May 17, 2017
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How quickly we become yesterday’s men and how soon does the world with which we were so familiar change. Some pretty deep thoughts prompted by the realisation that I have been retired now for eighteen months. Fugit inreparabile tempus, as Vergil said – how irretrievable time flies.
I had to go up to London a little while ago to attend a meeting which was held at my old place of employment. What a shock to the system! My office had been consigned to the scrapheap and in its stead were serried rows of earnest young things beavering away at something or the other. The subject of the meeting was a dry as dust concerning regulatory matters, the sort of agenda that had me fleeing for the hills a couple of years ago. It struck me how young and, dare I say it, inexperienced everyone was, a sure sign that you are getting old.
My antennae detected a change in atmosphere in the City. It wasn’t Brexit fears, although everyone seemed to have contingency plans of some sort. No, it was more of a puritanical nature aimed at that City tradition of a good hearty lunch. If you are tucking into some good food in the company of some clients or prospects, it would be churlish, I always thought, not to enjoy a glass or two of vino. But it seems those days are fast disappearing. The Corporation of Lloyd’s a little while back announced that their staff were banned from consuming alcohol between the hours of 9 and 5 and this rather puritanical approach seems to be gathering momentum in the Square Mile. The popular misconception, of course, is that the underwriters and brokers who trade in Lloyd’s are employees of the Corporation – they are not and so fall outside of the ban – but we are clearly on a slippery slope.
And getting some decent tucker seems to be more problematic. I had arranged a pre-meeting lunch with a dear broker friend of mine. We had decided to mark my rare appearance in the Smoke with a trip down memory lane to my favourite fish restaurant, the Orpheus. It was located underneath one of the railway arches leading up to Fenchurch Street station and every now and again the gaff would shake as a train rattled overhead. But the fish was wonderful. There was a sense of occasion to the whole experience. The Maitre d’ would wander from table to table with a platter of fish, explaining the different types and cuts on offer that day. I had my heart set on Skate Wings but when I got to the restaurant I found it boarded up. A sad sight.
I don’t know whether I’m becoming a bit of a Jonah with restaurants but it has happened to me before. When I worked in the West End I had a favourite restaurant, PJ’s, which honoured regular clients by putting a plaque bearing their name on the wall. Mine was positioned between Liberace and Sue Pollard – a rather uncomfortable position to be in, for sure. Shortly after I relocated to another part of town it closed down. Is there a correlation between losing my custom and closing down? It is rather worrying, if there is. And I wonder whatever happened to my plaque.