My City limits…

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Going in to London this week for a meeting, something occurred to me as I sat on the on  Waterloo and City line, a unique branch of the world’s oldest underground train network.

The Waterloo and City line underground line is (un)affectionately known as the “drain” – unique because it has no stops between just two termini, from Waterloo Station to Bank Station in the heart of London’s financial district called ‘The City of London’ - a square mile and one of the richest patches of land on our planet.

This the place where the financial Goliaths hang out and do their thing; the outcomes of which are important to us all and yet so few of us understand which is reality not lost on these slickers. Collateralised debt obligations, anyone? No, me neither.

The City of London – often referred to as ‘The Square Mile’ is a congregation of all things financial: the London Stock Exchange, the Bank of England, the clearing houses, the banks, hedge funds, insurance, reinsurance, forex exchanges and of course the professions most closely aligned with money, namely the lawyers and accountants.

Gordon Gekko – the character by played by Michael Douglas in Wall Street – famously declared that ‘he didn’t do lunch’ but this is not the case in the City of London. Much more convivial it seems, since the place is crammed with chic restaurants and high-end boutiques selling expensive watches even though they keep the same time.

But as the saying goes, time is money and the foot-soldiers of the City – are the 1% and the highest earners of all – and each day, a great number of them arrive from their suburban mansions and apartments with river views via the Waterloo and City line.

My train (mid-morning) was practically empty but it would have been heaving a few hours earlier – a single carriage with a larger GDP than some far-flung countries with nice weather but little else. Most of the early commuters, I suspect are expensively educated and now needing to bring home much bacon so that their offspring can enjoy the same.

The adverts on the train are a good indicator of the sort of clientele who ride this line. This  being winter - it’s a given that these commuters are skiers but little point in advertising holidays, since this lot probably have their own ski chalets - but they're bound to need ski guides, right?

And not just any old guide.

Oh, no. The ads on the train boast about your chance to hire a legendary ski guide, no less. “A legend of alpine skiing” – and appropriately enough his first name (I kid you not) is Toff – which is how us Brits refer to the types of people who can afford the luxury of being guided down a mountain by a ‘legend’.

Everything about the City is expensive. Even the toilets at Bank Station.  £0.30p seems to be the going rate to use the facilities at most London stations but at Bank, a quick pee will set you back 50 pennies – and to think that we used to ‘spend a penny’ for such a privilege. House prices in the capital are routinely used to demonstrate inflation – but surely the cost of relieving oneself resonates even more.

And don't be fooled by the stunning architecture of the place. The City of London might be beautiful with its stone buildings but this masks what is a daily war zone. A battlefield of financial skulduggery and treachery with as many players losing their shirts as those filling their boots. Victories and losses that shape our world and on which we all depend; if not the price of shares and the value of our pensions and investments, then the costs of our debts.

I am writing here about the haves and the have nots and my tone is very much that I am on the side of the everyman.

Which some readers might scoff at. Because didn’t I open this piece by explaining that I am heading to a meeting in the City myself. And which ordinary Joe has meetings in the City of London?

Even worse – my meeting is with a bunch of people who call themselves, ‘wealth professionals’.  But of course, it is not my wealth on the agenda which would be a brief meeting. It is the means of a family member of mine and no prizes for knowing which one.

The meeting went well btw. I think it did, anyway. In truth I didn’t understand much of what was said. Things like ‘imputed interest’ but nonetheless, I nodded along.

The meeting was long and I drank lots of tea – such that on my way home, my bladder was nagging me. But I managed to avoid the toilets at Bank Station and hang on for the more affordable loos at Waterloo. And right there, that’s a 20 pence saving and my take home from my trip to the City. A tangible saving and a good gauge of my financial prowess.

Which means it is high time my son finds someone else to organise his affairs – someone he trusts and crucially, someone who congratulate himself on a £0.20p saving.

 

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14 Comments

  1. Avery Wickersham January 26, 2020
    Reply

    This is a very interesting insight into the city of London. I’ve never been, and it’s a destination that’s on my list for the next few years (I will hopefully be able to study abroad there next January). I like to know everything I can about different regions, considering I’m from the U.S. and don’t always have the opportunity to travel abroad. Thank you for always enlightening me with your blogs! I look forward to next week!

  2. Julia R January 26, 2020
    Reply

    Wow Dom, I love the way you described your journey and the wealthy people in the city. I agree that 50 pennies is too much for the restroom! Big fan of the blog, waiting for more!

    • Isabel D January 26, 2020
      Reply

      Great blog this week. I laughed out loud when you said “But of course, it is not my wealth on the agenda which would be a brief meeting. It is the means of a family member of mine and no prizes for knowing which one.” Looking forward to the next blog!

