I have to turn my attention to the Portofino Restaurant and adjoining Bush Bar.
Considering that Intels, Integrated Logistics, have to cater for a truly multinational clientele, they haven’t done that bad. OK, so the prices are pretty extortionate, for Nigeria that is, but think of the poor sods sweating their lives out in the Smoke. At least 40% of their salaries overtly gobbled up by the taxman and, since the peoples party came to power, God only knows what percentage scoffed up covertly. Just a cup of coffee needs the crinkly stuff, not the shrapnel.
I have no idea which eloquent individual pointed out that most men live lives of quiet desperation but whoever he was (and I am in the Bush Bar now, therefore, devoid of an internet connection that would allow me to check), he was bang on the nail. So how come these guys here have the gall to complain about £1.70 for a large scotch or £5 for a decent pizza? Especially when, for a decent tip, you can get the waitress thrown in as well?
Now don’t get me wrong, I do not necessarily approve of everything that I see around me but I have been around long enough to accept certain things as they are. The point that I am making is that for a lot of these guys, this is paradise and still they complain. If they have no money by the time they get home, wherever that might be, then that is because they have drunk deeply from the cup (big tips needed for excessive quaffing) but at least they go home with a gutful if not a wallet full. The poor bastard creaking under the strain of unbearable financial commitments merely to survive in UK has no choice. Deep joy for him is risking his wife’s wrath (thankfully they haven’t discovered Wahala in Milton Keynes yet) by stopping off at the closest ale house to the office at Marble Arch and sinking a few illicit pints before walking across the park to catch the train (always assuming that it turns up), arriving home, hours later, to a cold dinner, kissing the dog and kicking the kids, reading the mail (all marked ‘URGENT’, ‘PERSONAL’ and addressed to First Name, Last Name, Esquire, i.e. bills or bank statements, the latter seemingly favouring red ink) and then being expected to be a ‘good father’ (read school report, council child #1, sympathise with hockey injury sustained by child #2, you arrived late which is why youngest, child #3 is still not in bed and hyper active, so bath the little git and read story) while darling wife is on her fourth G&T and you haven’t even had a whiff of the malt and the fire has gone out ‘cos the darling wife has already decided it is too late and besides, logs are expensive and we’re economizing. Oh, and by the way, she tried to use her Selfridges card and it didn’t go through. And yes, she has a headache.
No wonder London’s green areas are filled with lonely, bitter old men (in their early thirties) with plastic gloves and pooper scoopers following some bloody under exercised mutt around and wondering what life is all about. Milton Keynes must be a compost heap by now.
No, let’s face it. There are some serious disadvantages to being an expat and doing the type of work that we do but, on the whole, it’s not bad. Going back to the UK taxman, I’d rather have my head tapped with an overgrown walking stick and be sat upon by a flatulent native for a few days while mosquitoes drain my blood than be literally sucked dry by the vampires that profess to be ‘elected representatives’. At least when I finally get back, headache and all (not to UK, I’m talking about Port Harcourt, or Cape Town or Belize City, anywhere I happen to be calling home at the time), I know exactly where I can go to find some caring young thing who has never heard of Paracetamol’s effectiveness as a contraceptive and will make me feel like a million dollars (however briefly) rather than be somebody with a marginally acceptable post code yet reduced to shoveling dogshit off the sidewalk. And still these bastards complain. Unbelievable.
So here I am in the Bush Bar. OK, there are cheaper places in town and I am planning the next acquisition, this time in São Tomé, so I really do not want to be quaffing too deeply (there are too many wild pig and game fish in São Tomé that would look better dressed and on my dining table) so I am watching the expenditure, albeit not as hard as Milton Keynes man. Let’s face it, though, if I run out of money it’s because I have been bloody stupid. MK man only needs an official letter saying his poll tax band has been redefined and the council official dealing with the case is an ex-government press officer, and he is fucked. Or it will be the interest on the Selfridges card that sees to him. Either way, he’s looking at a transverse walk off Blackfriar’s bridge with his suit pockets stuffed full of bricks while at the worst, I will wake up with the mother of all hangovers and an ex wife who hates me because I am the one not answering emails now.