He is sending back a bottle of 1965 Croft because it ‘doesn’t taste right’. I know that the odds of it tasting identical to the bottle we just drank in Pétrus are slim to none even if we were sober. He is miffed at the lack of label and they bring back the cork. I exchange an exasperated look with the sommelier, who woefully nods at yet another example of an Essex wide-boy embarrassing himself, and quietly brings another bottle. Our clients, traders visiting from Germany, continue to puff on their cigars.
The Essex boy is not a breed that most public-school girls from Devon often encounter. Historically, however, and still today, they make up the gritty backbone and furry underbelly of the City’s inter-dealer brokers, acting as intermediaries in the trading of numerous financial instruments, making money whether the market goes up or down. It is therefore understandable that one of the Germans asks if I too am from Essex like my port-rebuking colleague. I stop short of attempting to explain the nuances of the Essex accent compared to my own when my colleague chips in with ‘Nah mate, she’s a posh bird, ain’t she? But she’s all right.’ My tag of ‘posh, but all right’ has stayed with me over the last year, and is a label I fought hard for. During my first week on the trading floor bets were taken as to whether I’d outlive the last girl, who managed a mere four days; balls were hurled at me from the other side of the room and I was asked countless times what on earth someone with a degree in Russian from a top university was doing rejecting the world of investment banking and grad schemes in favour of broking at the most aggressive, archaic and male-dominated firm in the City.