Sunday, 14 February 2010

I came, I saw, I Cheapsided!


Thanks to the encouragement of Dumdad I have (finally) plucked up the courage to talk about my days in international banking.

Back in September 1990 I joined a certain Scottish highstreet bank (currently in receipt of lots and lots and lots of state aid) as a Graduate Trainee.

I went to London University to read Spanish and Italian...and did so. I enjoyed college so much that I didn't want to leave its safe confines. (I had been spoilt to death...no student loans for me! Rather I had received a state grant and boarded for three years in leafy Hampstead where my college was located.) The last year was SO engrossing that I could barely face looking for jobs in that 'orrible world outside my verdant Shangri-La.

During the dying embers of college days I had begun to think about working for a bank (preferably in the international section so I could use my languages) after all, at that time, banking was THE flavour of the day. Think back to Michael Douglas espousing "Greed is Good" and Maggie Thatcher freeing up those juicy regulated markets...

So, extremely reluctantly, I embarked on a plethora of interviews and further interviews around a few banks. I had also applied to join the international banking graduate scheme of NatWest and had ended up in NatWest Tower, in The City, for a second round interview. NatWest was a very big deal then...one of the biggest players on the UK banking scene. There were lots of would be yuppy grads there (some even wearing red braces...and that was just the girls!). I used to name it "Pinstripe Poker". I recall that the competition was fierce and that despite my best efforts of pretending to be an international banker, in the role play, it still terminated in a debutant's debacle. I think was just "yuppied" out. It felt utterly terrifying and I was completely out of my depth. (I had met a few of these contenders already...they had tended to congregate at King's College, University of London. All their parents seemed to have highflying jobs with international companies. To me they were a breed apart.) That process spat me out in a miserable, lumpen heap.

I got my rejection phonecall, from a chap at NatWest, in the college lobby. I stood there with the phone in one hand. Tears flowed down my face. I remember thinking: "What was I going to do with my life now?"

That Autumn of 1989 found me back at home in Newcastle upon Tyne on a post-grad course in Business Information Technology ("BIT")at Newcastle Polytechnic (now Northumbria University). I positively loathed it. I had to sign on to qualify to do it. I had completed three quarters of it when I found that I had landed a contract with that Scottish bank's graduate scheme. I had stormed all of the interviews and had even ended up running the meeting (in role play) at their Manchester training centre! So I skedaddled from the "BIT" course and headed elsewhere. I was now free to go and earn my keep.

And so...after having dreaded that my first posting would be in a mobile bank, decked out in tartan, in The Hebrides or The Orkneys or some far flung besporraned place...my first graduate placement came through. It was at the bank's Cheapside Branch in The City of London. I couldn't believe it. I couldn't wait to start. I decided to celebrate by spending my 1990 summer in Andalucia with some Spanish friends.

I flew back to start my first day at the bank. There I was suitably besuited knocking at that huge wooden double front door on that first crispy autumnal morning with a lump in my throat and my right hand encased in plaster....

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Some Latin words for Valentine's Day Cards plus Catullus


Gaius Velerius Catullus was probably born in 84 BC. Not much is known about him. He is known to be the son of a wealthy citizen in Verona, either he or his family owned a villa on Lake Garda. He regards Rome as his home (as in poem 68). He was in love and besotted by the notorious Clodia Metelli, who was probably the Lesbia of the poems. He started writing in 69 or 68 BC but after his death in about 54BC., his work was lost for a thousand years. He is regarded as one of ancient Rome's finest lyric poets.

His love poems are THE best! His other poems, erm, are of a slightly different nature but generally they are all worth reading unless you are of a highly sensitive disposition...

Poem V is among his best known (about his lover, Lesbia, on one of their good days):

Vivamus mea Lesbia atque amemus
Rumoresque senum severiorum
Omnes unius aestimemus assis.
Soles occidere et redire possunt:
Nobis, cum semel occidit brevis lux,
Nox est perpetua una dormienda.
Da mi basia mille, deinde centum,
Dein mille altera, dein secunda centum,
Deinde usque altera mille, deinde centum.
Dein, cum milia multa fecerimus,
Conturbabimus illa, ne sciamus,
Aut ne quis malus invidere possit,
Cum tantum sciet esse basiorum.


Lesbia
Live with me
& love me so
we'll laugh at all
the sour-faced strict-
ures of the wise.
This sun once set
will rise again,
when our sun sets
follows night &
an endless sleep.
Kiss me now a
thousand times &
now a hundred
more & then a
hundred & a
thousand more again
till with so many
hundred thousand
kisses you & I
shall both lose count
nor any can
from envy of
so much of kissing
put his finger
on the number
of sweet kisses
you of me &
I of you,
darling, have had.

