Earwigging in the Boozer – 10 October 2012
Tony the underwriter is out of work. He is on benefits. And he’s come up to London in his grey suit, shirt and tie, and big flat-feet black shoes, to see some people.
At four this afternoon Tony has a meeting with Tom Greaves. It is now three, and Tony is in The Lamb at Leadenhall Market, chatting to people he once knew, in the days before he lost his job, people who pass into the pub.
He is talking to Alan, a dapper man in a pale-coloured suit and handkerchief in top pocket. Alan must be at least 70 now. They talk of times in insurance, when Tony took a group of people to lunch at a restaurant in Victoria Street. Alan was there, and they eventually left the restaurant about four.
Tony reminisces about the time his boss called him in about his entertainment expenses, the wine had cost £29 per bottle and his boss had said that’s too little: think about how much business these people are putting our way, you don’t want us seeming to be mean.
“Now that’s the sort of boss I like working for!” guffawed Tony.
But right now he doesn’t work for any boss at all.
Someone else Tony knows comes into the pub. Tony waves him over.
“Kevin, you know Alan?” Yes, they know each other slightly.
“What’ll you have?” asks Kevin.
“A pint of special, please” Tony replies.
“Two pints of special” Kevin calls to the barman, he of the black corporate T-shirt and apron.
The bar staff are looking like it’s been a busy and boring lunchtime.
Tony already has half a pint unfinished. Alan uses the opportunity of Kevin’s arrival to be on his way.
Tony has an appointment at four, and he now has a pint and a half to get through in about twenty minutes. He begins to try taking long draughts, leaning forward and spilling from round his mouth. But he’s finding it difficult.
“I don’t drink much these days” Tony tells Kevin. “When you’re at home all the time you have to be careful”.
“I still do my charity work, of course, and a bit of work for my sister, but I want to get back into underwriting – that’s what I know – that’s the work that I love.”
But will Tony get back into underwriting? Or is he too much of a time gone by? Living your life for the next boozy lunch may be from a past age now. Kevin wasn’t going to tell him as Kevin was not a forceful sort of character, but I think I could tell what Kevin was thinking.
Tony had already drunk what he called, “A glass of Macon” with another contact earlier. “Cost me eight quid for two glasses”, he said. “That’s a lot of money when you’re on benefits”. The contact, it seems, had been able to offer him nothing.
And now he was off to meet another contact that he hoped to get some work from, straight after at least two pints of beer, that these days he wasn’t used to.
No chance, Tony.
Tony even looked of a time gone by. He was a tall man, with a protruding jaw, which gave the impression of him constantly looking down his nose. Piggy eyes and a bull neck that overhung his shirt collar. A Victorian criminal’s look. Craggy mouth. South-east Essex accent.
A time gone by. Who will have a quiet word with Tony?