The London Paper – 5 Sept 2008
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. Some people go to Glastonbury to lose themselves, I knew that in my case, more drastic measures where required, so I took myself off to the Burning Man Festival, where 50,000 nutbags leave their money behind and descend on Nevada’s Black Rock desert to try to forget the hideous capitalist reality that generally dictates our all too short lives.
But I found that even in the depths of an idealistic, hedonistic festival, I couldn’t escape The City. As the dawn broke around us, I got into a somewhat garbled conversation with one of the minted German bankers who had financed this particular duck attraction (everyone who goes to Burning Man must make a contribution). He told me that he’d just heard via sat phone that my old bank, Dresdner, had been acquired by Commerzbank and that 100’s of job cuts were on the way (quite why he had been talking shop at all in the midst of all this anti-Capitalist craziness was not entirely clear).
Dragged briefly back to reality, my first thought was ‘thank the big stockbroker in the sky that I left when I did’ – my bank can’t be a happy camp right now. My second went out to my former colleagues who, like perhaps 20’000 to 40’000 other City workers, may face the chop as the banking world lives up to it’s long-established reputation as a ruthless hire and fire world of boom and bust.
But then I thought maybe this ain’t such a bad thing for many city boys girls, especially those still young enough not to have Tarquin and Henrieta’s schools fees to pay. This may give them the chance to reconsider their career choice and do what they always wanted. Spending a week with a bunch of naked Californians in the desert may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but most Londoners who don’t work in the City will tell you there is more to life than a spending 12 hours in the office enslaved by a highly paid job.
‘Nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it a so’ said some Danish geezer who went by the name of Hamlet. Those people about to lose their jobs in the City may find his words worth clinging on to. It may seem bad now, but a recession may turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to them.