By Richard Matthews 22nd December
The year-end approaches and I feel it’s only right to borrow a couple of traditions from Europe as they have given me so much to write about this year. In the Spanish world Christmas is celebrated by Noche Buena and New Year’s eve is called Noche Vieja. In honour of this and my European friends, my final two columns of the year will reflect these two nights. Noche Buena, or Christmas eve, celebrates the good that is about to come to this earth and is traditionally a night for stories so I am going to dip back into my memory and remember what Christmas was like in the City in days gone by .
My first Christmas at work came in 1973 and I was a fresh faced innocent, yes I was, young broker at Phillips and Drew. P and D as it was known by all and sundry was a blue blooded stockbroker and one of the top names in the City. It was a very traditional broker and we wore starched collars, short hair and polished shoes. Anyone that strayed from this path didn’t last long. My first Christmas I had only been at the company for three months and was earning the grand sum of £1250 per annum – that’s inflation for you! I didn’t dream about a bonus, those came years later, all I remember was being petrified off getting too drunk at the Christmas party and making a fool of myself. I can’t remember the Christmas party, I kept my job so I can’t have been that drunk but I do remember staggering home with a Turkey. Now I didn’t find the Turkey on the tube it was the Christmas gift, a Turkey or a bottle of Port, from the partners. Very generous I hear but I do remember being told, after sharing a lift with the senior partner, that he had just earnt £5 in the minute that the lift had taken to go down the six floors. Do the math.
Flash forward 20 years, well if Charles Dickens can I can, and I remember the heady days of the floor and the excess that came with the success. The barmy parties that we held when we hired out The Grand in Brighton or the Belfry in Birmingham. I will not go into the detail of beds flying from windows, doors being taken off hinges or cars being carried into lobbies because despite them all being true it’s not fair to name names – is it Wilko? Oops- hey ho, he won’t mind. Funnily enough the story and image that sticks in my mind is Harry The Horse dressing up as Santa Claus and taking a collection bucket around the floor where we had to empty our pockets to fill it. Ouch, but it was all in a good cause and hats off to the great Steve Harrigan for doing this.
The stories of these parties are legion and I am sure all of us can tell some but the funniest story that I can remember occurred in the run up to one of the Christmas dinners. Certainly some of my readers will remember this, possibly even the editor, but to protect the innocent I’m going to change names slightly. As always when organising these dinners a runner would be assigned with the job of ringing around a few restaurants and getting availability and menu prices. The runner I am thinking of had the nickname of Deutsche Mark and lovely man that he is he could never be accused of concentrating too hard. On this particular occasion he had found a restaurant and was going through the menu when he got onto the subject of the main course. The restaurateur said something along the lines of “ We have Salmon , Turkey or Venison “ to which Deutsche Mark asked “ What’s Venison “ the restaurateur answered “It’s Deer “ to which the reply came “ Don’t worry about the cost as Steve, the boss, is paying “. True.
I am going to close with a little plea, I am not dressing up as Harry The Horse did all those years ago but I am going to ask you to think of those less fortunate than ourselves. However good or bad your year has been there are those who are worse off. Please think for a minute of the homeless that live on the streets that have next to nothing to give them comfort . When you see these people don’t just give them money please ask them what they need. I support one organisation that helps, it’s called Dogs on The Street. Just pause and think who looks after the dogs that the homeless have with them? These dogs are often their last friend and only source of companionship and warmth. Dogs on the Street is a not for profit organisation that supply food, clothes and Vet care to these dogs. Now if my story about Deutsche Mark and Venison has made you smile please,please give a little help to DOTS (their details are at the bottom of this page) and by helping others you will really join in the spirit of Christmas.
Where ever you are, whatever your religion have a good Christmas!