The London Paper – 10 Dec 2007
In the country of the blind-drunk the one-eyed trouser snake is king. I’ve certainly found that that to be the case over the last twenty odd years of my existence on this sordid little planet. When the booze is flowing a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of lust … or in my case not so lightly. And that’s the big problem with pre-Christmas piss-ups in the City. We stockbrokers spend the next two weeks getting absolutely rat-arsed and invariably that’s when career-threateningly poor decisions involving the opposite sex can be made.
Looking at my diary suggests that I will be involved in around nine work-related boozing sessions over the next two weeks – including the office Christmas party with 2000 of my closest friends, a pub quiz evening, the team dinner and numerous client lunches at restaurants across the City and Soho. I consider each session to be an obstacle to be overcome as we approach bonus day a week or so before Christmas. It is as if our bosses have invented one final test to see whether we are worthy of receiving our cash. As the alcohol levels rise in our bloodstream the opportunities to screw up are myriad.
When yet another lunch at a Michelin-starred restaurant with a female client flows seamlessly into an evening drinking session you suddenly find yourself looking at the lady opposite you in a different light. Your eyes fix on hers slightly too long and you touch her hand more than you would normally. You have to go to the bogs, splash cold water on your face and remind yourself that she is a married mother – a complaint from whom could lose you your job if you were stupid enough to make a move.
Alternatively, you might be with other teams from your bank having an old-fashioned knees-up and suddenly the secretary from the oil team sidles up to you with a glint in her eye. These kind of encounters, if allowed to develop, can end in tears if you behave poorly, offend the lass and find yourself on the wrong end of sexual harassment case. These encounters also may not be as unplanned as they seem. There is a rumour that certain middle-class mothers have pushed their not-so-bright daughters into becoming secretaries in the City hoping they can snare a rich man. Apparently, some of these ambitious mums may themselves have participated in a similar gambit when their own mothers sent them to Oxbridge-based secretarial colleges with a view to them copping off with a ‘man of good prospects’.
The City and alcohol-abuse go together like a horse and carriage. It seems such a hideous coincidence that this hazardous boozing season happens just in time for you to screw up and forfeit your bonus. In previous years I have only just avoided serious disciplinary action and it would be such a shame to fall at the final hurdle, which is, of course, the bank’s Christmas party this week. If I can just survive that then maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to breathe a sigh of relief at having survived yet another year in this dreadful, but lucrative, career.