The London Paper – 6 Aug 2007
“If there’s grass on the wicket, play cricket eh?” leered the office sex pest unleashing a dirty laugh Sid James would have been proud of. The object of his squirm-inducing comment was a 16 year old schoolgirl who had been sent to work with our team for a few days. She was one of several school kids at our bank and a few emails to pals at other firms soon made it clear that they too had a few of these moody adolescents sitting around chewing gum and emailing their mates.
I was curious about this rather worrying influx of hormonal teenagers and so decided to interrogate the delightful young lady. I approached her with extreme caution knowing that any hint that I was being in any way deviant would result in non-stop mockery from my colleagues at best and rapid dismissal at worst. As I nervously walked towards her I could tell all eyes were on me with most of the sexually repressed older types exhibiting a distressing ‘get in there my son’ look on their sad lonely faces.
After brief pleasantries, I asked her why she and her pals were wasting their time at investment banks watching self-important buffoons ripping off pensioners. It turns out that modern school kids have to do two weeks work experience in July and that if they don’t organise it themselves the school will allocate the internship. This particular young lady, fearing that she could be allocated a position at an abattoir or, even worse, a PR company, had used some family connections to get work experience at my bank.
Of course, I immediately informed her that the abattoir would have been an infinitely preferable option and, like a concerned uncle, decided to impress upon her how dreadful my profession was so as to ensure she was never tempted to get involved. After a near-hysterical diatribe about greed, arrogance, materialism etc she patted me on the knee signalling that I should calm down. With a disconcerting maturity way beyond her years she made my day by simply saying: ‘Don’t be silly. I wouldn’t do this shit for all the tea in China. I’m going to be an actress’. I breathed a huge sigh of relief and, in a pathetic attempt to raise a titter, said ‘Go for it! And don’t listen to what that nasty Noel Coward said about not putting your daughter on the stage’. The tumble weed and whistling wind seemed to come from nowhere.
I’m as aware as the next man that nostalgia ain’t what it used to be. But to hear that school kids are now being forced to engage in the professional environment when they should be smoking fags and drinking Thunderbirds on street corners, as I did, makes me very sad. It seems that the production line for creating professional robots starts at an ever earlier age and if that doesn’t stifle creativity, and more importantly, fun then I don’t know what will. Kids do their best to ensure that ‘youth is wasted on the young’ anyway without the Government making sure it is.