I had lunch the other day with a bunch of ex-colleagues and as we sat their drinking bottle after bottle of Gavi de Gavi and consuming various over-priced dishes at the once-trendy City restaurant Prism talking shop, my habitual loquaciousness took a back seat as I pondered what it was that was making me such an unusually happy bunny this lunchtime. As I found myself laughing that their dodgy city jokes, and slipping back into the familiar office banter and bravado about the markets, I soon realised that what I was enjoying was the sense of being back in their cliquey group.
This was tad ironic since one of the many things I have always hated about the City is the fact that its a tight-knit, exclusive club dedicated to making its mainly white, young, male, heterosexual members as much wonga as possible. But even though my vitriolic resentment was always bubbling away, I can’t deny I didn’t enjoy the camaraderie of working in the City. Not something you experience sitting alone in your bedroom staring at a lap-top.
I also couldn’t help notice at this lunch that I was most definitely no longer a ‘member of the gang.’ In fact, my former peers were clearly coyer in my presence. It took one of them to smugly explain to me over a brandy that I had blotted my copybook quite dramatically by breaking the City’s mafia-like code of silence and exposing to ‘the pond life out there’ the secrets of the Square Mile. Indeed, it seems that I now have toxic status and mere association with me can be potentially harmful to your City career!
I mean, of course I don’t regret chucking in the office job. But this writing malarkey is quite a lonely business and we Homo sapiens are by nature sociable creatures. I miss much more than I expected the feeling of belonging to the gang, but I suppose that’s the price you pay for retiring at 35 and writing a book telling everyone what a bunch of tossers all your ex-peers are. Never mind, I suppose I’ll just have to take up flower-arranging lessons or join a yoga group. Anything to get out of the house!
After finding out the ex was loved up and pregnant with her new fella, and that waking up in Shepherd’s Bush with not much to do every morning, was not quite as rewarding as I had imagined, I decided it was time to remind myself why I canned the City job, and that there’s a big world out there beyond the Square Mile. Which was how I found myself to be sitting on a giant motorized duck watching the pink dawn arrive over the Nevada mountains surrounded by 100 discombobulated ravers waving their arms around to techno.
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When I first saw the footage of Lehman Brothers’ employees this week walking out of their Canary Wharf office holding boxes containing their possessions my initial selfish thought was – ‘thank God I left the City 6 months ago.’…
However, when I started calling up a few characters I know at Lehmans and other banks it dawned on me that what I was witnessing was a genuine human tragedy. One former competitor from Lehmans, but a half-decent bloke nevertheless, had just impregnated his newly-married missus and had also purchased some big gaff down in South London. This poor critter had few savings (having lost a few hundred grand in Lehman shares) and was now unemployed and seemingly unlikely to find another City job. A few years ago when he was a rival of mine I might have punched the air with glee at his appalling predicament such was my despicable City mentality but now I just felt terribly sorry for him. He was close to tears on the phone and I felt that, although there are far greater tragedies on this planet, I wouldn’t wish the hassle he was receiving from his wife on even my worst enemy! This poor chap hasn’t got a clue how to sort his situation out … he’s even thinking the unthinkable which is to go back to accountancy. When a man is prepared to go down that road you know he’s really reached rock bottom!
This camaraderie was quite unexpected but appears to not be as unusual as you might think in a cut-throat environment like the City as this crisis unfolds. I think there’s something of the Dunkirk spirit amongst my ex-peers such is the extent of the horror facing them all. It’s hard to maintain a vicious rivalry with someone when you both don’t know if you’ll have a job tomorrow.
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Who is Cityboy?
“He’s every brash, bespoke-suited FT-carrying idiot who pushed past you on the tube. He’s the egotistical buffoon who loudly brags about how much cash he’s made on the market at otherwise pleasant dinner parties. He’s the greedy, ruthless wanker whose actions are helping turn this world into the shit-hole it’s rapidly becoming.
For a period in my life he was me”