And so yesterday to Soho, one of my familiar haunts of my yesteryear career, for lunch. In days of yore at one stage the Gay Hussar in Greek Street was practically a staff canteen and I (no gourmet I hasten to add) was occasionally taken down the road to L’Escargot, where the legendary Elena Salvoni used to preside, and several other haunts well-known in media circles, by colleagues or business associates who should have known better.
At one stage a fellow employee – senior, older and possibly wiser – once advised me that, as a general rule of thumb, if any alcohol at all was involved in your middle-of-the-day session at the trough and you weren’t going to get back to the office by 3.00pm then frankly there was no point in going back at all because you’d be incapable of working.
Well, working at all usefully anyway.
There was nothing particularly remarkable in this advice, he added – the entire company, including our bosses, already operated to said rule. Thus, even if you did erroneously return to the office after 3.00pm nobody would seek to meet with you or do any work with you anyway. Sometimes this was because they were either not back themselves by then and/or, if they were, they were sleeping it off on their office couches.
Ah, those were the days …
The occasion yesterday was a rather more sedate affair, a quiet reflective gathering in the company of a retired QC currently attempting his first novel and an international financier now living in Switzerland who had flown in that morning and had called on the off-chance that we might be available for lunch. We have history, you see, going back forty years.
Inevitably, perhaps, current matters of state came up in conversation. Being a fervent Remainer on the EU Referendum, I lobbed in a passage on my fears that ‘this Septer’d Isle … this blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England’ … was potentially sleep-walking into quitting the EU and that catastrophe, pestilence and plague would naturally follow. What to do about it?
Our host, who moves in more exalted circles than I, dismissed my concerns virtually out of hand. It was not going to happen. All the behind-the-scenes polling on both sides of the argument was showing consistently that a Remain vote was in the bag – there had barely been a scintilla of movement in the results for the past year. He confidently predicted that there would be a minimum 60:40 majority in favour of the UK staying in Europe. The victory speeches had already been written, the bunting bought in and the celebratory party invitations prepared ready to be sent out.
Phew, that’s a relief then. I was fearing that I might have to emigrate and spend my declining years in my Vale de Lobo holiday villa on the Algarve.