Taken from Penguin Classics "The Poems of Catullus". Translation of Poem V by Peter Whigham (1966) [Editor Betty Radice.]

Some Latin love expressions:

Ego te amo - I love you
Tune me amas? - Do you love me?
Nonne me amas? - Surely you love me?
Da mihi basium (basia: multa/plurima) - Give me a kiss, (kisses: many/very many)
Basia ad te mitto - I send kisses to you
Basia tibi do - I give kisses to you
Leatus(a) sum si laetus (a) es - I am happy if you are happy
Ab amico (a) - from your friend

Click on this link [here] to read how Valentine's Day is meant to have started. It began, allegedly, at the founding of Rome with wolves and then to Lupercalia to St. Valentine to the Conquistadors to chocolate and then to Cadburys!

And last but not least - wishing everyone many good things these Lupercalia!

Friday, 12 February 2010

The Latin Language of Love...


"Whiskers on kittens" dee..dumm..de..dumm...

Here is just one delight (well quite a few actually) from Modern Delight a collection of essays based on J.B. Priestley's "Delight" published in 1949. There are a veritable gathering together of delights by many people a few of which are contained here. My favourite choice out of all of these is from Sue Townsend who is one of my favourite authors. (Although, I confess, I have many favourite authors!) I do love her sense of humour and the way she writes. So here goes....

By Sue Townsend:

"Running a thumbnail down the silver-papered ridge of a Kit Kat, waking up and seeing it has snowed in the night, lighting a fire using Zip firelighters, opening the fruit of a horse chestnut and finding the glossy brown nut inside, watching clouds, re-reading a favourite book, listening to the music of John Adams, taking off and landing in an aeroplane, the island of Tobago, piri-piri chicken cooked on the beach with baby new potatoes and a tomato salad. Running out of cigarettes and finding a packet in an old handbag, a bottle of vinho verde so cold that condensation runs down the sides, a Chanel suit, birdsong in an English wood, receiving a handwritten letter on good-quality paper, cornflowers in a vase, grandchildren’s home-made birthday and Christmas cards, watching footage of Aneurin Bevan addressing the old Labour Party at Blackpool, walking barefoot on an oriental carpet, buying a boxful of the full colour range of Lakeland pencils for an artistic child, sitting down to dinner with slightly drunken friends, waking up and realising that it is not a dialysis day, watching Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm, hand-feeding giraffes, teaching a toddler to splash in puddles, watching Citizen Kane, listening to Leonard Cohen’s Alexandra Leaving (nearly as good as Bach’s Cello Suites), picking up the week’s current Private Eye."


And so, what are Hadriana's delights?
Finding an article online when the original article will now be screwed up at the back of a drawer, being able to Google "Sue Townsend and KitKat" and getting good results, playing in deep snow, imparting my enthusiasm for area - the current and the past, the smell of our children especially in the nape of their necks, walking through the countryside when in a bad mood and feeling said mood lifting skywards, travelling on steam trains and toy trains, getting warm again after losing all feeling in my hands and feet, slurping a random divine cup of cappucino, receiving a phone call from a friend just after I'd been thinking about them, driving along the A69 from Carlisle eastwards and seeing the whinsill ridge come into sight in the distance, managing to drive my car without smashing into any other car, going into a second hand bookshop and walking out with about twenty books, being pushed off the ice (when in a car!) by a passing helpful stranger and feeling the panic inside my chest fly away, drinking and holding a boiling hot cuppa, hearing a song on the radio which I absolutely adore and had forgotten about, understanding something (which happened in the past) more deeply when the jigsaw pieces finally fall into place, taking photos of any part of Hadrian's Wall and the surrounding countryside, unearthing my old A-level Latin books and reading Catullus's poem about the sparrow ("passer") of his lover, Lesbia, and his "We live and we love, Lesbia" poem [vivamus mea Lesbia atque amemus], adding a new word like "clerihew" to the long-getting longer-vocab-list-in-my-head and actually remembering it, catching the strain of some flamenco or Arabic musical refrain in the distance, running and getting on a train in the nick of time, renovating a house and falling upon a time capsule of old newspapers, stumbling upon a hidden gem either in Northumberland or Cumbria, getting my son or my daughter to laugh after they have just been in tears, eating and/or drinking anything delicious, hearing and smelling the sound of a Gaggia coffee machine, discovering anything fabulously new to eat or drink, talking to an old friend on the phone after a long length of time and picking up from where we left off, writing on nice paper with a superb ink pen, watching favourite films especially Jeff Bridges in "The Big Lebowski", hearing our children mimicking us in one way or t'other, watching a Monty Python sketch when they were at their superduper best, crying with laughter at a great Billy Connolly joke which I've seen [at least] 100 times over, feeling great again about life and love after having been down in the dumps, marvelling each day and getting the best out of life, experiencing everything again better...than I have done for years, laughing at life's stupidities and really seeing the funny side, re-reading any book which I have enjoyed, seeing a new bird or animal out in the wild, picking up a book which I had dismissed and getting something out of it, tickling our dog's tummy, reading a blog post and getting a good vibe from it, the sensation of a clean house, re-watching any episode of "Cold Feet" except the last ever two because I am a big softie, the even greater sensation of having conquered the Eiffel Tower of ironing at long last, watching Alan Bennett's "The History Boys"...and yes, running a finger down the silver paper of a KitKat, discovering some dark scrumptious chocolate at the back of the cupboard when there was that thought that hubbie had eaten it all............Indeed, little sparrow, can I stop?

