Saturday 4 September 2010

An earthly paradise

15st 7lb, zero units. There is no question about it: I am happier now than I have ever been before. I am not happy as such, obviously; this is a relative statement. But even though my financial situation is more precarious than it has been since the last occasion I put myself out of work back in 1986, I feel a sense of calm that I do not remember experiencing at any time in the past. Can this be down to marriage; to belatedly fulfilling my biological purpose by reproducing; or to the fact that I am rapidly losing my grip on life?

Whatever, as the young say. It seems more prudent to lie back and enjoy it than to explore these important philosophical questions too deeply.

Before now, I suppose the happiest I have been was at Streets Financial between 1983 and 1986, though I did not have the wit to realize that at the time. Instead I drank too much and worked too hard. I don’t recall ever having a proper holiday during those years; instead I took occasional little breaks under the cover of being “depressed”. Obviously you should never, ever trust a depressive’s analysis of their own condition, but I have more than half a suspicion that I simply latched onto “depression” as an excuse for a lie-down that was rather harder for the medical profession to rubbish than a claim to have lassa fever or even good old influenza.

Streets Financial. Such memories. Was there really a girl working in the kitchen who had such prominent, firm breasts that the phrase “dead heat in the Zeppelin race” must have been coined for her? Yes indeed. And did one of my colleagues really have a bottles of spirits tucked away in the filing cabinet in his office (“G” for gin, “W” for whisky) even though there was a meeting room full of the stuff right next door? Yes again. And did a light lunch with our esteemed chairman in the basement Italian restaurant along Fleet Street, where the maitre d’ sported the world’s worst wig, really involve drinking two bottles of Corvo between us? I’m afraid so. A heavy lunch would embrace three. Then he would start on the brandy when he got back.

Did we really employ one messenger who could not walk down a pavement unless he was running a finger along a wall at all times, and another who was completely illiterate? Amazingly, yes. The latter got away with it for a surprisingly long time by holding up the next envelope and saying “Where’s that, then?” to the receptionist each time he made a delivery.

Did I really once have a tantrum with one of my fellow directors and insist on recruiting a blonde air hostess to be our secretary, rather than the much better qualified and experienced young lady he preferred, simply because the trolley dolly had given the correct answer to the question “Have you got a boyfriend?” I am ashamed to admit that it is true. But then it really was another world back in the mid-1980s. When I returned to work in 1987 I was gutted to find that it had all changed, at least so far as I was concerned. By the time a secretary next invited herself back to my flat and suggested we indulge in some activity of a sexual nature, some 15 years later, I was so surprised and completely paranoid about it all coming out at a future industrial tribunal that I immediately called a taxi and sent her home. Our professional relationship never really recovered from that rebuff.

Funny thing, sex. I suppose I’ve just never really got the hang of it. As I may have mentioned here before, though not for a good long while, I bought my first London flat from a merchant banker who was so obsessed with it that he took an evening job working as a barman in a nearby hotel favoured by young foreign tourists. At the end of the evening he asked any presentable single women left in the bar if they would like to sleep with him. He reckoned that 90% said no politely, 5% combined their refusal with some form of physical assault, and 5% said “yes”. He was very happy with this success rate, even though it was accompanied by fairly frequent visits to a clinic for socially acquired diseases.

I suppose my own success rate over the years must actually have been rather better than 5%, now I come to think of it, which is faintly cheering. Part of me wishes that I had asked the question more often. On the other hand, I still shudder when I think of the mid-1980s weekend in which, in the course of two days, I managed to share my bed with a neighbour, an ex-girlfriend and my then current girlfriend, who exited and entered my flat in such quick succession that the whole experience bore a much closer resemblance to a Brian Rix farce than to any porn film I have ever seen (and I have seen a few, over the years, if I am honest). I remember thinking “I have dreamed of doing something like this all my life, and it’s actually a f***ing nightmare.” I returned to the office on Monday morning physically exhausted, with my nerves shattered and a localized throbbing sensation that I was in no hurry to experience again.

If I had my time again, obviously I’d try to entice all three of them into bed simultaneously. I am sure they would have had a lovely time talking about shoes and frocks, while I was despatched to the sofa to read the Railway Modeller.

The important thing is that I have been strongly committed to monogamy ever since. Mrs H please note. Now I really must attempt to heave myself out of this three day orgy of 1980s reminiscences and focus on what is left of my future.

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