for salvation or redemption, you understand, but for stuff like a decent-sized order, for some of my enemies in the City to be afflicted with a painful and preferably humiliating illness, or for that girl in research I’ve been stalking for several weeks to finally yield to my entreaties and join me for a lunchtime assignation in a nearby hotel (or a conspiratorial lunch at the very least).
I like the irony of taking coffee in the café now operating in St Mary Aldermanbury and, instead of holding communion with God, plot an illicit affair, a scheme to defraud clients, rig Libor, create some toxic derivatives on collateralised debt obligations or execute some insider trading on my burner phone.
That church apart though, the rest are almost always empty and offer a genuine refuge from the cut-throat politics going down on the trading floor next door, or the din and rattle of capitalism in its most extreme form taking place everywhere around us.
It is day nine at Salvation Bank and I still have not had my registration transferred from Chaucer Securities yet. This provides me with a cast-iron alibi for not writing business, but even I have started to feel uncomfortable about my otiose presence on the desk and so I have taken to slipping out and enjoying crafty, mid-morning half an hour of silent contemplation in the nearest house of worship.
The rectors of several nearby are starting to recognise me and I think they think they detect a sinner who wants to repent. Only the former quality is true.
I almost feel like telling them now that I’m only there for a little sit-down in the pew and a break from the heat or the highly pressured environment of a trading desk on a quiet day and there is no chance of me ever making it to heaven, especially were I to confess what I was mostly thinking about inside the walls of God’s house. My thoughts are immoral at best, illegal at worst.
The afternoons, of course, are much easier to negotiate with Wimbledon or the cricket or the Tour de France providing a lovely distraction from what is not happening on my pitch, but even then I get so self-conscious sitting there, slack-jawed and useless, I have to keep wandering off.
I thought to put my kit on this lunchtime and go for a jog along the river by way of diversion, but the minute I walked out of the building I knew it was too hot. I gave up after 50 yards.
Instead, I settled down on a bench over the road where a gap between the boughs of the tree above filtered just enough sunlight through for the sun’s soporific qualities to take effect.
I fell into my standard dreamy,
The good news is that, even though I was clad in Sports Direct casual attire, he believed me. The bad news is that he’s a committed Christian who now thinks we share a common faith. About that, and about hiring me in the first place, he couldn’t be more wrong.