The Gilded Cage

The London Paper  –  23 Oct 2006

Last week a colleague of mine came back from a holiday in Goa, India. Judging by his laid-back demeanor I guessed that he had spent most of his time indulging in yoga, meditation and smoking the local produce. Worst of all, he has come back waxing lyrical about things like freedom and spiritual enlightenment and other such absurd concepts that have frankly got no place in the City. He even suggested that money can’t buy you happiness which is fighting talk where I come from. If everyone started thinking like that the City would collapse … it would be the end of civilization as we know it. Things took a real turn for the worse when I noticed the remnants of a henna tattoo on his arm and it was at that point I realized we needed to have a proper chat. If anyone at our bank had seen that tattoo … well, the consequences don’t bare thinking about.

So, over a few pints of ‘Old Thumper’ at the local hostelry I tried to explain to this young impressionable chap the way things work here. Every time any of us go on any decent relaxing holiday we are reminded of what a total waste of time the hard work that we do ultimately is. The average Cityboy, when over in Mauritius or St Lucia, has considered the possibility of giving it all up and opening a beach bar. If they hadn’t they wouldn’t be human (which come to think of it does exclude half of them). Unfortunately, for us the bosses at our banks have developed some kind of extra sensory perception so that every time we seriously consider jacking it all in we are offered more cash. This traps us in an endless cycle of earning more and more cash but having less and less time to spend it whilst all the time getting older and older.

So the last thing anyone in the City needs is to be reminded of the fact that there are people out there living on a pittance having an absolute ball. That kind of talk will make you question everything you do and therein lies madness. If you go down that path how the hell are you going to get yourself up at 5.45am every morning and not see the light of day six months of the year. The City relies on its workers’ self-deception that they’ll do a short stint and then move on to something ‘more fulfilling’. Unfortunately, the vast amounts of cash those nasty banks keeping giving us and the lack of qualifications we have to do anything else means that many of us end up doing it for twenty years or more. No wonder there are so many frustrated alcoholic nutters out there walking around the square mile in pin-stripes pretending to be successful.

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