Typically I'm a man continually in receipt of life's bad news but as I type, I am a man in receipt of a verbal offer of employment from a large, respectable investment bank based in the City.
Gentle reader: there is no one more surprised than me. In the end, I had three potential openings and at one point towards the end of last week, it appeared as though a bidding war may develop between the respective brokerage houses. That then turned into an offering war if such a thing exists, when each seemed to be competing to step aside politely, saying, "No, no, not at all. If you want him, you can have him. After you, I insist."
Three whittled themselves down to two when one house revealed itself to operate an eat-what-you-kill policy. I've been down that road before and I didn't kill much. I was the vegetarian lion of killers.
It was all set then, for a final showdown last Thursday. My interlocutor was female, I splashed on some spectacularly powerful aftershave, rented the best suit I could find and I chose the restaurant — my wine club at 67 Pall Mall — so it was the equivalent of a semi-final cup-tie with home ground advantage.
I picked my regular table where I normally sit those whom I'm trying to seduce, but switched my customary seat, because this was a different kind of seduction I had in mind and I was doing my best to divert my one-track mind in a different direction. I arrived early to instruct all staff (with whom I have cultivated good relations) that every time I were to leave the table they were to approach my dining partner and tell her in no uncertain terms what a wonderful human being I was, about my charity work, my impeccable manners and my unfailing taste in lunch dates. I got up so regularly to facilitate this confirmation bias I think she probably thought I had the trots and I merely confirmed the wrong bias.
For two hours solid I waged a charm offensive. I flattered her. I boasted of the close personal bonds I had formed with every big hitter on the buy-side, of my three decades' experience, my commitment to the team ethic, my unimpeachable integrity, my unswerving loyalty, my unthinking obedience. I selected wines with a feminine palate in mind. I joined her in a post-prandial herbal infusion rather than my usual large Scotch and a double espresso. I discussed the endearing habits of her children and the décor in her holiday home without a hint of impatience. I kissed her chastely on both cheeks as she took a taxi. I thought she was lovely. The job was in the bag.
Well, it turned out it wasn't. Perhaps my charm was offensive. Her colleague called me the next day to advise that I should pursue my other opportunities as they were not taking my candidacy forward.
Jobs are like buses: you wait ages for one and then none comes at all.
Despite all the practice I get, I have never become inured to rejection, be it professional or romantic and this has been a vintage year for both. You cannot walk the City of London without treading in a piece of my broken heart. I took the call with the bad news in my car. Four months of interviews up in smoke. I entered Beachy Head in the satnav destination and set off for a long drive over a short cliff.
Luckily, I always get lost following my satnav, so two hours later the suicide bid was frustrated and I was still stuck on the M25 gridlock when one of the other potential employers called me.
After four months of prevarication they had finally decided to send me a contract. It was an offer I couldn't refuse, not least because there were no others. This had been my least preferred option the day previous but now it was somewhat more desirable. They were bringing good news, I suppose, but as always the minute you land a job you start contemplating that loss of freedom and the imposition of degrading servitude aggravated by sleep deprivation and you'd rather you didn't have one.
My contact there is an old friend of mine and we discussed details. All they needed from me was a start date.
"3rd of July?"
He was taken aback. "That's miles away, I thought you'd say next Monday?"
"Well, it's taken you four months to get to this point, why the rush? Four weeks is nothing in comparison so as a gesture of goodwill, let's say 26th June."
He agreed to that eventually. Did I have any other questions? I asked about the following: lavatorial arrangements (those at Chaucer Securities were shocking and only ever referred to as Glastonbury by me), the shower and changing facilities, the gym, mental health insurance, the bike racks and holiday allowance.
All these enquiries were addressed satisfactorily.
"You don't have any other questions?"
"No. That will be all."
"Are you sure?"
"Do you want to know what your salary will be?"
"Agh, yes. That would be helpful." When he told me, I asked about the notice period and divided the annual wage into four. He heard me doing the calculations and producing a number.
"I'm just working out what I'll be due when I'm made redundant."
This is the power of positive thinking. Have I set the right impression, do you think?
It is more than four months now since the clash of the ironic and the literal minds at Chaucer Securities when they decided my jocular allusion to carnal relations between the short-fingered vulgarian in the White House and a goat was grounds for parting ways. I left in the depths of winter.
The next stage of my weary circumlocution of the marketplace will start at the height of summer. I was depressed then, having been mauled by the Doberman of love and then victim to the cutthroat trading floor politics which I refused to play.
I'm no happier now but one concern is alleviated at least. The heart breaks but broken, lives on and for the heart life is simple: it beats as long as it can.