Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Lehman Brothers and the sad plight of the City Boys...or give up blow drying hair and save the planet!

Now I know what warm caring people the readers of this blog are, so I'm sure the following will cause many to shed a tear in distress to hear of such suffering. Perhaps someone will set up a Facebook group or organise some fund raising.
I myself was touched when I heard of the plight of City boys and how they and their families were struggling to survive . Thanks to Katherine Bucknell, novelist and wife of a City banker, their pain is now known , she explains :

Nobody at Lehman Brothers will be making a pile of money any more, real or virtual. Nor do they have an income. Or an office, a BlackBerry, a plane ticket to an important meeting out of town, a driver waiting downstairs. In Chelsea there were anguished shouts heard on the pavements at 6.30am on Monday, and people were breaking down in tears in Starbucks.
Adjusting to being out of work will be hard for the rest of them, adjusting to being out of luck even harder. Their self-esteem may now be lower than their net worth. They have no place to go but home, to tell the family.
And when they do get home, how long can they afford to stay if the rent is high or a mortgage outstanding? What about the builders remodelling the kitchen? The nanny and the cleaner? How will they pay for the private school? The private health insurance? The car, the clubs, the tennis lessons? Dining out, theatre, opera? Christmas presents, holidays, charities? The accumulating pile, which to a banker serves as a report card, means many different things to those who help to spend it and to those on whom it is spent.
For every vanished pile there will be crying children, an angry spouse, unemployed builders and domestic help, goods left on shop shelves, flats and houses available to rent or buy, empty restaurants, and villages in Africa that don't get their new water pump after all.
Wives who don't work in the City, or don't work at all, are in a tense waiting game. They may have long ago ceded the management - and even understanding - of investments to their husbands, but by now they have examined and re-examined the lists in newspapers and on the internet of banks reported to be in the biggest trouble.
Even as they hope they won't have to, they are making plans to economise. City wives are tougher and more practical than a lot of people realise. They are not celebrities. They are managers - plenty of them once worked in the City themselves. Economy also means home management, and already they will be preparing for some very tough cuts, though not all their decisions will make sense to outsiders.
Which holiday should they cancel first? Skiing, because it's the shortest, coldest and most expensive. How soon can they get out from under the lease on the country house - or, if the penalties for breaking it are too great, should they spend all their holidays there while the lease lasts?
Who can they let go from the staff? Most would rather do without the nanny than without the cleaner. With any luck the cleaner likes children anyway and will help out in a pinch. If there is a cook, she goes before the nanny. The cleaner also knows how to roast a chicken and wash up. Forget the garden altogether - expect to see a lot of weeds as the crisis worsens - although the unemployed may take some comfort in doing the gardening themselves. Shopping ... they have been meaning to cut down on shopping for years. Haircuts, though, they can't do without
Friends who lent us a sofa four years ago because they were buying all new furniture have asked for it back. They have been building a mansion in the country; luckily for them, it was completed before the current troubles. But it seems that they can't afford to furnish it. It is not the ideal moment for me to buy a new sofa, so at our house a few people will be sitting on the floor.


Yes, I am already looking for a silver lining. I am painfully aware of how grossly America out-consumes the rest of the world, and feel guilty about this even though I have lived in Britain for nearly 25 years. When Al Gore first circled the globe, advising us to change our ways before we burnt up the planet, I wondered why people couldn't commit to a stricter regime. I gave up blow-drying my hair for a whole year. Yet we have gone on having not only more than our share, but more than we could pay for.

Punchie, pass that AK47 ...

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