  3. Lorraine January 26, 2020
    Reply

    Good evening Dom. Interesting musings this week. London is indeed a beautiful city with a huge amount of history and fabulous architecture. Like any city dwellers, particularly in the centre costs are extortinate. I’d much rather save a huge number of pennies and live further out and enjoy the countryside (which I do) in Ireland ☘️the city is nice to visit, but it’s nicer to head home – without directions or assistance from “Toff” or anyone else. Best wishes for the week ahead, I’m sure you’re delighted to have Tom and Harry back home. Hope the meeting was successful

  4. Ceol January 26, 2020
    Reply

    Wonderful illustration of the city. It’s a place I’ve always wanted to visit, but frankly I find the idea far too intimidating. …and I’ve spent weeks and months in places like Montreal, Hong Kong and Tokyo My ancestors came to Canada from the UK and maybe it’s true that you can never go home again, because I think I’d feel a bit that I was supposed to fit in while simultaneously sticking out like a sore thumb. But…it’s comforting to know I wouldn’t be the only one. Thank you.

  5. Alessandra January 26, 2020
    Reply

    London area has so many small pockets of different cultures… You drive around and see different neighbourhoods, distinct cultural symbols along the way. Seemingly getting along well… Ah yes 50p to use the toilets… In Belgium and Germany they expect you to pay too. Why do u have to pay in advance when you are in a hurry. There will be accidents… Anyway. City of London… Something so apart and different, not a culture everyone gets… Brave of you to enter… Not everyone is able to deal with their fanancial situation.. Even with monthly payment, not all of us can manage to save. Even if financially stable its not always easy to keep up. I wish I have some kind of financial advisor at hand… Tom has plenty of people he can trust around him… Financial advisor can be tricky to find who he can trust and not run him under… And doing it himself might not be an easy thing either… Maybe you know someone he can work with… Or learn financial ways. I wish I had someone teach me… I’m sure lots people wish they had some sort of class on how to not spend everything at once. Finances are not an easy thing to deal with, when you have a lot you think there’s no limits and you can afford it and when u don’t have much you spend it on things you think you need and food then you have nothing and you still haven’t learned… Sadly with money we never learn… Unless you are young enough and understand the situation well and are being taught llenough to get a grip. Good luck 🙂

  6. Faaiz January 26, 2020
    Reply

    Ahh I know right, Tom Holland gets all the attention! lol. I think I prefer snow boarding over skiing – maybe cuz I haven’t tried skiing and wouldn’t know the feeling, but its so much fun to twist and turn while snow boarding.

  7. Pamela January 26, 2020
    Reply

    Great illustrations of the City of London. Describing the wealth of the city was very interesting. I hope your meeting went well and Tom will find what he needs regarding his finances. I’m sure having Tom and Harry home again has been wonderful! I love how Tessa has now become the star of the family!! She was adorable at the premiere of Dr. Doolittle!!

  8. Regina January 26, 2020
    Reply

    When I remember my one trip oversees (over a decade now when studying abroad) I generally forget that European countries charge for public restrooms. Such a strange idea (for an American anyway) though I do remember one time groggily stumbling into a rest stop at 3am half way between Gaming, Austria and Rome and leaving my purse on the bus. I sleepily feared the old man collecting money on the way out would never let me out since I had no money on me. Fortunately one of my classmates had some extra so I’ll never know what the penalty for not paying your bathroom fee is…..somewhere between Austria and Italy.

  9. Nicole January 27, 2020
    Reply

    England is on my list along with Ireland. I would like a summer home in Ireland and the abiltity to work in London as a massage therapist

  10. Alexandra January 28, 2020
    Reply

    Very interesting what you wrote about the city of London. I have a question that I hope you can answer me please, I would be very happy to buy your Eclipsed book, which according to this page I can buy it through Amazon, there would be some possibility that I can acquire it with an autograph of you and your son Tom? It would be something really cool. If it didn’t bother, it would also be great to have the autograph of Harry, Nikki, Sam and Paddy. I admire them too much, they are a big family.
    Sorry if something is misspelled in English.

    Greetings from Peru.
    Alexandra

    • Dom January 29, 2020
      Reply

      indeed – any books sold via my website, I am very happy to sign and dedicate – and dispatch to places as far away as Peru. Thanks and happy reading.

      • Alexandra February 4, 2020
        Reply

        Thank you for answering my message, this week I will buy your book Eclipsed through this website, I am looking forward to reading the anecdotes you have written, and it will also help me to improve my reading in English.

        Greetings from Peru.
        Alexandra

  11. Audrey February 4, 2020
    Reply

    Dom,
    Someday, when you are in the old folks home, your kids will come to see you are hopefully they have saved enough to support you and Nikki in the manner in which you earned!
    I would have commented sooner but I was too busy reading your FANTASTIC book Open Links!

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