So...Go on then....What are your "delights" on a very nearly St. Valentine's Day? I can't wait to hear them!

Friday, 5 February 2010

Just a quickie!






Some of these stones (featured) are actual Roman stones pinched from Vindolanda in the 1800s to help build this outhouse. I've also taken a photo of the side of the chapel with the stained glass windows to show you how the main chapel looks (at least from one side).

I mentioned these stones beforehand in another post. Robin Birley, from The Vindolanda Trust, has confirmed that they are indeed from the granaries (very highly likely) back at the main fort at Vindolanda. In a recent talk which he gave last year...he stated that there was a big trench found alongside the granaries which could have only been made in more modern times. He had a hunch that the stones had disappeared down to Henshaw in the direction of the Methodist chapels which were being built at the time. His visit to my parents' chapel seemed to confirm his theory.

The local newspaper (the Hexham Courant) has written two articles on the two differing chapels which are located in the hamlet of Henshaw - which is a mile or two further south down from Vindolanda.

My parents own the bigger of the two chapels. Theirs is the Wesleyan Chapel designed to sit 100 people all at one time and here it is described in the local paper here.

The other more "Primitive" chapel is described here. It is incredible to think that such a tiny place as Henshaw used to support two big chapels such as these. Both are now residential homes.

I love the thought that there are some old Roman stones in the family. (Mr. Birley pointed out that the more regular stones are the Roman ones...which makes complete sense. I wasn't there when he was but I like to think that the chisel marks on the stones were made by the Roman legionaries/stone masons. I need to double check on that point. Of course my imagination just runs away with me..!)

The chapel is currently for sale but I would be great to keep it and the Vindolanda stones in the family. Funnily enough through Mr. H's side of the family - some of them are descended from Charles Wesley, brother of John Wesley. So it shows that all sorts of history are meeting together in one place...PLUS it is a good representation of our lives right now - up in this neck of the woods! It is also a fantastic representation of where a lot of Hadrian's Wall ended up....recycled into farms, castles, houses and bastle houses. One of these days I have a superb piece of wall to show you. I just need to pop out one day with my camera...

Thursday, 4 February 2010

A tenuous connection with the hairy bikers


I was watching the telly the other night, or more to the point Mr.H. was as he loves watching cookery programmes, and we were watching those two champion Northern biking foodie boys: Si (who is from the North East) and Dave (from the North West).

Their biographies are very interesting and declare themselves "life long foodies" rather than being trained chefs. I think I like them all the more for this. They work in the TV and film industry and their food programmes are a sideline. Their biogs are here.

For part of the programme they were back in Dave's home town of Barrow-in-Furness. I caught the last two thirds of the programme and luckily caught sight of a wonderful lady (who was with them during the first part of the programme...you'd have to be a regular watcher of the series to understand that one!) with whom I used to work in my banking days. Tessa was part of their programme dedicated to "Show Off Dishes". All her dishes did look divine and amongst which are: Coronation Chicken and Baked Alaska. It took me a while to be sure it was her...but there she is - in all her filmic and gastronomic glory........if you want to see her...she's in first 20 minutes of the programme. She re-appears towards the end when the boys have their big food re-union/banquet in Barrow-on-Furness.

I'm not sure how long it is on the BBC i-player. Here it is: here


I know it's more difficultfor overseas readers to access the i-player...which personally I think is a shame but there you are...

Isn't that amazing...a blast from the past!

If you are reading this, Tessa, please get in touch...it would be lovely to meet up again!

It's kind of prompting me to spill the beans on my City of London banking days....

Have you had any success in meeting up with old friends, former colleagues and more? If so, what is your "poison" of choice? Facebook, Friends Reunited, Twitter, Blogging, Tweeting?........and with whom have you met and what's the best to do it? I'm intrigued.....